Capitalism is great. Well, sometimes. When it comes to the rollout of EV charging infrastructure it can be a bit of a double-edged sword. Level 2 J-1772 charging is perfect for many businesses who want to offer a competitive advantage but they need to leave the DCFC to some of the big dogs — at least for now.
What do I mean?
Hotels, for example, would benefit from having on-site level 2 charging. EV buyers would tell other EV buyers about the ability to charge overnight, and start the day with a full charge. They’d get new business as a result, and more repeat business from EV drivers that had a good experience.
The same applies for restaurants. Being able to add 8 to 11 kWh of electricity to a car while the owner eats a nice meal adds some real-world range and will draw in other EV buyers.
Own a gym where people spend 45 minutes to an hour? Install a level 2 charger!
These level 2 chargers aren’t super fast, and aren’t good for road trips, but they add some usable around-the-town range to drivers can be installed for very little money.
Add in some tax incentives out there and installing a bank of level 2 chargers can net the business owner an increase in revenue while costing less than to reseal the parking lot.
Because they’re inexpensive units, it’s also easier to replace them or fix them when they break. They’re relatively simple devices — especially ones that don’t require a network connection and function as a “dumb” device — and don’t need a particularly difficult power setup.
Gas stations, supermarkets, travel centers, and more are prime candidates for the faster DCFC. And I love when I can get fast charging, use the restroom, and get a quick snack and have nearly a full battery when I’m done. It’s fantastic.
But here’s where it becomes complicated.
You see, Electrify America and Tesla lease the land to install their collective chargers. They pay for the electricity. They handle the upkeep and repairs. They even pay for the snow removal and maintenance of the site — usually through the land lease contract with the site owner — and they’re solely responsible for the operation of the facility.
ChargePoint, on the other hand, will sell the property owner the equipment and manage the payment and app infrastructure on the back end, but they have no day to day control of the station.
Sure, if you can’t pay for a charging session they’ll look into it. They might be able to remotely reboot the station to fix some issues. But that’s all part of a contract that the equipment owner agrees to with ChargePoint.
The hardware comes with a warranty, and the site owner is encouraged to get an extended warranty to help keep the equipment operational and up to date. But because the site owner owns the equipment, it’s really up to them to make sure they work properly.
Here’s a real world example of where that can go wrong.
A what's the plan @ChargePointnet? pic.twitter.com/iaXkbOg7lN
— derekpowell (@derekpowell) January 16, 2022
Who is responsible for making sure this older charging hardware has updated hardware? If this were an Electrify America station or a Tesla charging station, the answer would be obvious. In the case of this ChargePoint installation, the answer isn’t as clear.
Did a charging reseller work with the local government to get free money to have the charger installed? That’s usually the case, and there’s typically a service agreement attached to it. But if that agreement was only three years, which is possible, and the city didn’t have the money or desire to renew that agreement with the company who provided the chargers, then everyone realistically washed their hands of who is responsible.
I’ve worked with some of these companies to help roll out more charging hardware and infrastructure in the past. Level 2 chargers are a no brainer for most businesses and there’s studies out there that demonstrate that adding charging increases the business’s bottom line, improves employee retention, and attracts top tier talent.
The same, in theory, should apply to DCFC. But when installing two chargers can cost $150,000 or more to do, it starts to become real money. And since most DCFC aren’t profitable at current utilization numbers, there isn’t a big financial motivation to pay to keep stations up to date.
That’s why, at least for the short term, the model of leasing the land to a charging provider is a much smarter move than buying the equipment and installing it yourself if you want high speed fast charging.