As of August 2, 2022, the U.S. Depart of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration announced that all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico have submitted EV infrastructure deployment plans as required under the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Formula Program. As part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), the NEVI program will make $5 billion in funding available over the next five years to build out the United States’ Alternative Fuels Corridor (AFC) with Direct Current (DC) Fast Chargers, also known as Level 3 chargers. The NEVI plan includes requirements that any project utilizing the funds must include Level 3 chargers (a minimum of four 150 kW chargers per site to be exact). Level 3 chargers are typically capable of providing a full charge for EVs in approximately 30 minutes or less.
If the 100% submission rate of deployment plans is any indication of the country’s eagerness to roll out EV chargers, the future looks electric. This new e-powered mobility frontier fueled by the NEVI funding plan will no doubt include growing pains as both states and EV charging station operators begin to fully understand the nuances and costs (think upwards of six figures for a four-charger site) of installing Level 3 EV chargers.
Understanding both the hard and soft costs of Level 3 chargers is important to consider when EV charging station operators begin their rollout planning. It’s not as simple as plugging an EV charger into existing available power sources like Level 1 or Level 2 chargers. Level 3 chargers require an enormous amount of utility power, thus extra infrastructure is necessary to facilitate the connection.
Additional hard equipment costs for Level 3 chargers go beyond the charger itself and can include new conduit and trenching, utility cabling, and the equipment which bridges the gap between the utility power and the EV chargers. This equipment is commonly referred to as “switchgear” and has traditionally been comprised of numerous electrical panels wired together and mounted to a post-and-frame structure. A switchgear’s components typically include a current transformer (CT) cabinet, breaker panels, a transformer, and utility meter. Sophisticated industrial systems like switchgear need to be constructed, wired together, and connected to the EV chargers on-site by an electrical contractor before the utility provider can make their connections and commission the site.
The incremental soft costs for Level 3 chargers come in the form of engineering, design, and maintenance. For each switchgear design, multiple layers of complexity are involved before the installation can even take place. An engineering firm is required to carefully design the system to local standards, specify the components, and then the equipment must be procured from multiple manufacturers. In the current supply chain environment with availability issues running rampant, this can lead to numerous rounds of design changes, increasing both project timelines and costs.
Once a Level 3 charging station is commissioned and actively charging, simply budgeting for maintenance of the chargers won’t quite cut it. The infrastructure behind the chargers, including the switchgear, need to be maintained and routinely serviced. The intricate nature of these panel systems and their exposure to the elements, insects, and other wildlife require upkeep and stewardship.
In support of the NEVI program, Franklin Electric has released the first intelligent switchgear that is purpose-built to support Level 3 Charging. The NexPhase™ Smart EV Switchgear is a turnkey solution containing the entire infrastructure required between the utility service and up to four 150 kW Level 3 DC fast chargers. Unlike any switchgear of its kind, NexPhase™ features cutting-edge grid intelligence for remote monitoring and control of both switchgear and EV chargers to help meet additional NEVI requirements (like 97% uptime assurance and reporting).
NexPhase™ enables rapid deployment of EV charger infrastructure by accelerating design project timelines, reducing installation time, and facilitating remote monitoring with predictive maintenance capabilities.
We are a leader in the manufacturing and distribution of systems to support the management and monitoring of critical assets. As an expert in both vehicle refueling and utility asset monitoring, we are committed to supporting the emerging EV charging market. Our turnkey solutions enable rapid deployment with intelligent monitoring to maximize charger operational uptime.