NATIONAL REPORT—As of September 8, according to Plug In America, 360,236 plug-in vehicles had been sold in the United States. Since the introduction of plug-in electric vehicles (EVs) about five years ago, total sales are on pace to double that of plugless hybrids for their first five years. Today, there are more than 32,000 charging stations listed on the PlugShare website. Undoubtedly, there is a shift taking place in how folks get from point A to point B.
According to the most recent AH&LA Lodging Survey, prepared by STR and funded by AHLEF, 11 percent of surveyed properties offer electric vehicle charging stations for their guests who drive electric and plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles. Some properties are even using electric vehicles for in-town or airport transfers, making it even more essential to have on-site charging stations.
Most properties that have invested in charging stations for visitors, guests and others have done so at Level 1 or Level 2. A 120-volt Level 1 charger can charge a battery two to three miles per hour, depending on the vehicle. A Level 1 charger could be something as simple as an extension cord to a 120-volt outlet. A 240-volt Level 2 charger can charge a vehicle in four to eight hours depending on battery size and depletion. According to Aerovironment, Inc., Level 2 chargers come in a variety of amperages typically ranging from 16 amps to 40 amps. The two most common Level 2 chargers are 16 and 30 amps, which also may be referred to as 3.3 kW and 7.2 kW respectively. These two amperages are the most common because they match the onboard charger on many of the current electric vehicles. Depending on the amperages, the difference between Level 2 chargers could be significant in charging times.
Supercharger Stations Becoming More Common
A high-powered Level 3 DC fast-charge station can take a vehicle from fully depleted to fully charged in about 30 minutes to 75 minutes depending on battery size and depletion. Drivers of Tesla Model S vehicles use Tesla Level 3 Superchargers although they can use a Level 2 station with a converter plug. According to Tesla, there are currently 508 Supercharger stations with 2,871 Superchargers in the United States and Canada.
Rishi Shah, V.P. of Business Development, U-GO Stations, says charging station cost typically depends on the type of station and where one installs it. “For a Level 2 charger you could spend from a few thousand to $10,000,” Shah says. Whether or not the machine includes a credit card swipe feature or other features will impact the cost. A Level 3 charger is much more expensive—$20,000 to $30,000 for the charger itself plus any installation and ongoing maintenance expenses.
Shah, who also is asset manager at the Wyndham Philadelphia-Mount Laurel in New Jersey, says his property installed a Level 3 charger two years ago through U-GO Stations. U-GO Stations picked up the cost of the equipment, installed it at no cost, and committed to maintain and service the equipment. As part of the arrangement, the hotel shares revenue generated, as well as data generated from the use of the charging stations, with U-GO Stations. Shah adds that other charging station vendors offer similar business models. The Wyndham Philadelphia-Mount Laurel charges about $3.50 for a 30 minute charge at its Level 3 station. Shah says hotel guests are opting for the Level 3 station over the Level 2 station because “they want an experience as close to a gas engine as possible.”
Some Incentives Available
According to David Sharp, Director Business Development, GoSpace, a provider of ChargePoint electric vehicle charging stations, incentives are available in some areas to help cover charging station costs. “California has PACE,” Sharp says. “EV infrastructure qualifies for PACE financing.”
As part of its Fast EV Charger Program, GoSpace recently installed a DC Fast Charger for the Tahiti Village Resort on Las Vegas’ Strip. In this case, the charger and installation costs were donated by a major automotive manufacturer. The Tahiti Village project is a part of a global effort to build out EV charging infrastructure. GoSpace is assisting by locating qualified candidates for this program and performing the installations for the donated fast EV chargers the program provides.
As part of Tesla’s Destination Charging program, qualified properties can join the Destination Charging Network and receive their first two Tesla wall connectors at no cost as long as they are installed in visible or convenient locations. Hoteliers are responsible for installation and ongoing operation and maintenance costs.
Electric vehicle charging station sophistication varies from “dumb to smart,” Sharp says. The ChargePoint CT 4000, for example, utilizes the ChargePoint Software Service Plan to control access, set pricing, monitor status in real time, and generate usage reports. The CT 4000 accepts ChargePoint cards as well as Visa PayWave, MasterCard PayPass, American Express ExpressPay, and Discover Zip contactless credit cards.
Not a Best Practice
As with any amenity, EV charging stations have to deliver what they promise. The PlugShare website gives EV station users the ability to post comments. One PlugShare user in Las Vegas, someone local to the EV station he was using at a resort, posted about his negative experience on PlugShare. The person chose the resort for dinner and gambling because it had an EV station. Upon arrival, however, he was told by a resort associate that the EV station was for guests only but since nobody was using the station he could plug in. The charger was a Level 1 which did not provide much of a charge given the length of his visit. When he was ready to leave, he said he was “lectured again not to come back and that the charge station is only for guests. I came here and spent a few hundred dollars because they had a charge station. Next time I will go to [another resort] and spend my money there….”
Increasingly, travelers, and even locals, are looking for seamless charging experiences without hassles, just as they would expect any other hotel or resort amenity.
“EV charging should not be overlooked,” Shah emphasized. “It is not a fad. EVs are the future. Your customers will be driving them. More rental car agencies are offering EV vehicles. It is going to be mainstream.”
Glenn Hasek can be reached at email@example.com.