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Electric Vehicle Chargers and the Problems Dealerships Are Facing

Electric vehicle chargers might be necessary for dealerships to stay competitive, but are they worth the price?
José Rodríguez Jr.
April 8, 2022
3 min

Car dealers are in for a rude awakening as EVs gain traction because in order to sell EVs, dealers will obviously want to charge them. The installation of fast chargers at dealer locations is proving more costly and complicated than expected. In some cases, fast charger installation can take up to two years and cost over $200,000, as Auto News reports. For once, dealers are stuck waiting and paying more than they thought. Call it the cost of doing business. 

Dealers are running into expensive problems as utility companies confirm that the electrical systems in many commercial properties are not that different than those of residential properties. Unless lots have a body shop or similar facility onsite, AN reports, these locations usually “draw 24 to 48 kilowatts.” That’s the rating power they were built to handle. 

But it’s not enough for Level 3 fast chargers, which require between 150 to 350kW of power from the grid. These requirements doubled the original estimate in the case of a GMC and Cadillac dealer in Florida. From Auto News:  

The Orlando-based Starling Automotive Group has six dealerships, including GMC and Cadillac franchises, that need fast chargers, Starling said during the NADA Show and in a follow-up phone interview this month. 

He realized that installing the chargers would be harder than it sounded when the local utility company told him there was “a little bit of a problem.” 

Starling said the utility company told him: “ ‘We’re going to have to upgrade your service before we install these chargers. Your current arrangement is good for what you’ve been doing, but not for this.’” 

Starling said upgrading the power roughly doubled the original estimate to install fast-charging capability to a total of around $220,000.  

And the issue is widespread. A Hyundai dealer in New Jersey ran into the same lack of capacity as the GM dealer in Florida, emphasizing that the power toll of EV’s, which dealers will soon face, was woefully unexpected:  

“Rockland Electric Co. said, ‘We’ve got to get you more power’ because what we had coming in from the street wasn’t enough,” he said at the NADA Show. 

DeSilva’s son, Mike, is co-owner and dealer manager at Liberty Hyundai. In a phone interview, he said the dealership is “on the hook” to pay for a new, more powerful power line from the street to the dealership. 

Mike DeSilva said the utility company is still “months away” from the actual installation. He’s hoping the dealership qualifies for some local incentive money for installing EV chargers, but there’s no guarantee. 

He said the dealership decided to go ahead and submit its application to get the chargers installed without waiting for the final word on incentives to avoid missing out on allocations of upcoming Hyundai EVs. DeSilva said they haven’t received an official estimate but have been told the service upgrade will be $50,000 to $100,000 in addition to the cost of the chargers and site work.  

That dealer is reportedly eating the higher cost for fear of getting fewer cars from Hyundai. Of course, not all carmakers are demanding that dealers install fast chargers on lots. As fast charging becomes a selling point, though, dealers without them will be at a competitive disadvantage. Car dealers know the deal: you gotta spend money to make money. Well, it’s either that or tack a line item on dealer invoices for “L3 Charger Installation.”  

This article was written by José Rodríguez Jr. from Jalopnik and was legally licensed through the Industry Dive Content Marketplace. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@industrydive.com.

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José Rodríguez Jr.

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