We are at a pivotal point in the history of vehicle production. Many car companies are committing to switching to electric vehicles within the next decade. While currently, consumers quickly recognize the electric Tesla, other car manufacturers are upping their game and entering the field of electric. Luxury auto makers like Jaguar as well as more modestly priced models such as the Ford F150 are all turning electric.
In March 2021, President Biden announced, as part of his new infrastructure plan, a commitment to invest $15 billion into switching to electric vehicles and creating a network of 500,000 public charging stations, making electric vehicles more accessible to the general public.
Why go electric?
The technology is constantly changing and evolving in the world of electric vehicles. What was once a novelty item is quickly becoming a staple of life in a world where we consider the environmental impacts of our decisions. The first electric vehicles were expensive with short battery life, meaning only the very wealthy could own them and find reliable ways to keep them charged.
Now, all car manufacturers are committing to developing the technology for electric vehicles and to make them accessible to the general car-buying public. While some consumers are buying electric for the benefits to the environment, there are other advantages of making the switch.
- Electric cars require less maintenance and are less expensive to keep-up. No more oil changes or frequent brake pad changing. All the wear and stress gasoline puts on an engine is eliminated.
- They are quieter than their gas counterparts.
- Buyers can take advantage of tax incentives. Depending on the state and the model you purchase, you could be eligible to up to $7500 in tax credits.
- The technology is constantly improving. While right now electric cars have a limited range and take hours to charge, the technology is changing quickly and these times are improving constantly.
- The cost of electricity is much less than the cost of gasoline. In the long-run, these cars are cheaper to drive.
This switch to electric opens a new possibility for electricians, general contractors and trade pros who design garages, driveways and parking lots. New charging stations will be in demand and both homeowners and business owners will be looking for professionals who are capable of installing and maintaining the charging units.
A certified electrician can do the work necessary for installing an outlet or charging station in a garage, driveway or parking lot. Other specific certifications you can achieve to demonstrate your skills and command a higher price for your advanced education include:
- Tesla Certified Electrician- By completing the required paperwork demonstrating your knowledge of Tesla chargers, you can be listed on their website as an approved installer. The also recommend that a Tesla Certified Electrician maintain their home chargers, which the required equipment for Tesla vehicles.
- Webasto Installer- This global brand produces chargers compatible with most electric vehicles. Becoming certified through them gives you access to training materials, warranties, discounts on supplies and marketing support.
- ChargePoint Certified Installer- Their online course teaches everything necessary for installing ChargePoint stations including site planning, connecting to a power source and pinpointing. Upon completion, you will receive a certificate that certifies you to install the charging stations.
- Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Training Program Certification- Offered at colleges and trade school across North America, this training program is comprehensive and includes information on specific models of EVs, trouble shooting and customer service.
- Qmerit Installer- Qmerit works with the owners of Ford, Jaguar, Chevrolet, BMW, Volvo, Land Rover and more to provide quality installation and servicing for their home charging stations. When you become an installer with Qmerit, you can purchase equipment below retail costs and receive free leads from their website.
- Some states have a database of Certified Electric Vehicle Charging Station Installers consumers can search for support. Check with your state to see what certifications you need to be added to this list.
Residential charging stations or electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE), have several iterations owners can choose from depending on the kind of car they drive, where they plan to charge and how quickly they want their vehicles to charge.
- Level 1- Level 1 charges through a 120 volt AC plug. It is generally used for hybrid vehicles because it charges slowly, but can be used with some all-electric vehicles.
- Level 2- Level 2 charging requires a 240 volt AC plug. It is much faster and can be used for all electric vehicles. This is the most common kind of EV charger.
- DC Fast Charging- These 480 volt DC chargers will provide an 80% charge in just 30-60 minutes.
- Tesla Supercharger- Tesla has developed their own charging equipment that is only compatible with Tesla vehicles. They do make adaptors that will allow Tesla owners to use other chargers.
The chargers for electric vehicles range from single one-car units with standard safety features to units that support multiple vehicles and have advanced features such as keypads, charging timers, apps and more.
There are also solar powered chargers for even more energy efficiency. If homeowners have an existing solar panel system, it can easily be expanded to include the charging station. If they wish to add solar panels exclusively for charging an electric vehicle, it will require five to twelve panels depending on the location and exposure of the panels and the type of car. In this case, a vehicle can be energy independent and run solely on sunshine.
As with all electricity installation, it should be completed by a certified electrician. There are several choices for installing charging units for electric vehicles. Typically, they are in a garage or on the exterior of the house near where the car will be parked. Most garages will already be equipped with a 120 volt outlet that could be used for Level One charging. However, this can be very slow and most drivers prefer a faster, most efficient charge.
For Level Two charging, a 240 volt outlet can be installed in the garage on a dedicated circuit. A Level Two EVSC can be portable or a fixed unit. ClipperCreek was one of the first companies to develop home charging stations but a number of other companies now produce chargers since the demand is continuing to increase. Chargers generally cost $400-900, which is less than half of what an average consumer spends on gasoline in just one year.
This is a very new industry so there are a lot of businesses both large and small working to produce the technology and gain a corner of the market. Do some research and make sure you choose a EVSE that has been tested and has safety certifications.
Suppliers of charging equipment for electric vehicles are popping up all over the US. You can now purchase both portable and fixed charging units at commercial chains like Home Depot, Lowes and even Amazon. If you plan to make installing EVSEs a large part of your business, you’ll want to work with a reliable distributer. Some of the most popular suppliers include:
- GreenLots (owned by Shell)
While right now 80% of vehicle charging happens inside private residences, the need for commercial charging locations will rise with the sale of electric vehicles we are expecting in the next decade. Apartment buildings, condos, work places, hotels and more will increase their appeal if they install easy-to-access changing stations for residents and visitors.
In addition to the electrical skills involved in installing the EVSEs, the professional who works in a commercial setting will require the following skills:
- Underground surveying to ensure electric wires can be run where necessary.
- Charger selection. Determine the needs of the facility, what kinds of chargers will be most useful and any adaptors that should be available.
- Network activation, software installation and set up. These systems control customer billing, charger monitoring and connectivity options that allow travelers to locate the charging station, typically via an app. This will allow apartment buildings to restrict usage to residents with a passcode or for parking lots to charge users for the energy consumption.
- Electrical engineering including wiring, conduits and connections necessary for safe charging.
- Site assessment and design. Designers will determining the best location for the chargers for use and cost-effective installation, obtain all necessary permits, adhere to state and local regulations and arrange testing with utility companies.
- Pouring new concrete
- Maintenance, some of which can be detected and managed by a network.
- Signage to direct users to the correct parking spaces to use the service.
- Lighting for safety in parking lots.
Building Code Impacts
As a result of a need for more charging stations in both residential and commercial properties, building codes will also change to accommodate this demand for extra electricity. For example, HB 1287 establishes additional standards for new construction. Single family homes will need to have a 240-volt outlet in the garage and installing it during the construction process will make it easier and cheaper for the owners to upgrade to a charging station. This outlet will have to be on a dedicated circuit to handle the load of charging a vehicle.
Similar building code updates are being considered for multi-family units and commercial buildings. The move to be “EV ready” means that these new buildings will be designed so that adding charging stations would be simple in the future. They do not need to be equipped with the stations right now, but just need to have the wiring and infrastructure to support them in the future.
The sales of electric vehicles continue to climb at a steady pace and, with additional infrastructure changes and financial incentives, we can expect those numbers to continue to rise. The ability to charge a car at home while you sleep or in your office parking lot while at work is essential for EV owners and is a perk many workplaces and multi-family units are offering. Electricians and general contractors are in an advantageous position to add the installation and maintenance of EVSEs to their list of services. Marketing your business as capable and competent with the newest technology will result in more business and higher prices for your expert knowledge and skills.
Keep up to date with the changes in workforce demands with trades.org. We will help you determine what the new plan means for you and your business and take advantage of new markets that will be opening as technology advances. Our business is to help your business plan and be prepared for changes to the construction industry so you are ready to meet the needs of your customers.