The EV charging business is changing daily. Only a few companies manufacture Level 2 EV chargers, most coming from Southeast Asia. However, the actual hardware is only a small part of the equation. There are over 75 different companies that are trying to grab the EV charging market by offering their software solutions. Some of these companies are publicly owned, such as ChargePoint and Blink, but the remainder are privately owned and early-stage companies. When choosing the right charger to deploy on a multi-family property, a property owner should understand how these companies operate, what separates one level charger from another, and the true cost of pricing options.
The primary objective driving these major EV manufacturers is to collect network fees for providing their software to the charging stations. This user interface software for EV charging stations allows the owner to set billing rates and track charging usage. Most companies will charge $10 - $30 per month for this software. This is considered “sticky” income and what all of the companies in the EV charging business are hoping to develop.
What separates one level 2 charging station from another?
The software capabilities are the main difference. From a hardware standpoint, not much. While there are level 2 chargers that can charge at 7.2 kWh to 19.2 kWh, the actual hardware in a charging station is very similar from one manufacturer to the next. The appearance of the equipment may be different, such as the length of the charging cord, but there is not that much difference between a charging station that can put out 7.2 kWh or 19.2 kWh. While the strength of the charging station is important as it provides different speeds of charging, the real difference is in the software capabilities.
What should a property owner look for when choosing the software?
Many companies say they specialize in providing EV charging stations to the multi-family industry. However, just because these companies have sold and installed charging stations at these properties does not mean they know what is important to the owners and residents of a multi-family property. The capabilities of the software are critical. For example, does it offer a reservation system, and if a reservation is made and the person does not show up, can a fee be charged? Can the owner adjust the charging rate based on the time of day it is used? Also, can the owner charge a connection fee to prevent residents from “topping off” and blocking other residents that may need a more significant charge? Open Charge Point Protocol (OCPP) is the application protocol used for communication between the EV charging stations and the software managing the stations. OCPP is the industry standard that will constantly be improving. It’s critical to know if the software provides updates over the internet for the upcoming conversion of the new protocol from OCPP 1.6 to OCPP 2.0.
Why can choosing the cheapest option turn out to be the most costly?
Many apartment owners select charging equipment based on price only. However, the cost of the charging equipment is generally less than half of the total cost of installing charging stations. This is attributed to the fact that most multi-family properties do not have the adequate electrical infrastructure to host EV charging stations without upgrading or reconfiguring the existing electrical infrastructure. Without getting a firm bid from an electrician experienced with knowledge of all the facets of installing EV charging stations in multi-family properties, the costs that were saved by driving a hard bargain on the equipment will be wasted.
So, what should a multi-family property owner do? How does a property manager or asset manager acquire the knowledge to know what to do?
The simple and best solution would be to choose a company to work with that has in-depth knowledge of both the multi-family industry and the EV charging business. REVS is one of the few, if not the only, EV charging services company in the U.S. run by real estate professionals. Our company understands property owners’ and managers’ needs and, most importantly, the needs of their residents. As an owner and operator of EV charging stations, our company knows how the equipment works and the strengths and weaknesses of the software and can provide the expertise needed to serve your residents with EV charging.