Traffic Magnet? Electric Vehicle Charging Stations

By Sue Minichiello

electric-car-sign.175152418_stdProperty managers and their tenants are always looking for ways to attract new business. The revolution that’s taking place in the U.S. automotive market could provide a new tactic: Installing electric vehicle (EV) charging stations.

In May 2013, the U.S. EV (AKA plug-in car) market celebrated a historic milestone: the 100,000th EV sold since the introduction of the latest generation of highway-capable vehicles just over two years ago. All indications are that sales will continue to grow exponentially.

It’s no surprise that coinciding with the growth of EV sales is the growth of EV charging stations. The number of public stations in the U.S. has increased by more than 1,000% in just over two years, from 1,972 stations in January 2011 to more than 20,000 today. Click here for a cool infographic.

But what does this mean for property managers?

Paul Young is a Business Development Associate for Garage Juice Bar, a manufacturer of EV charging stations headquartered in Tolland, CT. He says that workplace and public EV charging stations attract new tenants and traffic, all the while boosting your public image.

“Think of an EV charging station like a hummingbird feeder: if you put one out, people will come. We’ve seen how workplace stations attract environmentally-focused tenants to your location and increase your retention rate,” said Young. “When it comes to public stations, EV owners spend their time and money in your businesses, stores and restaurants while their vehicles charge.”

What’s more, you can be seen as a pioneer in supporting the EV transformation, as well as a patriot, since EVs help reduce reliance on imported petroleum and increase U.S. energy security. Installing an EV charging station also contributes to attaining LEED certification. All of this advances your reputation and goodwill in the community.

“There are many soft returns on your investment, a little difficult to quantify in exact terms, but they are there,” Young said.

RFR Realty in Stamford is a participant in the EV charging station program sponsored by the state of Connecticut and Connecticut Light & Power (CL&P) [through its parent company Northeast Utilities (NU)]. For the EV Research Project, CL&P has partnered with businesses and municipalities that agreed to be “site hosts,” installing EV charging stations provided by NU and providing periodic feedback and data. As part of this project, RFR installed a charging station at its 1 & 2 Stamford Plaza garage, which serves two multi-tenant office buildings totaling approximately 480,000 square feet.

“The biggest benefit to RFR, as landlord for seven Class-A office buildings in Stamford, is the reputation of being a leader in the green initiative and the positive feedback we receive from tenants and their employees who use the stations,” said Frank Kozak, RFR Realty General Manager. “The overall costs are very small and are far outweighed by the positives we receive.”

Given the favorable response, RFR has purchased and installed EV charging stations at 300 Atlantic Street (295,000 square-foot office building) and 4 Stamford Plaza (260,000 square-foot office building).

“The success with the stations has been very good. They are being used, and we continue to get requests from those properties where we don’t have them,” Kozak said. “Within the next six months, I can envision all six of our garages having at least one charging station and possibly adding a second station to the 1 & 2 Stamford Plaza garage due to the number of users we have.”

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, “Many organizations are analyzing the trade-offs of installing charging equipment for their employees. With proper implementation, building managers can provide significant value to their occupants at relatively little cost.”

CL&P says its pilot project charging stations cost about $3,000 each, plus installation, which can vary based on site preparation and regulatory factors. According to Juice Bar, federal rebates provide a 30% federal tax credit for the total cost, including the charging unit and installation.

If you’re thinking about installing an EV charging station, there are some basics you need to consider. For example, for workplace or residential stations intended for tenant-only use, you may want to survey current and/or potential tenants to gauge interest.

Will Lorenz is Property Manager at Blue Back Square in West Hartford, a mixed-use 600,000 square-foot development. BBS has two EV charging stations for tenant-only use. Lorenz advised, “Define your objectives upfront—whether it’s serving the public, offering it as an amenity to the public or employees, or as an incentive to apartment dwellers, office and other internal workers.”

There are also considerations involving the exact location of charging stations and who you select to perform the installation. Young advises that you plan these factors carefully in consultation with an EV-certified supplier or electrician.

Kozak recommends that you review the types of units and variety of models available from different manufacturers and all associated costs. “Some units are far more expensive than others. Which unit you purchase should depend on the size of the property and anticipated use, however, generally I would recommend dual charging stations since they can accommodate future usage growth.”

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Clean Cities program supports public and private partnerships that deploy alternative fuel vehicles and build supporting infrastructure. A national network of nearly 100 Clean Cities coalitions includes groups in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York. Find your state contacts here.

EVConnecticut, a partnership between the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and the Connecticut Department of Transportation, is a resource for businesses and municipalities interested in installing EV charging infrastructure. The EVConnecticut Expo being held on Tuesday, July 9 at Middlesex Community College in Middletown will address the latest in EVs and EV charging technology.

(Image courtesy of compliancesigns.com)