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Strategic Planning for Commercial EV Charging: 5-Year Roadmap

EV Charging

Electric vehicles (EVs) are gaining popularity, with more models becoming available and improved technology increasing range. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, there are now over 160,00 public EV charging ports in the U.S., a number that’s nearly doubled since 2019. Adoption is accelerating rapidly, and there are many reasons to start working toward the EV charging transition at your business or facility.

While it’s clear that adding electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) is the right move, you may not know where to start. To make the transition more manageable, let’s break it down into steps through a five-year roadmap.

Year 1: Getting Started
When first implementing an EV charging program, it’s wise not to bite off more than you can chew. There are three things you should keep in mind.

  1. Assess Existing Infrastructure

Before installing any charging equipment, take stock of your existing electrical infrastructure. When you hire a qualified signatory electrical contractor, they can complete a thorough evaluation to identify your power supply, panel capacity, and any upgrades needed to support the EV charging load.

It’s ideal if your current system has extra capacity, as reuse cuts down on costs. But it’s also important to plan ahead for increased electrical demand to prevent power issues down the road. Conduit and wiring should be sized to allow for additional ports and higher capacity in the future.

  1. Get Familiar With Equipment

With many types of charging stations available, it’s important to understand your options. Charging speed, management software, payment processing, and other features can vary greatly. For example, networked level 2 charging stations cost anywhere from $3,000-$7,000 per port installed. Partnering with an experienced signatory electrical contractor who is familiar with the various types of equipment simplifies the process of selecting high-quality, suitable equipment.

  1. Plan for the Future

First focus on installing one to two charging ports in an optimal, visible location. This allows you to get familiar with the equipment, installation process, and any potential issues before expanding more broadly.

It also keeps initial costs down while still providing an amenity to attract EV-owning customers and employees. Starting with a couple of ports gives you the chance to monitor utilization and gauge demand before making a major investment. You can always scale up faster if early adoption exceeds expectations.

Working through a pilot installation with a qualified electrical contractor in year one gives you first-hand experience with the equipment, site requirements, permitting, incentives and other aspects of EV charging station deployment. This paves the way for smoother expansion in subsequent years.

Years 2-3: Prepare for Expansion
After establishing your initial charging infrastructure and the knowledge gained in the first year, it might be time to start expanding your EVSE footprint.

If major electrical upgrades were identified in the initial assessment, those can be completed in year two to unlock capacity for more charging stations. With the groundwork laid for permit applications and incentive programs, growth becomes easier each year as processes get streamlined.

During this period, a qualified, licensed signatory electrical contractor can monitor utilization across the Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE). Analyzing usage patterns allows intelligent planning for future needs. For example, usage may be consistent Mondays through Fridays but minimal on weekends, indicating employees are the primary charging audience. Or weekend hotspots may emerge in a retail setting as EV-driving customers need public access.

Years 4-5: Execute Your 5-Year Vision
After progressively ramping up EV charging access in the first few years, execute the full 5-year vision in years four and five. By this point, you’ll better understand the electrical infrastructure, equipment, and unique usage needs for your property. Expansion can now confidently proceed on a larger scale.

Ensure added capacity is in place to support additional ports. You’ll want to become familiar with permitting processes and incentive programs available. The charging management software and payment systems selected in the early stages can be scaled up seamlessly as you roll out your expansion.

Careful, upfront planning ensures this expansion is strategic rather than reactive. EV charging infrastructure securely embedded for the long-term will attract and retain the growing eco-conscious customer base.

The clear trend is towards rapid EV adoption. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, EV charging ports and stations have more than doubled since 2018, totaling more than 146,000 in 2022. A PwC analysis predicts the EV charging market could grow nearly tenfold to satisfy the charging needs of an estimated 27 million EVs on the road by 2030, with the at-work and on-the-go EV charging segments with the highest potential to grow the fastest in the next seven years. Planning to install commercial charging infrastructure in 2024 just makes sense.

If you approach commercial EV charging as a gradual, thoughtfully orchestrated process over 5 years, it will lead you to success. By planning for the future and expanding purposefully, you can prevent missteps and position your business as a leader in the transition to clean energy.

Elbert Walters III is Executive Director at Powering Chicago, an electrical industry labor-management partnership (LMCC) that invests in consistently better construction, better careers and better communities within the metro Chicago region.