EV Charging Stations Popping Up to Meet Needs of Travelers

3/24/2011 By Glenn Hasek

NATIONAL REPORT—The Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte in North Carolina has one. So does the Hilton San Francisco Financial District, Parc 55 Wyndham San Francisco-Union Square, and Boston’s Seaport Hotel. All Element Hotels properties have them. A TownePlace Suites by Marriott being constructed in Frederick, Md., will soon have one, as well as the Sleeping Lady Resort in Leavenworth, Wash. What these properties all have or will have is at least one electric vehicle (EV) charging station. EV charging stations are still extremely rare at lodging properties but they are beginning to pop up across the United States as an increasing number of auto makers release electric vehicles to the public. The U.S. Department of Energy projects that one million EVs will be on the road by 2015. According to Pike Research, by that same year, access to vehicle charging will be available at nearly one million charge points in the United States.

With vehicles with names such as “Leaf” and “Volt” entering the auto market, it is inevitable that drivers will be looking for convenient places to “top off” or fully charge their vehicles—while in meetings or during an overnight stay. Accommodating this new breed of traveler presents some new challenges. How many stations should be installed? Where? At what cost? Should they be a new source of revenue or a complimentary guest amenity?

There are certainly many EV charging station vendors from which to choose. Companies such as Coulomb Technologies, ParkPod, and Green Garage Associates are a few that were mentioned in press releases sent to Green Lodging News. Most installations have numbered just one per location so far but the Parc 55 Wyndham San Francisco-Union Square recently installed six. Until electric vehicles become more common, offering the ability to charge no more than one or two vehicles at the same time seems to make sense. Some stations can charge two vehicles simultaneously.

Location is Important

According to Mark J. Martin, president of Green Garage Associates, to minimize costs, a station should be installed in a parking location as close to the point where a 220/240 volt, 40 amp circuit can be accessed. (Charging hoses on the stations are typically 20 to 25 feet in length.) At the Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte, the charging station is located in the main entry area. At the Parc 55 Wyndham San Francisco-Union Square, it is located in a prominent parking spot in front of the hotel. At the Seaport Hotel, the charging station is located on the first level of the Seaport Garage, directly underneath the hotel.

Electric vehicles produced in 2010 and after require a 220/240 volt, 40 amp circuit. Even with the stronger charge requirement of newer vehicles, charging stations sold today include both Level I and Level II charging options. Level I charging—110 to 120 volts—is for those electric vehicles released prior to 2010. Level I charging can take as much as eight to 16 hours to fully charge depending on the car and level of charge on the battery. Level II charging uses the 220 to 240 volts. Cars accepting this charge have a charge time of about four to six hours.

Different companies sell different station models. Cost will vary depending on the model purchased and the location of the property. In addition to the actual station, there are installation costs. According to Lawrence Hindle, director of engineering at the Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte, an electrical permit is required to install a charging station. At his property, the total cost was close to $15,000.

Federal Credit Available

“Typically, a single charger will be around $5,000 to $10,000 to install, depending on rebates,” says Green Garage Associates’ Martin. “You can get a 30 percent rebate on the cost of the charger and installation. It comes off of your federal taxes. It was 50 percent last year. You may have other different incentives locally.”

Most hotels currently offering the stations are not charging guests to use them. At Parc 55 Wyndham San Francisco-Union Square, Matthew Martinucci, director of sales and marketing, says charging stations there are completely free, whether one is a guest or not. The hotel is the site for a Zipcar plug-in hybrid (a Prius). At Sleeping Lady Resort, once its station is installed, it will be free for guests but visitors will be charged a nominal fee. The cost to charge a vehicle is minimal—about 60 cents for two hours.

Late last year, The Hertz Corp. and Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. announced a joint partnership to bring in Hertz Global EV, a program developed by Hertz using 100 percent electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles, to key Starwood select-service hotels in North America. Starwood’s select-service portfolio includes Element Hotels, Aloft Hotels and Four Points by Sheraton Hotels brands.

Expanding Access to EVs

“Hertz’s partnership with Starwood is a natural step in the development of our Global EV program,” said Mark P. Frissora, Hertz chairman and CEO, in a press release. “As we expand our EV network, we are providing drivers with point-to-point access to EVs and EV charging stations. Our relationship with Starwood provides guests from all over the world with access to the future of mobility.”

Hertz Global EV is championing an electric and plug-in hybrid vehicle mobility ecosystem, incorporating transportation options and a charging station grid for ease of use. Hertz Global EV will be the first company to provide a range of all-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles and charging stations on a car sharing and rental basis at global scale.

Charging stations can include the ability to e-mail or text users—vehicle owners or hotel employees—to let them know their vehicles are fully charged. At Element hotels, travelers are able to locate the charging station and even determine whether it is currently unoccupied by using Google Maps. Guests who pull up in electric or hybrid cars also get VIP green carpet treatment with “Hybrid Preferred” parking spots closest to Element hotels’ front doors.

No matter how sophisticated they are, charging stations can be a highly visible symbol of a property’s environmental commitment. Green Garage Associates’ Martin says his company’s Juice Bar stations, which are eight feet tall and two feet wide, can even be used as miniature billboards—a branding opportunity for a lodging establishment.

For helpful questions and answers regarding EV stations, click here.

Glenn Hasek can be reached at editor@greenlodgingnews.com.


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