How to Plan Your EV Charging Station Design

PowerFlex

Despite a slight slowdown in sales this year, electric vehicles (EVs) continue to grab a larger share of the market. Globally, Bloomberg projects that EV sales will hit 20% of new vehicle purchases by year-end, up from 17% in 2023. In some estimates, they’ll make up more than two-thirds of global new car sales by 2030.  

That’s a vast increase in the number of EVs in need of regular recharging. And for commercial properties — whether apartment complexes, office buildings, or retail centers — that surge in demand represents a massive need for more onsite EV charging options to ensure the satisfaction of employees, customers, and tenants. Now is the time to prepare for these changes by making it possible for EV drivers to charge anywhere they stop for extended periods.  

Yet, overhauling a property to deliver power to hundreds of vehicles is a complex undertaking. Without proper planning and design, the project could easily go off the rails with inflated budgets, extended timelines, or insufficient upgrades. Let’s explore a few critical aspects of planning your EV charging station design to ensure your project goes smoothly.

Importance of EV Charging Design

Electric vehicles represent a substantial change to our refueling habits. An EV-dominant future is one in which we spend much more time charging our cars at home, work, or while we shop, rather than during a quick stop at the gas station.

Upgrading facilities to meet that level of electricity demand requires extensive planning. Property owners must reconsider parking lot layouts, where to lay new conduit, how much additional power they will need, how they’ll manage load demand, and much more.  

To top it off, owners must consider not only how to meet drivers’ charging needs next year but a decade from now. Undershooting on electrical infrastructure will only lead to greater expenses down the road, so planning and design must be detailed enough to minimize long-term costs and maximize benefits.

Factors to Consider When Planning Your EV Charging Station Design

With so much riding on the design process, property owners must understand the top priorities for planning an EV charging station design. Here are seven key considerations to ensure the project goes smoothly and sets your property up for long-term charging success:

1. Number of Charging Stations Needed

Accurately projecting how many charging stations to install ensures your property is configured to meet the needs of tomorrow’s customers, tenants, or employees. This is the difference between a satisfied and frustrated user base, especially when it comes to office buildings or apartments where drivers spend a lot of time.  

And, as noted, it’s essential to plan for what you’ll need 10 years from now. If two-thirds of new car purchases will be EVs by 2030, consider how many chargers you’d need to meet that demand without requiring users to wait in line. Even if you don’t install the optimal number of chargers to meet future needs immediately, you should plan for the ideal total and run the electrical conduit now. These smart design decisions will significantly reduce your long-term costs.

2. Type of Chargers to Install  

When planning your EV charging station design, you can choose between two types of chargers that will provide sufficient power for commercial applications. Level 2 chargers require 208- or 240-volt circuits and deliver between 25 and 80 miles of charging power per hour. Level 3 chargers, also known as DC Fast Chargers, require 480 to 1,000 volts and can often recharge an EV battery from zero to 85% in just 30 minutes.

Level 2 chargers are sufficient for commercial properties where users spend several hours or more. Retail facilities that must accommodate more users for short stops may want to consider Level 3 chargers, but they are more expensive. In most cases, property owners should plan for enough Level 2 chargers to meet future demand.

3. Onsite Power Capacity

Once you know the type and number of charging stations you’ll install, you can assess your current power capacity and determine any upgrade requirements. You’ll need to consider two key aspects of capacity:

  • Power requirements for each individual charging station: This concerns how much you want users to be able to charge during their typical stay at your property. For instance, if employees usually commute from 60 miles away, do you want them to fully recoup the cost of commuting by recharging enough for the return trip? Your charging stations and their respective circuits must be set up to achieve your goals.
  • Power requirements for the entire site: From a broader site perspective, you can think in terms of averages. Consider how much the average user needs per day multiplied by the number of users to get a view of the total daily charging demand. This will tell you if your existing power supply needs an upgrade.

4. EV Charging Management Methods

While it’s possible to plan and budget for some capacity upgrades, others are simply unrealistic. The costs of complete electrical overhauls would be astronomical, and utility companies would likely take years to complete them.

That doesn’t mean you can’t design your property upgrades to meet charging demand. EV charging load management allows you to work within the constraints of existing infrastructure to deliver sufficient power.

Rather than doling out electricity indiscriminately, load management relies on software to determine which vehicles get charging priority. This can be first-come, first-serve distribution or adaptive charging that automatically adjusts based on various demand factors. The option you choose for your site will impact what type of upgrades you need, making it another critical factor in EV charging station design.

5. Where Chargers Will Be Installed

Charging station location is another practical consideration that can dramatically affect project cost and user satisfaction.  

Installing chargers on dirt or grass instead of concrete will substantially reduce excavation costs. Additionally, the closer chargers are to the power supply, the less you’ll have to spend to run conduit to them.

However, immediate cost isn’t the only consideration. For instance, installing all EV chargers close to the building might create conflicts if drivers of gas-powered vehicles regularly take those spots out of convenience. In other cases, as in California, you may need to ensure a certain number of EV-charging spots are accessible to drivers with disabilities.

6. Local Regulations and Permitting Requirements

Regulations affecting EV charging station design extend far beyond ADA compliance. When planning your installation, national and local codes apply to power systems, charging equipment, load management, and more.  

Project success depends on extensive knowledge and planning in this department, as permitting delays or regulatory compliance issues can be extremely costly. It’s essential to work with an installation partner who knows local and national requirements inside and out.

7. Charging Station Reliability and Reputation

Of all the aspects of designing your EV charging station, your project partner is perhaps the most important. With so many factors, your EV charging provider and installer must not only understand regulations but also have the hardware, software, and service reputation to fit such a complex undertaking.

Ultimately, this decision and planning process will affect your property for the next decade, if not longer. Be sure to vet your EV charging partner to ensure you won’t spend the next 10 years fielding angry emails or calls from drivers who are frustrated that charging stations don’t work properly. For more information on hardware, check out our article on the cost of commercial EV charging stations

Contact PowerFlex to Design and Install Your EV Charging Solution

Sound like a lot to consider?  

With PowerFlex, you’ll find a partner who can manage every aspect of EV charging station design. From initial planning and equipment procurement to installation and ongoing management, we take the hassle out of your hands so you can focus on other crucial aspects of managing your property. Our policy and incentive experts will also ensure you secure any rebates and tax incentives for which your project qualifies.

Not only that, but the PowerFlex X™ intelligent energy management platform offers Adaptive Load Management® to help you reduce implementation costs by up to 60%, limit peak-time charging costs, and efficiently manage ongoing charging demands.

Reach out to PowerFlex today so we can start planning an EV charging system that will meet your needs — today and tomorrow.