For organizations looking to add EV charging to their property, it’s critical to understand how much demand there is among your target audience. Accurately assessing EV demand will meaningfully impact the success of the venture. Fully utilized chargers at businesses pay for themselves and begin generating revenue faster, either directly or through increased dwell time.
The broad view of EV demand and charging infrastructure in the US
The International Energy Agency’s (IEA) Global EV Outlook 2023 paints a clear picture of the increasing demand for public EV charging at a national scale. Virtually every year since 2015, the ratio of of public chargers to light-duty EVs in the US has dropped, meaning that every year since 2015 EV drivers have had to compete for fewer public chargers per EV on the road.
The IEA lumps both Level 2 and DC charging together, which oversimplifies the story. If the vast majority of public EV chargers are Level 2 (the number is currently 85.8% according to the Alternative Fuels Data Center), the required number of public chargers per EV will be much higher, since the average driver will need to stay plugged in at least an hour, if not several. That said, fast charging isn’t the answer for every EV driver: many will want to charge while at work, school or running errands.
[Source: BNEF EV Outlook 2023]
If EV sales continue outpacing public charger installations as they did between 2020 and 2022, the industry risks reaching a point where sales slow because prospective EV buyers are wary they won’t be able to access public charging and can’t conveniently charge at home. For organizations, this points clearly in the direction of rising EV demand for public charging.
How to assess EV demand
Correctly estimating that demand amidst such a rapidly growing, relatively new market is very difficult. While working with professional EV charging consultants who know your industry and have helped your peers is advisable, here are four steps every organization should take to accurately assess EV charging demand today.
Step 1: Survey customers and employees
If you’re contemplating installing more than a couple EV chargers on site, it can be very difficult to assess demand without speaking directly to your customer base. There are likely nearby peers or competitors who have already added EV chargers from whom you could ballpark a number, but if their demand assessment was off, yours will be too.
Where possible, the best data you can get is straight from the people who’d be using your EV chargers. If they’re your employees, adress the need through a user survey with questions like:
- Do you currently own an electric vehicle?
- Are you considering purchasing an EV in the next X years?
- How frequently would you use an EV charging station on our property?
- How much would you be willing to pay to charge here?
If they’re customers, getting feedback about something other than an immediate transaction can be difficult. Here are some data collection methods for various industries where customer surveying isn’t an option:
Hotels, shopping centers, gyms and other destinations
- Average the number of EVs in your parking lot during peak hours every day of the week your business is open
- Multiply the number of total parking spaces you have by the forecasted increase in EV sales from now until the latest year for which you feel comfortable futureproofing (see graph above)
a. Example: if you want to install enough EV chargers to meet EV demand until 2030, you count an average 50 EVs in your parking lot, and you have a 500 car lot.
500 total cars in lot * .295 increase in EV sales by 2030 + 50 EVs in lot = 197 total chargers needed
Gas stations and convenience stores
- Count the number of vehicles that pass your store over one rush hour on your busiest day of the week
- Note which of the vehicles are EVs
- Note how many vehicles stop to refuel over that hour
- Multiply the total number of vehicles that passed your store, by the forecasted increase in EV sales from now until the latest year for which you feel comfortable futureproofing (see graph above)
- Add that to the number of EVs that passed your store
- Multiply that by the percent of cars that stopped to refuel
- Multiply everything by .2 to capture the 20% of EV owners that don’t charge exclusively at home
a. Example: if you want to install enough EV chargers to meet EV demand until 2030, you count 4,000 cars pass in one hour, of which 50 are EVs.
4000 total cars passing * .295 increase in EV sales by 2030 + 50 EVs passing * .01 (the percent of cars that stopped) * .2 (the percent of EVs that don’t recharge at home) = 3 DC Fast Chargers (rounded up)
Step 2: Analyze commute patterns and work or shopping habits
Understanding the daily routines of your employees and customers is crucial for estimating charging demand. If your employees only come to the office two or three days per week, but they all come on the same days, it has no effect on your EV demand. If they’re evenly spread across the days of the week, you’ll only need 40-60% as many chargers.
Average commute length will also come into play: the Idaho National Labratory found that EV owners drove 24.5% more miles annually if free workplace charging was available. Data from their three-year collection period suggested that employees preferred to plug in at work every day if possible, which is especially true for plug-in hybrid drivers, who could exhaust their EV range on commutes as short as 17 miles. K[MA2] nowing your employees’ average commute length will help you estimate the total miles of range they would ideally replenish each day.
Recognize as well that it’s both inefficient and difficult to get employees to unplug their EVs when they’ve finished charging so other employees can go to the parking lot and plug in. Despite the fact that each employee vehicle may only need a few hours of charging, you will likely have to choose between installing one charger per employee EV that wants to charge or falling short of demand.
For retail or service-based businesses, dwell time provides an informative baseline, but it isn’t definitive. For instance, the average convenience store customer may spend five minutes in store, but could that five minutes be stretched to 20 if they were DC fast charging? Could it be stretched to an hour to Level 2 charge? Probably not. On the flipside, if customers average more than an hour of dwell time, offering them DC fast charging will likely result in EVs being parked at your chargers long after they’ve finished charging, diminishing your revenue potential.
Step 3: Evaluate site feasibility
At some point, either cost of hardware and installation, or space, will limit you. It’s helpful to know where those ceilings are in conjunction with estimating EV charger demand at your site. If you confidently estimate EV demand to be three DC fast chargers but only have the electrical capacity for two without huge infrastructural upgrades, you can better estimate the cost and benefit of making those upgrades.
Knowing the limits of your site for EV installation will also let you know how much—if any—room you have for meeting increased demand.
Consult a reputable EV installer to estimate available space, accessibility and how much electrical load your property can handle without compromising safety or the integrity of your existing systems.
Step 4: Engage project stakeholders
Implementing EV charging stations isn't just an internal decision; it involves a web of stakeholders that collectively influence the project's success. As with any multi-year ROI project that requires construction, permits and public utility involvement, execution will be quicker and easier if all parties are aligned.
Here are some of the key stakeholders that need to be involved, potential concerns they may have, and what they bring to the table.
- Property owners
- Perspective: unique insight into the property's future
- Concerns: might worry about visual impact on asset value
- Interests: seek long-term value
- Perspective: understands how business objectives relate to daily operations
- Concerns: project ROI’s impact on bottom line
- Interests: customer experience
- Perspective: what can and cannot be done safely
- Concerns: risk exposure
- Interests: guarantee compliance
- Local authorities
- Perspective: knowledge of necessary permits
- Concerns: zoning regulations
- Interests: health and prosperity of community
Are you ready to bring EV charging to your site?
These four steps—surveying customers and employees, analyzing commute patterns, evaluating your site and engaging stakeholders—set the foundation for successful EV charging infrastructure implementation. Enel X Way’s consulting services have helped organizations from small businesses to global enterprises work through these four steps quickly and efficiently. Our consulting services go beyond assessing demand to site design, EVSE selection and project management from start to finish, navigating a complex process for you to deliver peace of mind that the project will be well-set for success.