February 2, 2023

Determining Which Commercial EV Charging Station Fits Your Needs


8 Min. Read

Installing commercial electric vehicle (EV) charging stations is becoming an increasingly popular trend among property owners. However, before implementing a strategy, there are crucial aspects to consider for a successful return on investment.

This article outlines the key factors such as costs and maintenance, potential liability and insurance, ongoing revenue, identification of target consumers, and user payment methods, to help property owners make informed decisions when installing EV charging stations on their properties.

Costs and Maintenance

When evaluating both the initial and long-term costs of EV charging stations, it’s essential to have the assistance of an experienced electrical contractor. Overall costs can vary by city and include factors such as whether you will need to increase power capacity to the site, what station level(s) will be installed, and whether interior or exterior placement is optimal at your facility. Space is always a consideration, and structure costs come into effect when adding outdoor charging.

Investment may initially be high for property owners, but incremental revenue can make up for the upfront expense quickly. Partnering with a reliable electrical contractor should yield increased insight into issues such as these:

  • Where is the nearest power source?
  • How much power is available?
  • What quantity of charging units is optimal?
  • How can future-proofing prevent costs later?

An increase in cost and upgraded infrastructure go hand in hand. Planning ahead matters. Trenching and digging concrete multiple times would be costly, so consider the possibility of future expansion. How many units do you expect to install long-term, and can you prepare that foundation during the initial construction? It’s easier and more cost-effective to do all of the work at once. Electrical contractors with the right experience will know how to incorporate these variables into your installation solution.

Be certain to discuss rebates with electrical contractors as well. A variety of government and manufacturing rebates exist, for companies that are pushing to “go green.” The rebates vary by location, but federal and state incentive funding is increasing by the year, with environmental policies growing rapidly. Your local electric utility may also offer incentives to help offset the cost of installing charging infrastructure at your site.

For example, California is looking to ban combustion-engine sales by 2035. A recent in-depth discussion between leading industry experts Tom Moloughney from popular YouTube channel, State of Charge, and InsideEVs and Eric Cahill, of the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD), highlights the changes ahead, including impacts on energy costs, maintenance, planned facilities, and future power issues.

Liability and Insurance

Insurance needs will depend heavily on the type of commercial EV charging stations that are installed. Accessories and services for Level 1, 2, and 3 chargers vary, which in turn dictates different insurance responsibilities. Nearly all commercial properties have coverage for vandalism, theft, and injuries related to commercial EV charging stations.

Understanding the coverage needed to mitigate risks is a vital part of weighing your immediate and future costs.

Target Consumer Needs

Who are the target consumers for various types of commercial EV charging stations? Often this will depend on the accessibility of chargers, as any charger is better than no charger, but it’s important to first understand what the different types are chargers are in order to gain an understanding as to who might opt for each variation of EV charging, when they might charge, and what leads to this preference.

Understanding Charging Levels

There are three different types or levels of charging:

  1. Level 1 chargers, which use 120V AC power, offer slow charging, taking 18-30 hours, to fully charge depending on the make and model of the electric vehicle. As these chargers can be plugged into any functional outlet, they often do not require electrical upgrades, although it is always recommended for an electrician to inspect outlets for safety purposes as these outlets will likely have a consistent power draw. These chargers are an option when it is not possible to reasonably install a Level 2 charging station.
  2. Level 2 EV charging stations are a midrange charging option and take about 6–8 hours to fully charge. These units run on 240V AC power and require a certified electrician in order to safely determine the capacity, make any needed panel upgrades, and install the necessary hardware. Level 2 charging stations are convenient “overnight” chargers for those who have the ability to spend several hours with their vehicle plugged in and charging. This is a preferred method of charging for many people.
  3. The third “level” of charging is known as Level 3, or Direct Current Fast Chargers (DCFC), and uses 480V DC power. These high-powered, rapid-charging stations are commonly located at grocery stores, malls, and other quick stops. Their charge time is often only 30 minutes to an hour, and they are the only type of commercial EV charging station that utilizes DC charging. Using DC allows these chargers to directly power the vehicle battery, whereas Levels 1 and Level 2 EV chargers must convert AC to DC within the vehicle, slowing down the charge time of a vehicle. It is important to note that consistent use of Level 3 charging more than three times a month has been shown to decrease battery capacity for electric vehicles, thereby reducing the vehicle’s range.

Applying This Information

Choosing which system should be installed means taking into consideration your consumers’ activities. Level 3 is not needed in a location where a car will be stationary for long periods of time and is instead ideal for quick-service needs. Level 2 is prime for work buildings, malls, apartment complexes, and any other location the customer, resident, or employee will be able to leave the vehicle parked unattended for several uninterrupted hours. Level 1 is often reserved for residential use and is typically not sufficient to meet daily driving needs for a majority of drivers, so this option should be paired with a faster charging method.

Ongoing Revenue

Once you have determined your target consumer and intended audience, you will want to assess the amount of traffic you can expect long-term for your commercial EV charging stations. This is crucial in determining the potential return on your investment. Revenue per unit and charge is calculable but assessing the number of customers and their hours of need will depend on location and venue type. At a multifamily property, the consumer may rely on a Level 1 charging station in a garage with additional Level 2 charging stations and designated parking spaces available near the entrance of the complex or parking structure. These scenarios will present completely different installation requirements, and thus a property owner should compare the full costs and benefits before making a decision.

Initial investments will be reduced if your electrical contractor helps you implement charging-as-a-service (CaaS) functionality. Leasing or financing options may be available from different EVSE manufacturers, allowing expenses to be financed. There are also many current federal, regional, local, and utility incentives available for those embracing electrification and purchasing and installing EV chargers. Even so, owners may not profit immediately, however, units can quickly pay for themselves and will continue to generate additional revenue well after they are paid off.

Financing, Rebates, and Other Payment Methods

Determining the costs and best payment methods for your consumer is crucial for generating revenue from your EV charging stations. These amounts vary from one commercial EV charging station to the next. It may make sense to have stations that are available to use with a monthly “subscription” or “amenity” fee for unlimited charging, but for property owners looking for a faster return on their investment, choosing a rate per minute or kilowatt cost per hour (kWh) is a viable option.

Smart Level 1 charging stations can track power usage for each unit to which they are connected to assist in determining any cost-per-kWh. These stations are generally plugged into 120V outdoor outlets, on the exterior walls of a home, but for multifamily locations that have shared parking space, it can be beneficial to utilize the payment methods now becoming increasingly common at Level 2 or DCFC commercial charging stations.

These pay-as-you-go options offer credit-card and account-based payments, through companies such as Blink and ChargePoint. ChargePoint allows property owners to set their own rates, whereas Blink has pre-determined rates that depend on the state and specific location: $0.04–0.06 per minute, or by kWh at rates averaging $0.39–0.79. Regardless of the method of payment, property owners can set up convenient direct accounts for the payment methods they plan to offer.

Planning Your Property’s Future

Experienced electrical contractors are crucial for the installation of commercial EV charging stations. While initial expenses will vary, finding the right company to complete the work is critical. Contractor credentials for specific licensure are necessary not only for installation but also for warranty coverage, and the scope of the work should be discussed at length, with a thorough walkthrough, option planning, and cost evaluation. Working with an electrical contractor familiar with all the options and the best practices in electrification ensures that your project is done right the first time – saving your company time, money, and the stress that damages and injury from incorrectly wired devices can cause.

Fees will vary based on equipment, optional accessories, and labor costs. Certain contractors may also maintain partnerships that lower their costs for goods. Companies may carry similar credentials but reviewing multiple examples of their prior completed work will make their strengths and weaknesses more apparent to you.

Hiring a Trusted Partner

Choosing a contractor can be challenging, but Qmerit has the industry resources needed to streamline the process and the experience to back it up. Qmerit’s extensive network of certified installers will make it easy to formulate your customized installation strategy, ensuring your commercial EV charging solution is a success now and for years to come.

With over 261,500 completed EV charging station installations and the largest network of skilled electrification technicians in North America, it’s no surprise that Qmerit is the most trusted installation partner for top EV and EV charger brands, home-based fleet managers electric utility companies, homeowners, and property owners. Contact Qmerit for Electrification Made Easy™.

Author: Tom Bowen

Tom Bowen

President, Qmerit Solutions and Commercial Electrification