EV Charging Infrastructure Offers Opportunities for Wireless Contractors


NATE UNITE 2024

The number of electric vehicles on the road is growing every day. Edison Electric Institute conservatively estimates the number of EVs on U.S. roads will reach over 26 million by 2030, or roughly 10 percent of all cars and light trucks. Other estimates suggest that EV penetration could be as high as 50 percent. The key to EV adoption is the widespread availability of direct current fast charging stations with adequate power capacity to recharge batteries in a variety of EVs.

Building and maintaining infrastructure required for EV charging represents an opportunity for communications infrastructure contractors. In a workshop at NATE UNITE 2024 held in Memphis this week, the panelists discussed the commonality with telecom regarding required technical skills and deployment processes and identified crossover opportunities. More importantly, the panel was unanimous that the demand for qualified workers to build EV infrastructure is growing. 

EV charging systems comprise two main elements: the stationary charging stations; and the supporting electric utility infrastructure – substations, transmission and distribution, power generation including solar farms.

DC fast charging stations are being installed in parking areas at interstate highway service centers, convenience stores and gas stations, apartment complexes and office buildings. 

But daily consumer EV usage patterns are less predictable and vary between local driving or long trips where the EV often must be charged while away from home. By comparison, commercial fleets like the postal service or delivery companies have daily designated routes and can recharge all the vehicles from a large multi-vehicle charging station at the depot with no need to recharge en route. Consequently, the supporting infrastructure needs differ for each application.

Small consumer chargers can cost $1,000 while large commercial installations can range $75,000-100,000. And the utility infrastructure that supports these installations must be constructed. The chargers may have a life cycle of 3-5 years and must be replaced whereas the supporting utility infrastructure is designed to last for decades with proper maintenance.

Funding is available for EV infrastructure. National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) is federal legislation that focuses on funding and expanding EV charging infrastructure. NEVI is designed to accelerate the equitable adoption of EVs by advancing the build-out of EV charging infrastructure. It provides $7.5 billion for various EV charging projects: $5 billion for build outs nationwide, and $2.5 billion for corridor and community charging grants. Private sector money is flowing into EV infrastructure projects as well.

How can contractors get the work? Black & Veatch, the big engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) firm handles most of the large scale project work itself but will use subcontractors for short duration, local construction projects. B&V has a screening process. Contractors need to register with B&V as a qualified supplier. 

Motive Energy is a smaller scale EPC firm that will self-perform on 50-60 percent of a project but use subcontractors for 40 percent of the time to keep up with the work. Francis Energy uses subcontractors for 90-95 percent of its construction. The firm is looking for more partners, particularly for work on federally funded projects.

Telecom contractors can qualify to work on EV charging projects by becoming certified through the Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Training Program (EVITP), a comprehensive training and certification program for electricians who install electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE).

EVITP ensures that trained electricians can install and maintain EV charging stations effectively. Its goal is to ensure that EV charging equipment is installed with the highest standards of safety, quality, and specifications. 

Electricians must pass a certification exam to demonstrate knowledge and skill. The program provides qualified electricians with thorough training on EVSE installation. Certified electricians can perform maintenance, installation, and upgrade implementation for EV charging stations. EVITP provides information on utility interconnection policies and integration of EVSEs into distributed generation infrastructure.

By John Celentano, Inside Towers Business Editor



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