Charger Setup 102: Parking & Pricing

Placement and Fee Considerations

The placement of an EV charger or accessible outlet is often constrained by factors such as building design, electrical box placement, etc. When you know your restrictions for placement of an outlet, you can then consider which of your options will work best for an EV parking spot. Likewise, when you know how little it really costs for power, you can rest easy that your cost can be recouped by a very low fee or by other means such as a retail sale.

Location

Electric vehicle owners aren't generally looking for preferential parking. Most EVs are pretty new; a lot of owners are still protective of their 'new' car and don't mind parking farther away, where there is more space and less of a chance of door dings from other drivers. But the biggest concern for EV drivers who want to charge is the possibility that the charging spot will be ICE'd. As mentioned in the EV Glossary, ICEing is when a gasoline car parks in a designated EV charging space, preventing an EV driver from charging their car. This is the main reason that parking designated for EVs should not be placed very close to a store entrance, or in other parking spots that already get a lot of use. If an outlet can be placed in a lesser-used area of a parking lot such as the side of a building rather than the front, this is usually a good place - not desirable enough to be filled often, but also not so far away that a lengthy electrical run is needed.

Signage

A little bit of signage can go a long way to ensure that an EV spot will be available for charging. There is no specific standard for EV signage as there is for handicapped spots; simple signage such as a 12" X 18" metal sign facing the parking spot should be considered a baseline. EV charging signs are often green, because it is more noticeable than black & white, and because EVs are 'green' in the environmental sense of non-polluting. If you do not have a local provider for signs, generic types can be purchased online for as little as $20 (examples from Amazon here and here), or even custom-designed online through a site such as SmartSign for $30-40.

Signs are sometimes ignored of course, so even copious signage may not be of much help to a badly-placed charging space. The more precarious the spot, the greater emphasis on signage there should be to keep the spot from being ICE'd. When there is no alternative but to place a charging spot in a well-used parking space, some establishments will paint the pavement with a green 'EV CHARGING ONLY' logo in the same way that handicapped spots are marked, or even filling the whole area solid green between the parking lines. In extreme cases (most often hotels where parking is in short supply), some businesses will physically block the space with an orange cone until requested by an arriving EV driver, or have an employee park their own car in the space so that it can be quickly moved when an EV driver requests to use it.

Pricing

As I have mentioned in the Business Q&A, it is preferable to provide Level 1 or 2 AC charging for free. Level 1 charging from a regular 120-volt wall outlet is very slow, and is an option of last resort for EV drivers unless they are staying overnight. The power output, and thus your cost, is very low. For these reasons it is not advisable to levy a fee for Level 1 charging.

The cost of Level 2 charging is potentially noticeable on an electric bill, so fees for this type of connection are not unheard of, but numerous Level 2 outlets are still free. If your connection is not free, it can put you at a disadvantage compared to neighbors. As detailed in my Business Q&A, a small retail purchase is normally more than enough to offset the energy cost of an EV charging for a couple of hours. A typical EV will use less than $1 of electricity per hour.

There are some commercial charging networks which have fees for Level 2 access, but otherwise the greatest exception to free Level 2 charging is at RV parks. Since they often have little retail sales to recoup energy cost, and are in the business of providing services including electrical to RVs for a fee, it is somewhat expected for EVs to pay a fee here as well. I would encourage an RV park to charge much less for access to EV drivers that are simply charging and not staying overnight or using other amenities as heavily as an RV'er. 

EV charging is typically an incidental service right now and not a profit center. If you must charge a fee for access, try to keep the pricing low, simple, and above all, consistent. EV drivers do talk to each other; a price that changes from one EV to the next can make a visitor feel like they're being taken advantage of. A good price range for RV parks with ample 50-amp power is about $5-10 for a 6-8 hour period. $5 is typically more than enough to break even on average, and $10 will likely cover even the most power-hungry EV staying for a full 8 hours. The electricity cost of a slower connection such as 20 or 30 amps can be recovered by a fee of only a couple of dollars. A single retail sale to the visiting EV driver can outpace this, which is one reason that such charging is often free!


I hope this article has given you a good idea of the considerations in play when designating parking and pricing for an electric vehicle. As always, you can direct questions to mike@ElectricRoute66.com and I will try to answer them and add to this article as needed. Now, on to Charger Setup 103: PlugShare!

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