6 STEPS FOR SUCCESSFUL ELECTRIC VEHICLE CHARGING AT HOTELS

In the United States, 25 percent of all new car sales could be electric by 2025. (Blue Whale EV)

Whether traveling for business or pleasure, everyone has certain amenities they want when booking a hotel. It could be a swimming pool, a fitness center, valet parking, free Wi-Fi or any other number of services. By offering such amenities, hotels can attract guests and make their stays as comfortable and convenient as possible.

Of course, guests’ needs evolve over time. And sometimes, nice-to-haves become must-haves. Just think about that Wi-Fi example. Before smartphones and tablets were everywhere, Wi-Fi availability wouldn’t make or break most people’s decision to book a room. Now, everyone expects easy access to the internet during their stay.

One amenity that will surely evolve into a must-have in the coming years? Electric vehicle charging.

THE RISE OF ELECTRIC VEHICLES

EV adoption is rapidly rising. Some predict that in the United States, 25 percent of all new car sales could be electric by 2025. As more and more drivers go electric, they want to be able to charge their vehicle at home, at work and when traveling. This means installing EV charging stations is becoming a big competitive differentiator. It’s a great opportunity for hotels to attract and delight guests in a whole new way.

There’s no better time than now to get started. But there’s a lot more to EV charging adoption than just buying a piece of technology. For those new to the world of EV charging, the process may seem confusing or overwhelming. Most aren’t even sure where to begin, what costs to expect or how the whole process works from end to end.

Fortunately, the process can be quick, smooth and as cost-effective as possible when you follow the right steps:

1. SET YOUR BUDGET

Everything starts by establishing a budget. The best approach is to determine approximately how many total parking spaces you have available, then decide what percentage of those should become EV charging spots. Remember, you can always scale over time. If you have 1,000 parking spots, for example, you could aim for an initial 2.5 percent, then grow to 5 percent, then 10 percent, and so on.

Since EV charging at hotels is primarily about guest satisfaction, it’s always a good practice to over plan for what you think you’ll need. The last thing you’ll want is guests fighting over a limited number of charging spaces.

When setting your budget, be sure to explore any applicable incentive programs offered by your federal, state and local governments, and even by utility companies. There are many great rebates and tax credits available for purchasing and installing EV chargers, and they can really help you make the most of your budget. But be sure to keep in mind that federal, state and local incentives generally expire generally at the end of each calendar year. If you want to take advantage of 2022 incentives, you have to act fast!

2. DECIDE WHETHER OR NOT TO MONETIZE

Another major consideration to make up front is whether or not you want to monetize any of your charging stations. In other words, are you going to provide this service solely as an amenity for guests? Or do you want to take a hybrid approach, where the public can access and pay to use some stations?

In the hospitality industry, this kind of hybrid approach is a great way to generate revenue—directly and indirectly. Firstly, you may need to offer some public chargers in order to qualify for certain grants and incentives. Once installed, EV drivers can find your location when they search for public charging stations in their area. They’ll come to use your charger and pay with a credit card. While they wait, they may buy food and drinks from your hotel restaurant, or even just explore your property. It’s a great way to generate revenue while starting to build relationships with potential new customers.

3. ASSESS YOUR POWER SCENARIO

Next, it’s time to do a load study on your current electrical setup. This study will determine how many chargers you could add to your current infrastructure. If your existing infrastructure may be able to handle the percentage of chargers you want to add, there won’t be any additional costs to consider at this step. But if your EV charging goal is too much for your infrastructure, you’ll need to upgrade or improve your power source.

4. APPLY FOR PERMITS AND CONDUCT NECESSARY STUDIES

Once your power needs are taken care of, it’s time to start navigating all the red tape. Namely, you’ll need to apply for permits and do an engineering study. Everyone, everywhere, is now required to get an engineer-stamped drawing of the new EV charging devices to be installed.

Depending on the size of your facility, you may also need to go through a planning study. Essentially a parking planner will assess how the installation will impact traffic patterns at your hotel. Once the planner signs off, you’ll need to get approval from your county to proceed.

5. SELECT A MANUFACTURER AND INSTALL YOUR CHARGERS

Choosing the right manufacturer and product is crucial. And the best choice depends on if EV charging will be just an amenity or if you’re taking that hybrid approach to generate revenue. If you’re adding some public charging stations, certain manufacturers produce chargers that are better for monetized transactions.

And the amenity versus hybrid decision will also help determine whether you want level 1, level 2, or level 3 chargers. Here’s a quick breakdown of each:

  • Level 1 chargers are cost-efficient, but also the slowest. They plug in to a common residential 120-volt AC outlet and can take 40 to 50 hours to fully charge a battery electric vehicle. Because of their slow speed, Level 1 chargers are almost exclusively used in private residential settings, and even then, only if 240-volt outlets are not available.
  • Level 2 chargers offer a bit more power and speed, and they are a common choice for residential and commercial properties. Level 2 equipment can fully charge a battery electric vehicle in four to 10 hours.
  • Level 3 chargers are the most expensive of the three but by far the fastest. These superchargers can charge a battery electric vehicle in just 20 minutes to one hour.

For hotels looking to monetize and provide the best service to guests, a mix of Level 2 and Level 3 chargers is the best way to go. For example, you could install Level 2 chargers in 10 percent of your parking spaces, then install a Level 3 charger for every 10 of those Level 2s. Guests can use the Level 2 chargers to charge for longer periods overnight, or a Level 3 if they have limited time and need to get somewhere fast. Additionally, monetized Level 3 chargers can attract and generate revenue from drivers in the area in need of a fast charge.

6. ENSURE UPTIME

Once you install your chargers, the work doesn’t end there. Ongoing monitoring is crucial to ensure chargers are up and running when your guests need them. EV charging providers may offer monitoring and maintenance programs. They’ll be able to detect if a unit is up or down, then provide any necessary maintenance or repair services. This kind of program should also include upgrades to your devices’ software when patches or new versions become available.

DON’T MAKE THE JOURNEY ALONE

The EV revolution is not a matter of if, but when. By getting in on the game now, your hotel business will be well ahead of your competition when EV charging becomes a must-have. And the good news is you don’t have to do it alone. Look for an EV charging consultant that can handle everything from end to end and ensure you get a solution customized to your hotel’s unique needs. A great EV partner can seamlessly guide you through all six steps above—from solution design to installation and ongoing maintenance. They’ll help you get it done fast (sometimes in a matter of weeks) get it done right, and generate the maximum return on your EV charging investment.

Article first appeared in Hotel Management – December 14, 2022