Plug In, Plug Out And Go

The global plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) charging market is closely tied to the state of PEV sales and is entering a phase where electrical vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) is becoming a commodity, according to Navigant Research. However, Navigant expects the global revenue from that commodity market to grow from $81.1 million in 2014 to $2.9 billion by 2023. Because the installations of EVSE must comply with local, state and national codes and regulations, and may also require appropriate permits from local building, fire, environmental and electrical inspecting and permitting authorities, the electrical contractor is in an excellent position to pounce on this market.

Over the past couple of years, residential EVSE prices have fallen. There are more available cable choices, features and options, and charging equipment can be either cord-connected or hardwired. According to Manoj Karwa, senior director of EVSE and surge programs for Leviton Manufacturing Co. Inc., Melville, N.Y., the market is crowded with major manufacturers, traditional residential-wiring companies and many startup companies.

“There is already some consolidation in the marketplace with fewer new entrants and an expected 300,000 PEVs expected to hit the road in 2015,” he said. 

That large number is in addition to the 272,000 PEVs sold in the United States between 2012 and 2014.

With the existing public, free PEV charging infrastructure unable to keep up with the rate of PEVs being deployed, home charging options have become more important.

“PEV drivers are looking for increased vehicle utilization and faster charging speeds, leading to more installation of Level II chargers in residential applications,” said Jeff Kuykendall, product manager for Eaton Corp., Cleveland.

Level II chargers have a capacity of 240 volts alternating current and up to 30 amperes (A) of power, enabling owners to fully charge a vehicle in about six hours. Level IIs are available from most electrical distributors and can be wall mounted or placed on a pole/pedestal.

“Most all-battery electrical vehicles are able to get the most benefit with Level II charging,” Karwa said. 

Level I chargers typically come with the vehicle and can plug into any standard 120V outlet. They provide up to 1.4 kilowatts of power at 120V and are known as “trickle chargers” due to their slow charge rate of about 12 hours.

“Upgrading to a Level II charging station implies an additional cost to the homeowner; however, with increasing support and engagement from local governments and utilities, some of this cost may be covered through rebate programs,” said Adriane Breiner, director, electric vehicle solutions, Schneider Electric, Palatine, Ill. 

The owner can keep the Level I charger in the trunk for charging away from home, if necessary.

Choosing and implementing

The EC can help the homeowner choose and implement a residential PEV charging solution by first understanding the duty cycle, which is dependent on the maximum current setting of the EVSE, and then by asking the right questions about the type of car, the owner’s lifestyle, where the car is parked, etc.

“Other factors that go into determining the extent of the installation and the type of charging station and other supplies needed for it include panel size, how far the panel is from the charging station, whether trenching is required, when charging will occur, and whether there are any utility or municipal incentives,” Karwa said.

In addition, the contractor and homeowner need to consider the home infrastructure when installing a PEV charger and give thought to the electrical service and mounting location.

“Before a charger is installed, the contactor should assess the homeowner’s load-center capacity and determine if the 40A load needed for a Level II charger can reasonably be added to the existing system,” Kuykendall said. 

The homeowner should also consider how many access points are needed now and in the future, because needs might change.

In the near future, homeowners need to factor in the charging stations’ advanced capabilities, according to Breiner.

“These may include integration of the charging station to an existing smart-home energy-management system, remote start/stop of charging from a mobile app, or other features that give homeowners additional convenience and more overall control,” she said.

Learning about charging equipment and supplies is the key to market success, Kuykendall said.

“A contractor’s ability to educate consumers on the functional and operational differences of products is very important to both helping homeowners understand their options and to moving the industry forward,” he said.

As the PEV market grows and environmental concerns mount, charging stations will become standard equipment in new high-end market homes and zero-emission vehicle states, according to Karwa.

“With the integration of home charging stations and renewable-energy solutions, electrical contractors will have the opportunity to offer a full suite of green installations,” he said.

About the Author

Darlene Bremer

Freelance Writer

Darlene Bremer, a freelance writer based in Solomons, Md., contributed frequently to ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR until the end of 2015.

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