Electric Vehicle Charging Stations
for Travel Plazas

BMW, Audi, Porsche, GM, Ford, VW and nearly all other vehicle manufacturers are bringing the future closer with the conversion from conventional to electric drivetrain vehicles. The auto industry is investing hundreds of billions into manufacturing plant transitions, battery technologies, and new supply chains. Tesla Models S/3/X/Y, Jaguar I-pace, Audi E-tron, BMW i3, Chevy Bolt, Hyundai Ionqi, Mini Cooper SE, Nissan Leaf, Porsche Tycan, and many other models are already available this year. The list triples, then quadruples with hundreds of new models from nearly all auto manufacturers in subsequent years. 2019 global auto sales topped at 75m units. Of those sales, 1.65m or 2.2% were pure-electric EV’s. This percentage is estimated to increase from 15% to 25% with 20m in EV sales in the year 2025.

New Travel Plazas are Equipped with EV Chargers

Although much of the “fueling” of EVs is done during time spent at home or the workplace, EV drivers need to charge at other times, particularly on long, highway road trips. In this case, as with conventional autos, the travel plaza is the most convenient location to charge. Travel plaza owners are beginning to understand this and are installing charging station infrastructure to support current and future demand.

EV drivers will choose a travel plaza with EV charging over those without, so plazas with infrastructure have a competitive advantage. EV drivers can now get a quick “top up” charge while taking a restroom break, or visiting the quick-serve restaurant (QSR) or convenience store (C-store). Some mini travel plazas will even have vacuums and air pumps so EV drivers can take advantage of this convenience during a charging session.

Travel Plaza Owners EV Charging Infrastructure Questions

There are several questions a travel plaza owner will ask before making an investment into EV charging station infrastructure. Questions include:
What type of chargers do I need?
How many charging stations do I need?
How much will it cost?
What will my return on investment be?
What Type of Chargers are Needed
What typically determines the type of charger needed is based on the amount of time the EV driver will be staying at the location. For travel plaza patrons, that time is approximately 15 - 25 minutes. Before the charger type is determined, an explanation of available types is warranted.

There are many types of charging stations. Chargers are categorized as either Level 1, 2, or 3 and are advertised by their power output in kilowatts (kWs). Level 1 chargers are very slow at 1.1kW - 2.4kW output and are designed for home and portable charging. This class of charger is mostly for plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs).
Level 1 Portable Charger
Level 2 Dual Port Charger
Level 2 chargers are faster at 3.3kW - 19.2kW output and are designed for pure electric vehicles (BEVs) and are mostly found in extended-stay locations such as hotels or the workplace.
350kW DC Fast Chargers - Dual Power Box / Dispenser Configuration
Level 3 chargers are much faster at 50kW - 350kW output and are designed for fast charging pure electric vehicles. These chargers are found at quick stop locations such as highway rest stops, travel plazas, and parking garages. Level 1 and 2 chargers use AC (Alternating Current) power sources while Level 3 uses a DC (Direct Current) power source.

The amount of power output coupled with charging session time indicates how many miles are added to the range of the electric vehicle (for example: 9.6kW x 60min = 30mi of range). Ultimately, this is the information needed to determine the type of charger to install at a given location. The chart below displays approximately how many miles per hour are added to the vehicle’s range based on the charger’s power output.
* Note that miles added can vary depending on the efficiency
of the vehicle’s battery pack and outside temperature.
EV drivers typically do not let the range of the battery dip below 20% - 25% before recharging. This means the vehicle will have between 35 - 80 miles left of range prior to charging. The typical range of an EV is 200mi - 350mi, so it is reasonable to surmise that the driver will want to add about 110mi - 250mi of range before proceeding. As mentioned, travel plaza patrons stay an average of 15 - 25 minutes. This indicates that an available high-powered DC fast charger (DCFC) will be needed to keep them on their way without delays.

Based on the above information, you can determine with more granularity what specific type of charger is needed to satisfy the patron in the chart below. Note that the optimal charging range for travel plaza patrons is indicated in blue.
* Note that miles added can vary depending on the efficiency of
the vehicle’s battery pack and outside temperature.
Based on the information in the above chart, it’s clear that a 150-350kW DCFC is needed to satisfy a travel plaza EV driver patron.
How Many Charging Stations Do I Need
As with determining the number of traditional fuel stations needed for a travel plaza, determining the number of EV charging stations needed depends on the traffic volume for a given area and time of day. For EVs, this is not as simple to derive given the potential lack of EV volume data for a specific region and the fact that the EV market is a moving target, growing at a feverish pace. Many times, traffic information can be obtained from local or state government departments such as the Department of Transportation but most reports still do not break out EV data. A way to estimate the EV breakout is to simply figure in its percentage of the total volume. Several media outlets and government websites gather this information conveniently by state.

Another consideration is that the calculation/ratio to determine conventional vehicle visits won’t be the same as EVs because, as previously mentioned, the EV driver can charge their vehicles at home or the workplace. This means the ratio of EV driver patrons needing a charge will be lower than conventional driver patrons given the same traffic volume conditions. An estimate of that ratio adjustment may be 80% of the conventional ratio. For example, if there are 50 conventional vehicle visits to the plaza out of a volume of 1,000 passers-by, there would be 40 EV visits if all 1,000 passing vehicles are electric.
DCFC dispensers are similar in appearance to petro fuel pumps
As mentioned, another factor in estimating the number of chargers needed is the growth of the EV market. The travel plaza property owner should prepare the infrastructure for that growth. A property owner may decide to prepare the site with fewer units to start, but design the electrical infrastructure to support several units down the road. For example, only a single DCFC may be needed in 2020, but in 2022, 5 charging stations may be needed. In 2025, 10 stations may be required. It is important to size the transformer and other electrical equipment to accommodate future additions. Technology and pricing will improve over time, so it makes more sense to start with fewer units for that reason as well.
How Much Will it Cost
There are several elements that can contribute to the cost of installing DCFCs. Those costs include, but are not limited to:
DCFC equipment costs
Site development (trenching, concrete pads, electrical conduit, bollards, parking stops, signage, pavement painting)
Electrical (infrastructure engineering, labor, electrical equipment (transformer, service panel, breakers, cabling, etc), length of cable runs, electric utility equipment and installation fees)
Local permitting
Project management fees
Ongoing subscription fees (for charging station management)
There are also several elements that can reduce the overall price of DCFC installations including incentive programs from municipal, state, or federal government. In addition, the electric utility company may provide substantial discounts if they consider the site to be a revenue stream for them. Electrical infrastructure costs for DCFCs can vary greatly depending on the above. DCFC equipment costs can range from $25,000 - $110,000 per dispenser depending on the kW output and configuration needed. Infrastructure installation can almost double those costs. In general, you can expect to pay about $1,000/kW of output per complete installation without any incentives to reduce the cost. The cost per kW ($1,000/kW) is likely to be reduced further the higher the output of the charger (ie: 200kW-350kW).
What will My Return on Investment be
All DCFCs come with a management platform, typically cloud-based, that provides configuration, management and status features for the chargers. One of the benefits of the platform is the ability for the property owner to apply any number of pricing policies. For example, chargers can be set up to bill EV drivers by kWhs added, per time of use (per min or per hr), fixed per charging session, and other methods. These methods can be changed any time if desired. Chargers can also be set up to charge different fees for different times of the day when usage demand is greater, or weekend vs. weekday. Idle fees can also be defined whereby if the driver leaves the vehicle connected beyond the charging session time, they will be billed extra fees.

There really is currently no standard pricing model, however, EV drivers do expect to pay more to charge their vehicle quickly. When charging at home, EV drivers are used to paying their standard electric utility rate at a national average of $0.12 per kWh. At Tesla SuperChargers, the average rate is between $0.24 - $0.30 per kWh added for DC fast charging. Other networks have been known to charge by the minute for fast charging at rates up to $1 per minute during peak hours. In some cases, DCFC rates have been seen charging by the session at, for example, a $15 flat fee.

How to determine a return on investment will largely be dependent on rate of use, and the pricing rate applied to the EV driver minus the electric utility fees (commercial rates are typically about $0.07 per kWh). Another critical value to understand is how many miles of range are added for every kWh added to the battery during a charge. This value is highly dependent on the efficiency of the vehicle battery itself, however, it is safe to estimate that for every kWh added, 3 miles of range are added.

Given the above knowledge, a conservative example for ROI for one 150 kW DCFC is the following:

Example Investment Costs
Installation and Infrastructure Cost: $150,000 (no incentives)
Network subscription fees ($30/mo)
Utility Cost: $0.07/kWh
Example EV Driver Pricing
EV Driver Pricing: $0.30/kWh
Idle Fee Rate: $1/min
Example Daily Session Information
Number of sessions per day: 15 (7.5hrs of use per day)
Average miles added per charging session: 125 mi
Estimated miles added per kWh: 3 mi
Average kWhs added per session: 42kWhs (125 mi / 3 mi)
Average idle fees: $15
Total kWhs added per day: 630kWhs (15 sessions x 42kWhs)
Daily margin: $160 (630kWhs x ($0.30 - $0.07) + $15)
For the case above, the yearly income would be about $58,400 ($160/day x 365). So, the charger will pay for itself in less than 3 years considering no incentive reduction on the initial investment. In addition, having a DCFC will attract EV drivers to the location indirectly generating revenue via other elements of the travel plaza. Note that an EV Driver is free to explore other areas of the travel plaza as they are not tied to staying at the "pump" the way traditional fueling requires.

Alternative Energy

It is worth mentioning that some travel plaza owners are installing alternative power solutions to the charging station infrastructure. For example, solar arrays in the form of carports are a great way to augment grid power which can reduce costs over the long run. Coupling battery banks with the solar array can help further allowing storage of the energy so it may be used during the night or when grid power is unavailable. There are many state and local incentive programs as well as utility rebates available for commercial solar installations. Natural gas generators can also be used to supplement grid power during brownouts or outages.

What AmpedUp! Networks Can Do for You

AmpedUp! Networks is a full-solution installation and back-end network provider for customers needing electric vehicle charging stations. We have developed an enterprise level charging station management system (CSMS) that will help you easily manage all of the charging stations you have in place. We will thoughtfully guide you through the entire design, equipment selection, installation, configuration, and charger management life-cycle. It is our mission to provide you with the optimal system at an affordable price. to quickly and affordably bring your service to market.
Consult you on optimal charging station equipment for your needs
Work with local, state, federal, and utility EV charging station incentive programs on your behalf
Coordinate and manage applicable contractors including site developers, infrastructure engineers, architects, and electricians
Engage your electric utility company to incorporate Level 2 and Level 3 contracts to save you money and keep you in compliance with regulations
Assist in setup of the management platform and train you on the various options and features
Provide you with exceptional customer service and support thereafter
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