Electric Car Chargers Done Right

Electric car charging stations at Target in Fremont, CA
EV charging stations at Target in Fremont, CA [photo by Wilson F. via ChargePoint Network]

Electric vehicles (EVs) are still a rare sight in the U.S. But as their popularity grows, we’ve begun to hear from clients who want to install EV charging stations. For retailers, it’s more than an environmental contribution—it’s also an incentive for EV drivers to spend more time shopping while their cars charge.

Our latest project has caught the eye of Green Car Reports, a leading source of information on eco-friendly cars. Their article features a new Target store with EV chargers at our Pacific Commons mixed-use development in Fremont, California.

Planning for success

Pacific-Commons-area-5-EV
Pacific Commons Planning Area 5 with current and planned EV spots marked in green

Pacific Commons is a 106-acre hybrid shopping development organized into five distinct districts. With the Tesla factory located only a few miles away, Fremont is on the forefront of electric vehicle technology. The City has encouraged this growth by requiring the fifth and newest Pacific Commons district to include 50 EV parking spaces with the ability to charge 25 cars at once. This will position the development and the City among the first locations in the East Bay area to support the EV movement.

Target was the first major tenant to get involved. In their parking lot, we installed eight ChargePoint locations—seven in the middle of the lot, and one up front in a designated handicap spot. Though everyone was excited about the EV spaces, there was disagreement about placement. Some wanted to locate the chargers as close to the front as possible, while others wanted to leave those prime spots open for all customers.

We moderated discussions among the client, the municipality, and the major tenant to help everyone arrive at a compromise which benefits EV drivers: The stations are strategically located away from the prime spots near the entrance to minimize the problem EV drivers call “getting ICEd,” when an internal combustion engine car parks in a spot reserved for charging electric cars.

Learning the technology

ChargePoint
ChargePoint Dual Level II Charging Station and app [station image via ChargePoint]

Along the way, we worked with Target Corp. to evaluate potential electric vehicle charger companies. Each system has hardware and software components—and due to Target’s requirements, software became critical on this project. We helped them choose a system with the ability to remotely control the system from their headquarters in Minneapolis. Though Target currently provides this service for free, they wanted the software to have the ability to charge a fee in the future if desired. They also wanted EV drivers to be able to locate the units with a handheld device, like a smartphone. ChargePoint satisfied these criteria.

This project has allowed our designers to build an extensive knowledge base in electric vehicle charging technology. The Level II chargers we installed take 2–3 hours to charge a depleted battery. But new breakthroughs are on the horizon—Level III SAE chargers could take as little as 15 minutes for the same battery. So we’re tailoring the infrastructure for our newest projects to accommodate this future technology.

Looking toward the future

At SGPA our designers seek out opportunities to implement sustainable design strategies in all project types, whether it’s a shopping center, affordable senior housing, or a college campus. For details, read about our philosophy on sustainable architecture or view the Pacific Commons project sheet.

The SGPA project team includes Norman Sears, project architect, and David Janes, principal designer. For more information, contact Norman at nsears@sgpa.com.

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