June 8, 2023

Modernizing Electric Vehicle Charging: Strategies and Solutions for Electrical Contractors


6 Min. Read

As an electrical contractor, you should know about the latest strategies and solutions for modernizing the electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure so you can increase your business.

EV charging stations are springing up coast to coast due to the growing number of EVs. These stations are still sparse in some areas, but the demand for them is expected to increase to support the continued shift from gas-powered vehicles to EVs.

This shift creates a huge opportunity for those in the electricity industry to increase infrastructure investments and projects. On a local level, the burgeoning business demand is a boon for electrical contractors. Commercial property owners, small businesses, and drivers of vehicles running on batteries have a growing need for electricians to help them implement EV charging station strategies and meet future needs.

Charging Demand is Changing Dynamics

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Act passed in 2021 included a one-in-a-generation investment in modernizing our infrastructure, including the electric grid. Additional incentives for EVs and other electrification technologies built into last year’s Inflation Reduction Act further accelerated the demand for skilled electrical contractors who are trained and positioned to capitalize on the opportunity presented.

With an estimated 20 million EVs hitting U.S. roads by 2030, the need for Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE) – more commonly called EV charging stations or charging points – can prove advantageous to your career.

The U.S. will need an estimated 1.25 million public chargers installed over the next 5 to 7 years. That includes a 20-fold increase in commercial grade Level 2 chargers, the installation of which requires a qualified electrician. While not as significant, a 15% increase per year in the number of Level 3 or Direct Current Fast Chargers (DCFC) deployed is anticipated. These direct current chargers will require a large investment in time to develop expertise, but the work is bound to boost profits for contractors handling installation and maintenance.

The EV evolution is not the only electrification effort generating buzz and business. Rebates for replacing gas-fueled heaters and stoves with energy-efficient electric appliances, adding battery storage units to control electricity use and enable bidirectional charging in businesses and homes, and continued demand for renewable generation are just some ways your business opportunities are being transformed. These updates and many emerging technologies – all relying on electricity – continue to keep electrical contractors busy.

The Benefits of Upgrading Your Skills

Retailers, businesses, and employers will eventually need to invest in the installation of these stations to stay competitive with their peers.  The anticipated need for Level 2 and DC Fast Charger installations on commercial properties is a major market opportunity for your electrical business. An ongoing shortage of skilled electricians fostered by older workers retiring during the pandemic and fewer entering the field has many contractors with projects scheduled several weeks or even months out.

The future demand for EV charging solutions will undoubtedly create more work for existing electrical contractors. As a result, electrical contractors are eager to keep current employees as well as find and train new ones to meet the demand because these installations are not easy.

The complexity of EV charger installations has customers recognizing the need to work with contractors who are qualified and vetted for the project at hand. Commercial property owners may have multiple sites requiring installation. Ideally, you also want to establish a long-term relationship with ongoing maintenance business. Homeowners can be a wonderful base for repeat business with maintenance plans and any future electrification needs and can also recommend you to others who will purchase EVs in the future.

The federal government publishes an EV Infrastructure Project Planning Checklist. It basically highlights the complexities of enhancing electrical services in homes, multi-family dwellings, and businesses. They make it clear that it is no simple task for a do-it-yourselfer or electrician without specialized training to tackle. Electrical contractors also need to stay current on National Electrical Codes (NEC), permitting in a variety of jurisdictions, and area fire protection requirements for routine projects.

Becoming an expert in EVSE requires considerable additional effort, but the growing need for the expertise makes it well worth your time. Here are some areas requiring additional skills training to be successful:

Gauging Project Costs – EVSE installations can range from relatively simple jobs to very complex ones. Skilled contractors understand the cost implications of various EV charging station strategies and how to minimize them before presenting them to customers. Contractors need to determine the EV charging station amperage requirements and calculate whether the current infrastructure can handle the load. In many cases, an electrical service upgrade is needed and will make the installation more complex. Then, depending on the layout of the parking area for the charger, you may need to factor in trenching (and concrete cutting) to reach an electrical panel.

Permitting Requirements – Electrical contractor responsibilities involve the engineering, planning, and construction of EV charging stations. That effort includes assessing the local permitting and compliance requirements. Most electrical work requires a permit, but each town, city and county has its own requirements that can vary greatly both in the format required and functionality to address.

The Cost of Installation – Beyond permitting, possible electric panel upgrades, and the cost of the charger station itself, the costs associated with installing and operating an EVSE vary greatly. As an expert, customers expect realistic assessments. The average cost to buy and install a commercial-grade, Level 2 charging station is about $6,000. (Home installations cost less, typically ranging from $799 – $1,999.) That figure assumes, however, that there is no need for trenching and other preparatory efforts, mechanical ventilation, and that the chargers will have routine charging speeds. (Higher speed Level 2 chargers require more energy and often cost more). Level 3 charging stations, which cannot be placed in many areas because of the need for DC hookups, average $50,000 for the charger alone and can cost twice as much for installation.

Bidirectional Conversion and Battery Storage – Bidirectional EVs can be used as mobile battery storage or connected using smart-home technology to pull power from battery storage units instead of the grid during peak periods. Many clients will expect you to help them determine if a set-up like that makes sense for them. Therefore, you must keep abreast of installation requirements and the latest available equipment.

Taking the Next Step in Your Career

Learning about EV charging stations, battery storage technology, and other modernizations revolutionizing the industry can improve your workload and boost your income as an electrical contractor. This will enable you to capitalize on demand as electrification becomes more important.

There are challenges, however, so it is crucial to understand how to utilize the technology to its full extent. Additionally, the complexity is why contractors dealing with EV charging stations are mainly associated with electrical contractor companies or partner with companies that sell EVSE as a licensed installer.

Before you begin doing installations as an EV charging station contractor, you should receive training and be certified as a qualified installation expert from a reliable organization. Qmerit can help get you there.

Qmerit is the national leader for EV charging and other electrification installations and Qmerit-certified installers are recommended by EV manufacturers, EV charger manufacturers, local organizations, and have even been recognized by the White House. Our CSP program will launch your company into the most trusted installer network in North America and comes with tools and designated coaches to help you grow your workforce and get your team trained on the latest electrification technologies.

Learn more about the Qmerit CSP Program and build a strong foundation for your business with the future of electrification.

Author: David Santillo

David Santillo

Senior Vice President, Contractor Support