Price Check: Navigating the True Costs of commercial EV charging projects

Actual costs with real numbers, and four concrete steps to drive down costs on your next commercial EV charging project.

EV Charging – what does it cost to look like this?

Your organization is exploring EV charging. What’s the motivation?

Employee retention? Fleet electrification? Local building code compliance? Corporate climate or ESG commitments? Operational savings?

Whatever your motivations, all roads lead to one question.

What’s this all going to cost?

Are you ready for the real answer?

In my experience, a typical 20-charger turnkey EV charging installation (2022 numbers) can range between $6,000 to $12,000 per port. That’s a full turnkey, all-in project cost of $120k – 240k.

That’s my experience. Those are our numbers. How does it compare with others?

In California, an average commercial level 2 charging project runs over $9,000 per port, according to the California Energy Commission.

(Want to talk fast charging (Level 3 or DCFC)? Costs soar to up to $125,000 per station.)

Smart Design Starts Now

That’s quite a spread. But you’re a savvy problem solver. Perhaps you’re pondering how do I get closer to the $6,000 per port range?

Local incentives can help, if they’re available. With our without rebates, here are four recommendations, tips, and design suggestions we advise our clients to drive down costs on their next EV charging project.

  1. Locate chargers near the closest electrical room
  2. Cluster EV chargers in one area (copper is expensive!)
  3. Plan for EV charging in new buildings
  4. Locate chargers in parking garages, if possible

Intelligent design for your EV charging project can shave significant costs off your project and make you look like you know what you’re doing – because you do! Projects that fail to follow these recommendations can accrue costs faster than a child online-shopping with your credit card.

We’re here to to save your bank account.

Four Design Considerations To Reduce Costs

You deserve relaxing, stress-free days at the office. Or at least days free of confusion about EV charging. Try these tips to look like a pro and save some dough.

Design tip 1: Locate chargers near the electrical room

EV charging needs electricity. That source is usually the electric utility room. When possible, it’s wise to scope EV charging stations as close to the utility room as possible. We make electrical wire out of copper. Copper is expensive. Less copper = lower project costs.

Do you know the location of your utility meter room? If not, no problem. Ask your facilities engineer to show you the electrical room(s). They’ll show you places on your property you never knew existed.

You may find several electrical rooms at your facility. Find the closest room to your parking area. Note the closest parking spaces that aren’t designated for handicapped parking. Prioritize this area for your charging project.

  1. Cluster EV chargers together

You found your target project area. Now think in clusters. Locate your chargers together. Like an EV charging party. Placing chargers in a single area reduces copper, labor, and makes everybody happier.

Sometimes chargers must be located in separate areas, for example to comply with American with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements. Our team advises clients on this criteria to ensure all projects are up to date and in compliance.

  1. Plan charging for new buildings

Most EV charging projects are added to existing buildings. Usually old buildings. That’s reality. It’s also expensive.

When possible, plan EV charging for future buildings early in the design phase. Getting your EV charging partner (like me) involved as early as possible in the design phase.

Why? We can advise on optimal locations, right-sizing electrical equipment that will save you money. We recently saved a client six digits in electric infrastructure costs alone during the design phase.

  1. Locate chargers in parking garages, if possible

Installing EV chargers in open parking lots adds significant costs compared to parking garage projects. Why is that?

In open lots, the only option to run wire from the electric room to the EV chargers is underground through a process called trenching. Trenching is expensive!

But garages are like car caves of utility. It’s almost like engineers designed them. In garages, we can mount electrical conduit to walls and ceilings inexpensively. And garages often have electrical rooms nearby with open electric panels (see point 1 above). When possible, go for garages.

What’s Your EV Charging Fantasy?

After that run-through, I’ll ask you – what does a dream site for EV charging look like? Yup, this is what nerds like me spend their time thinking about.

Envision a 50-charger project sited next to the electric utility room in a brand new parking garage. The architect and designers invited our team to initial planning meetings. They agreed to set aside dedicated electrical panels for EV charging. Better yet, the architects added extra electric panels for to make the site ready for future EV charging stations (called future-proofing).

After installation, are you curious what it will cost to operate these chargers? Check out my 3-minute guide Dollars and Sense: How Much Does it Cost to Operate EV Charging Stations?

You know what you want. You followed these recommendations. You’re ready. Now it’s time to prepare for a site walk. Make sure you know How to Prep for a Successful Commercial EV Charging Project in Under 60 Minutes.

About the Author

My name is Alex.  I’m working alongside a talented team that makes it easy for organizations to add electric vehicle charging and other clean energy technologies to their properties.

I live in San Diego and enjoy hiking, bicycling, traveling, spending time with my wife and son, and pondering the clean energy transition. You can reach me directly at alex.kaufman@powerflex.com.

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