Public EV Charging for Retail: Level 2 vs. DC Fast Chargers

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By Nick Stone, Manager of Host Success at EVgo
Jan 13, 2022

The Retail Advantage of DCFC

As retailers around the country look to attract the growing number of EV driving consumers, one of the first decisions to consider is whether to install Level 2 Charging (L2) or Direct Current Fast Charging (DCFC) stations. Even for tech savvy real estate professionals or seasoned facility managers, it can be an intimidating place to start. Both L2 and DCFC are critical for electrifying transportation but…for retailers looking to host EV chargers, there are some considerations that, in most cases, make fast charging a more attractive option for your business.

The key difference between L2 and DCFC is how fast each will charge an EV’s battery. Level 2 chargers can get an EV 150 miles of range in 4-8 hours of charging time. On average, a DCFC can get an EV that same 150 miles of range in 15-30 minutes (although the exact time varies based on the kW rating of the DCFC and the vehicle’s charging capability).

When deciding which level of charger to have on the property, the question becomes, “how long are vehicles usually parked in my parking lot?” This is known as dwell time, and if the dwell time of vehicles in your parking lot roughly lines up with the DCFC charging time of 15 minutes – 1 hour, then DCFC can usually offer superior business advantages. Let’s look into some of those advantages:

Incremental Visits

While some mega trends in shopping like ecommerce are pulling people away from stores, EV fast charging is drawing consumers back towards shopping center parking lots. And while EV drivers are charging their cars on the property, they’re likely to shop.

In a recent survey EVgo conducted at 500+ retail fast charging sites, EVgo found that 8 out of 10 of its customers like to shop while they charge and that they spend a good amount, about $42 on average, when they do shop (the survey group included many grocery retail locations).

Some think of hosting EV chargers as an amenity that improves the shopping experience and helps to retain customers as more adopt EVs. This is true, but EV fast chargers can attract new visits that otherwise would not occur without them. In other words, they can drive incremental visits to the property and its surrounding stores.

Aligning dwell time with the time it takes to charge is advantageous for driving incremental visits and a few scenarios can help to highlight this.

Increase frequency of known customer’s visits

Let’s say a retailer installs L2 chargers at their store where customers spend 30 minutes shopping. In this case, an EV-driving customer parks outside of the store and uses the L2 charger, but in those 30 minutes they’ll only get around 10% of a “tank”. That might be enough for them at that time, but a 10% charge won’t be THE REASON a customer comes back to the property.

If the retailer hosts a DCFC and the customer shops for the same amount of time (30 minutes), the customer’s EV could be 80% charged once they’re done shopping. A near-full charge is a REASON ALONE for the customer to come back to the location – even if they don’t need to shop. And even if they don’t need to shop, there’s a good chance they will as they wait for their car to charge (remember 8 out of 10 customers like to shop while they charge).

Fast charger search can attract new potential customers

If an EV driver is in a new area, running low on battery, and in need of charge – they’ll search for a fast charger, not an L2. Drivers can look on Google Maps, Plugshare, or the EVgo app and filter to find a fast charger. With a fast charger installed on a retail property, the location will show up in the driver’s search as one that provides fast charging. And again, while the driver is charging at the property for 30 minutes, there is a good chance they’ll want to pop into the store.

Quicker turnover means more visits

Fast chargers also allow for quicker turnover. In the case of incremental visits, a revolving door can be a good thing. Once the customer is done shopping and fast charging in 30 minutes, they leave or move their car, freeing the charger for the next shopper. Now this new customer sees on the EVgo app that the charger is available on the property and they can now shop and charge. With an L2 charger, the customer must choose between keeping their car in the parking spot for a long time to get significant charge (slower turnover), or to leave with minimal charge (not a driving reason to return).

Installation and Maintenance

Although installing L2 chargers is an simpler process than installing DCFC because fast chargers involve more planning (utility coordination, construction, and permitting) EVgo’s owner-operator business model allows it to handle the entire installation process and absorb all the costs for the retailer. Because EVgo owns its chargers and its business runs on utilization, EVgo maintains the chargers and uses preventative maintenance strategies to keep its charger network at 98% uptime – reliable fast charging makes for happier EV drivers and happier shoppers.

Sustainability Impact (& Parking Spaces)

The power of fast chargers allows retailers to maximize the positive environmental impact while sacrificing few parking spaces.

When comparing 1:1, many fast chargers can charge an EV more than 10x faster than L2 chargers. This means that, in the same amount of time, a fast charger can serve more than 10x the electric Vehicle Miles Traveled, and help avoid more than 10x the greenhouse gas emissions that would be from driving an ICE vehicle. These sustainability impact metrics can earn businesses points from customers and investors. With EVgo as a fast charging partner, the greenhouse gas emissions avoided can be even greater than with other fast charging providers because in 2019 EVgo became the first public fast charging network in the US to be powered by 100% renewable energy.

And because one fast charger’s sustainability impact can be more than 10x that of one L2 charger, the retailer contributes a greater sustainability impact per parking space used for electric vehicle charging. Learn about some of the sustainability impacts our retail partners have made on EVgo’s case study page.

Future Proofing (For Future Customer Retention)

Even today we’re noticing that EV drivers’ choices of where to shop are influenced by the charger that is on-site. Right now, having a fast charger is a competitive advantage for retail locations because it attracts EV drivers to your location instead of the one across the street.

However, a few years into the future most retail properties will have some level of fast chargers. The ones that don’t will lose their EV-driving customers to other shopping locations. The competitive advantage at this point of adoption becomes what kind of fast charger is on the property. Retailers installing fast chargers now want to be sure those chargers will stay relevant into the future – the chargers installed today must be future proofed to retain new incremental visits in the future.

With advances in battery technology and longer-range vehicles, the most desirable public charging locations will be the ones with high powered chargers (i.e., 350kW) that can charge those large batteries in the shortest amount of time – think of the charging needs of all the new SUVs and e-trucks coming to market. This all means retail locations with high powered chargers will be sought out by this growing segment of EV drivers, while locations with lower powered options like L2s might not receive the same type of traffic from the chargers.

Ownership (To Absorb Costs or Not)

If a retailer wants to own the chargers on its property, they’d likely choose an L2 because DC fast chargers are expensive to procure and install. But they should be aware that along with the ownership of a charger comes the installation cost and operational costs – like higher electricity bills (especially with demand charges) and maintenance. To avoid these costs, retailers can partner with companies that own and operate the chargers – meaning they cover all associated costs. This lowers the barrier of entry to having a DC fast charger on a retail property.

The retail advantage of DCFC

There’s no question that L2 chargers should be in every American’s home and workplace. They’re also a huge asset for fleet vehicles that need overnight charging or have significant dwell times. Public L2 chargers even have great use cases for longer dwell times like along streets or in parking areas with overnight or work-day parking. However, for public retail locations or along highways, DCFC is a superior amenity and provides a greater positive impact to all parties involved – drivers and retailers.

Are you considering adding EV chargers to your retail property? Learn more about hosting EVgo fast chargers by visiting our Business and Commercial page or fill out the form below to speak with one of our experts to see if your property would benefit from fast charging.

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Drone shot of EVgo chargers in a shopping area

The ideal host property for EVgo fast chargers provides:

  • 24/7 Access to chargers

  • Space for electrical equipment

  • ADA accessibility (if applicable)

  • Ability to dedicate at least three parking stalls to EV fast charging

  • A convenient high traffic area with public access (grocery store, retail shopping center, gas station, parking lot/structure, or hotel)