Some AEC companies are entering the electric vehicle charging market
Despite recent decisions by leading automakers, in response to demand changes, to temporarily slow their production of electric vehicles, the federal government remains committed to transportation electrification, and some AEC companies are exploring ways to capitalize on the expansion of this market segment.
During the first half of 2023, electric vehicle sales in the United States rose 49 percent compared to the same period the previous year. But this increase compares unfavorably to the 63% gain in calendar year 2022. Automakers such as Ford, General Motors and Tesla have announced that they will reduce or delay production of some electric vehicle models during this period, which one sector analyst referred to as “growing pains.” “.
The perceived uncertainty in this market has not tempered the Biden administration’s support for electric vehicles as part of its larger strategy to reduce carbon emissions. The White House expects to establish a national network of 500,000 electric vehicle chargers across the country, anticipating that electric vehicle sales will rise to at least half of all new vehicle purchases by 2030. Year-to-date through September, electric vehicle sales have reached Just over 873k and it was on track. This month to exceed one million units for a year for the first time ever.
Some AEC companies are proactively jumping on this bandwagon.
Full service charging stations, both in design and construction
Engineering firm Kimley-Horn recently launched TREDLite EV, a software solution for retail chains and local governments to select the best locations for new electric vehicle chargers. Kimley-Horn also partnered with Drive Electric Tennessee, an outreach and enforcement program that in September released a “Multifamily Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure Guide,” for developers and riders who want to install chargers.
Driver SPG, a division of general contractor CW Driver, is building what will be the first full-service electric vehicle charging station for Rove Charging, which plans to open 20 locations by 2026. The first station, on 1.2 acres in Santa Ana, Calif., is slated to Opening next summer. The station, designed by Peruzzi Architects, will be able to recharge 40 vehicles simultaneously via high-power fast chargers. The station will include an on-site market operated by Gilson’s Markets, restrooms and free Wi-Fi for customers using the station lounge and outdoor courtyard. Some Rove stations will offer a car wash service.
The Santa Ana plant will be able to generate renewable energy through on-site solar panels and battery storage that complement the city’s electrical grid.
Last month, the Chicago Athenaeum and the European Center for Architectural Design and Urban Studies awarded their International Architecture Prize to Sunflower Station, a futuristic electric vehicle station designed by Beijing-based Sanyo Architectural Design and commissioned by fuel distribution company and retailer Parkland Corporation, which is based in affluent Calgary. Oil Company, Alberta, with operations in 25 countries. This station design — which reimagines a typical highway gas station as a recharging oasis — contains 24 electric vehicle charging bays, and other areas where drivers and passengers can rest, watch movies or meditate. The design also features solar panels and a rainwater collection system.
The number of electric vehicle chargers continues to grow. Earlier this month, EVgo, one of the country’s largest public fast charging networks, revealed that it would begin using a prefabricated approach that cuts installation time for fast chargers in half and reduces construction costs by an average of 15 percent.
Electric vehicle chargers are generally more likely to be installed in shopping mall parking lots than inside gas station stand-alone structures. An EV station concept study conducted by Gensler and BMW Designworks a few years ago has yet to find a willing adopter, a Gensler spokesperson confirms. The developers behind the Stack Charge EV station concept, who previously announced their plans to open 10 stations in Southern California by the end of 2023, now say their first station, containing 40 fast chargers, is in Baker, California, between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. It will be opened early next year.
“As the country transitions to electric vehicles, they are moving to a distributed refueling model, where the car can be recharged at the gym, or at the supermarket,” says Mike Battaglia, COO of Blink Charging, a leading charging company. Or on roads, such as gas stations. One of the nation’s leading electric vehicle charging companies, with more than 3,500 charging sites and nearly 12,000 connectors.
He says Tesla has done a good job expanding its network of Supercharging stations, which has nearly 2,000 stations with nearly 22,000 Supercharging ports, according to Department of Energy estimates. But Battaglia warns that DC fast-charging stations are expensive, which makes calculating the return on investment for such projects more difficult.
While Blink also wants a bigger piece of the fast-charging pie, it is targeting the multifamily segment to install Level 2 charging equipment, the cost of which is a fraction of DC fast chargers, and provides higher-rate AC charging through 240-volt electricity. Service for residential applications and 208V service for commercial applications. Level 2 chargers can charge an electric vehicle to 80 percent empty in four to 10 hours, and hybrid chargers in one to two hours, according to U.S. Department of Transportation estimates.
Citing research by McKinsey and other sources, Battaglia says that despite all the media hype around fast chargers, 90 percent of all kilowatt-hours of electricity spent charging electric vehicles will come through Level 2 equipment. More multifamily developers are interested in installing EV chargers as a competitive amenity that meets growing demand from renters.
For multifamily customers, Blink performs a site assessment to determine how many stations are needed and whether the building has adequate electrical service. On average, a multifamily complex will require one charger for every five to seven EVs on site, Battaglia says. Level 2 charging equipment costs between $5,000 and $6,000 per unit, and another $8,000 to $20,000 for installation.
The biggest cost driver is the distance between a building’s electrical panel and the EV charger array. That’s why Blink advises its multifamily customers, when choosing a location for chargers, to plan ahead for the possibility of increased demand. Blink will soon offer a dual-point charging station that can recharge any electric vehicle including a Tesla, whose charging standard has been adopted by several automakers.
Production slowdown deviation
Publicly held Blink Charging reported a 151 percent increase in revenue, to $97.9 million, for the nine months ended Sept. 30. The company expects earnings per share to be positive by December 2024, Battaglia says.
Blink recently signed a seven-year agreement to become the official electric vehicle charging provider for Miami Beach, its home city. Blink is also partnering with connected car and parking provider Parkopedia to integrate more than 4,000 EV chargers into Parkopedia’s platform in North America, giving its subscribers access to Blink’s charger network. Blink products are now prioritized by the state of Utah for government agencies, nonprofits, K-12, and higher education agencies. The company is also an electric vehicle charging supplier for the Tennessee Valley Authority providing charging solutions for public and commercial fleet applications.
Blink emphasizes its flexibility. It will adopt Tesla’s charging standard and integrate plug-and-charge technology that simplifies the payment process for electric vehicle drivers. Blink also provides power management services.
Battaglia isn’t too concerned about the slowdown in electric vehicle production, which he views as a temporary aberration. “Look, electric vehicles now make up 7.7% of auto sales, and they were 25% (of sales) in California” in the first half of 2023. “We never thought this would be a linear rocket ship.”