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Overcoming Infrastructure Barriers: Scaling EV Charging at Auto Dealerships

The blog post explores the challenges auto dealerships are facing due to the boom in electric vehicles (EVs). As more consumers switch to EVs, dealerships must upgrade their facilities to provide robust charging infrastructure. The key challenges identified in this transition include technical hurdles such as high power demand and grid restrictions, economic constraints like high installation costs, and lead-time challenges stemming from supply chain disruptions and permitting processes. It also emphasizes the rising customer expectations for EV charging availability at dealerships. The post discusses emerging solutions such as battery systems that decouple power generation from the grid, enabling energy storage and flexible charging station placement. It concludes by proposing steps dealerships can take to implement EV charging solutions, emphasizing the importance of such upgrades in securing a sustainable and profitable future.

Adapting to the EV Boom

As more consumers make the switch to electric vehicles (EVs), auto dealerships face a unique challenge: upgrading their facilities to provide adequate EV charging infrastructure. The rapid growth of the EV market is evident in the International Energy Agency's estimate that nearly 14 million electric cars will be sold globally in 2023. Furthermore, the United States has seen a significant surge in EV sales, with over 320,000 electric cars sold in the first quarter of 2023 alone, a 60% increase from the same period in 2022.

The transformative wave sweeping through the auto retail sector necessitates the creation and adoption of innovative solutions to efficiently and cost-effectively scale up EV charging infrastructure. This piece takes a look at the challenges auto dealerships face when adapting to the increasing demands of EV charging infrastructure, and highlights actionable strategies to tackle these obstacles effectively.

Line of electric vehicles plugged into chargers

Understanding Infrastructure Challenges

Auto dealerships face a myriad of challenges when it comes to building out electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure. These hurdles are multi-dimensional, encompassing technical barriers, economic constraints, as well as less obvious but equally significant lead time challenges. To gain insight into this intricate landscape, let's dissect these categories and examine each one in detail.

Technical Barriers

At the core of technical challenges is the high power demand necessary to charge multiple EVs simultaneously, requiring significant electrical upgrades. This issue becomes particularly evident when we consider Direct Current Fast Chargers (DCFC). These high-speed chargers demand inputs of at least 480 volts and 100 amps. To put that into perspective, a single DCFC consumes as much power as nearly 40 average homes combined. It's akin to comparing a single drop of water (the power usage of a typical home) to a full bucket (the DCFC).

This high power demand of fast chargers poses a significant challenge, particularly for older facilities not originally designed to withstand such power requirements. The task of maintaining and managing a network of EV charging stations is no small feat either. Dealerships have to keep up with the evolving charging requirements of different EV models and manage potential grid restrictions, which can complicate the infrastructure setup.

Economic Constraints

Transitioning to a new charging infrastructure also entails considerable financial challenges. According to Charge Enterprises, the average cost of a Level 2 EV charging station ranges from $20,000 to $30,000 per port, including hardware, installation, and additional features. For DCFC stations (Level 3), costs can rocket to between $400,000 and $750,000 due to increased power demand, construction requirements, and permitting fees. Erica Pacold, Managing Director of Joule Case Energy Services, recounts a striking example:

One dealership I spoke to was quoted $900k just for new utility wiring. This cost didn't even cover any of the charging infrastructure hardware. On top of that, they were also three years out from even being able to lay the lines.

However, while these costs might initially seem daunting, it's crucial to consider them in the broader context. Offering adequate EV charging facilities can significantly enhance customer satisfaction and loyalty, driving potential revenue growth. Furthermore, government incentives and the ongoing decrease in charging technology costs can make this investment more affordable. So, while the initial outlay may seem hefty, the returns on investment in the EV charging infrastructure race promise to be substantially more rewarding.

Lead Time Challenges

Building a robust EV charging infrastructure isn't an overnight project—it's a long-term commitment that requires careful planning and coordination. One of the prominent issues is the infrastructure delay. Dealerships need to overhaul existing electrical systems to accommodate high-power DCFC chargers, a process that can be both time-consuming and complex. Unexpected technical issues can arise during installation, which may extend the project's timeline.

Construction worker operating on a electric charging station

Supply chain disruptions further compound this issue. The COVID-19 pandemic has put immense stress on global supply chains, leading to delays in the delivery of essential components for EV charging stations and transmitters. These supply chain issues can push back installation timelines, adding another layer of complexity to the process.

Not to mention, the process of obtaining necessary government permits can also be lengthy. There are multiple regulatory hoops to jump through, each taking its own time. While these permits are crucial to ensure the safety and efficiency of the new charging stations, the process often leads to further delays.

The Need for Infrastructure Upgrades

As EVs become increasingly mainstream, consumers' expectations about charging availability at dealerships are rising. Not only are customers looking for a wider range of EV options, but they also want to see robust charging infrastructure to support their purchases. This demand for charging accessibility is corroborated by Deloitte's 2023 global automotive consumer study, where 46% of consumers surveyed cited lack of public charging infrastructure as a major concern in entering the EV market.

The importance of charging infrastructure extends beyond consumer convenience—it's a critical component of the sales process. Without it, dealerships risk losing potential customers to competitors who are better equipped to meet their EV needs. However, addressing this need is a significant challenge. A report from S&P Global Mobility reveals that the U.S. needs to quadruple its charging infrastructure by 2025, and grow it more than eight times by 2030. This statistic emphasizes the urgency and scale of the infrastructure upgrades needed in dealerships and public spaces alike to keep pace with the rapidly growing EV market.

Innovative Solutions to Infrastructure Barriers

Emerging solutions like Joule Case's battery systems offer an innovative approach to tackling the EV charging challenge at auto dealerships. These systems decouple power generation from the grid, allowing energy to be stored and then quickly deployed when needed.Not only does this offer a solution to the issue of grid capacity, but it also allows for more flexible and strategic placement of charging stations.

Navigating cost, technical barriers, and lead time challenges? Joule Case's commercial leasing solutions provide a flexible and economical route to managing your EV charging infrastructure, while also tackling technical complexities and reducing setup time.

What truly sets Joule Case apart, however, is the speed and ease with which these systems can be deployed. In fact, with Joule Case's battery solutions, an EV charging station can be operational at your dealership in as little as 90 days. Additionally, these systems have the potential to utilize your current infrastructure, effectively removing disruption to your business operations during installation.

It's a game-changing approach that's designed to meet the fast-paced demands of the evolving EV market, providing a quick and flexible solution to your dealership's charging needs.

Atlas batteries connected to EV charging station

Steps to Implementing EV Charging Solutions at Your Dealership

We understand that the prospect of establishing an EV charging station at your dealership can seem overwhelming. Navigating the sea of technical requirements, economic constraints, and timeline hurdles, not to mention the complexities of sourcing, installing, and maintaining advanced charging technology, is no small feat.

That's where we come in. Joule Case is here to make this transition as smooth as possible for you. We're dedicated to helping dealerships overcome these challenges and transition into the EV market with confidence. We believe in the potential of electric vehicles, and we're committed to providing the support and resources you need to make this leap successfully.

Here's a step-by-step guide to implementing an EV charging solution at your dealership:

  1. Assess your current and future needs: Determine the number of charging stations you need now and in the future.
  2. Plan your budget: Consider the costs of equipment, installation, maintenance, and electricity. Also consider opportunity costs of having to wait for a facility upgrade.
  3. Explore financing options: Check for federal, state, or local incentives that might help offset the costs.
  4. Choose your technology: Decide on a charging solution that fits your needs, considering factors like power capacity, scalability, and ease of use.
  5. Coordinate installation: Work with professional installers to ensure a smooth and safe setup.
  6. Train your staff: Make sure your team is familiar with the operation and maintenance of the charging stations.
  7. Track and Optimize: now that you’ve added charging infrastructure, re-envision how to take advantage of this innovative market position.

The Future of EV Charging at Auto Dealerships

As EV adoption continues to rise, the need for robust charging infrastructure at auto dealerships will only become more pronounced. S&P Global Mobility forecasts electric vehicle sales in the United States could reach 40 percent of total passenger car sales by 2030. This paints a clear picture: EVs aren't a passing trend but the future of transportation, and dealerships need to adapt.

An individual grabbing an EV charger preparing to plug into his car

The dealerships that will thrive in this new landscape are those that are proactive about upgrading their charging infrastructure and flexible in adapting to new technologies and customer demands. The bottom line? Charging infrastructure isn't just about keeping EVs running; it's a strategic investment that can propel dealerships into a profitable, sustainable future.

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