Investing in your business: electric vehicle chargepoints
By Matthew Gibbons, Managing Director, Plug&Drive, a UK manufacturer and installer of electric vehicle charge points
With more and more drivers making the switch to electric vehicles (EVs), it’s more common to see EV chargepoints at various commercial locations. Fuel stations, supermarkets and shopping centres are prime locations for charging infrastructure, but many other business types are suited too.
Any business location where customers typically spend more than 20 minutes on-site can benefit from EV chargepoints. This could be long-stay like hotels, or shorter-stay locations like restaurants, leisure centres and retail stores.
Choosing to install EV chargepoints is a significant decision that requires careful thought and planning. Here are some key considerations to take into account when deciding if EV chargepoints are right for your business.
Location and permissions
The most convenient location for chargepoints is within your commercial car park, so that drivers can recharge their vehicles whilst they’re parked up and using your facilities. If you want to provide EV charging for employees, consider where they leave their vehicles throughout the day – is it in the customer car park, or elsewhere?
If you own the land, then it’s unlikely you’ll need additional permissions to install the chargepoints. However, if the electrical works will disrupt any land that you do not own, the land owner will need to give their permission. If you rent the car park, your landlord will need to confirm that they are happy for the works to be carried out.
It’s important to note that the further the installation area is from the main electricity supply, the more costly the electrical works will be.
It can be difficult to decide how many chargepoints are required for your premises. Customer-facing establishments may require charging opportunities for both customers and employees, while office-based businesses may cater primarily to employees and visitors.
It can be beneficial to consider future growth and scalability. If you find that your chargepoints bring in steady and consistent profit, you may want to expand later down the line, so consider the location wisely.
An electrician can survey your premises to determine the electrical capacity. EVs are high-energy devices and managing multiple at once can strain the electrical system. The electrical supply can be upgraded if necessary to accommodate the extra demand, but be sure to budget for the additional costs.
Opting for charge points with dynamic load balancing is advisable when installing a large number, as they distribute electricity to all outputs concurrently without overloading the circuit.
Consider the source of your electricity. You may choose to use renewable energy sources, such as solar panels or wind turbines to power the charging stations, making the chargepoints even more environmentally friendly.
There are a range of EV chargepoints on the market. Most commercial locations opt for fast-charging stations as these are much more convenient for users who may not be parked up for extended periods of time. It’s also advisable to opt for a chargepoint with a type 2 socket, as this is compatible with all EV models. Ensure that your chosen chargepoint has OCPP (Open Charge Point Protocol), as this will allow it to connect with management systems.
Research grants or incentives for your local area that can assist with the cost of purchasing and installing the chargepoints at your business. Your installer will be able to advise you on the available options. Some grants require specific models of chargepoints to be installed by approved installers in order to claim, so it’s important to know ahead of time.
Management and pricing
Most chargepoint models will have a manufacturer app for management, but there are also various management systems which can offer better features and benefits for commercial settings. These systems will allow you to control access to the chargepoints, allowing specific people (such as employees) to use them, set up a reservation system and set up payments.
How you choose to price your chargepoints is entirely down to what is best for your business and what you’re hoping to achieve. If the business can viably afford to offer free charging and your main aim from the installation is to work towards your sustainability goals, then free charging can be a nice incentive for employees and customers. This can put you above competitors, enticing and retaining customers, as well as making your business more appealing to potential employees.
If your business provides EVs to employees as company vehicles and you choose to offer free EV charging, consider how you can offer a similar benefit to any employees who commute to the workplace in a petrol or diesel vehicle. Perhaps you could offer compensation for their fuel costs when travelling to and from work.
If you want to set a price for charging at your premises, consider whether you want to charge a flat fee, per kilowatt-hour, or a subsidised cost. Think about the long term implications for your revenue and your employees and customers to work out what is best for your business.
Installing EV chargepoints can be a costly, but effective business decision. It’s important to take the time to understand the implications and make informed decisions to ensure a successful, sustainable and profitable installation of EV charging infrastructure.