Moving With the Times: Baker Electric discusses opportunities in EV charging stations

Flickr / George Sander / HTTPS: FLI KR/P/ASWYFS. A 20th century car display.
photo credit: Flickr / George Sander / HTTPS: FLI KR/P/ASWYFS

Electric vehicles are so prevalent these days, they hardly seem like news anymore. Perhaps that’s why so many electrical contractors do not seem to recognize the potential that still lies ahead for installing and, better yet, maintaining and servicing EV infrastructure.

Future EV infrastructure aftermarket opportunities will be a product of more than just the number of EVs on the road. The more EVs, of course, the greater demand for charging stations. But other factors will compel ECs to consider this market niche.

We went looking for ECs who could provide experience-based answers to questions about the business potential in EV infrastructure—and how to stay out in front of it.

Our search led us to Baker Electric in Escondido, Calif. George England, Baker vice president, and Joe Carangelo, Baker senior director of strategy and business development, welcomed us in for a wide-open discussion.

McCoy and Sargent: Over the course of many years, through its reputation, we know that Baker Electric has demonstrated a penchant for successfully pursuing emerging markets and green building in a multitude of ways.

England: Yes, that’s been our culture all along and it continues to be today. Evidence of this strong commitment is in Joe’s new role as senior director of strategy and business development. We want to continue to maintain our lead.

McCoy and Sargent: If we do an online search to “find a contractor” on the EVITP (Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Training Program) website for the installation of electric-vehicle-charging stations in California, Baker Electric’s name pops up immediately.

England: We started installing residential charging stations 10 years ago in a program for the DOE and installed over 500 charging stations in that program. More important, we have taken on some challenging and more complex installations and service for commercial and public facilities.

McCoy and Sargent: Thinking beyond initial installation work, how do you characterize the business-development potential for service and maintenance on EV charging stations?

Carangelo: The long-term potential for service and maintenance in EV infrastructure is tremendous. It is, and will continue to be, driven by a constant dynamic of technological innovation. We’re currently replacing charging equipment that we installed five years ago! Some technologies run on a seven-year renewal cycle. We see changes in EV infrastructure technology moving even faster than that.

McCoy and Sargent: Baker Electric has covered the entire spectrum from very large, sophisticated installations down to small, “plain vanilla” residential jobs. That said, what can you tell us about opportunities remaining for new entrants?

England: For smaller ECs, there is vast opportunity in the installation and servicing of residential vehicle-charging equipment. That provides an easy entry point into this realm—three-quarters of which is worth the price of admission because of its long-term potential. Virtually everyone who drives home from an auto dealer’s showroom with a new (or used!) electric vehicle will want charging equipment. And, of course, it opens up opportunities for add-on work in many residential settings. Smaller firms should not shy away from this.

McCoy and Sargent: More so than anything else, product development has always determined the forward progress of the electrical construction industry. It’s not hard to foresee how innovation in EV infrastructure technology is going to be at the center of a major paradigm shift in the electrical field.

Carangelo: That’s exactly the case. It doesn’t take a crystal ball to see the vast and intriguing future ahead in the EV ecosystem. Take “bidirectional” charging as an example. Imagine how an EV in the midst of being charged can instantly undergo a role reversal and contribute energy back to help fulfill the momentary needs of its local microgrid.

McCoy and Sargent: For a few years at the beginning of the 20th century, when EVs outnumbered their gasoline-powered counterparts, no EV attracted more envy than the Baker Electric (no relation). Of course, not long afterward, “electrics” lost out to internal combustion engine automobiles. In human endeavors as important as energy delivery for transportation, competition can be monumental.

England: That’s why it’s important for us to see EV infrastructure opportunities with a much broader view. If we do, we’ll miss out. Overlaps between EV infrastructure, transportation, energy storage, renewables and power producers are getting bigger and bigger. ECs who are interested in being diverse in the future should consider entering the arena today.

About the Author

Andrew McCoy

Service and Maintenance Contributor

Andrew McCoy is the Preston and Catharine White Fellow and Department Head of the Department of Building Construction in the Myers-Lawson School of Construction at Virginia Tech. Contact him at apmccoy@vt.edu.

About the Author

Fred Sargent

Service and Maintenance Contributor

Fred Sargent is an electrical industry consultant focusing on service expertise. He can be reached at fred@sargent.com.

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