Growing EV sales create new construction market opportunity
On a half dozen parking spaces in Sparks, KCI Technologies is quietly deciphering a technology challenge, a market trend and a strategic opportunity for the company.
While reviewing their strategic plan, KCI personnel identified electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure as an emerging target market for the engineering company.
The number of EVs on American roads hit the 1 million mark in late 2018 and, on average, consumers have purchased about 25,000 EVs each month since then. According to analysis by the Edison Electric Institute, the number of EVs in use in America is expected to reach 2 million in 2021 and 18.7 million in 2030. Powering those vehicles will require an estimated 9.6 million charging stations and a significant investment in electrical infrastructure.
Convinced that growing numbers of clients would require assistance in designing and constructing EV charging infrastructure, KCI set out to develop expertise in the market. The company started by purchasing two EVs as fleet vehicles and equipping its Sparks headquarters with six charging stations.
“We wanted to engage with and experience this green technology from both an end user and technology provider perspective,” said Nathan Beil, KCI’s CEO and President. “We believe there is no better way to serve our clients in this area than to be a client.”
After assessing the building’s electrical service and equipment, KCI concluded it would need to add a 112.5-kVa transformer and a dedicated electrical panel to serve six, Level-1 charging stations and create enough capacity to eventually support 15 chargers.
Like most clients, KCI also wanted to ensure the project would generate a positive return on investment. After tallying all costs, incentives and operational savings, KCI concluded the project would become a profit source several years before its lease at the building expires in 2027, said Wayne Martin, KCI’s Electrical Practice Leader.
The project has already taught KCI valuable lessons about how to successfully design EV infrastructure projects, Martin said. That includes detailed knowledge of the different levels and brands of charging stations, power and infrastructure requirements for different systems, incentives available for EV charging projects and often overlooked aspects of EV infrastructure projects, such as how location and the extent of site work can impact costs and permitting. Financial analysis has concluded that small EV installations are most affordable when included in larger renovation or new construction projects, so KCI plans to raise the option when discussing other projects with clients.
And the firm expects to tackle EV infrastructure projects with a broad range from clients, from companies that are looking to convert large fleets of delivery trucks to electric vehicles to shopping centers, hotels, tourist/entertainment destinations and office buildings.
“I think a lot of developers and landlords are understanding that this is a worthwhile investment because this is the way of the future,” said Adam Rickey, KCI Vice President and Regional Practice Leader for MEP/FP/Energy. “It is a benefit to owners who are leasing space, and a marketing opportunity to show their commitment to a green initiative.”
Rethinking options for fleet vehicles
Could an electric vehicle (EV) work well in your company fleet?
As part of its effort to learn about EV infrastructure and adopt leading, sustainable technologies, KCI Technologies purchased two Chevrolet Bolt EVs for their fleet last year.
Although some people initially expressed concerns about the vehicles’ range, employees now “really enjoy driving them without having to worry about fill-ups,” said Wayne Martin, KCI’s Electrical Practice Leader.
With an average battery range of 180 to 200 miles, the Bolts have easily handled nearly daily use by staff and average daily trips of 78 miles. KCI employees have only had to recharge a vehicle offsite once and that was during a 368-mile trip.
In addition, “response to the EVs’ performance has been positive. Some are even surprised that once the vehicle is moving, there are no noticeable difference from conventionally powered vehicles,” said Rob Cullison, Fleet Manager.
The acquisition of the EVs and installation of charging stations has apparently triggered changes in employees’ personal vehicle preferences.
“Ever since we installed the chargers last summer, there have been more and more purchases of EVs by staff,” Martin said. (Employees can recharge their EVs at work.)
KCI is preparing to add EVs and charging stations to other company offices in 2020.
“We feel that there is and will be a need for EV Fleet Pool Vehicles that are attending local sites and meetings,” Cullison said. “The game changer will be when the first affordable and practicable mid- and standard-size electric trucks become available.”