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  • Allison Ruedig

Your Guide To Commercial Electric Vehicle Charging Stations: Installation, Costs And More

Updated: Sep 16



Like mushrooms, commercial electric vehicle charging stations are popping up in parking lots everywhere: AMC theaters, Macy’s, Costco, Target, gas stations, grocery stores and more.

In fact, as Teslas and similar electric cars hit the road, the number of public and private U.S. charging stations has doubled between December of 2015 and 2019. It reached 90,000 nationwide in 2020 – not even including home chargers!


This surge of interest is necessary as many car manufacturers are committing massive resources to develop their electric vehicle offering. it’s also great news for both commercial properties and solar installers. Businesses can benefit from many incentives and rebates for EV and plug-in charging stations. And as Greenlancer President Patrick McCabe has noted, many commercial EV charging stations rely on solar energy for clean electricity – so solar installers are perfectly positioned to install them alongside their PV systems.


But make no mistake – installing EV charging stations is still different from installing solar. Like any venture, the first step towards success here requires both client and installer to gain a working knowledge of its options, costs, incentives and challenges.


That’s why we created this guide to the fundamentals of installing electric car charging stations.


Who can install commercial EV charging stations?

As electric vehicles approach 3% penetration of the car market, installing commercial EV charging stations attracts many businesses who want to increase their property value, employee satisfaction and customer count.


Ideal commercial prospects include:


Workplaces

Since people park at work more often than anywhere else except home, offering a charging station helps attract EV drivers as employees. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Energy’s recent survey, 80% of employers with an EV charging station say that it has helped them attract and retain more talent. So commercial EV stations improve both companies’ sustainability and their business targets.


Business Districts And Shopping Centers

When Americans aren’t at home or at work, they’re often out shopping and eating. This includes EV owners, who naturally want to park where their cars can charge while they’re enjoying themselves.


Public parking lots, business districts, shopping centers, restaurants, and malls can install commercial EV charging stations to attract such shoppers. Customers may even linger longer (and buy more) as they wait for their EV to charge up!


Service Locations

Public buildings, hospitals and universities are often working towards sustainability goals and can receive LEED credits for installing an EV charging station. These prospects often have a large employee workforce and, as said above, can attract more talent with this environmentally friendly option.


Multifamily Living Spaces

Not all EV owners live in their own house – or want to. But a place without an EV station doesn't meet their charging needs, driving them away from otherwise perfect living options.


Apartment buildings, condominiums, and other multifamily buildings can fix this drawback by installing EV charging stations. This not only increases their property value, but also draws in prospective residents with electric vehicles.


In many areas, new state and city regulations are accelerating charging station adoption. For example, the cities of Miami, Seattle and Chicago now mandate commercial properties above a certain size to offer EV charging. Installers operating in such areas can expect their lead lists to increase even more rapidly.


What Kind Of EV Charging Station Do My Clients Need?

EV charger options vary by charging speed.


Level I Charging

This is what most EV owners initially get for their home. While the cheapest option, this is also the slowest – cars will add only 3 – 5 miles of travel per hour. This charging time is often too slow for publicly available stations. However, Level I chargers may be a good fit for some workplaces where employees can charge their car for up to 8 hours at a time.


Level II Charging (Most Common For Commercial Sites)

You’ll probably get very familiar with this option: it’s the standard for commercial parking spaces. Level II stations charge cars 4 – 5 times more quickly than their Level I counterparts, with 12 – 40 miles added per hour. They use 208/240V and 30 amp electricity.


Level III Charging

The speediest charging level, these DC Fast Chargers fill up batteries fast: 35 – 100+ miles per hour. But they’re also the most expensive option and incompatible with some electric vehicles, so they’re not as popular as Level II chargers. Usually only high-volume customers such as car dealerships, commercial charging stations, and rest stops will benefit from the added speed.


Electric Vehicle Charger Incentives And Rebates

If you or your clients are interested in an EV charging station but balk at the initial cost (from $1,000 – $10,000 per station), your area’s incentives and rebates can help.


Federal Tax Credit

Through at least the end of 2021, the Alternative Fuel Vehicle Refueling Property Tax Credit (or 2020 30C Tax Credit) will offset up to 30% of an EV charging station’s total purchase and installment cost, up to $30,000. It’s predicted that this credit will be extended past 2021, and may even increase.


State And Local Incentives

Currently 45 states, Washington D.C., and many utilities incentivize EV charging station installations with EVSE (Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment) programs. For example, in GreenLancer’s home state of Michigan, the Consumers Energy PowerMIDrive program provides a rebate for businesses that install publicly accessible EV charging: up to $5,000 per Level 2 charger, and $70,000 per DC fast charger. Meanwhile in California, PG&E covers the costs and manages the construction of electrical infrastructure needed for Level III chargers.


For commercial EV station incentives that may apply to you or your prospects, look up your state in the National Conference of State Legislature’s interactive map for state and utility policies promoting electric vehicles.


EV Charging Station Installation Costs

The average upfront cost of installing a single Level II EV charger is about $6,000. Multiply this by five, 10, or 20 chargers and a commercial station may have a price tag of $30,000 – $120,000.


However, due to numerous incentives across the nation, the property owner almost certainly won’t have to pay the full price. The federal EV tax credit offsets up to $30,000 of these costs, and local incentives can chip off more. For example, a publicly available station installation in Michigan can qualify for $5,000 off per charger. For a 10-charger installation, that’s $50,000 off the original price.


How much will your charging station cost? Like solar installations, pricing it depends on multiple factors. The three main capital costs are:


Make-Ready Infrastructure

The first steps towards a new EV station are often the most expensive. Each site presents different challenges and requires an individually tailored approach.

Prepping a commercial EV charger site involves several expenses such as

  • Electric infrastructure to power the charging stations

  • Wire conduits and connectors

  • Pouring new concrete

  • Parking lot restriping

  • Signs guiding visitors to the EV station

An EV charging system quote should note the prices of all activities and materials needed to prepare the location for installation.


Installation

Once all necessary changes are made to the site, it’s time to get the chargers there and working. Like solar installations, the cost of this varies by

  • Electrical service

  • Number of chargers

  • Location

  • Material quantity and type

  • Labor

  • Required permits

  • Associated taxes

  • Applicable state and local initiatives

Networked Charging Stations

Speaking of incentives, you’ll probably need Wi-Fi-connected chargers to offer most of them. Network connectivity allows the owners to

  • Limit access to certain people if necessary (such as the residents of an apartment building)

  • Charge users for their electricity consumption

  • Monitor the station’s performance

  • Create usage reports

However, a station with a charging network does cost more than a non-networked one.

While charging station materials, infrastructure, and installation can add up, it’s often possible to minimize expenses with a good contractor. Some ways include using existing electrical infrastructure (if it’s available), applying for all relevant rebates and tax breaks, and partnering with adjacent businesses to share station responsibilities.


How to Start: Securing Design & Engineering Fulfillment

It’s true that a commercial EV station is definitely an investment. But rebates, customer fees, increased customer attraction and employee satisfaction, and applicable LEED credits often make the investment worthwhile for the above prospects.


As a potential installer for EV charging, the biggest obstacle faced is securing fast, transparent, and scalable design and engineering.


GreenLancer has a network of certified designers, licensed engineers, and fulfillment partners ready to complete on-demand fulfillment of EV charging services such as:

Visit evcharge.greenlancer.com to learn more or sign up here.