It is well known that the future of transportation is electric. As a result, a lot of infrastructure is needed to support electric vehicles (EVs). Unlike gas stations, EV charging stations can be deployed at various locations such as residential, workplaces, retail, and so on.
That being said, the cost to install EV charging stations can range anywhere from a few thousand to hundreds of thousands of dollars depending on the location, scale, and type of charging station. For this reason, and a few others, it is very important to include EV charging infrastructure in new construction.
EV Capable vs EV Ready vs EV Installed
Before we discuss why EV charging should be incorporated into new development, we must first clarify the different EV charging infrastructure used in building codes and zoning regulations. There are three tiers of EV charging infrastructure. They are “EV Capable,” “EV Ready,” and “EV Installed.” Each one progressively adds more and more EV charging readiness, with EV Installed providing the complete installation of a charging station as implied.
The International Building Code (IBC), a building code adopted by many states, defines EV Capable as “a dedicated parking space with electrical panel capacity and space for a branch circuit that supports the EV parking space that is not less than 40-ampere and 208/240-volt and equipped with raceways, both underground and surface mounted, to enable the future installation of electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE).”
In essence, EV Capable requires projects to provide for the future installation of charging stations. EV Capable does not provide any actual chargers. It does, however, provide property owners a relatively easy way to later install charging stations since all of the underground and electrical work is already completed.
Moving on the EV Ready, the IBC defines it as “A designated parking space which is provided with a dedicated branch circuit that is not less than 40-ampere and 208/240-volt assigned for electric vehicle supply equipment terminating in a receptacle or junction box located in close proximity to the proposed location of the EV parking space.”
Like EV Capable, EV Ready takes a single step forward and requires the installation of a receptacle for the purpose of EV charging. EV Ready does not, however, require EVSE, or charging stations. Instead, it provides an outlet to which EV drivers can plug in their own portable charger.
The final tier of EV charging infrastructure is EV Installed. As previously mentioned, EV installed requires the full installation of a charging station. Unlike the previous two tiers, EV Installed includes the EVSE, which then allows EVs to be charged at the site.
Over the years, states and local jurisdictions have incorporated EV Installed into their codes and regulations as EV adoption increases. For example, the City of San Luis Obispo adopted EV Installed into their zoning regulations in 2019. The ordinance requires up to 10% of parking spaces to be outfitted with charging stations.
New Construction vs Retrofit Costs
So now that EV charging infrastructure in building codes has been defined, why should it be there in the first place? Like many things in construction, it is far easier and cheaper to do it during new construction rather than later. There are two reasons behind this.
The first reason is that proper planning can be completed before the development project has started, allowing for efficient design and installation. Charging stations can be conveniently located near the building and electrical supply to reduce cost and provide for the easiest accessibility accommodations.
The second reason is that during new construction the entire site is being worked on. Therefore, it doesn’t take many resources to add a small scope of work to an already large project. Finished walls, ceilings, sidewalks, and the parking lot may need to be cut and patched with a retrofit job. This not only adds material cost to the project, but also adds complexity and time to the installation. Furthermore, there may not be enough electrical capacity at the building to facilitate EV charging stations at a retrofit project. Therefore, panel or transformer upgrades may be required. If installed during new construction, all this electrical engineering can be considered during the design process.
In fact, the City of San Francisco found in 2016 that the cost to install a Level 2 EV charging station during new construction cost $920, while the cost to a retrofit install was $3,550. In other words, it is 75% cheaper to install during new construction than later for a retrofit.
Meeting the Needs of Today and Tomorrow
EVs have rapidly increased in popularity over the past few years. Thanks to increasingly better battery technology and the rollout of EV charging stations, more and more consumers are going electric. Back in 2010, there were only a handful of electric models available. Today, there are over 50, with many more coming soon like the Ford F-150 Lighting EV, GMC Hummer EV, and Tesla Cybertruck.
Through this progress, EV sales and adoption rates have reached all-time highs. Per EV Adoption, 2.23% of all new vehicles sold in 2020 were electric. Specifically in California, the largest EV market in the country, EVs represented 7.1% of the market.
As analysts look forward into the future, EV adoption rates are expected to reach 30% by 2030. Therefore, it is crucial we invest into EV charging infrastructure, especially in new construction.