Electrical contractors get revved up about potential revenue from installing electric vehicle infrastructure
To describe Ed Ingalls, owner/president of Newington, Conn.-based second-generation Newington Electric Co. as “excited" about the future of electric vehicles (EVs) and the infrastructure needed to support them is an understatement. In fact, Ingalls, an E1 master electrical contractor with 30 years of experience, compares the opportunity to add the installation of electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) to his firm’s list of services, which already includes commercial and residential electrical service/repairs and an electrical generator division, to the invention of the electrical standby — the light bulb. “That’s what I tell people," says Ingalls. “It’s been that many years in our industry that anything this big has come along, and we’re all going to be able to capitalize on it a little bit."
Since he can remember, says Ingalls, electrical construction has consisted of only work in the commercial, industrial, or residential markets. He concedes that programmable logic controllers and fiber optics have added some interest, but nothing comes close to the excitement he thinks will be generated by EVSE installations, sometimes referred to as “EV charging stations" or even “chargers," despite the actual charger mechanism being located in the car itself. “Nothing has really come around that we can say, ‘Hey, this is something new that we can capitalize on,’" he says.
According to Ingalls, electric cars are going to be big because as people buy them, they are going to need to charge them in locations in addition to their houses. “You bring the car home, you plug it in, and that’s great, but I think we’re going to see places such as hospitals, restaurants, and hotels — anyplace that wants to attract the EV crowd and be able to boast they’re EV friendly — putting them in, and then it’s going to snowball," says Ingalls. “As soon as McDonald’s puts a few of these in along the Berlin Turnpike or along I-95, Burger King will be doing it next. They’re all going to want to hang a sign out there that says ‘we’re electric car friendly.’"
Already, Walgreens, the Deerfield, Ill.-based pharmacy and retailer, plans to offer electric vehicle (EV) charging stations at approximately 800 locations across the country by the end of the year, making it the nation’s largest retail host (Photo 1). The charging stations will feature either a high-speed direct current (DC) charger that can add 30 miles of range in as little as 10 minutes of charging time, or a Level 2 charger that can add up to 25 miles of range per hour of charge.
Major markets expected to host these sites include Boston, Denver, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. Select locations in Florida, New Jersey, Oregon, Tennessee, and Washington will also receive EV charging stations. Installation began in late July. Walgreens already has installations under way for EV charging stations at more than 60 stores across Houston, Dallas/Fort Worth, and Chicago.
“Consumer interest and enthusiasm has been incredible, and we’re excited to provide locations to charge up in neighborhoods across the country," said Walgreens President of Community
Management and Operations, Mark Wagner in a press release announcing the roll-out of the EVSE at the stores. “As more Americans embrace environmentally sustainable technologies, our convenient locations make us uniquely positioned to help address the concern around accessibility or ‘range confidence.’"
According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Walgreens will make up as much as 40% of all public EV charging stations across the country (click here to see Map).
This summer, Ingalls put his money where his mouth is. On July 22, Newington Electric announced the launch of its EVSE division, Connecticut Electric Car. “We needed something in this economy," says Ingalls. “After three years of being dead in the water, it seems like we’ve got a break here. So I’m going after it."
Of Newington Electric’s 18 service trucks, a few have been re-dedicated to the new enterprise (Photo 2). “We committed a couple of trucks, equipped them, and got them all labeled and lettered up," says Ingalls. “Now, we’re starting to market our services to municipalities, shopping centers, and commercial management companies."
Since its launch, Connecticut Electric Car has installed two EV charging stations, including a Level 2 EV charging station at a condominium complex in West Hartford, Conn., and one for a commercial client. In addition, the division has fielded many questions from interested owners. “We’ve had quite a few inquiries," says Ingalls, who is currently in negotiations with several municipalities in the area and was also recently approved as a certified installer by one of the major EV manufacturers, meaning that when a dealership sells an EV, it will refer the buyer to Connecticut Electric Car for the installation of an EVSE. “We’re pretty excited about it," Ingalls says.
Connecticut, where Ingalls’ firm operates, does not currently offer any rebates for the installation of EVSE, but he is advocating for them with the State of Connecticut; Northeast Utilities, New England’s largest utility system; and municipalities. “This would be a huge sales draw," says Ingalls.
However, there are federal and utility incentives — some offering up to 30% of the cost of installation — available now. Information about the rebates can be found at the DOE’s website at http://www.afdc.energy.gov/afdc/laws/fed_summary.
In conjunction with the official launch of its electric car division, Newington Electric also put up an information website for customers. The site, http://ctelectriccar.com, provides information regarding rebates and specifications of the charging stations. “It’s an informational site, as opposed to a selling site," says Ingalls.
In addition, electrical inspections may take a little longer than with conventional electrical construction projects. “Electrical inspectors aren’t familiar with EVSE, so they’re being overly cautious," says Ingalls, who states that the one consideration in installation is to follow the Article in the NEC that covers charging stations. “You have to figure them at 125% of the load," he explains. “There’s an article in the NEC specifically for EV chargers that has to be followed to a T."
Ingalls, who is self-taught on the installation of EVSE, is confident the 15 electricians who work for Newington Electric will be able to pull double-duty as technicians for EVSE installations for Connecticut Electric Car, as well. After all, the work doesn’t differ from electrical construction all that much. “It’s all just electrical pipe and wire," Ingalls says.
Still, the electricians at the Washington, D.C., Joint Apprenticeship & Training Committee (JATC), Lanham, Md., are receiving more formal training on EVSE (see Photo 3). In fact, after taking a course offered by the JATC, the licensed electricians who take the EVSE course will be certified to install the units in both residential and commercial applications.
In April, the Electric Vehicle Installation Training Program (EVITP) held its first “train the trainer" program. Fifty participants, among them Ralph Neidert, master electrician and assistant director at the Washington, D.C., JATC, were selected from major metropolitan areas around the country to attend a training session in Chicago and become certified EVSE trainers.
In June, Neidert held his first class, attended by 12 journeyman master electricians. He has plans for another session in September that will be open to the organization’s membership. However, to be qualified to seek certification, applicants must have a journeyman’s license and have completed an apprenticeship program. “This guarantees the minimum is five years of experience for a licensed electrician," says Neidert.
According to Neidert, once the actual installation begins, it is general electrical work. “The calculation of all that up to that point is a little different because, once these things start charging vehicles, it is a continuous load," he explains. “You don’t just charge a car in 15 minutes, so there are aspects that need to be looked at as far as rating it as continuous duty."
For Level 1 and 2 stations, the standard connector is rated as J1772 (EVSE Standards Harmonization). “That’s the standard on most vehicles," says Neidert, clarifying that the standard indicates the level of voltage and power. “I won’t say ‘all’ because there’s a lengthy list of them that I’m not familiar with, but the major manufacturers are all using the J1772."
Currently, the EVSE certification training isn’t actually hands-on; however, there is a station installed in the classroom for students to examine. Additionally, through an EVSE manufacturer that has received federal funds, the JATC will receive four charging stations they will be able to install at their training centers — two at its main training center in Lanham, Md., and two at its satellite training center in Manassas, Va. These will be installed within the next two months.
In addition to technical skills, the JATC course covers customer service. “They’re going to be dealing a lot with the public," says Neidert. “We want to make sure it’s a pleasant experience for the customer — that when they buy this car, if they want to have a charging station installed at their home, it’s a seamless process. The same goes for commercial locations."
This portion of the training involves the history of EVs and the stations as well as how to become certified by the EV manufacturers. According to Neidert, electricians included on the list will be notified by dealers to contact a customer so they can do a walk-through of the customer’s property to figure out where they want their equipment and if their electrical service will need an upgrade. “Certainly, because it is so new, customers are going to have a lot of questions," Neidert says. “Part of this training is to make an expert out of these installers so they’ll be able to answer some of those questions."
Representatives from the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA), Rosslyn, Va., led a meeting on July 20 to discuss standards harmonization requirements for electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) systems in North America. Michael Mahan, EVSE section chair, stated in a press release, “EV manufacturers are looking for certainty in the design and performance of EV charging systems before they move ahead with large-scale production and distribution of EVs across North America."
During the meeting, representatives from Underwriters Laboratories (UL), Canadian Standards Association (CSA), Association of Standardization and Certification (ANCE), and various Canadian, Mexican, and U.S. stakeholders focused on how to rapidly harmonize the following UL standards with CSA Technical Information Letters (TIL).
UL requirements for EVs:
CSA Requirements for EVs: