Parking plays an important role in any new development, and it continues to be a vital asset for the life of that development once it’s completed. But parking can be challenging to manage and should never be treated as an afterthought. Poorly designed or managed parking can pose safety and security issues, can affect tenant satisfaction, and can be costly to maintain. These are issues that developers, owners and investors have wrestled with for years.
And now parking is about to get even more complicated as the auto industry becomes electrified. President Biden has called for half of all auto sales to be electric by 2030, and the auto industry is responding with aggressive EV goals. General Motors plans to produce only EVs by 2035, and Ford and Stellantis (formerly Fiat Chrysler) plan to be 40 percent electric by 2030. Volvo is being even more ambitious, promising to go all-electric by 2030.
This trend promises to significantly affect developers and owners, particularly owners of residential developments. The bulk of EV charging will take place at home, and residential developers and owners of existing residential properties will need to accommodate their residents. Also, many drivers will need to juice up when they travel or after they commute to work or play, so this new reality will be an issue even for non-residential development as well.
Parking facilities provide the most obvious source of recharging when drivers need to recharge on the road. Local and national authorities seem to think so too, with some beginning to implement codes mandating EV charging and putting the infrastructure cost on parking owners.
“There’s a lot of pressure coming from outside to add EV charging,” says Rob McConnell vice president at WGI Inc. “Some states and municipalities, California for instance, are already setting requirements for offering EV charging in new developments. Other states will follow soon, so it may be time to start thinking about how to add EV charging, what types of equipment to offer, and a timeframe for adding the equipment.”
The Parking Consultants Council is coming up with its own recommendation, which is likely to be picked up by zoning ordinances, recommending 25 percent of static capacity for level 2 charging. If the development is residential and only providing level 1 charging, the standard will be 100 percent.
With the auto industry’s evolution to EV being completed over the next decade, many developers and owners will install EV charging stations in the coming years. In fact, because building codes are beginning to mandate that EV charging be included in certain developments (particularly residential), the question isn’t whether to install EV technology, but when, which types, and how many units.
Let’s start with when. If owners are already seeing electric vehicles in their parking facilities, the answer may be “now” or at least “soon.” The equipment is relatively affordable and simple, and many have already begun installing charging stations. But just because the auto industry has begun the conversion to all-electric fleets, that doesn’t mean you need to add EV charging stations to all your parking spaces now. It will be nearly a decade before even the most ambitious automakers plan to be all electric, and a few years later for the others. Plus, drivers won’t all immediately switch over at once; they will continue to drive their gas-powered cars and trucks for a while. Today, the average vehicle on the road is 12 years old — and that trend will continue even after the auto industry completes the conversion to all-electric production. Realistically, it will be another 20 years before most drivers are driving electric. So, owners can stagger their installation of EG charging over years.
“As with any new technology, it’s reasonable to assume that the cost will drop significantly as new manufacturers enter the market,” says David Rich, vice president of the parking consulting firm Rich & Associates. “Why spend $12,000 per space today when the same technology may cost $1,000 or less in a few years?”
According to Rich, owners should work closely with their planning teams to estimate what demand is going to be over the next 15 to 20 years and how that demand will grow from year to year. Then they can make an informed decision about how many EV units to install each year.
After working out the related issues of when and how many EV units to install, the next essential issue is what type. There are three basic types of charging equipment. Level 1 is more of an entry level charger, and it uses a normal 120-volt connection, similar to a standard household outlet. It’s the slowest charging option available and tends to be more suited to overnight charging, so these may be the best choice for residential developments. Level 1 chargers typically cost between $300 and $600 each.
Level 2, the most common charging station, may be a better choice for most owners. Level 2 is 240-volt technology that can fully charge a vehicle in about three hours. Level 2 stations cost between $2,000 and $13,000 and average out to around $6,000 each. A Level 2 station can typically fully charge a vehicle in three to eight hours.
Level 3 charging stations are by far the fastest and most expensive. They operate at 480-volts and can provide an 80 percent charge in about 30 minutes. The average cost of a fully installed Level 3 EV charging station is around $50,000 to $80,000 and they may require a utility company to install new service. For owners considering a Level 3 station, it’s a classic cost/benefit question. Owners tend to want to provide the best parking experience possible, but many will find the cost prohibitive.
It’s important to remember the decision about which level charging to utilize doesn’t revolve around the brands of vehicles that are being charged. (Tesla, perhaps the best-known electric vehicle manufacturer, has its own proprietary connector, but an adapter is included with each Tesla to allow vehicles to charge at all Level 2 stations.) Decisions should be based on cost and how the parking owner wants the charging station to impact the use of parking spaces. If more frequent turnover is desired, levels 2 or 3 may be suitable; if long-term or overnight charging will be the norm, Level 1 may suffice.
The EV units are the most visible element of the charging stations, but the installation doesn’t end there. Infrastructure is required to bring electricity to the units. EV charging requires power supplied by a local utility; wiring to convey that power; conduit to house the wires; and of course, the charging stations. Developers and owners should consult their parking consultants or EV specialists to make sure they have a handle on this infrastructure and how it will impact their EV charging plans.
Another thing to consider is whether to invest in networked EV charging stations. These Wi-Fi-connected stations limit access to specific users (like residents of an apartment building), charge users for electricity consumption, monitor the station’s performance, and provide usage reports. Networked stations cost more than non-networked ones, but they may be worth it because they are easier to manage. Some EV providers offer user-friendly turnkey solutions and will bundle everything together, making the technology more manageable.
“Some providers will help put in new conduits, power lines, and EV charging systems and set everything up,” says Chris McKenty, VP of sales and marketing at SKIDATA. “The EV technology can even be integrated into the facilities PARCS system to allow the parker to pay for the EV charging as part of the parking transaction.”
Weight is another consideration. EV batteries are heavy, and electric vehicles can weigh considerably more than traditional vehicles that run on gasoline. For instance, the EV version of the GMC Hummer has several batteries for extended range and expanded power and weighs more than 9,000 pounds. This is about three times the weight of a Toyota Corolla. This may be a consideration for multistory parking garages.
“You’d have to look at your entire parking structure with a building engineer,” says McKenty. “Can the garage handle it if you have all these heavy electric vehicles parked on the top floor? You could be adding an extra 60,000 pounds onto the weight of that floor deck.”
It won’t be long before electric vehicles are the rule, rather than the exception. When that time arrives — and it will be sooner than most people realize — developers and owners will need to have adequate EV charging resources to meet the needs of their parkers. It’s time to start ramping up to meet that need.
Bill Smith (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a business writer specializing in the parking industry, and is a contributing editor to Parking & Mobility magazine.