With more and more electric vehicles (EVs) on the road, many hoteliers are now considering offering EV charging stations as an amenity that some say can boost loyalty and immediately become a significant stream of revenue. LODGING spoke with hoteliers and EV services providers on why owners and operators—especially those in markets with a high percentage of driving guests—should consider providing this service, and best practices for doing so.
Weighing in on the topic were Andrea Foster, senior vice president, development, Marcus Hotels & Resorts and advisory board member of EVPassport; Hooman Shahidi, cofounder and president of EVPassport, which offers an open-API platform for the operation and management of EV charging stations; and Tom Cabral, marketing coordinator, Blink Charging, which owns, operates, and provides EV charging equipment and services. Gavin Philipp, senior vice president of the hotel development, management, and investment company Raines, also contributed to the discussion. Raines became an early adopter in 2018 when its new-build Foundry Hotel in Asheville, North Carolina, had an EV station provided by Tesla for its hotel car service.
Already there are over two million EVs on the road in the United States, where 20 percent of passenger cars bought in 2021 were electric. As the number of EV drivers continues to grow, so will the demand for the faster-charging Level 2 and Level 3 charging stations needed by drivers, who are limited by the distance they can travel before they are subject to “range anxiety”—that is, concern that their EV will run out of power before they can find a suitable charging station.
What EV Drivers Need
Just like gas vehicle drivers, EV drivers need to replenish their power source when it’s dwindling. Yet, unlike gas vehicle drivers, it’s not as easy as pulling into a highway filling station for a quick solution. In fact, the time it takes to charge an EV is a significant problem. The 110-volt Level 1 charger they likely got with their EV delivers only three to five miles of driving range per hour, so obtaining a charge sufficient for an 80-mile drive can take more than 20 hours.
Therefore, many owners purchase 220-volt Level 2 electric vehicle service equipment (EVSE), which charges at a rate of 25-30 miles per hour; it costs from $300 to around $1,000 for hardware, plus the cost of installation. (Federal, state, or local EV charging incentives and rebates may cover anywhere from 50 percent to 80 percent of the total installation cost.) Level 3 chargers, also known as direct current fast chargers (DCFC), can recharge an EV from zero to 80 percent in 30 minutes or less but can cost from $10,000 to $50,000, not including installation, and are not considered suitable for primary use because they can negatively impact the life of the battery.
Filling the Need
Already there are numerous public EV charging stations—in 2020 there were more than 30,000 with over 100,000 ports in the United States—including those that are part of a charging network like ChargePoint or Blink. To find these and others, the Department of Energy provides an Electric Vehicle Charging Station Locations map that identifies stations in the United States and Canada and links to Google Maps, Apple Maps, Plugshare, and alternative fuel stations including the open-API developer options such as those affiliated with EVPassport.
Users can start a charging session and pay with Blink, says Cabral, via the Blink app, a Blink RFID card, or by calling Blink’s customer service to receive a one-time code. With EVPassport stations, explains Shahidi, they scan the charger’s QR code to access and pay using their existing apps and services.
Where Hoteliers Come In
Given the time involved in locating a station and completing the charging process, it may make sense for hoteliers to provide onsite EV charging. Foster expects demand to be highest in drive-to markets and in areas where travelers are more typically renting cars than they do in cities, where there are more public transportation options.
As to whether hotel guests should pay for that service, Philipp regards it as an amenity, one the Foundry Hotel continues to offer to guests at no cost when their Tesla station is idle. However, Shahidi dismisses out of hand any suggestion that EV charging should be provided strictly as an amenity. “Given that hotels don’t offer free gas, they shouldn’t offer free electricity,” he argues. “It can be an absolute profit center, if done right, using a competitive pricing strategy based on data about the region and demographics.”
Foster says hoteliers seeking to profit financially need to be aware of the ways they can generate revenue, not just among hotel guests, but also visitors on the property. “When they park in your parking lot or garage to charge their car, they can have lunch at your property, grab a snack from the grab ‘n’ go, or have a spa treatment,” she points out.
Getting on Board
To offer EV charging, hotels must have, at the very least, a designated parking space and the EVSE itself, as described previously. In addition, says Foster, there must be a network, although she says it need not be a closed one that requires memberships or apps.
Foster says hoteliers can choose to work with a partner to create and manage an appropriate EV charging solution. “Hoteliers should take care to work with an EV charging company that can prepare an intelligent needs assessment and infrastructure analysis, steward the installation process, and follow with future-proof hardware and software that connects the EV charging infrastructure to the hotel’s and guests’ needs,” she explains.
Shahidi says his company’s model, which includes a one-time cost for hardware plus a software subscription and a percentage of the revenue, is especially well suited to hoteliers seeking to boost profits and loyalty. “Its verticalized hotel cloud software enables guests to start the charging station using their room number and last name as with WiFi,” he says. “Visitors can scan the charger’s QR code to access and pay using their existing apps and services.”
Foster mentions that the choice of the provider/platform managing the energy deployment may impact the amount of time it takes and therefore the profitability. “You need to factor in the communication period between the charger and the adaptive center that supplies the energy, a waiting period that can be as long as 15 minutes and produces neither revenue nor a seamless experience.” Shahidi says that for EVPassport’s platform, that communication period—which involves running optimal performance testing, dynamic load balancing, and connectivity testing—is 90 seconds.
Making the Most of an EV Charging Station
In sum, what is a significant challenge for EV drivers can be a profitable opportunity for hoteliers, whose guests or visitors may be happy to find a place where they can charge their cars while enjoying a good night’s sleep or on-property amenities. “In addition to the ancillary revenue the hotel owners receive,” adds Cabral, “the chargers are likely to prompt EV drivers to single out hotels that offer this service.”
Shahidi doesn’t expect EV charging at hotels to be optional for long. “Whether it’s an economy hotel, a luxury hotel, or everybody else in between, this piece of infrastructure will unequivocally go from being a nice-to-have to a need-to-have.” Indeed, it may only be a matter of time before the stations become a competitive necessity.
Earning LEED Certification Posts
Installing EV charging stations brings benefits beyond generating revenue and responding to a growing demand from guests for hoteliers who offer EVSE-equipped parking spaces. They include the opportunity to earn points toward LEED certification, a globally recognized symbol of sustainability achievement and leadership. To qualify for the green vehicle point, the charging station must provide a Level 2 charging capacity or greater—i.e., a minimum capacity of 208 volts—and the equipment must be able to participate in a demand-response program to encourage charging during off-peak hours. Apart from formal recognition, hoteliers can receive kudos from guests—even those without EVs—who see value in their being a “green hotel.”