[Editor's note: This story first appeared on sister-site PhinneyWood.com.]
The city’s Office of Economic Development is asking businesses to host an electric vehicle (EV) charging station for customers.
Charlie Cunniff, with the OED’s Seattle Climate Partnership, told a recent Greenwood-Phinney Chamber of Commerce meeting that any business with a parking lot could host one parking spot with a plug-in. Cunniff says the business could promote it as a benefit for customers to charge up while shopping.
The U.S. Department of Energy awarded a $115 million grant to Phoenix-based ECOtality to manage the EV Project, installing 15,000 charging stations in 16 cities in six states, including Washington. ECOtality, which has been in the electric vehicle charging business for 20 years, matched the government grant, for a total of $230 million for this pilot project.
“The electric vehicles are here, it’s not the future, and there needs to be a charging infrastructure for people to charge outside their homes and at their homes as well,” Dan O’Shea, Washington State sales manager for ECOtality, explained. “Within the next three to five years, 80 percent of all car manufacturers are going to have at least one electric vehicle.”
O’Shea, who lives in Phinney Ridge, says his company plans to install about 2,000 EV chargers from Olympia to Everett. About 900 of those will be in the homes of people who agree to have their data shared as part of the pilot project, to help the DOE determine where to install additional chargers, and to understand the habits of EV drivers.
“Western Washington and Seattle are an important part” of the project, he said.
A Blink residential electric vehicle charger.
About 1,200 chargers will be publicly available at short-term parking lots where customers would typically park from one to three hours, “where you’re going to be doing your topping off of your battery,” O’Shea explained.
The public charging stations will be what’s called Level 2 chargers, at 220 volts. (Level 1 is a normal household 120 volt system.) Level 3 chargers, called a Fast Charger (with 480 volts) will be installed at fueling stations and other easy-access places such as convenience stores.
A Level 2 charger for commercial locations, such as parking lots.
O’Shea says Level 2 chargers would typically take four to eight hours to fully charge an electric vehicle. But, “a Fast Charger will take your battery from zero to 80 percent full in 26 minutes,” he said.
Fast Chargers have two ports, so two cars can plug in at one time, however, they charge sequentially. So the first car will be charged, then it will automatically start charging the second car.
“They’re very forward looking, very modern looking. Size wise, they’re very manageable,” he said. “It looks like a giant iPod Shuffle. They have touch screens, interactive screens.”
A Fast Charger with two portals.
Customers will have several ways to pay for the electricity, including the project’s Blink network, where you can use a special pre-paid card or your cell phone.
“It’s very data-rich,” he said of the Blink network. “You’ll have a Blink smart phone app that will tell you everything you need to know about your car, and where the chargers are, and it will even allow you to reserve a charger.”
To install an EV charger at your place of business, O’Shea says you need to own the parking lot. The EV Project will give you a free charging unit, plus a $1,500 cash grant toward the cost of installation. You must use one of the EV Project’s four approved contractors. Installation may cost more than $1,500 depending on whether you have an appropriate electrical panel, how far the panel is from the charging spot, and any extra work that needs to be done.
O’Shea said a typical installation would take about half a day. If cutting or trenching need to be done, it may take a few days and would cost more.
“The EV project is here to do everything we can to provide you with chargers and either a free or low-cost installation,” O’Shea said.
Businesses that want to provide a dedicated charger just for their employees will have to pay for the cost of the charger and the installation themselves.
While each business pays for the electricity, they also receive a percentage of the fees that drivers pay. O’Shea said those fees are designed to cover the cost of electricity and routine maintenance. He said the fees are not set yet, but may run about $1.25 to $2.50 per session.
To put the fees in perspective, O’Shea said a Nissan Leaf has a 3.3 kilowatt charger; at 10 cents per kilowatt hour, it would cost 33 cents to charge for an hour. He says on average, an EV owner will pay about $250 a year to charge their car, versus an estimated $1,500 a year in gasoline for a regular car.
O’Shea said business owners should think about the possible benefits of hosting an EV charger by determining the profile of their typical customer.
“You want to attract that person to your business, keep them there for an hour or two, plus you’ll receive revenue that will offset your costs,” he explained.
O’Shea expects the first commercial installations to begin in February. “I need to get 1,200 of them in the ground by the summer.”
If you’re interested in installing a charging station at your business, contact Dan O’Shea at email@example.com, or 206-920-1477.