Just as traditional cars need gas, electric vehicles require charging stations. While "at home" remains the most common place to charge up, the average EV can travel only a few hundred miles before needing to recharge. Ergo, drivers need EV charging stations—and if you own such a station, you'll want to learn how you can maximize your EV charger utilization rate.
Generally speaking, charging an EV takes longer than filling up a car with gas. As such, you'll want to ensure that customers can use your charging stations efficiently. If your chargers are difficult to find, poorly maintained, or slow to recharge, customers can and will simply find a different one. However, by following a few simple best practices, you can make your charging station a top destination for drivers, enticing them to come back again and again.
Benefits of maximizing your EV charger utilization rate
It may be tempting to think of an EV charging station as a completely passive form of income. After all, demand from EV owners is constant, and the drivers themselves perform most of the labor involved. However, charging stations are susceptible to both physical and digital malfunctions, which can render them temporarily inoperable.
Even when charging stations are functioning properly, more mundane inconveniences could deter drivers from stopping by. If a station is not clearly labeled, slow to charge, or already full of cars, then your EV charger utilization rate could drop precipitously. A few simple preventative steps can keep your station firing on all cylinders (so to speak).
#1: Get the right EV charging software
Unless you plan to stand guard over your EV charging station like an indefatigable soldier, you'll need a way to manage it remotely. This is doubly true if you manage multiple chargers at different locations. An effective CSMS (charging station management software) will let you monitor stations in real time, calculate costs over time, collect earnings, compile custom reports, receive real-time issue notifications, and more.
ChargeLab's software fits that bill, and it’s compatible with every OCPP-compliant charger, including popular models from ABB, Delta, EVBox, Zerova, and more. It also supports a variety of use cases, including vehicle fleets, public spaces, office buildings, and both multi-family and single-family houses.
#2: Understand when and where most people charge EVs
When it comes to charging EVs, timing is everything. According to a report from tech research group Pecan Street, EV owners tend to charge their vehicles between 5 PM and midnight, after they get home from their jobs. Conversely, the period between 6 AM and 9 AM, when they commute to work, is a bit of a dead zone. This is especially vital information if your station is located in a workplace or residential area.
Your EV charger utilization rate is highly dependent on where a driver is and when they need power. If you operate in an area where energy rates vary depending on the time of day, parking spots are at a premium during work hours, or populations change seasonally, access to demographic data could mean the difference between popularity and obscurity.
How can you account for these fluctuations? Use a hardware and software solution with power management capabilities. Power management automatically adjusts the amperage output to each station based on the number of chargers currently in use. This feature allows you to save on energy costs and leverage a limited power infrastructure more efficiently.
#3: Advertise your EV charging stations
People won't come to your charging station if they don't know it exists. A nondescript charging station may look like an elegant addition to the local scenery, but it won't convince anyone to pull over and plug in. Just as gas stations utilize bright lights and recognizable signage to attract motorists, your charging station should be crystal clear about where it is, and what it offers. A simple "Charge your electric car here" sign could help drivers pinpoint your station, or even convince them to stop in for a quick impromptu recharge. A coat of green paint is a helpful signal, too.
#4: Maintain your EV charging equipment
A recent study determined that only 72.5% of EV charging stations in San Francisco were active and in good working order in March 2022. That means more than one-quarter of stations were out of commission—at best sitting unused and forgotten, at worst frustrating EV drivers who would be sure not to waste their time returning to that spot in the future. As an EV charging station owner, it’s essential to ensure that your equipment is ready to serve drivers at all times if you want to see a return on your investment.
However, EV charging station maintenance goes beyond just having functional gear. You also need to ensure that the area itself is accessible and clean. If customers can't reach the charging cables, or if they need to wade through a sea of detritus to do so, they'll probably just move on to another location.
#5: Get your charging station listed
Before drivers stop by your EV charging station, they first need to know that it exists. As such, it's your responsibility to keep tabs on popular EV charging apps and business directories to ensure that your station shows up. PlugShare, ChargeHub, and Google Maps show EV owners nearby charging stations, allowing them to plan out routes and find convenient charging spots. Your EV charger utilization rate will only improve if people can find it on the apps they already know and trust.
#6: Offer DC fast charging
Consumer-facing EVs offer three types of charging: Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3, aka DC Fast Charging. Level 1 chargers are designed for home use, and as such, can require multiple days to fully recharge a vehicle. Level 2 chargers take a few hours for significant mileage. DC Fast Charging, however, can bring many electric vehicles from empty to 80% charge within an hour.
For EV charging station owners, the benefits of DC Fast Charging are twofold. First, faster charging means faster turnover, allowing more motorists to use your station each day. Second, DC Fast Charging is often more expensive than Level 1 or 2 charging, leading to potentially higher profits for charging station owners. While DC Fast Charging can be more expensive to install than Level 2, it could conceivably pay for itself in a shorter window of time.
#7: Charge idle fees
Because EV chargers vary so considerably in speed, consumers often misjudge the amount of time they ought to stay parked at a charger. With the right software, you can set up push notifications to alert them when a full charge is achieved. You can also follow up with another notification warning them that idle fees are about to go into effect. Idle fees have a two-fold benefit to your business: They monetize the passive use of stations and incentivize drivers to give up their spots on time.
However you choose to run your EV charging business, you'll need top-notch software to keep it running smoothly. If you'd like to learn more about how our software could benefit your setup, then contact ChargeLab to learn more.