As the electric vehicle (EV) market gains traction, there’s opportunity for electrical contracting companies of all sizes to provide services associated with its mass implementation.
There are charging station installations, broadband and wireless/5G cellular connectivity for communications and other EV infrastructure essentials. Additional opportunities include service, maintenance and ongoing upgrades and improvements.
According to a report by the Edison Electric Institute (EEI), Washington, D.C., the organization and its members companies have invested more than $3 billion in customer projects to deploy EV charging infrastructure and accelerate electric transportation. EEI announced in late December 2021 the formation of a new coalition—the National Electric Highway Coalition (NEHC)—combining the Electric Highway Coalition and the Midwest Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure. NEHC is a collaboration among electric companies committed to providing fast-charging EV stations for public use.
Philip B. Jones, executive director for the Alliance for Transportation Electrification, stated, “EV owners want to charge conveniently and quickly without fear of running out of electric fuel. With scores of new battery-electric vehicles coming to market over the next couple of years, we need to get the charging infrastructure sited, built and funded. Moreover, the EV industry, led by electric companies and cooperatives, automobile OEMs [original equipment manufacturers] and EV service providers, need to accelerate the deployment of charging infrastructure now.”
In addition, the recently passed Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act includes spending initiatives for vehicles and charging stations. The act will invest some $7.5 billion to build out and provide funding for deployment of the first-ever national network of EV chargers in the United States. EEI estimates that more than 100,000 EV fast-charging ports will be needed to support the nearly 22 million EVs projected to be on U.S. roads in 2030.
Get ready to ride
Electrical contractors play a pivotal role in accelerating growth of the EV charging infrastructure, which includes home, 40A and fast-charging, according to Scott N. Schober, CEO of Berkeley Varitronics Systems Inc., Metuchen, N.J. Schober, an expert speaker and author on wireless and connectivity, said EV charging sites require a constant, low-bandwidth cellular data connection similar to most internet of things (IoT) consumer devices. Industrial-grade, fast-charging stations deliver 480V of DC power, also relying on wireless data connectivity to manage outputs and charge customers.
All electrical charging stations need robust communications back to the network to process payments, monitor power usage and create service work orders to repair nonfunctional charging nodes, Schober said, adding that the latest cellular connectivity standards will play a huge role in EV chargers and the cars themselves.
“With standards like 5G just coming online now, wireless cellular networks are becoming integral to the expansion of IoT monitoring, payment and communication systems. Electricians and installers need to educate themselves on these basics if they want to secure careers in the future,” he said.
Schober advised that 3G and 4G networks allow wireless monitoring and payment systems to be installed nearly anywhere across the country, and 5G networks allow for even lower latency and higher bandwidth applications such as high-definition content delivery to EV chargers, their vehicles and even telemetry and real-time communications between millions of autonomous vehicles that have already begun to hit the roads. Not all chargers are wireless, but the freedom that wireless offers installers and EV drivers will certainly accelerate the growth and adoption of the EV industry.
“We are now at a critical transition point,” he said. “Next time you pull into a shopping mall or parking lot, glance around, and you will likely take note of a lot more EVs filling the spaces.”