Lessons learned from an EVSE Installer

Sunday, January 23, 2011
So far, I've estimated over 25 sites for commercial EVSE installations and we've got our first installation under our belt.  The units we are siting are mostly the Chargepoint America Coulomb CT2100 units (which are very well designed), so that makes the units free to the right type of customer...they just pay the installation costs.

Here are some of the things I've learned so far...

  • Parking lots weren't designed with spare power available.  Therefore, most installations require power distribution work to get ample power out to the parking lot.  This can be expensive if the job requires things like boring under pavement or step down transformers are involved.  Because every property is different, it's very hard to make assumptions on how much a "typical" installation is.
  • You have to balance the "best" parking space with a "cheap installation" parking space.  The cheapest parking space install is usually the shortest distance to power.  The best parking space is usually up front were it can be easily seen, has good security, and can be easily expanded on.  Deciding on the right parking area is a skill, requiring you to walk the property manager through the options.
  • Plan big, start small.  If you buy into the idea that EVs will become the norm in 10 years...and therefore drivers will rely on public charging on a regular basis...then you should be the type that plans for expansion of your EV Chargers as EVs get popular.  For a few of our customers, this means installing a 200 Amp service/panel near the parking area with larger conduit to support additional panels in the future.  A 200 Amp service will easily drive four Level II (220V) EV Chargers and an additional circuit for a Level I (120V) charger too.
  • Thanks Obama, Coulomb, NovaCharge, and Get Ready Central Florida.  The ARRA funding that powered the Chargepoint America program in Orlando will GREATLY speed adoption of EVs in Central Florida.  Why?  The economy has sucked the slack out of all budgets...and installing EVSE is a luxury for most companies.  Without these free units, trying to get people to pay for EV Chargers (and installation) before the cars arrive would be super tough...and without public chargers available, people will adopt EVs much slower.

I gotta say that it's very exciting to work in this field...and it's very challenging (read: not easy).  We (car companies, EVSE vendors, installers) are basically starting up a new business during the worst recession since the Great Depression and asking cash-strapped businesses to pay for expensive things that will be used in the near future...that's hard!  The good part is that this "slow" period allows us to concentrate on how to do this job right - as there is nothing worse than poor quality.

2 comments:

  • Neal

    Hi Mark

    Thanks for the post. It's really interesting to find out about the installation challenges - technical and business. Keep the posts coming.
    Cheers
    Neal

  • One misconception here. The parking "Up Front" is prime real estate and should be left for those in a hurry or unable to walk. (By definition, If I am plugging in, I am NOT in a hurry.)

    Putting EV spaces up front only encourages ICE cars to block them, or vandals to deface or disable them. A well lighted spot behind or to the side of a building is much preferred by those of us with EV's.

    The best site I have seen has one charge station next to a Handicapped space up front, and 5 more further out in the lot. The space up front can be used by either the Blue space OR the Green space, or both at once. It has a sign stating that the green space is for Handicapped OR non-handicapped persons.