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SPX Services suggests 5 early practical lessons about public electric vehicle charging infrastructure
2 November 2011
SPX Service Solutions, a component of the diversified global SPX corporation, is partnering with GM and Daimler for charging stations and installation services for the Chevy Volt; and smart fortwo electric drive and Mercedes-Benz A-Class E-CELL, respectively. The company also provides one of the charging stations on Portland’s “Electric Avenue”. SPX Services works on EV projects with utility companies, cities and other organizations, and is an automotive diagnostics supplier to OEMs globally. (SPX’s general automotive supply and services business reaches back almost 100 years.)
While SPX Services’s initial focus with GM and the Volt has been on getting Volt customers set up with home installation, said Charlie Yankitis, director of business development and electric vehicle solutions, in the last 8 months or so he and the company have become more involved in looking at areas where charging equipment is needed other than the home—i.e., more public charging units in cities and states.
In an interview with Green Car Congress, Yankitis noted that similar issues and questions keep popping up with development and planning officials. Based on that and the company’s growing body of experience in this area, he suggests five early practical lessons for everyone to keep in mind:
- Use a realistic business model
- Learn from handicapped parking
- Update building codes
- Install certified charge equipment
- Think carefully about charging locations
Business model. One thing a city has to determine, Yankitis said, is the revenue model behind the installation, suggesting that a straight revenue model based on usage fees probably won’t cut it.
If the consumer parks there for half hour or an hour, and hour’s worth of electricity is about 50 cents. If you really were to charge enough to pay for that, consumers probably wouldn’t use the unit. We suggest that maybe they should look at it as a benefit to the retailers in the area, as a way to draw people.—Charlie Yankitis
Handicap parking. Handicap parking spots provide a useful lesson. Good signage identifying the location of the EVSE is necessary, and cities should consider ordinances to handle unauthorized parking in EV charging spots similar to that applied to handicap spaces.
We have noticed the need to identify where these [EVSE] posts are. We see the same thing with handicapped spaces. Those are a little easier, and usually closer to the building. Charging units may be in a little different location [further from the building entrance] due to cost; but consumers need to be able to find the charger. And also, and I’ve seen this myself—I drive a Volt—I’ve seen [conventional] cars parking in EV spots. Like with handicap parking, you may need city ordinances.—Charlie Yankitis
Update building codes. Updating building codes to require conduit to be put underground with new construction would be useful, Yankitis suggested.
When a building is under construction, the cost to place conduit is minimal, compared to going back later to tear up concrete. Even now, if a city puts one station in to start out, in many cases there is more work that need to be done later. They could consider putting some additional conduit in to be utilized later.
That’s really what they did with [Portland’s] Electric Avenue. When they designed that whole block area, they put a port in the sidewalk every 8 feet with the conduit there. Now with about 8 units, there is room for another 4. They set everything up to be future-proof.—Charlie Yankitis
Certified charge equipment. The equipment should be a quality, safe charge station that meets SAE and UL standards.
Charging location and cord management. Where you put the unit is important, he noted, in relationship to both the car and the source of electrical power. Related to that is cord management; a cord left on the ground in Michigan, for example, may suffer a bit from a snowplow.
You also want to site the charging equipment where customers are going to park for at least 45 minutes or so, not in a spot where they run in and out for about 10 minutes—i.e., shopping or restaurant dining or entertainment activities, rather than a fast food spot.
SPX Services offers both residential and commercial Level 2 charging solutions. The SPX Power Xpress unit can be hardwired or moveable. Commercial charging units are available in wall-mount or bollard style and have an output current of 24A (30A Circuit).
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