EV-charging infrastructure economics for site hosts: how incentives, amenities and attracting talent help make the business case
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EV Charging
Dec 3, 2021
Mehanaz Yakub

Industry experts share their tips on how offices, institutions and retail site hosts can plan to incorporate public EV charging by utilizing incentives and other ancillary revenue opportunities

Industry experts share their tips on how offices, institutions and retail site hosts can plan to incorporate public EV charging by utilizing incentives and other ancillary revenue opportunities

With the federal government’s recent decision to push its 100 per cent zero-emission vehicles sales target forward to 2035 and make it mandatory, one thing is clear: more public EV charging infrastructure is required to support growing demand.

Potential site hosts, such as municipal governments, retailers and workplaces must start preparing for the EV future, which centres around installing or operating public charging stations on their property.

To help them with their planning, Electric Autonomy Canada this week hosted a webinar, sponsored by FLO EV charging, focused on the role of incentives in aiding with deployment. Representatives from the City of Vancouver, Brock University, Plug’n Drive and FLO participated in a discussion, sharing insights on the installation of public EV charging infrastructure and on the challenges when considering an EV charging business models and finding funds to help offset costs.

You can watch the full discussion in the video player and read the summary below. 

EV adoption rates and demand

When it comes to the current availabilities of EV charging infrastructure, Canada has done well at ramping up installations with thousands of Level 2 and DC fast chargers operational across the country. But demand is always threatening to outstrip the public network.

To date, around four per cent of all car sales in Canada are EVs, while in the national adoption leader, British Columbia, the percentage of EV owners is now hitting double digits.

“We can do more and, of course, we need more, but I wouldn’t want to suggest that there aren’t enough [charging stations] now for people to adopt electric cars,” says Plug’n Drive’s president and CEO, Cara Clairman.

But while that may be true for individual passengers, for fleets it’s a different story.

In Vancouver, under its Climate Emergency Action Plan, the city wants to see 50 per cent of all kilometres travelled be with zero-emission vehicles by 2030.

“That doesn’t necessarily mean that half of the vehicles need to be electric, but there’s certainly an effort to get those higher-mileage vehicles shifted over — so the Ubers and Lyfts,” says Ian Neville, senior sustainability specialist at the City of Vancouver. “The car-sharing vehicles of passenger fleets, I think, are going to be really key to hitting that goal. And we need to have public chargers to support them.”

Currently, there are about 25 to 30 DC fast chargers in the city. Neville says Vancouver plans to at least double that amount in the next five to seven years, with a focus on ensuring underserved areas in the city have the proper infrastructure as well.

Federal funds for public chargers

Under the Zero Emission Vehicle Infrastructure Program (ZEVIP), available through Natural Resource Canada (NRCan), future EV charger site hosts can apply for funding to help overcome the financial burden of installing chargers.

“The challenge of this particular program is that it’s…a competitive program. So you need to have something a little bit unique usually in your application to be successful. But if you are successful, they do fund up to 50 per cent of the infrastructure,” says Clairman.

Earlier this year, Brock University, located in St. Catherines, Ont., received funding through the ZEVIP program to install 20 EV charging stations on its main campus, including 17 Level 2 and three DC fast charging stations.

“These applications, they are not easy. They do require thought, planning and a good costing and analysis,” says Mary Quintana, director, asset management and utilities at Brock.

That being said, “it was a very positive experience,” says Quintana. “It does require planning, but any project does.”

To help with the planning and application process, the university reached out to FLO for support.

“[FLO] educated us as customers to what other alternatives were there. What we may want, what our requirements were, they really guided us through the process of determining what we needed,” says Quintana.

Other financing options

The latest ZEVIP funding round, which focused on charging infrastructure projects in public places, on-street, multi-unit residential buildings, workplaces and light-duty vehicle fleets closed in June, though another round of funding with new criteria is on its way, says Clairman.

For rural communities looking to install EV chargers, they likely do not need nor do they have the financial capacity to pay for a larger number of chargers, says Brookes Shean, sales director at FLO.

To help these smaller organizations receive funding, NRCan also began accepting proposal requests from third-party delivery organizations, such as local governments or not-for-profit organizations. If successful, these delivery organizations would be responsible for distributing ZEVIP funding and be there to help share the costs of purchasing and installing EV infrastructure for smaller organizations.

“[These delivery organizations] can now extend funding locally to organizations looking for one charger, two chargers, three chargers or up to 20 chargers. So it becomes a lot easier to actually apply now for those smaller organizations that have been waiting for something,” says Shean.

There are also a number of provincial funding streams, adds Shean, such as the CleanBC Go Electric Public Charger program and the Electric Vehicle Charging program coming to Alberta in 2022 that can be used to top up the NRCan funding and continue to help offset installation or hardware costs.

Justifying deployment of EV chargers

Making a business case for workplaces to install EV chargers is a multifaceted issue. Clairman says that from a human capital perspective it’s an open and shut case: “more and more employees want to work for a company that they think is caring about the environment…There’s a lot more focus on environmental benefits that you can offer to your employees, so, EV charging is one.”

The other top-of-mind consideration is making the balance sheet pencil out. When it comes time for site hosts to consider their EV charger business model, B.C., for example, utilizes its low carbon fuel standard regulation which helps create a credit market for any low carbon fuel, such as electricity.

“If you are a provider of electricity for EV charging, you can trade into this market,” says Neville. “What that means is as a provider of EV charging, you’re looking at credit values that are significantly higher than the cost of electricity and so you can find ways to get a good return on your investment.”

But considerations for how to leverage chargers as assets are not the same for all businesses. For retailers, Shean cautions they could struggle to generate revenue with just EV chargers. In that case, there is an opportunity to look at the overall environment around the charger, with an eye to finding ways to engage customers in activities — shopping, dining, recreating — in order not to have waiting time be wasted time.

“An average person at a DC fast charger plugs in for 18 to 24 minutes in warmer months and up to 30 to 35 minutes in cold months. So you have a person there that could be purchasing other goods and services,” says Shean.

“[This] helps the business case of DC fast charging make more sense because you’re not just looking at it from how much off the charger you’re making, but how can I attract somebody to come to my property and spend more money there? That’s a huge contributing factor.”

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