Commercial EV charging stations are quickly becoming the focal point of an evolving electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure, and for electrical contractors, this creates an incredible opportunity to capitalize on, while also helping to support greater electrification efforts in the country.
A record 1.2 million EVs were sold in the U.S. in 2023, and while 80% of EV charging happens at home, there is a rising demand for robust public charging infrastructure and increasing emphasis on the importance of a reliable network of public EV charging stations to support sustainable transportation as a whole.
As an electrical contractor, you likely already understand the many challenges presented by this ever-evolving landscape. Apart from the design and installation of Level 2 EV charging stations and DC Fast Charging (DCFC) Stations, their regular maintenance also rests on your shoulders. A poorly maintained station puts driver safety at risk and is more prone to malfunctions that can damage your professional reputation and result in greater repairs in the future. On the other hand, solid maintenance practices reduce a customer’s downtime, ensure the longevity of components, and can help you build your business for the future.
In this article, we outline five key maintenance practices that commercial electrical contractors could implement to enhance the performance of a commercial EV charging station.
Regular visual inspections of commercial EV charging stations are vital in preventing malfunctions and should ideally be carried out weekly or monthly, with routine care to address and prevent avoidable issues and as-needed maintenance to resolve any issues that arise. During these examinations, look out for signs of damage as wear and tear in components, such as cables or charging ports, should be addressed early to avoid further issues and future complications.
Note that the specific components that need to be inspected each time may depend on the season, as different weather conditions present unique threats, from corrosion concerns in humid conditions to wiring concerns in the winter months. Cleaning is also an integral part of these inspections, especially depending on where the stations are installed and the climate you live in. Dust and debris are a constant threat, considering most commercial stations are installed in large open spaces, and areas with high humidity or salt-water exposure may need additional care.
By wiping down various components regularly, you can help prevent damage worth thousands of dollars. Avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive cloths, and keep water and flammable materials away from the surrounding area. The goal of every contractor should be to ensure operational excellence through a comprehensive mix of visual inspections and cleaning procedures, in addition to routine maintenance and care.
As with any other technology, software and firmware updates enhance the performance of a networked EV charging station. These updates could include bug fixes or new features that ensure a seamless charging experience.
Part of commercial EV charging station maintenance is keeping software and firmware up to date. This can help enhance compatibility with new EV models and charging protocols, and introduce features that improve charging times. It can also help address vulnerabilities and protect user data.
According to standards set by the Federal Highway Administration in 2023, all federally-funded EV charging stations are required to have 97% uptime. To achieve this, a systematic approach must be taken to software and firmware maintenance. Best practices include comprehensive monitoring of new updates, regular documentation of firmware components, and frequent audits and assessments. These processes can be time-consuming, but modern solutions help streamline the process. Remote monitoring, for instance, allows you to keep a 24/7 eye out for new updates, and diagnose issues — even creating the ability to resolve some issues remotely without the need for frequent on-site visits.
The complex high-voltage wiring at a commercial EV charging station increases risks associated with electrical shocks, fires, or explosions. As part of a robust maintenance plan, contractors must routinely check for visible damage, tighten electrical connections, and test ground fault circuit interrupters.
To keep users safe and ensure optimal performance, electrical safety checks must also involve the routine assessment of core protection devices, as mandated by standards such as the IEC 61851, UL 2202, and IEC 60364-7-722. This includes examining devices related to overcurrents, short circuits, or leakage protection. If the EV charger installation was not performed by your electrical contracting company, it is worth checking to ensure that the individuals who performed the EV charger installation used the correct materials and installed the EV charger safely and correctly, per any NEC and local code requirements.
Considering the growth of EV infrastructure, contractors must also constantly update their knowledge base to prevent potential hazards. Crucial certifications, such as the Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Training Program or the Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment Technician Certification, add to your credibility and enhance maintenance practices. In some states, specialized training also determines your license eligibility. California, for instance, requires 8,000 work hours for a general electrician license contractor to install or maintain electrical systems covered by the National Electrical Code (NEC).
Cables and connectors at a commercial EV charging station are repeatedly plugged in and pulled out. Coupled with frequent exposure to extreme weather conditions and outdoor elements, this makes regular inspection and cleaning essential to maximizing longevity. Specialized maintenance of these components also depends on the season. In the summer months, for instance, it’s crucial to examine connector pins for signs of corrosion, as the heat is likely to be exacerbated by high humidity levels or rain.
In winter, on the other hand, EV cables and connectors that aren’t stored properly are at risk. It’s not uncommon for connectors to freeze over or for cables to develop cracks, especially if they aren’t properly cared for by those using the charging station, leaving the wiring exposed. Swapping out cables to suit the current conditions helps increase their efficiency and longevity and is essential to seasonal maintenance practices.
At the end of the day, strict adherence to industry standards — such as those laid out by the IEC or NEMA — can ensure that cables and connectors are protected from debris, are capable of handling high voltages, and meet safety standards, regardless of the season.
Thermal management is crucial in optimizing charging times in commercial charges. Faster charging rates lead to higher temperatures, contributing to premature wear and tear. This, in turn, puts immense pressure on electrical engineers to conduct regular evaluations and ensure a properly functioning cooling system.
A typical evaluation could involve:
As industry experts develop more advanced cooling systems, however, specialized training will be key for future inspections.
In 2021, for example, Purdue University engineers were looking to adopt a NASA-developed advanced temperature control technique that can absorb ten times more heat than ordinary liquid cooling. This is just one example of how collaboration between industry experts, engineers, and scientists can revolutionize cooling systems.
One way to keep up with the latest developments is by following the work of Tom Moloughey, a renowned EV charging station and electric vehicle expert. On his State of Charge YouTube channel, you can find regular video updates on the latest developments in EV technology.
It’s estimated that there are currently over 60,825 public EV charging station locations and 161,831 EVSE ports available across the U.S., with a significant chunk of the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) going into developing further EV charging infrastructure to support increasing commercial EV charging stations. And this is just the beginning.
This is an exciting time for all stakeholders. For electrical contractors especially, this presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to upskill and take charge of ensuring the reliability, safety, and longevity of charging infrastructure in America.
Qmerit offers a Certified Solutions Partner (CSP) program that allows electrical contractors to learn new techniques in electrification technologies through in-depth training and continuing education programs, with exclusive access to installation projects through our corporate partners such as major auto manufacturers, EVSE manufacturers, utilities, multifamily and hotel chains, and more. We also provide business coaching workforce development for electrical contractors, to help you recruit and strategize as you build your business into a more electrified future.
With over 269,000 EV charger installations to date for our commercial and residential customers across North America, there is no one more trusted or experienced when it comes to EV charger installation and other electrification services. By joining Qmerit’s network as a certified electrical contractor, you’ll have access to the training, support, and business opportunities you need to succeed.
Contact Qmerit today to open up a new customer base for your electrical contracting company, provide training and resources to your electricians, and become the electrification leader in your local market.