How to set up a public electric vehicle charging station, the high-end hotel edition
Part of Tesla's destination charging network, The Mayton Inn confirms how uncomplicated hosting a charging station can be.
When I wrote about how to set up a public electric vehicle charging station, one of the central learnings was this:
It can be pretty much as easy as you want it to be.
After all, electric charging stations—assuming they aren't the networked variety that requires card access/payment/network fees/Wifi, etc.—are basically just extension cords with a higher amperage and 220v supply. Providing access to these stations is just as easy (though not quite as cheap!) as allowing customers to plug in their laptop computers.
This was confirmed to me recently in a meeting with Deanna Crossman, a co-founder of the quite lovely (and very green) Mayton Inn in Cary, North Carolina. The Inn—which was custom built from the ground up—hosts two Tesla destination chargers, as well as one universally accessible Clipper Creek EV Plug (J1772) for the rest of us (EV drivers, you can view the details on PlugShare). The most notable thing about these chargers, according to Deanna, is just how unnoticeable they are:
"We've never had any maintenance problems. The installation was a breeze because we had to construct the parking spots anyway. And the costs are negligible—maybe a dollar per charge or something—when you look at the utility bills of a hotel that can house 110+ guests!"
Deanna is quick to note, too, that far from being a drain on the hotel's resources, it's not unusual to have people stop in for an overnight stay, or dinner, or a spa treatment, just because they know they can top-up their car and get back on the road:
"Soon after we opened, we had one guy turn up in his Tesla Model S. He picked us specifically because we were on Tesla's destination charging network, and stayed for five nights. I'm pretty sure that business alone has taken care of the ROI for the charging stations for several years to come."
Of course, the ROI issue was helped by the fact that Tesla provided the hardware to The Mayton at no cost to the hotel. That's part of their destination charging program, which has been quietly building an extensive, complementary network of slower speed charging at hotels, restaurants, malls and other locations to augment the company's faster—but much more expensive to install—superchargers.
Unlike some locations, which restrict access to hotel or restaurant guests, The Mayton has made their charging stations available free to use by any member of the public. I ask Deanna about this and she's very frank with her answer:
"Why would I restrict it? The cost is next to nothing. Nobody would pay attention if I did try to police it. And folks are likely to come in and have a drink as a goodwill gesture anyway."
I can confirm that I validated Deanna's point, staying for an extra hour over a pint of delicious ESB in order to charge our plug-in hybrid for the journey home.
In terms of issues or problems, Deanna says they've experienced very few. The hotel deliberately hasn't marked the parking spots as electric vehicle only (parking spaces are rather limited in the immediate vicinity), but it often parks valet vehicles in the spots to keep them available for when they're needed. A driver simply has to ask the valet to move and they'll be ready to charge up in just a few minutes. Only once has this turned out to be a problem:
"I did once find a guy desperate for a charge who had pulled his car up onto our sidewalk. I had to ask him to move, of course, because that's not what the sidewalk was for—and explained to him we'd gladly move the vehicle that was blocking the spot. But that's really the only drama we've ever experienced with it all."
Overall, this is just one more example among many that the scare stories about a lack of charging infrastructure are overblown, at best, and complete nonsense at worst. The infrastructure is there. You see the results of it every time you flip a light switch. It's simply a question of providing access. As more businesses install Level 2 charging as a perk for customers, employees and guests, I suspect range anxiety will rapidly become a thing of the past.
Of course, we'll still need truly fast, scalable charging infrastructure for the occasional road trip—and there's work to be done there. But pressure on those stations will be greatly reduced by the fact that most of us will be setting off with a "full tank", even if we're on the road and have stayed overnight at a place like The Mayton.
Besides their electric vehicle charging offerings, the hotel has pushed an aggressive sustainability agenda while still marketing to a mainstream audience. But more on that in future posts...