Confronting the Challenges of EV Infrastructure Projects
We are in an era of transformative change—the way that we move goods and people is dramatically shifting away from a century-long reliance on conventional petroleum fuels. As transportation electrification continues its march from niche to norm, a formidable challenge emerges: building, developing and investing in electric vehicles (EV) charging infrastructure. A lack of cohesion and partnership will significantly delay the world’s transition to clean transportation.
The early movers of transportation electrification have shown that integrated program management is critical to success. An integrated approach can address EV infrastructure projects’ most pressing questions:
- What technologies and strategies will best support our sustainability goals?
- How do we bring enough reliable power on-site efficiently?
- How do we assess the real estate dynamics to roll out and manage EV charging infrastructure safely and economically?
- How do we align our current partners to ensure seamless integration in design and delivery of charging infrastructure?
- How do we leverage data platforms and technology to manage at scale?
- How can we evaluate the various business models to implement EV infrastructure, including charging as a service, ownership and consumer amenities (preferential rates, accessibility, etc.)?
- What are the maintenance models required for high-uptime EV infrastructure?
An integrated approach is no small task for a newcomer to the market. However, coordinating the activities of different partners for real estate, permitting, technology, incentives, construction and maintenance is paramount. The numerous handoffs among partners and required synchronicity among tasks make it difficult to achieve desired outcomes and can lead to delays, cancellations, malfunctions and increased costs.
Integrated Solutions are Essential to Successful EV Programs
Entering a new market is challenging, and the transportation-electrification space is no different. Even for industry veterans, it is daunting to identify and coordinate with partners to manage real estate considerations, negotiate ownership strategies and oversee technology procurement and permitting.
Transportation electrification’s goals are multifaceted and often pursued in parallel, including:
- Achievement of net zero/sustainability goals
- Compliance with increasingly stringent regulations
- Total cost of ownership reductions
The question becomes: can your organization dedicate the time, energy and expertise to integrate the various project facets, or is finding a trusted partner more cost-effective? Early market successes have shown that a single integrated-solutions provider will better achieve goals than a disaggregated strategy, while also setting the stage for long-term success.
But what project elements are actually required for integration? The following sections identify best practices across the most important aspects of EV charging projects:
- Utility access and site management
- Equipment selection and supply
- Incentives and regulation
- Operations and maintenance
These disparate yet related project elements can sidetrack or derail even the smallest EV infrastructure projects and are best addressed via integrated project management. By sequencing tasks and allocating resources in the most efficient manner possible, a company will electrify a fleet sooner and realize the benefits earlier.
A Tale of Two Cities’ Electrification Efforts
THE VALUE OF INTEGRATED SOLUTIONS
The value of an integrated solutions provider becomes apparent once the project plan has been developed and the implementation process begins. Here operators may realize that key aspects of the plan were wrong or missing entirely, leading to delays and reduced operational efficiency.
Such issues occurred during one municipality’s efforts to install level 2 chargers. The municipality did not include the local electrical utility provider in the planning stage, leaving it unaware of a different infrastructure project already scheduled for construction near the planned location. Unfortunately, not until after the on-site installation of the charging units was completed did the issue become apparent. This oversight resulted in the need to quickly find an alternative location, which led to higher construction costs as the above-ground installation had to be conducted twice. Unfortunately, the new site could not accommodate the required number of charging units, so the municipality also suffered from severe interruptions to planned service, as the EVs arrived on schedule but had no charging facilities available.
An alternative example shows the benefits of integrated solutions. A leading trucking company embarked on its fleet-electrification strategy with a phone call to a trusted partner with real estate, engineering, permitting and marketing expertise. Initial project elements focused on utility engagement to understand power availability and timing, technology selection and the identification of incentives to offset capital costs. This partnership allowed the company to make a phased roll-out of its EV infrastructure, which will ultimately lead to a deployment of nearly 100 heavy-duty electric trucks at a single distribution facility.
Best Practices for EV Infrastructure Implementation
The inability to synchronize and manage project elements and partners leads to delays, cancellations, malfunctions and increased costs. As the EV industry expands, a deepening pool of lessons learned will mitigate the challenges associated with EV infrastructure implementation. Though the following best practices are organized sequentially by importance, they are not stand-alone efforts—real estate, technology, operations, maintenance and financial considerations must be managed along parallel paths, adding to the complexity of EV infrastructure management.
Utility engagement: Early, often, and throughout
The critical first step to any EV infrastructure project is to engage the relevant utility provider to ensure they can meet project goals. EV infrastructure projects often require a new service from the utility to support the installation of EV charging equipment, especially when implementing direct-current fast-charging (DCFC) stations.
Working with a utility can be challenging. With more than 3,000 providers across the U.S., utilities lack uniformity in how they address transportation electrification requests. Utilities facing particularly high demands for new power generation may have substantial backlogs, creating multiple-year delays for new EV infrastructure projects. Early engagement and close relationships with a utility can greatly expedite timelines.
THE LANGUAGE OF EV INFRASTRUCTURE
Standard U.S. wall outlet capable of emitting 120 volts at alternating current (AC). Also referred to as a “trickle charge” due to its slow charging rate, an L1 charger can recharge an EV in 40-50 hours.
Most commonly found chargers at public locations, Level 2 chargers use 240 volts, either through a hardwired charger or via a dedicated 240V outlet. L2 chargers can recharge an EV in 4-10 hours.
Level 3 or Direct-Current Fast Charging (DCFC)
DCFCs use a 480 AC circuit, but convert the power to direct current (DC) before emitting to the battery, resulting in dramatically faster charge times. L3 chargers can recharge an EV in as fast as 20 minutes.
Plugs and Systems
For level 2 chargers, the industry standard is a J1772 plug (“J-plug”) configuration, which is compatible with all vehicle OEMs except Tesla, who provides an adaptor. For level 3 chargers, there is more variety. CHAdeMO is an older, more limiting plug configuration that can deliver up to a 200A charge rate. A more efficient plug configuration, the Combined Charging System (CCS), has two configurations—CCS1, primarily used in North America, and CCS2, primarily used across Europe due to the different voltage. The CCS can deliver upward of a 500-amp charge rate at 1000 volts. For 500A chargers, the CCS adaptor will have a liquid-cooled cable to reduce the amount of heat from the delivery of this high-power charge.
Location analytics: A vision for efficient site management
Using analytics and forecasting models, site hosts can now develop deep insights on suitability, which helps to anticipate future performance metrics. The combination of geo-spatial methods and analysis provide a competitive advantage, yielding more informed location strategies and EV charging decisions.
Figure 1: The Keys of Location Analytics
- Examine multiple data points, such as amenities, access, EV counts and demographics to predict and ensure success
- Understand consumer behaviors and driving habits, and tailor solutions to those needs
- Evaluate route optimization for last-mile delivery and proximity to customer base for ride sharing
- Understand location constraints and onsite challenges early in the process, ensuring that station design best utilizes the space available
- Ensure that the infrastructure project is capable of meeting the business goals before construction begins
- Construct projects that meet the need now, while also future-proofing for the projected demand that will come as the market grows
- Consider trade corridors, population density and sustainability factors to galvanize market opportunities
As with any infrastructure upgrade effort, understanding the space and resources available is essential to successful deployment of the technology. EV charging stations require the use of physical space on the site host’s property.
Despite the smaller and more flexible footprint, the placement of EV charging equipment requires careful consideration of certain factors:
- Proximity to power source and parking considerations
- Charger quantity and mix
- Impact of construction on operations
- Ease of access for operations maintenance
Site planning: Managing the proximity to infrastructure
Collaborative site management practices yield predictable electric loads, costs and operations. Costs can escalate if there is not sufficient room near the existing power supply for the infrastructure installation. Charging stations should be placed near electrical access while minimizing disruptions to hardscaping such as concrete. A full-service real estate provider experienced in site design and coordinating the supply of electric power to buildings can reduce this barrier to entry and better manage costs.
The parking configuration is particularly important in a fleet environment. Coordination is required between the charger placement and the vehicle connection port, as well as an assessment of a vehicle’s turn radius and parking method (i.e., nose-in, back-in, or pull-through). Designing these projects is more complex than the common parking lot or gas station and requires the knowledge and expertise of a project manager who can manage competing interests in the same parking lot.
The diagrams below show two examples of EV infrastructure installations, where the layouts differ according to the demands of the EVs’ operational profiles. Figure 2 shows the EV charging infrastructure housed within the equipment area with power distributed to chargers that serve individual parking spaces on either side of a central island. This scenario is ideal for school bus operations that allow for longer charging times (referred to as “dwell times”), have sufficient geographic space for dedicated EV charging, and enough power supply to charge multiple vehicles simultaneously without affecting operations.
Figure 2: Charging Station Locations –Mass charging with longer dwell times
Figure 3 shows a pull-through, fueling lane-style deployment, which provides energy at higher rates of power over shorter periods of time, though that power is available to fewer vehicles simultaneously. This is a viable solution for transit fleets or local goods delivery operations that have short dwell times and high energy demands during their operation, or for operations that don’t have a suitable geographic footprint for charging multiple vehicles simultaneously.
Figure 3: Charging Station Locations – Pull-through parking for shorter charging times at faster rates
Technology selection: Right-sizing the site
Analyzing fleet operations and vehicles can help to determine how many and what level of chargers are needed. Fleet telematics can provide valuable insights on vehicle routes, fuel use data, hours of operation and parking durations. This data can predict how an EV would perform in this use case. For example, mileage data can predict the electric range required for a vehicle to complete its route. Fuel usage can be analyzed to set the expectations of fleet managers regarding the vehicles’ state of charge (SOC) upon completion of route. Analyzing dwell times can determine the level of charging needed to replenish the range during the charging window between shifts.
Using this information, EV charging partners can determine the two critical data points required for successful fleet electrification:
- Total energy needed by the EV
- Time available for charging
These two factors determine each vehicle’s required necessary power output to ensure sufficient charging during the available dwell times for the vehicles, as well as the total number of chargers needed to maintain the whole fleet. If this is done effectively, a fleet can reach cost parity with electric vehicles sooner.
How to Speak EV
Batteries do not charge in a linear manner—the battery will reduce charge rates from 0%-20% and from 80%-100% to preserve the health of the battery system.
Duck CurveSpecific to solar power, the increasing challenge referred to as the “duck curve” describes the imbalance between daytime power generation of solar and the early morning and evening power demands of electricity users.
Microgrids and Distributed Energy ResourcesA microgrid is a separate power source that can connect and disconnect from the main electric grid. It generates power via renewable energy supplies like solar panels, which are referred to as distributed energy resources, and stores power in an on-site battery.
Specific to DC chargers, smart chargers can be deployed either as a series of all-in-one stations or a modular DC charging system. Modular systems have multiple dispensers connected to a larger power cabinet. The power rating of modular systems is set at the cabinet level, allowing individual dispensers more flexibility in the power levels they can dispense.
Peak Load and Demand
Load or demand is the amount of power required in a given situation. During peak loads, the price for electricity increases while during low loads (such as at night), the price for electricity drops.
Figure 4: Faster Isn’t Always Better - The Benefits of Slower Charging Times
For commercial enterprises with publicly-accessible charging, EV infrastructure requires a different approach. As experts in the EV industry understand, limited data exists to predict the ideal quantity and variety of charging stations. The data that does exist today is constantly changing due to this market’s rapid growth.
Seasoned analysts can determine the level of service by considering the volume and turnover of vehicles at the location, as well as the proximity to existing public charging infrastructure. In addition to evaluating today’s need for EV charging, it is imperative to develop future plans to accommodate growing demand. These plans most often include the installation of wiring, designing access/egress and parking areas, and making phased construction schedules to best address charger installations that will be deployed in stages over the coming years. These forward-looking plans must be coordinated across a comprehensive set of skills (e.g., real estate, engineering, project management and operations). Best practices have shown that integrated solutions providers can ensure that all of these challenges are solved concurrently.
Funding and incentives: Lower the cost of entry
A new era in incentives was ushered in via funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), considered to be the U.S. government's largest-ever investment in climate action. These efforts are anchored by the $5 billion National Electric Vehicle Initiation (NEVI) Program and the $2.5 billion Charge and Fueling Infrastructure (CFI) Program, which will help build out critical EV infrastructure corridors across the U.S. Utilities are getting in on the action too, committing millions of dollars to incentivize EV infrastructure projects while also facilitating this early market through demonstration deployments. Utility incentives—commonly referred to as make-ready programs—ensure that fleets and facilities are provided with sufficient power and the requisite technologies are available on site and on time.
These funds will continue to be allocated for years to come, though it’s not just a simple cash grab: Applicants must be prepared to navigate eligibility and operational requirements, as well as the potential contractual obligations associated with monitoring and reporting. So how do companies find the right opportunity to pursue? Because these funds are competitive and are spent quickly, the potential for success will depend on technical expertise, agility, speed to market and ability to quickly execute on a well-defined strategy.
Regulatory management: Implement compliance strategies
While funding “carrots” incentivize market activity, regulatory drivers have become the clean transportation market’s “sticks.” Notable federal action of late includes the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s draft of a heavy-duty engine rule in late 2022 that sets the strictest-ever national standards on emissions that contribute to air pollution. That action comes in parallel with California’s zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) regulations, particularly the Advanced Clean Fleet (ACF) rule and the California Advanced Clean Trucks (ACT) rule.
ACF will require that large fleet owners purchase and operate ZEVs in steadily increasing amounts as a percentage of their fleet size until reaching 100% between 2035 and 2042 (final compliance date varies by application). Alternatively, ACT requires original equipment manufacturers to rapidly increase the sale of ZE trucks and buses over the next two decades. These regulatory drivers do not just apply to California. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have signed a memorandum of understanding that establishes a goal of 100% ZEV sales for medium-duty and heavy-duty vehicles by 2050, and many states have also started their own efforts to implement ACF and ACT regulations.
Fleet owners, operators and site hosts need a trusted partner to help discern these various regulatory requirements, avoiding painful financial penalties and keeping businesses in good standing.
Global Challenges, Local Impacts
The global pandemic, labor shortages and availability of rare earth minerals have created unprecedented impact worldwide, particularly on the transportation electrification movement. Shortages in materials essential to the battery manufacturing process have led most vehicle and technology manufacturers to reduce production and limit availability, which has led to longer procurement and deployment times and increased costs.
Ongoing operations and maintenance: Groundwork for long-term success
Ongoing operations and maintenance plans are critical to mitigating the risk of charger downtime and equipment failures. Unlike traditional fueling infrastructure, a single-point outage can significantly impact operations because charging stations are typically deployed at individual parking spaces. Failure points for chargers can come from a number of places: the charging unit itself, network management system, in-ground infrastructure or the electric utility provider. As the cause of an outage is often hard to identify, it is critical that fleets implement a proactive and predictive maintenance and operations plan.
Integrating equipment with maintenance is a valuable best practice that will optimize operation of the EV charging station to maximize uptime and reliability. Maintenance and upkeep of any charging station network is a critical consideration for the long-term effectiveness of any electrification project. The business case often pencils out only when uptime of chargers is maximized. One of the best methods to managing all the operations of charger maintenance is through a service level agreement (SLA), which should be agreed upon prior to making a purchase decision and ideally in partnership with an integrated solutions provider.
Figure 5: Elements of a Service-Level Agreement (SLA)
|Key Elements of an SLA||Description|
|Independent health monitoring||Monitoring software allows the fleet operator to focus on their own core business rather than monitoring their charger uptime. This can be beneficial, as these services can sometimes predict and respond to issue in advance of a unit failure, further reducing the impact to operations.|
|Parts supply||Connectors and cables are the most common points of hardware failure for charging units and are the least likely parts to be covered under warranty. It is advisable to maintain a reasonable supply of these parts to respond to issues quickly. For other parts, it is recommended to work with the provider to understand the availability of parts for repairs and to develop a local supply of critical parts.|
|Software integration||Ensuring that your provider has demonstrable successful integration with your intended management software solution is critical. This becomes especially significant if the deployment utilizes several different charger manufacturers, as the management software will need to integrate with all of them seamlessly.|
|Technician support||Access to trained technicians is critical for ongoing maintenance, especially when dealing with DCFC, as the high-voltage equipment requires a technician with specific certification. Best practice is to confirm in writing with your provider that local technicians are available and to take advantage of training programs for fleet operators to have their own on-site technicians respond to more routine maintenance issues.|
|Uptime requirements/Issue response time||Typical standard is response within 24 hours for critical issues, and 48-72 hours for non-critical issues. SLA holders should clarify what constitutes a critical issue with the equipment provider in writing prior to the final purchase.|
Managing warranties and proactive communications regarding failures and outages will also yield success. A management system software enables the operator to track the real-time health of their entire charging network, allowing operators to respond to failures as they occur and aid in the identification of the failure’s point of origin, thus significantly reducing the downtime of the unit.
Failure risk can also be mitigated through resiliency and redundancy, which can be done using various strategies.
The first method is charger diversification. For example, a local goods delivery fleet may regularly use dedicated Level 2 chargers to recharge their vehicles; however, as a resiliency method, they could also install multiple DC fast chargers to provide faster recharge times and get vehicles back into operation quicker, should outages occur with a Level 2 charger or in the case of immediate delivery needs.
An alternative method, particularly for medium-and heavy-duty fleet operations, is installation of chargers with a higher kW output than the minimum standard necessary for operations. For example, a fleet that requires an average of 50kWh during their available charging time would only need a standard 60kW maximum output charger. To provide resiliency, the fleet could invest in a bank of chargers capable of 120kW to enable the fleet to rotate vehicles through a single higher power charger in the event of an outage with one of the lower power units.
To address redundancy, the use of redundant power generation, such as renewable energy resources with battery storage systems, is a best practice capable of mitigating risks for mission-critical infrastructure.
Another way to build in redundancy is by installing more chargers than are currently needed for the electric fleet. Most fleets electrify in stages: There may not be enough power available right away, or they are introducing EVs into their fleet as they retire fossil fuel-powered vehicles over a number of years. By deploying EV chargers at a faster rate than the addition of EVs to the fleet, critical redundancy is built into the charging infrastructure. As the fleet continued to electrify, and as the operator becomes more experienced with operating an electric fleet and has a better understanding of usage profiles, the share of redundant chargers can be reduced.
A Trusted Advisor Can Lead You to Success
These best practices are just the beginning. There are no simple solutions, but an integrated approach will simplify and accelerate the path to electrification. Establishing a partnership with a trusted provider can establish cost-effective and efficient pathways to adopting new technologies, modifying operations and creating viable space for the required infrastructure that will allow us to usher in a zero-emission future.
From grid integration to battery chemistry to lightweight materials, innovation has served as the core of our transportation-electrification future. And as the adoption of EVs continues to rise, we must recognize that a proven adage rings true here: Those who fail to learn from the past are doomed to repeat it. This is borne out by the early adopters’ experiences with challenges associated with EV charging infrastructure: Utility engagement, location analytics, real estate and site planning, technology availability and operations and maintenance are the leading culprits.
The transportation-electrification market is swiftly evolving, accelerated by government-led green initiatives and increased demand and supply of EVs. To successfully navigate this evolution, business leaders should pursue a fully integrated approach with superior project management and coordination. Real estate advisory capabilities, location analytics software and world-class end-to-end program management are nearly as critical to transportation-electrification projects as the EVs and chargers themselves.
Our Solutions CBRE delivers a fully integrated approach to accelerate EV charging deployment to drive down costs and create efficiencies for clients. Strong relationships with utilities and permitting agencies, end-to-end program management and a world-class facilities management organization allow its EV charging solutions to overcome some of the biggest challenges in the industry.
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