September 6, 2023

The Role of Energy Storage in Commercial EV Charging Systems

6 Min. Read

EV adoption is proliferating and continues to shape the future of mobility. As the need for accessible charging infrastructure increases, many opportunities are emerging for commercial buildings.

For commercial buildings, investing in EV charging is a sound strategy to develop a future-proof property. Demand will only continue to increase as more customers, tenants, employees, and fleets adopt EVs.

As you develop your electrification project, you must consider costs and address the challenges linked to an aging energy infrastructure. Here’s how a local energy storage solution remains the most effective way to address these obstacles.

Enhancing Grid Stability and Managing Peak Demand

Last year, the U.S. added 4 gigawatts in battery storage, and as electrification accelerates, Battery Energy Storage Systems, or BESS, are emerging as a critical component of tomorrow’s infrastructure.

EV Adoption and the Power Grid

With projections estimating 40% of market shares for EVs by 2030, researchers are closely looking at the increasing strain on the electricity infrastructure. The expected evening usage peak linked to EV charging at the end of the day would result in a need for a 20% increase in our current power generation capacity.

In response to the growing demand for electricity, many utilities are adopting Time-of-use (TOU) or time-varying rates. With this model, pricing varies throughout the day based on need.

EV adoption will likely result in more utilities adopting TOUs and could lead to higher rates during peak hours.

Commercial EV charging with battery storage has the potential to ease the strain on the grid:

  • Charging electric vehicles during the workday would offset the evening peak.
  • Relying on stored energy would reduce the stress on the grid during peak hours.
  • With a TOU model in place, avoiding charging during busy hours helps keep peak rates low and allows commercial buildings to reduce costs linked to energy usage during peak hours.

Load Management, Demand Charges, and Load Shifting

Depending on a local energy storage solution for commercial EV charging has several benefits:

  • The battery can charge when the electricity rate is low to cut costs.
  • The stored energy becomes affordable when the energy rate increases during peak hours.
  • A smart load management solution can alternate between the grid and battery system to prevent spikes in electricity usage and save on demand charges.

Clean Energy Integration

Modern electrification systems can connect energy storage solutions to multiple energy sources, including solar arrays, wind turbines, and more.

With 2.8 trillion invested in clean energy globally in 2023, an increasing share of our power comes from clean sources. Integrating BESS into our energy infrastructure will make clean energy available for EV charging and other use cases.

For commercial buildings, relying on clean energy supports ESG goals and provides further cost savings by eliminating dependence on the grid.

Improving the Cost-Effectiveness and Reliability of EV Charging Infrastructure

Commercial EV adoption went up by 90% in 2022. Despite public and private investments in developing a modern charging infrastructure, cost-effectiveness and reliability remain common challenges, but energy storage is a viable solution to address these challenges.

Demand Charges and Cost Management

Demand charges can account for a significant portion of your energy bill, but many residential and commercial customers don’t understand how utilities calculate this charge.

While energy usage fluctuates, utilities must maintain the power-producing infrastructure to meet peak usage. To cover these costs, energy providers calculate a demand charge that reflects each customer’s highest usage point.

Offering EV charging can significantly increase your peak usage reading, especially if employees are charging fleet vehicles at the same time.

A smart load management solution that switches to battery storage once usage reaches a certain threshold can prevent usage spikes and reduce demand and TOU charges.

Building a Resilient Infrastructure

Compared to 20 years ago, rolling blackouts have increased by 64%. Between extreme weather events and the challenges of aging power infrastructure, blackouts will continue affecting commercial properties.

Local energy storage increases resiliency by ensuring power is always available to charge electric vehicles. On a larger scale, using BESS could help prevent blackouts by reducing the strain on the grid on hot days when energy loss and carbon emissions are at their highest point for the energy infrastructure.

Scalability and Flexibility

Local energy storage can adapt to the changing needs of a commercial building. Increasing capacity by adding battery storage or rolling out smart management features is possible.

This technology is also flexible. BESS typically includes load management features. Balancing the load turns these energy storage solutions into an effective buffer that can manage charging multiple EVs simultaneously, ensure that electric vehicles are fully charged on time for a daily route, or balance the load between EV charging and other machinery.

Supporting Sustainability Goals and Reducing Carbon Emissions

With 88% of public and two-thirds of private businesses having an ESG strategy, now is the time to think about creating a future-proof system for your commercial building. Focusing on electrification and energy storage can send a strong message and position your organization as a leader in terms of commitment to sustainability.

Clean Energy Integration

Battery storage opens the door to clean energy integration. Solar, wind, and other clean energy sources can supplement or replace the grid to charge the batteries.

Many commercial buildings are utilizing their parking infrastructure to install solar arrays. It’s an effective way to use existing space to produce affordable clean energy, and users will benefit from the added shade.

Reducing Your Carbon Footprint

Relying on clean energy is an obvious way to reduce your organization’s carbon footprint, but load shifting can also support your sustainability goals:

  • For utilities, producing energy in the daytime is more carbon-intensive. Emissions and energy loss increase as temperature and usage go up.
  • The environmental impact is non-negligible, with electricity generation representing 40% of all energy-related emissions.
  • Commercial customers can help reduce the strain on the grid and their contribution to carbon emissions by switching to battery storage during peak hours.
  • Plus, relying on local energy storage prevents you from depending on an inefficient transmission network, leading to energy loss, especially on hot summer days.
  • Bi-directional charging, a technology that turns EVs into a power source by plugging them into the grid or a BESS, is catching on. It will further support carbon reduction goals by turning EVs into an alternate energy source during peak hours.

Going Further with Your ESG Goals

Commercial EV charging directly supports your ESG efforts, but you can go even further by reusing old EV batteries to expand your energy storage solution.

Batteries are currently the primary environmental concern linked to EV adoption. With an average lifespan of 12 to 15 years, EV batteries gradually lose their capacity and become unsuitable for driving but still retain plenty of storage power.

Recycling is costly, and it’s more advantageous to give these batteries a second life by integrating them into a BESS. This approach would reduce costs as you keep upgrading your energy storage infrastructure while eliminating the need to dispose of old batteries.

Attracting and Retaining Business

Sustainability is emerging as a differentiator. For 78% of consumers, environmental and social concerns are important when purchasing.

Investing in commercial EV charging sends a strong message to your customers and employees, and demonstrates your commitment to ESG goals.

This amenity can attract and retain consumers who share these values. It can also help you form partnerships with other eco-conscious businesses or connect with employees seeking a meaningful career.

Planning for Your Commercial EV Charging Project

Incorporating energy storage into your commercial EV charging project will result in a future-proof property that facilitates EV charging while managing costs and energy usage. The right electrification partner can help you assess your needs and design a charging infrastructure that makes sense for your organization and its users.

With the largest network of electrification-certified electrical contractors across the U.S. and Canada, Qmerit takes the stress out of vetting charging station installers to start growing your infrastructure. Our mission is to make electrification accessible and affordable at all stages of your project, and as the most trusted electrification solutions and EV charging installer network, our turnkey solutions will provide you the security in knowing your installation will be designed to meet your property needs. We can help you manage the EV transition and discuss ways to offset costs through utility incentives and financing. Contact Qmerit today to learn more and build your commercial business for a resilient energy future.

Author: Tom Bowen Tom Bowen President, Qmerit Solutions and Commercial Electrification