Implementing the action
- Check whether the DOT has completed prerequisite Actions 2.17 Clarify DOT’s role in charging infrastructure and research charging network needs, 2.7 Identify funding sources for supporting PEV deployment, and 2.15 Scope out Ways to build Charging infrastructure on or near Highway Rights-of-Way. Without funding for installing charging stations, the DOT can help other agencies or private entities site and install charging stations (see Actions 0.1; 2.15).
- Explore project financing from multiple parties including banks, the government, and corporations.
- Determine the most cost-effective and appropriate charging stations to install based on charging needs and available funding. AC Level 1 and Level 2 chargers can require many hours to fully charge a vehicle depending on the PEV type. While DC fast-charging takes much less time to charge, fast-charging standards for U.S. and European-manufactured PEVs have not yet been finalized. CHAdeMO-compliant fast-chargers today risk being incompatible with future PEVs. Additionally, fast-charging stations could incur demand charges from the electric utility, making the price of electricity expensive. Moreover, the location of the charger determines the suitability of various charging station types. For example, Level 1 and Level 2 chargers should be located in areas where the driver would be willing to spend at least a few hours, such as workplaces, shopping centers, etc. DC fast-charging can be located in areas where drivers spend less time, as fast-charging can charge a BEV with a 24 kWh battery pack to 80 percent in under a half-hour.
- Consider offering a mix of various charging stations. Spotlight: Washington and Oregon combined DC fast-charging with AC Level 2 outlets in one charging station. Washington’s request for proposal had contractors not only compete on lowest price but also best value. Oregon DOT incorporated this idea into their bid process for their TIGER grant. The contractor chosen, AeroVironment, offered both fast-chargers and AC Level 2 chargers in its bid to install charging stations.
- Select the legal arrangement for project delivery, including organizing and financing charging station design, construction, operation, and maintenance. Project delivery of charging stations can follow the Design-Build-Operate-Maintain model, which is especially useful for charging stations funded by grants. In this model, the DOT develops the conceptual plan and contracts the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of the charging station. The contract can allow the private contractor to charge money for charging. Spotlight: ECOtality was awarded grant money for charging stations from the DOE. In Seattle, ECOtality hired McKinstry to install charging stations using a Design-Build-Operate-Maintain project delivery method.
- Identify available contractors for siting and install equipment. Some charging station service providers have been consistently over budget and late.
- Develop a long-term plan for charging station maintenance and legal contingencies in the case of the need for ownership transfer. The market outlook for charging infrastructure businesses is uncertain. The DOT should have contract terms for what happens if the contractor is unable to operate the charging station. Contractors that have a diversified business outside charging infrastructure may have a better chance of providing charging services for the long term.
- Monitor and track the use of charging stations after they are built. In addition to collecting data on charging station use, the DOT should physically monitor the stations to prevent vandalism, or require the contractor to do so in the contract.
- Be prepared for charging stations to have low use at first. Charging station usage may be infrequent so long as PEVs hold a very small market share.
- Consider only installing the conduit for a charging station. The DOT could solicit bids for who gets to install and operate charging stations using this wiring. Only installing the conduit reduces project costs and allows for more time to select the appropriate charging station for that spot. Unused conduit is also less visible than an unused charging station. Spotlight: NRG Energy, in a $100 million settlement with the state of California, is installing charging stations and “pre-wiring” locations by laying conduits down. NRG has exclusive rights to installing a charging station on the conduits for the first 18 months.
Over time, the DOT is contributing to a popular, efficient, and cost-effective charging network. Moreover, with the experience of installing charging stations, the DOT can see future links between transportation and electricity, and is prepared to work more closely with entities like electric utilities and grid operators (see 3.7 Explore and pilot test "next-gen" technologies, including V2G and wireless charging).