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Electric Vehicle Charging: If You Build It, They Will Come

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With plug-in hybrid and fully electric vehicle sales on the rise, the mantra “if you build it, they will come” is quickly becoming a reality for hospitality managers as guests search for overnight EV charging as an amenity option. A TripAdvisor review headline tells the story: “The Electric Vehicle Charger is Why We Chose This Hotel”—December 2013.

This is supported by a recent survey conducted by Morpace, which found that plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) drivers actively seek out and frequent establishments that offer charging using mobile apps to locate charging stations. In fact, 94 percent of survey respondents have chosen establishments that are equipped with chargers. As more consumers adopt and identify with plug-in mobility, a place to charge will no longer lure guests, but be an expectation for drivers. According to another 2014 survey, Experian Automotive estimates that 55 percent of PEV drivers are between the ages of 36 to 55 and 21 percent have an average household income of $175,000 or more, making this affluent demographic a target market. There is a reason Tesla launched with the Roadster, a luxury vehicle, and then debuted Model S to amass early adoption.

How to Leverage the Plug

In order to appeal to guests driving EVs, they have to know you exist, so spread the word and put your chargers on the map. Registering on PlugShare, a popular smartphone app that allows users to locate charging including stations near hotels, and the Alternative Fuel Data Center is a good place to start, so drivers can plan their trip accordingly. Information should also be posted to your website and can also be marketed creatively by reaching out to potential visitors on social media or creating an EV-friendly route.

As previously announced by Green Lodging News, this year the Arizona Office of Tourism (AOT) created the first Electric Vehicle Visitors Guide as a supplement to the annual Official State Visitors Guide. The online guide, downloadable as a PDF, includes specific resources for EV drivers and is used to promote EV-friendly routes around the state. In order to define the needs of EV drivers, AOT created an online survey that was posted on popular electric vehicle discussion boards, like Electric Auto Association, LinkedIn, and Tesla Motors Club and shared on social media, which garnered feedback from around the world. The “wish list” of items was taken into consideration when building the guide and pairing existing charging infrastructure in Arizona with nearby activities. Integrating overnight charging options for EV travelers to conveniently fuel up was critical.

In a matter of months, AOT was able to build a webpage dedicated to EV travel in the state including three itineraries and an Electric Vehicle Tourism Toolkit for stakeholders to learn more about EVs. These resources were shared at the 2014 Arizona Governor’s Conference on Tourism during the Supercharged session, which had a standing room only crowd. The conversation will continue this month with a webinar hosted by AOT.

As demand for a place to charge increases, it’s up to the tourism industry to take this opportunity and leverage it. AOT’s guide and toolkit can be replicated in a number of regions to attract PEV drivers looking for a place to charge.

Leading the Charge

Lodging has the unique ability to cater to PEV drivers by offering overnight charging. Most hotels use electric vehicle charging as a complimentary amenity or incorporate the feature into an already existing resort fee. Hotels are also finding a number of benefits including:

•    Gaining a competitive advantage over nearby properties;
•    Shifting spending from fuel costs to goods and services offered on-site;
•    Receiving valuable data usage information on your guests;
•    Building brand awareness while enhancing corporate social responsibility efforts; and
•    Earning points towards LEED, TripAdvisor GreenLeaders, and lodging association certifications.

While every property is different, the procedure for adding EV charging is the same.

1.    Determine if you are eligible for any charging installation incentives or tax credits. This may be at the federal, state, or local level. Connect with your local Clean Cities coordinator or stations supplier for insights.
2.    Set up a site inspection with an electrician to determine installation costs.
3.    Speak with a station supplier to determine the best options for your location.
4.    Once you have bought and received your stations, have them installed. Be sure to have signage ready that includes any rules for usage (such as time limits).
5.    Educate your staff about electric vehicles and their needs along with any hotel policies for usage. Communicate with your staff regarding the new stations and provide them with guest talking points. Also, be sure that valets using the station rotate vehicles so that self-parking guests may also use the equipment.
6.    Register your station on PlugShare so that EV drivers can find you.

Beyond registering your stations on an app, there are additional methods to market your stations.

•    Announce the new stations with a formal press release.
•    Post charging information on your website.
•    Share the news with your contacts via an internal or external newsletter.
•    Encourage guests to include their use of the stations in an online review, such as on TripAdvisor. This allows search engines to bring more traffic to your site.
•    Engage with guests on social media.
•    Create a “refer a station” campaign and encourage EV drivers to spread the word about your amenity.

By 2020, an estimated three million electric vehicles will be sold each year. That means that over the next five years, EV charging will become a necessary amenity to attract guests, build brand awareness, and contribute to sustainability efforts. While this shift in personal transportation will impact tour operators, destination marketing organizations, and all other segments of the tourism industry, it is lodging that has the biggest opportunity to appeal to the market and be an early adopter of infrastructure technology.

Jennifer Miller has a Master’s in Sustainable Tourism with a focus on electric vehicles as a method of sustainable transportation. Miller is a Customer Success Associate with Greenlots, where she is spearheading new initiatives to engage customers and accelerate electric vehicle adoption.

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