November 21, 2023

EV Charging Installation 101: What Electrical Contractors Should Know


13 Min. Read

This article was originally published on July 13, 2021 and was updated on November 21, 2023

Electric vehicles (EVs) are growing in popularity, rapidly approaching the 10% market tipping point in sales nationally. More consumers are purchasing plug-in electric vehicles, and commercial fleets are adopting them to further align with their sustainability and financial goals. The rapid market growth of electric vehicles is accelerating the need for EV charging station installation contractors to offer at-home and public solutions to support this growing new customer base. It is an amazing opportunity for EV charging installation contractors to both serve growing market demand and help reduce carbon emissions.

However, most electrical contractors are unsure where to begin, making the process complicated. In this article, we’ll explain how electrical contractors can capitalize on this opportunity and why electricians need to obtain state-of-the-art training in the EV installation market to support customers purchasing EVs or property owners seeking to attract EV drivers. Here’s what you need to know about EV charger installation, becoming an electric vehicle charging station contractor in your area, and setting yourself ahead of your competition as you build your business for the future.

The Growing EV Market

EVs continue to dominate automobile news headlines. Automakers are fully committing and investing in this sector, and the trend is not slowing down. Two years ago, analysts predicted EVs would make up 10% of the new car market by 2025. A 10% market share for EVs is considered to be the tipping point for EV acceptance based on the historic rate of adoption for new technologies, after which sales are expected to increase significantly.

EVs Exceeding Sales Expectations

The 2021 prediction seemed optimistic at a time when EV sales comprised about 2% of new vehicle purchases but it now appears that the 10% mark will be reached even sooner than expected as the number of EVs on U.S. roads is growing exponentially, at least in some markets. In fact, Bloomberg NEF now expects 23% of new car sales to be EVs by 2025 and more than 50% by 2030.

During the third quarter of 2023, battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) made up 7.9% of sales. During the same period in 2022, EVs only made up 6.1%. California was the first state to surpass the 10% mark in 2021, and EVs made up 25% of vehicles sold statewide in the first half of 2023. Washington and Oregon are closely following suit at 18% and 17%, respectively. Seven other states have already topped 10%: Colorado, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, and Virginia, with more states joining the movement to transition to electric vehicles and supporting the installation of EV charging stations.

The shift from internal-combustion engine vehicles (ICEs) to those running on electricity is gaining momentum. Switching to EVs is critical to decarbonizing road transport, which comprises more than 15% of energy-related emissions. While some car buyers may be altruistic or tech-motivated, there are clear financial reasons why the growth has accelerated as well:

  • The Inflation Reduction Act incentives and those from states and local jurisdictions significantly reduce the cost of the new battery-powered vehicles. People are also capitalizing on incentives for installing EV charging equipment at residences and commercial sites.
  • Automaker announcements that they are phasing out ICEs have people recognizing, eventually, that ICEs will be dinosaurs with little to no value. The disappearance of “gas stations” may be far off, but vehicle manufacturers have acknowledged its inevitability worldwide.
  • The introduction of lower-priced EV models, reduced cost of batteries, and lower maintenance costs have fueled the expectation that EVs will reach total cost of ownership (TCO) parity with ICEs in many markets starting next year. It’s already close between incentives, with gas prices so high in places like California.

The Market Changes with New Models from Major Automakers

Countless new electric passenger vehicles and trucks have debuted in the last couple of years, and more models are coming. At least 40 BEV models were on the U.S. market earlier this year, with more in production and set to debut next year. Introducing lower-priced cars and models from every automaker is reshaping the new car and truck marketplace. In 2022, Tesla enjoyed a 75% U.S. EV market share; however, as the market expands to include dozens of newer autos, lightweight trucks, and SUVs, the market is becoming increasingly more diverse.

In the third quarter of 2023, BMW, Chevy, Ford, Hyundai, Mercedes-Benz, Rivian, Tesla, and Volkswagen each sold more than 10,000 electric vehicles in the U.S. Things are already changing rapidly with EV adoption—in 2022, only Chevy, Ford, and Tesla reached this sales milestone. While the other auto manufacturers combined only made up 50% of EV sales, the momentum toward market diversity is evident.

In addition to sedans, trucks, SUVs, and high-performance cars are gaining popularity in the EV segment. Notable entries that were instant successes include Ford’s F-150 Lightning and the Mustang Mach-E. The Chevy Silverado EV and GMC Sierra EV are among the new electric pickup trucks that should also help expand EVs’ acceptance in that market segment. Besides that, the Tesla Cybertruck is currently in production. An estimated 1.8 million people have already put deposits down to reserve a Tesla Cybertruck, which is expected to become available in 2024.

Demand for Charging Stations Fueling Demand for EV Electricians

As more people purchase EVs, other services and products will be in demand. Concerns around charging and distance are common, so the option to have an EV charger installed at residences (whether single-family or multi-unit dwellings) is gaining popularity. At-home charging stations give EV drivers an extra layer of security and peace of mind in knowing their electric vehicle will be fully charged each night, while also improving their EV experience and serving as a more cost-effective charging method than exclusively utilizing public charging. And for electrical contractors, this increasing demand also opens up a new source of critically needed revenue streams for well-trained EV charging station installation contractors.

Charging stations are popping up in homes around major cities across the country. In fact, renown television home renovation expert, Bob Vila, reported that EV charger installation was the most popular home improvement project readers wanted to learn about.

While most of the 30 million EV chargers estimated to be needed in the coming years to support EV drivers will be installed at residences, analysts also report that 1.2 million public chargers are needed near highways, popular destinations, and other sites where vehicles can be parked for long periods. In early 2023, only 51,000 public charging stations, some of which have multiple ports, existed in the U.S, but that number is quickly growing. Federal initiatives and utility efforts are helping to plan for and fund the EV charging infrastructure, but those completing projects and meeting the residential demand will rely on talented electrical vehicle charging installers.

Mastering EV Charging Stations Installation for Contractors

There are a lot of choices for EV drivers when purchasing home charging equipment. While price, charging speed, and power requirements are important, safety cannot be overlooked. The charger will be delivering a lot of power for many hours, most likely when EV drivers are sleeping. Accordingly, safety certification by a respected testing and certification lab is essential. Tom Moloughney, senior editor for InsideEVs, says the charging equipment should be approved by UL, ETL, TÜV, or CSA and display the certification label on its body to ensure authenticity.

Electrical contractors need to understand how to install and maintain EV charging systems to fulfill customer needs while also guaranteeing safety standards are being met. EV batteries are bigger and more powerful than other devices the homeowner may plug in. The charging cord carries far more electricity for longer periods of time. A clothes dryer may use a similar outlet, but it isn’t designed to run for six hours straight, and most dryer outlets are not capable of safely charging an EV without eventually leading to melted wires, electrical fires, and other avoidable damages.

There are currently three main types of EV charging equipment with which EV charging station installation contractors should become familiar:

Level 1 Chargers: These are the most common since they typically come with the vehicle, however, Level 1 chargers are the slowest option to charge an EV and aren’t adequate for people with long commutes or daily driving needs as they can take over 40 hours or more to fully charge an EV. Level 1 Chargers use a standard 120-volt outlet that is common in homes, but the outlet should be a National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) commercial-grade outlet that meets National Electric Code (NEC) requirements and even a standard 120-volt outlet should be inspected by a certified electrician prior to charging an EV to ensure there are no potential hazards. Using an outlet with a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) cover is required for outdoor use or if the outlet could potentially get wet to avoid injuries or damage.

Level 2 Chargers – These can be used for both residential and commercial applications. For homes and commercial settings, a dedicated 240-volt circuit is required, and the charger may be plugged into a NEMA 14-50 outlet or connected through directly hardwiring the charger, which is often recommended to achieve a higher kWh, improve efficiency, and provide a more stable and reliable connection. Level 2 chargers cannot plug into a standard 120-volt wall outlet and may also require electrical upgrades to the home or building’s electrical panel depending on the existing electrical infrastructure and available panel capacity, as determined through a load calculation. For this type of work, a qualified electrician is needed to safely install a Level 2 EV charger, which creates opportunities for electrical contractors with experience in EV charging station installations and other types of energy transition technologies.

Level 3 or Direct Current Fast Chargers (DCFC): DC Fast Chargers are strictly for commercial use because they require a higher voltage than is typically available in residential areas. They are far more costly than Level 2 chargers but are the gold standard for long-distance travel since they can completely charge a car’s battery in less than one hour. While convenient for out-of-town road trips, frequent use of DCFC units can strain the battery and negatively affect performance and durability, and many EV drivers may find they prefer avoiding long lines and potential charger outages by charging at home.

Within each of these three types, there are differences in charging speed, space requirements, and other factors EV charging station installation contractors need to be aware of to design and install reliable EV charging systems that meet all user and safety requirements. While most new EV drivers are focused on charger installation, it’s important to make your clients aware of the need for ongoing maintenance, weather concerns, and other factors that can affect meeting the needs and expectations of your EV charging station installer customers.

Most charging stations are relatively new. While the expectation for EV chargers is that they will last approximately ten years, there is no evidence to determine if this timeline is accurate or how the charging efficiency may change during the lifespan of an EV charger until more data emerges over the coming years.

Public chargers naturally get more wear and tear with elemental exposure, increased use, and a greater potential for rough handling. They also usually depend on internet connections to purchase the wattage, but more than 55% of public charger outages are actually caused by connectivity issues. Public charging station failures indicate that reliability is an issue, particularly if an EV driver is stopping to re-fill a battery in the middle of nowhere and is unable to access a working EV charging station. One study in the San Francisco Bay area indicated that only 72.5% of the DCFCs in the area were working. This could become a bigger problem as equipment is used more over time, creating a golden opportunity for experienced EV charging station installers.

What Customers Want: EV Charging Station Installation Contractors

Residential applications require a thorough assessment for you to fully understand each situation and confidently advise your customers on the project, timing, and costs.

The first step for any type of electrical work should always be confirming that the customer owns the residence or has permission to install a charging unit. Once this is established, a qualified electrician can do the preliminary work, such as determining the scope of the project, performing a load calculation, and submitting any needed permits as determined by the local housing authority.

The location of the charging station will play a crucial role in its usability and convenience, so working with the customer to understand their habits, preferences, and needs can help ensure the EV charger will be installed in an accessible and convenient location. Keep in mind that an energized circuit will heat up over time, become stressed, and expand, and that an EV charger is likely to be used 4-10 hours on a regular basis. When not in use, the circuit will contract, so ensuring the correct wire type is used is crucial when sizing the wiring and associated circuit breaker, as well as selecting the charging station placement.

Your site assessment should entail scrutinizing the customer’s home layout, ease of vehicle and charger access, electrical wiring, panel needs, and potential safety issues, such as water and extreme temperatures.

As an expert in electrification, your customers will expect you to provide sound advice on the adequacy of the equipment if already purchased, equipment to buy if not purchased, and offer suggestions on other things they may want to consider, such as a smart panel.

Delivering a reasonable and fair price quote is a crucial step to earning your customer’s trust and future business. Once the job is agreed upon, EV charger installation permits will also need to be pulled based on your previous assessment. Other requirements, such as inspections, may also need to be met based on the jurisdiction and local housing authority requirements.

Customers want convenience and confidence in their EV charging station installation contractors’ expertise, and as a certified electrician, it’s crucial that you have the knowledge and experience to confidently meet their needs. They just purchased a new vehicle or moved to a new residence and want the comfort and security of having a safe, reliable EV charging experience at home. As a customer, you would want to pull into your garage, plug in your car, and come back fully charged in the morning. This need for convenience presents a major market opportunity for electrical contractors who are prepared to provide this service.

Partner with Qmerit for EV Charging Installation

Qmerit, a national leader in electrification, helps new EV charging station installation contractors understand how to install EV charging systems that fulfill customer needs while also guaranteeing safety standards are met. With this information, you can design and maintain reliable EV charging systems that meet all requirements and satisfy the needs and expectations of your customers.

Qmerit’s Certified Solutions Partner (CSP) program offers valuable training in EV charging station installation for electrical contractors and access to exclusive resources such as installation videos and guides and Qmerit’s latest AI solution suite, which is capable of performing load calculations and panel recommendations in seconds, automates installation plans, and generates reports to streamline electrification projects—saving you time and money, while enhancing safety.

Qmerit provides EV installers with the opportunity to learn new techniques in the electrification field through in-depth training and continuing education programs and Qmerit’s CSP program on EV charging station installation for contractors comes with the tools and resources you need to help grow your workforce and get your team trained on the latest electrification technologies. As the industry matures and equipment evolves, Qmerit provides electricians and electrical contractors with the training and certifications they need to stay ahead of the game and their competition.

This transition to EVs and serving new owners is an opportunity for contractors to build a new customer base, gain a new source of revenue, and have the opportunity to gain repeat business through electrical vehicle charging station contractor maintenance agreements.

The opportunity in the EV space for electrical contractors is growing, and there is a national shortage of licensed electricians. When you partner with Qmerit, you’ll open your business up to new chances to increase revenue and build your business for the future. To learn more about training on EV charging station installation for contractors, contact Qmerit today.

Author: David Santillo

David Santillo

Senior Vice President, Contractor Support