How to profitably scale EV charging across your properties

Joseph Nagle
October 10, 2023


The Orange Outlet vs. ChargePoint System (behind)

Electric vehicle charging stations and smart charging outlets  offer many features that are useful to both EV drivers and property owners, but in reality, the thing that EV drivers need most is not a robust feature set, but simply access to energy. Yet apartments are often pushed to install expensive and complex charging systems that only service a handful of residents. These systems often provide far too much power than is necessary, blocking off what little panel capacity there is, making future additions incredibly expensive and trapping buildings in a never ending upgrade cycle.

When too many residents are sharing a small number of stations, property owners find themselves with a major problem. Residents either start fighting over access to the stations or property owners must invest even more money into another small batch of charging stations, eventually this problem repeats itself until the utility outright refuses to upgrade the electrical service to the property.

With the Orange Charging Platform, property owners avoid dreaded upgrade cycle, while still getting the entire feature set of more expensive systems. They get the simplicity, affordability, and scalability of a charging outlet thats integrated with a software suite to manage billing, access control, and energy management, called OrangeOS.  

The Orange Charging Platform provides property owners with an affordable solution in bringing EV charging on-site, often saving 60% or more on installations. However, upfront savings is only half of the value propisition that Orange brings to properties. The other half, is providing them a real path to profitability on their stations, turning what was once an expensive amenity into a revenue generating profit center.

Many charging companies speak about generating revenue, but hide the fact that their business models are only profitable when charging exorbanant energy prices, or adding hefty parking fees, even then its unlikely to generate a true profit. These high fees to the driver end up leading to high resident dissatisfaction and lower charger utilization, thus lowering profitability as well, ultimatly turning EV charging into a loss leader in the process. Orange has encountered countless properties that have fallen into this trap and are stuck with expensive systems that at best provide a needed service to residents at a huge sunk cost and at worst go completely unused as residents opt to find public charging rather than paying the higher electricity rates. This white paper provides a deeper understanding of the economics of EV charging and how to ensure you deploy a system that can be a profit center.

Revenue vs profit 

All charging providers are effectively selling the same commodity, electricity. Like all fuels, there are upper limits that drivers will pay before the cost outweighs the convenience, and they will look for alternatives, which means losing the revenue generated by that driver. Yet if owners don’t charge enough for electricity or account for electricity cost in profit calculations, they will lose money after accounting for network and electricity costs. Furthermore, it’s imperative to account for the actual capital expenditures and ongoing fees to understand when profitability actually starts. 

Let’s look at an example:

When owners account for the higher installation costs associated with level 2 charging stations and the on-going software fees, it becomes clear fairly quickly that EV charging when outfitted this way will take a long time, if ever, before it ever becomes profitable.

Total cost of ownership for Level 2 networked EV charging stations

This also assumes that the charging stations never suffer from any maintence issues that require more than just a software patch. Often charging stations that have affixed cables require some form of maintenance within 5 years, as those cables get tangled, stepped on, and run over, once they break it requiries the property to replace them. Costing the property not only capital to bring an electrician on site to fix them, but also weeks of down time where the station cannot be used and thus cannot generate any revenue.

Standard charging stations software economics vs OrangeOS

With the Orange Charger platform, everything is purpose-built specifically for multi-unit properties. Orange Charger’s unified platform is unlike other charging software providers as we created a dynamic monthly fee structure, allowing properties to save money on monthly fees when stations are not in use. If property owners pay a monthly fee per charger but only half of those chargers are actually utilized, owners are effectively losing money each month as they are paying for equiptment that sits completely unsued.

Orange’s dynamic fee means you can install more charging stations to meet growing demands without worrying about monthly fees on unused charging stations. For example, if you installed 10 Orange Outlets but only have one driver on-site you are only paying a monthly fee for that driver. Converselly, we also cap the total montly payment at the number of stations that you have at the property. So if you installed those same 10 Orange Outlets but the next month have 20 drivers, you will only pay for the number of stations on site. This was done to save property even more money, and not penalize them for planning ahead.

Installation cost affects profitability 

To understand how Orange activates profitability, we must understand how Orange Outlets solve the money drain of the current level 2 charging station, installation, and ongoing costs. 

If your apartment complex has never purchased an EV charging station, one might consider buying a Chargepoint station (pictured above behind the pillar). These stations consume four parking spaces often reserved only for EV drivers, taking up considerably more space that many properties have to spare. 

Additionally, these stations have affixed charging cords which are prone to breaking, requiring an electrician to replace the entire unit. Add the additional equipment like concrete bollards to protect the charger from being run over and the cost begins to soar. With smart charging station costs coming in at roughly $3,000 to $6,000 per port before the installation costs. The California Energy Commission estimates the average install is ~$6500 per charger.

Total installation cost analysis 

What seems like a straightforward charging solution quickly balloons into a liability and if your station needs a repair, owners need to sink more capital into an already expensive system. In addition, owners are only able to install a limited number of these expensive charging solutions which results in tenant dissatisfaction and unplanned management time and money to schedule charging sessions. 

These challenges led us to develop the Orange Charging Platform as it reduces the panel capacity required to offer charging to any parking space, costs ~50-70% less to install than traditional level 2 charging solutions, and includes all the software necessary to facilitate billing, payments, and energy management.  

The number of people serviced affects profitability

The average American drives ~40 miles per day, with a level 2 charger, an EV driver will need to charge roughly 1-3 hours each day to replenish the energy used. Typically EV drivers prefer to charge their vehicle overnight when at home, meaning a vehicle sits for upwards of 15-hours before being used again. By utilizing a larger time window for charging, Orange installs more stations and still achieves the same "top-up” as a traditional charging system. The 240v Orange Level 2 Outlet delivers ~150-miles of range overnight, exceeding even most super commuters’ daily needs. With the Orange Level 2, a driver can plug in at 0% battery life and wake up with 150-miles of range for their next day’s commute, making it ideal in almost every scenario and able to cover 99% of all driving needs. 

Apartment users have a basic routine of parking, plugging in, and walking away. They do not need high-powered chargers because a charge spread over a longer window of time is suitable for a variety of reasons:

  1. The average American drives 14,000 miles per year or 40 miles daily, so only 2.5 hours of charging is required using the Orange Level 2 charger.
  2. EV drivers charge their cars much like they charge their phones - overnight and regardless of the state of the battery. The Orange Level 2 charger hours provides plenty of energy for 99% of drivers.
  3. EV drivers do not move their cars when their battery reaches full. They let their car sit overnight while they are at home, typically for a minimum of 8-12 hours.
  4. When looking at EV upkeep, its best to keep the battery between 20%-80% to maintain a healhy batter, meaning the great majority of EV drivers do not let their vehicle run down to empty but are inclined to keep it charged up partially all of the time.

For these reasons, a slower charger suits all EV drivers and allows a property to service more vehicles per day and thus move more energy, generating a higher rate of return.

Better residence experience 

Traditional level 2 charging stations must be shared across tenants since only a small handful, usually 2-4 chargers, can be installed on the premise without significant infrastructure additions. Thus, this scenario only works when there is a limited number of EV drivers at a property. The concept falls apart quickly as EV drivership grows because people are required to shuffle cars to charge in an attempt to increase the number of cars charged per night. Unfortunately, this rarely works as many simply don’t want to come back down to the parking area to move their vehicle once they’ve settled for the night. With the Orange Charging Platform, you can quadruple the number of parking spaces equipped with EV charging on the same panel capacity, so drivers don’t have to worry about moving their cars and they’ll still get enough range to cover their entire commute.  

Ongoing maintenance affects profitability 

Something that’s often overlooked when considering EV charging is maintenance and that can severely effect a stations profitability. Traditional chargers solutions that have even one maintenance issue in a year will break the stations ability to generate a profit for multiple years into the future. For example, a faulty or broken cable will require the scheduling of an electrician resulting in upwards of $1000 in repair cost, up to a month of down time, and loss of revenue over the same period. Orange did extensive research and found that the charging cables are the single greatest failure point on a charging system and commonly break within 3-5 years. 

In addition, many charging providers get excited by 96% charging success rates, or that 96 out of 100 charging sessions worked. The problem is when a session doesn’t work your staff or tenant becomes irritated and owners lose money and time. The Orange Charging Platform includes a property network solution that completely changes the software architecture to achieve 99.98% charging success rates so tenants are happier and owners make more money. And if a driver does not have cell coverage in an underground parking structure, the platform still works, all without the need for added networking equipment.  

Equitable with a great ROI  

Not all properties are backed by large investors who can afford the high upfront cost of EV charging to attract tenants. With the rapid increase in EV sales expected to double each year for the next decade, every class of property needs to have a charging solution to meet demand. If not, then only the class A tenants will have the luxury of overnight convent and affordable charging. With Orange, all properties have cost-effective, scalable charging services and can meet residence demand, regardless of income. By bringing the Orange Charging Platform to your property you can effectively compete with the largest real estate developers by delivering key amenities to attract new residents without destroying your buildings profitability model by doing so.

About Orange

Orange Charger is a seed-stage energy start-up founded by ex-Tesla engineers, solving energy security by integrating robust software, payments, and hardware platforms to lead a globally distributed energy revolution. Starting with EV charging, Orange Charger is gaining double-digit growth in multi-family and commercial spaces. Due to its best-in-class technology and platform, Orange Charger reduces installation costs for EV charging by 60% in multi-unit buildings, allowing complex access controls, collecting automatic payments, and sourcing renewable energy.  

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