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Fleet EV Charger Installation – Location, Location, Location

One of the first decisions that a new EV Fleet operator needs to make is where to install the charging infrastructure (a.k.a. electric vehicle supply equipment or EVSE).   There are several factors to be weighed in order to determine the optimal fleet EV charger installation at each facility.  While many of those factors are independent of the facility’s operations, others will vary based on when, where and how the EVs will be used.  Note that this post describes a commercial EV charging system installation, and the information below is independent of which electric car charging station manufacturer that you use.

Below is a site plan for an industrial facility that I’m going to use to illustrate common options and challenges.  This example assumes delivery vehicles (trucks), but the influencing factors are common across other commercial EVSE deployments.  This example won’t exactly match anyone’s facility or operation, but I hope it leads you to consider the right questions.

Sample Site Plan

Here are a few particulars for our example:
  • The site will have a fleet of 12 EVs that are used on business days to deliver dry goods.
  • Deliveries occur between 7 am and 3:30 pm, and the vehicles are loaded during the second shift.
  • Using a 60 amp Type II charger, the vehicles will require from 4 to 8 hours to fully charge.
  • There is ample excess capacity in the facility’s main distribution panel to add this fleet.
  • There are currently 24 diesel trucks, and the new EVs will replace ½ of the fleet.
  •  Currently, drivers fuel the diesel trucks at the end of their route prior to returning to the yard.

I’ve labeled a few areas on the drawing that will impact our location decision. Each area has some merit as a possible location for the facility’s EVSE, but there are disadvantages as well.  For this simplified analysis, we’ll look at how the cost varies for each location based on two factors: 1) initial construction cost and 2) facility operating impact.  The variation in construction cost resulting from each location is the easiest to quantify, but the other two are more speculative and harder to calculate.

Current Operation

Prior to the new EVs, truck were parked in 4 locations: the truck parking lot, truck staging area, the loading dock and the vehicle repair shop.  The loading dock has 12 bays, and trucks at the dock and the staging area move frequently during the second shift.  When trucks arrive, drivers park them in the “Truck Parking” area before going home.  During the second shift, a yard operator moves the vehicles to the dock for loading.  The first 12 trucks loaded are returned to the parking area, and most of the second 12 trucks loaded return to the parking area while the rest remain at the dock overnight. Trucks only visit the shop for periodic maintenance and break-fix repairs.

Construction Cost Differences

As parts of the construction costs won’t vary based on where the EVSEs are installed, the construction cost comparison only needs to examine the difference between the various locations.  Much of the cost to build the EVSE remains the same regardless of where the equipment is installed, and so for this analysis we only need look for those costs that vary by location.  For example, the purchasing cost of the chargers and the installation of a new electrical distribution panel will be required regardless of the location selected.  However, the wiring costs will vary based on the distance from the utility electrical room.  Note that it’s not just the length of trenching, conduit and wire driving this difference.   A longer distance requires larger wire to carry the same current than a shorter distance so the wire size might increase as well.  Very long distances may require a high voltage connection and step down transformer.  In summary, long distances can cost significant money.

Facility Operating Impact

As discussed above, the existing diesel trucks depart and arrive in the truck parking area.  A 2nd shift yard operator moves the trucks from the parking area to the dock and back.  In order to reduce the time to move trucks to an empty bay, empty and partially filled trucks are moved to / from the staging area as loading progresses.  On average, it takes about 4 hours to load the trucks. If a truck can’t be completely loaded during the 2nd shift, they are left at the dock for the 3rd shift to load.  The order that trucks are loaded varies based on product availability and not by route.

Importantly, the EVs will introduce another key requirement: the vehicles must charge from 4 to 8 hours every night.  As the trucks are at the facility for 15 ½ hours and they take 4 hours to load, that leaves 11 ½ hours for charging which should be plenty of time.  However, the vehicles can’t charge if they’re not connected so the EVs not only need to return to the site, they need to be connected to a charger for at least 8 hours.  Therefore, the yard operator needs to be certain that an EV doesn’t spend too much time loading or staging.

Changes to operating costs are the trickiest costs to estimate.  In our example, where the existing procedure brings trucks to a staging area, the new EVs will likely be left connected until a bay opens.  This may decrease the efficiency of the yard operator.  Let’s compare several options.

Option #1 – Loading Dock

This location appears to have the lowest initial construction cost.  All wiring can be installed in or on the building, and the distances appear to be as short as possible.  There are 12 bays and 12 EVs to charge.  By slightly changing the workflow such that the diesel vehicles are loaded first, the EVs can be moved to the dock and remain overnight to charge after loading.  However, while that seems like a small change, for many operations it won’t be that simple.  Product mix may necessitate a different loading order, which may mean that a diesel may need to remain at the dock longer or that an EV need be loaded first.  Multiple vehicle relocations during loading or a vehicle that requires a longer charge may create issues.  Also, if the plant’s operating schedule or product changes, keeping trucks at the dock for 8 hours may not be practical.

Option #2 – Truck Parking Area

For the fleet and loading managers, this seems like the natural choice for a location for the EVSE.  The trucks already park in this area so this shouldn’t require any change to the operation.  Unfortunately, this location would be the longest distance from the electrical room (= highest construction cost) plus there are operating complexities that need to be considered.  While the vehicles do arrive at this location, they don’t remain overnight, and some don’t return to the parking area if loading isn’t completed before the 2nd shift ends.  Also, the current work-flow includes vehicles moving to / from the staging area while loading.  Given that the trucks must be connected for up to 8 hours, there’s only 3 ½ of extra time that must be carefully monitored.  All that said, this is commonly the location that’s selected.

Option #3 – Shop

The shop’s not anyone’s favorite.  Critically, there’s not enough room for all 12 vehicles so it can’t work.  That said, EVs require maintenance too so the shop manager will certainly want the ability to test and charge at least one vehicle that is in for repair.

Option #4 – Car Parking Area

At first, this one seems crazy, and at the end of the day, it probably is.  I still think it has advantages that must be considered.  The biggest advantage may be cost.  In our example, we’re assuming that sufficient capacity exists in the electrical room, but usually that’s not the case.   Given that the utility right-of-way is adjacent the front lot, if a new utility tap is required this will be the closest spot.  Also, putting the EVs out front might help to support the firm’s green marketing image and the boss may want to charge his new Tesla.  However, this area has huge negative impacts on operational efficiency and also, the vehicles can’t be as effectively secured overnight so it’s still likely a non-starter.

Option #5 – Misc. Storage

This area exists at almost every facility that I’ve visited.  It’s where the old pallets, faulty products, broken forklifts and scrap-built picnic tables have been for years.  However, this spot might have it all.  It’s very close to the electrical room, and it’s also close enough that the yard operator won’t need to stage the vehicles.  Charging trucks here may require a new spot for the “storage,” but it may be the best spot of all for the new EVSE.

Easy decision?

These decisions are never easy, even in this simple case.   I recommend using a “T” chart to list pro’s and con’s for each location.  Involve your electrical engineer early in the decision process so that you have ballpark pricing inputs for your decision.  Consider how long the company will use this location for this purpose.  Would a particular location benefit or block future site development?   Would another spot increase the value of the property for a future user?  What if the site is leased?  Would the landlord contribute to the cost if the chargers were located in a particular area?  Once you’ve got your list, try to assign costs for even the simplest changes in operations.  Hopefully, the answer will become apparent.  Also, look to other’s expertise in fleet EV Charger Installation. EV fleets may seem relatively new, but our partners have been deploying them for over 10 years.  Please contact us for more information.

This post is part of series discussing my observations about commercial EV Charger Installation.  These posts don’t focus on particular electric vehicle charging companies or specifically discuss electric vehicle telematics / controls. Control Dynamix offers, EvAuto, our commercial fleet electric vehicle charge control system which provides tools to monitor and optimize the charge cycle for multiple EVSEs at a single site.

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