Plug In

Growing sales of electric vehicles jolt demand for charging stations.



As the electric vehicle market matures and grows, several area companies are introducing charging stations and services — both locally and elsewhere — to support drivers. The rollout of these stations, however, doesn’t mean there will be a charging facility on every street corner.

Drivers aren’t likely to plug in a Chevrolet Volt, Nissan Leaf, or Smart Electric Drive at a local drug store, cleaners, or fast-food restaurant. “For quick errands, EV (electric vehicle) drivers won’t bother with connecting to a station,” says Brady Blain, vice president of PEP Stations in Livonia. “However, they will at a shopping mall, theater, stadium, office, or anywhere they plan to spend an average of one hour or more.”

Last year, the company, in partnership with Hubbell Wiring Device-Kellems, sold and installed nearly 100 charging units at such venues as Emagine Theater in Royal Oak, The Suburban Collection in Troy, and the offices of Leo Burnett in Southfield.

National locations included Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, The Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C., and Hershey Chocolate World in Hershey, Pa.

The typical cost to install a PEP unit is $10,000, although the price varies based on the distance between the station and a 220-volt electrical source.

Sales of charging units are expected to rise as Ford, Honda, Toyota, and BMW begin to offer more electric cars this year, with other vehicles in the pipeline. PEP plans to sell and install 1,000 charging stations this year.

So far, most businesses and establishments that offer stations aren’t charging consumers. Given that the maximum cost to charge an EV is 72 cents per hour, most businesses and organizations absorb the cost in an effort to build goodwill and study spending patterns.

“A retailer can research an EV owner’s buying habits, which is valuable information — especially as you begin to target special offers to owners,” says Linzie Venegas, sales and marketing manager at Ideal Shield in Detroit. The company, in partnership with SPX in Warren, offers a $6,000 charging station called Power Xpress. The system’s hardware is encased in a steel pipe and a bollard cover (available in different styles and colors).

In addition to a 220-volt connection, the units are equipped with multiple 110-volt outlets. The latter offerings are designed to appeal mostly to electric bike owners, another growing market both in the United States and around the world.

Charging stations offer a range of payment options — free, subscription, credit card, or access card. Some units only work by day, in a bid to appeal to tenants at facilities such as office complexes.

“The industry will grow to the point that you may get a (parking) ticket if you park in a charging station space without an electric vehicle,” Venegas says. “When that happens, you’ll know the market is mature.” db

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