SemaConnect Blog


July 10, 2012

Electric Vehicle Charging Stations and Airports: Shaping the Future Electric Vehicle Landscape

By Joseph Tohill

 

EV charging stations are the latest trend to hit the urban environment and they are becoming increasingly common as the EV market continues to expand. In fact, if you look around your city, you might have noticed EV charging stations springing up near shopping malls, in office buildings, in parking garages, and even in residential communities. But one of the hot new places to locate an EV charging station is the pinnacle transportation hub of the 21st century: the airport.

 
Indeed, several airports across the country have recognized the importance of providing amenities for EV drivers. After all, with all the millions of people that pass through American airports every day, it is quite likely that many of them will drive an EV. It logically follows that these EV drivers will inevitably need a place to charge their cars.
 
This article will provide a close-up look at EV charging stations in airports. I will discuss why they are such a fitting addition to airports, outline a few peripheral opportunities they present, and delve into a case study of EV charging stations at BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport.
 
Why Airports?
 
Airports are perhaps the most important transportation hub in any city – their primary function is to facilitate inter-city and international travel. But since they serve millions of people per day, they also serve as focal points for a variety of transportation types within a city. For instance, people get to and from an airport by car, taxi, bus, or subway, just to name a few.
 
But as the EV market continues to expand, more and more people who drive to airports will also be EV owners. And as any EV owner will tell you, their biggest concern is always where they will charge their car.
 
And this is where airports emerge as one of the most important places to locate an EV charging station. An EV owner who drives to the airport will likely need a place to charge their car. Perhaps they will be parked for some time – from several hours to even a few days. By locating a charging station at or near an airport, EV owners can charge their cars while they are parked.
 
Furthermore, the people who will most likely afford EVs in these early days (namely higher income individuals/individuals using corporate EV fleets) will likely travel more. Consequently, airports would serve as logical locations for charging stations.
 
Testing the Waters at BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport
 
One of the first airports to invest in EV charging stations is Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport. Last year, BWI Marshall Airport enlisted the services of SemaConnect, Inc. to construct eight EV charging stations in its parking garages. The eight Level 2 (240 VAC) plug-in charging stations went live on April 23, 2011 (Earth Day).
 
Half of them went into the Level 1 daily garage and half went into the Level 1 hourly garage. Both of them provided reserved parking exclusively for EVs.
 
Although the administration at BWI Marshall Airport is always trying to think of new ways to lead the way in environmental sustainability, it also maintains a dedication to making the airport more convenient for its numerous customers. The new EV charging stations satisfy both of these elements while giving the airport a more cutting-edge image.
 
In the words of Paul J. Wiedefeld, Executive Director of BWI Marshall Airport: “This innovation highlights our commitment to environmental stewardship. Providing these EV charging stations for our customers is consistent with our efficient, convenient service and our ‘easy come, easy go’ reputation.”
 
Peripheral EV Opportunities at Airports
 
The emerging EV economy also presents interesting new opportunities for companies indirectly linked to the airlines industry. For instance, some car rental companies near airports have realized many of their customers are partial to EVs. As a result, a cursory glance through some car rental lots these days reveals EV charging stations and small fleets of EVs. This is just one of the new ways the rental companies are trying to differentiate themselves from their competitors.
 
Both Hertz and Enterprise have now integrated EV’s and EV charging stations at many of their offices in the US. But as more and more Americans shift towards EVs for personal transportation, we could see many more car rental companies embrace EV infrastructure.
 
The Way Forward
 
Although BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport is considered one of the pioneers in providing EV amenities for air travellers, many other airports have also decided to capitalize on the emerging EV economy. EV infrastructure projects are now off the ground at airports across the country.
 
In Washington, Dulles International has installed four EV charging stations for its customers. LaGuardia Airport in New York has opted to install five EV charging stations. And not to be outdone, Sacramento International Airport has installed no less than 12 EV charging stations across its parking lots.
 
These are just a handful of the many airports that are tapping into the needs of EV drivers. Many others will likely emerge as EVs become an increasingly important form of transportation in the future.
 
 
Joseph Tohill is a freelance writer and online communications specialist for organizations in the sustainability sector. He has a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies from the University of British Columbia and spent most of his academic career studying sustainable urban development; namely the interdisciplinary relationship between built form and natural environment.
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