Charging Infrastructure Operation and Maintenance
Once the plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) charging infrastructure procurement and installation process is complete, there are a number of operational considerations to be aware of, including electricity and maintenance costs, whether to charge fees and the associated pricing and access structure, and collecting utilization data.
The costs of operating a charging station include electricity and maintenance, as well as any applicable networking fees.
The cost of electricity to charge vehicles includes per kilowatt-hour (kWh) charges, as well as any demand charges incurred, if the use of the charging infrastructure increases peak demand. Direct-current (DC) fast charging equipment are more likely to trigger demand charges than Level 1 and Level 2 charging. Note that some utilities offer time-of-use rates or other rate incentives for charging infrastructure owners.
Maintenance and Warranty Costs
General maintenance for charging infrastructure includes storing charging cables securely, checking parts periodically, and keeping the equipment clean. Chargers may need intermittent repairs as well. Warranty pricing varies by manufacturer, including plans that are fixed-term, renewable, and included with equipment costs. While ongoing charging infrastructure maintenance can be minimal, repairing broken chargers can be costly if they are no longer under warranty. Therefore, it is important to establish responsibility for maintenance costs and determine if the site host, charging network, or installer is responsible. While actual maintenance costs vary, station owners should estimate maintenance costs of up to $400 annually, per charger. Most networks also offer a maintenance plan for an additional annual fee.
Site hosts who want to recover costs or generate revenue may charge a fee for use of their charging infrastructure. Fees can be collected at the charging unit, via credit card, over the phone, or at a nearby establishment. For hosts who want to collect fees at the charging unit, many charging networks will facilitate the transaction. Site hosts can also charge for the use of non-networked charging infrastructure through radio-frequency identification (RFID) capabilities, mobile applications, or in-person payments (such as with a parking attendant).
Common pricing structures include by kWh, by session, by length of time, or through a subscription. Session- and time-based structures are common in states where non-utilities are prohibited from selling electricity. While charging a fee for the use of charging infrastructure is becoming more common, more than 50% of public charging is free to use. There are different pricing models across the different charging network providers, including pricing for members versus non-members, user-specific pricing (i.e., free charging for certain vehicle owners), site host-specific pricing, and pricing based on rate of charge.
Networked charging infrastructure can generally be categorized as member-only access or open access. The former requires a network membership to use and pay for charging and gain full access to all the features and services of a given network. On the other hand, open access charging infrastructure offers a way for non-members to access charging by calling a customer service center or paying onsite with a credit card. However, these solutions limit the functionality available to the driver (e.g., notifications about charging status.)
Capturing and analyzing charging infrastructure utilization data is a key component to successful charging station management. Most charging networks provide utilization data to site hosts through an online portal for analysis. Hosts may capture utilization data for non-networked charging infrastructure by installing a separate electric meter, third-party data analytics software, or through other options offered by the charging infrastructure manufacturer. Utilization data can be used to track progress towards emissions and energy goals, determine if a certain pricing structure is successful, and evaluate the need for additional charging infrastructure in the area.