SemaConnect Blog


February 16, 2017

Commercial Electric Vehicle Charging Stations: 4 Buying Tips

Four Tips for Choosing the Right One
Fossil fuels are limited sources of energy that are being depleted and will soon become near nonexistent. This knowledge has given rise across the globe to the demand for alternative energy sources. Many countries are cutting down on the use of fossil fuels – especially within the automobile industry. Many if not all the automobile giants are launching electric variations of their vehicles. Some, like Mercedes-Benz, are spinning off new divisions just for this market.

The commercial sector in the U.S. is not untouched by this trend and has been installing electric vehicle (EV) charging stations at office buildings, hotels and retail parking lots to meet the demand. In many cases, charging is offered free to employees or visitors as perks or at a minimal fee. As more and more commercial properties offer EV charging, choosing the right commercial EV charging station becomes crucial for such companies as well as for larger corporations.

Individuals managing such businesses are starting to understand the importance of installing smart EV charging stations but are often bewildered by which features to choose and which to ignore. Here are four tips that will help ensure you’re making the correct choice when selecting commercial electric vehicle charging stations.Screen Shot 2016-11-28 at 9.20.03 AM

  1. Open to Driver Programs
    This is one of the most important features to consider. Open to driver programs means that more than one driver program or charging station finder program, like the popular PlugShare app, can interact with the charging station. Thus, you do not have to have an account with that charging station provider to charge your car, you just use the PlugShare app. This makes it very convenient for EV drivers. Some commercial charging stations do not work with other driver programs – forcing the driver to join their network. Consider avoiding charging stations that are not open to driver programs.
  2. Smart Charging Stations, Not Dumb Ones
    Many who purchase commercial charging stations don’t understand the benefits of a networked versus a non-networked station, so they understandably default to the most basic station available – a “dumb” (non-networked) charging station.While dumb stations may work in some situations, particularly residential, they often fall short of the needs of a commercial property.

    • Smart EV charging stations enable customers or tenants to share these stations. Further, properties might want (or need) to control or limit access to groups. Dumb charging stations provide no functionality in this area. Smart charging stations, by contrast, offer many ways to promote sharing and prevent any one person (or any group of people, like non-tenants) from hogging the stations.
    • Smart EV charging stations fuel information, insight, and better program decision-making. Imagine that a company installs charging stations across 10 of its buildings. The company likely wants to know things like: Is its electric vehicle program successful? How much is it costing the organization? Should it be expanded? Should the pricing for it be altered? These kinds of insights help the company manage and determine how to grow the program. They can also help burnish branding and reputation in terms of sustainability: the data from the smart charging stations can be used to illustrate and validate how the property is helping the environment, like documenting carbon offset. You cannot do any of this with dumb charging stations.
    • Smart EV charging stations can help control power usage and prevent billing shocks. As EV cars gain in popularity, this will add a new load on our energy grid system. We are starting to see utilities experiment with demand response and time-of-use pricing programs to effectively manage power consumption from EVs. If you’re considering EV charging stations to future-proof your property, prepare yourself for imminent electric utility programs to manage power consumption. Your smartest option – networked charging stations.
  3. Durable and Field-Tested
    This can be a deciding factor in the buying process because the sole purpose of installing EV charging stations is to charge cars. If the stations break down frequently and are not available, the drivers suffer. You want to select a charging station that is field-tested and has a strong reputation in the marketplace – a station that undergoes rigorous quality assurance testing, including environmental testing like water ingress. After all, this station needs to operate for many years without a problem. And if there is a problem, what kind of warranty replacement program is there? And how long will you be down? These are all factors to consider when considering EV charging stations for commercial use.
  4. Ease of Use
    The commercial charging stations you decide to install must be easy to use. You will want a charging station that uses an RFID card or a mobile app to initiate the charging session. Again, it helps if your station works with other driver programs. Most charging stations come with plug-and-play features, which means that the station will automatically detect the specific charging requirements of a vehicle. Drivers just have to plug in their vehicle and they can feel assured that it will be charged with no complications or issues. Also, equipment that is simple to use, durable, and suffers minimal wear and tear is the best bet.About the Author
    SemaConnect is the leading provider of electric vehicle amenities to the North American commercial and residential property markets. We also provide electric vehicle charging solutions to universities, corporations, municipalities, the healthcare sector, retailers, hotels, and resorts. We deliver a truly modern property experience through innovative, elegantly designed charging stations and a robust and open network.
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