As the world shifts towards more sustainable energy sources, the adoption of electric vehicles is on the rise. With this surge in popularity and increasing demand for electric vehicles, electrical service contractors are now facing an influx of requests to install EV charging stations for homeowners and businesses alike.
While this presents an opportunity for businesses to meet this growing demand, the installation of EV charging stations comes with its own set of technical and regulatory challenges. EV owners also want additional electrification services to enhance their EV use such as installing a smart panel, adding battery storage, and solar panel integration.
Besides the sheer number of installations, electrical service contractors face several technical and regulatory challenges as they work to meet demand. From navigating differing electrical services at homes and buildings to keeping up with the latest NFPA requirements, electrical service contractors must stay up to date with the latest best practices and industry standards.
In this article, we explore the top five challenges that electrical service contractors face when installing EV charging stations and how they can overcome them.
EVs do not have a “one-size-fits-all” charging connector, and this is not likely to change.
While older EV models often use CHAdeMO charging connectors, newer vehicles may use Type 1, Type 2, or Combine Charging System (CCS) connectors. Type 1 charging cables come with a standard 5-pin design. Type 2 charging cables have 7 pins, which allows for three-phase charging. The CCS connectors, though, come with Type 1 and Type 2 adapters that support direct current (DC) Level 3 charging with two additional contacts.
The challenge for EV charging station installation contractors here is they must have the proper training for each installation type. That knowledge will also dictate their ability to advise clients on suitable options and provide the best solution to fit the needs of the home- or business owner.
The electrical services and existing electrical infrastructure for homes and buildings can vary widely. The electrical infrastructure may need to be upgraded to accommodate the new EV charging load.
The challenge for electric service contractors here is twofold:
1. Electrical contractors must determine if the service is to code.
For example, per the 2023 National Electrical Code (NEC), all EV supply charging systems must now be calculated (for feeders or services) at either 7,200W (volt-amperes) or the nameplate rating of the charging system, whichever is larger. Additionally, there may be a necessity for additional emergency disconnects or updating other aspects of a consumer’s electrical system. This additional electrical work will almost always result in higher installation costs.
While some states have not adopted the latest NEC, for best results and overall safety, electrical service contractors should implement the current standards. We will cover this more extensively below.
2. Electrical contractors must determine if the service and panel can support the added electrical burden.
EV charging station amperage requirements must be considered before the installation of EV charging stations and any other electrification services can begin.
The necessary load calculations must be made to ensure an EV charging station installation will not overtax the electrical panel or subpanel.
Consumer interest in purchasing and installing EVSE, or electric vehicle charging equipment, has been increasing rapidly and has reached a tipping point historically indicative of future exponential growth and mass adoption. EVSE can include equipment such as:
MIDs, MCAs, and bidirectional charging are leading the trend in EVSE installation.
MCAs are frequently used as surge protectors to protect valuable appliances and electronics in the case of lightning strikes or utility distribution failures. MCAs are also being used to provide power to a charging station without the need to upgrade the main electrical panel.
MIDs are used in conjunction with MCA installations to satisfy the NEC requirement for a means of electrical service disconnection. MIDs can disconnect power sources and loads from the serving utility and then reconnect them as needed. At some point, we can expect MCAs to be integrated with MIDs.
Installing bidirectional charging allows home- and business owners to use their EVs as a backup power source depending on the EV and the charging station installed. This technology can also be applied to EV fleets capable of powering businesses and office buildings. Tom Moloughney shows the benefits and provides details on some of the necessities involved in installing a bidirectional transfer system.
The challenge for electrical service contractors, in this case, is that while EVSE can provide the benefits described above, it can also complicate a charging station installation.
The fourth challenge for electrical service contractors is that each EV charging station type presents unique fire protection requirements dictated by charger type, location (inside or outside), and nearby activities.
For customer satisfaction and optimum safety, contractors need to stay current on these variables and how they affect EV charging station installations.
The NEC is updated every three years to improve electrical safety standards. One of the challenges here for electrical service contractors is that not all states adhere to the same NEC standard.
While the 2023 NEC has been published, most states have only adopted the 2020, 2017, or even 2008 codes. These slow code implementations can make EV charging stations and the associated equipment less safe for consumers and their installation more hazardous for electrical service contractors.
To ensure this does not happen, EV charging station installation contractors should follow the newest NEC regardless of the state’s adopted version. In doing so, they will also likely avoid any installation or operation complications with fire protection, charging connectors, electrical services, electrification technologies, and EVSE.
Electrical service contractors face a constant battle to stay up to date with best practices and industry standards such as the NEC.
Through its Certified Solutions Partner (CSP) program, Qmerit helps electrical service contractors master new techniques in electrification technologies such as EV charging stations through in-depth training and continuing education programs. Members of the Qmerit-certified Installer Network also have unlimited access to on-demand training, resources, technical guides, and more through the Qmerit Resource Center (QRC).
Qmerit will help you expand your business by keeping you updated with best practices and continuing education, in addition to providing exclusive access to electrification projects with top automakers, EV charger manufacturers, utilities, fleets, and beyond.
Contact Qmerit today for more information about our training capabilities and information resources so we can work with you to build your business for the future.