solar electric vehicle charging

A Bright Idea: solar electric vehicle charging in car parks

In this knowledge article, we’ll explore the time and cost of charging electric vehicles and the anticipated returns to a commercial car park operator from installing standard EV charging stations.  We’ll also explore the future of solar electric vehicle charging stations and why they deserve consideration by commercial car park operators and business owners with employee car parks.

A photograph of an electric vehicle with an electric vehicle charging connector attached

Electric Vehicle Ownership Stats

Electric vehicle ownership is on the rise, with latest figures from Next Green Car citing that 176,000 electrical vehicles were registered in the UK in the last 12 months 1. This brings the total number of ‘electric’ vehicles on UK roads to over half a million, at 535,000. This includes 270,000 plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, known as PHEVs.

There are up to 20,000 non-residential car parks in the UK offering between 3-4 million parking spaces 2, yet there are only around 43,000 electric vehicle charge point connectors in the UK (on 25,200 electrical vehicle charge devices) in just under 16,000 locations 3.

Whilst that’s more than the number of UK fuel stations, it still means that, at any one time, 15 electric vehicle drivers could all be competing for the same electric vehicle charge point.

However, all this IS going to change in the next nine years when the UK ceases to sell new petrol and diesel fuelled vehicles. Then, the question every car driver will be asking is “Where can I charge my car?”

The shortage of car parking spaces with EV chargers, in comparison to the rising registration of electric vehicles, creates a huge opportunity for car park operators to get ahead in the EV market and become the first-choice car park operator for drivers of electric cars.

View our Electric Vehicle infographic below.

Real World Ranges on EV Vehicles

The average ‘real-world’ range an electric vehicle can travel on a single charge is 193 miles 4 , and this economy is influenced further by driving styles, such as; how hard you accelerate or brake and the speed you drive at, the weight inside the car, the age of the car battery and the weather.

Whilst plug in hybrids (PHEV) have a petrol back up to enable electric car drivers to go the distance, these are often thirsty with fuel efficiency compromised due to the heavy weight of the electric battery.

Photo of a white Tesla Roadster, an electric vehicle

Some EV’s are above average; the Tesla Roadster has a ‘real-world’ range of around 600 miles but with a price tag of circa £180,000 it’s out of most EV purchaser’s reach. In comparison, a 40kWh Nissan Leaf priced at approximately £28,000 offers a range of around 168 miles.

“Range anxiety” is a therefore a common state for owners of electric vehicles with sometimes huge discrepancies between manufacturer stated “official ranges” and the actual distance an EV can travel on one charge.

The UK’s lack of charging infrastructure compounds this fear, which is why EV drivers become reliant on finding vacant car parking spaces fitted with EV charge points.

How long does it take to charge an EV?

Electric vehicle charge points offer charging at three different speeds:

  • Slow charging (up to 3kW) which is best suited to overnight charging at domestic premises. These typically take 6 – 8 hours to charge so have widely been phased out at public charging points.
  • Fast charging (7-22kW) which can fully recharge some models in 3-4 hours
  • Rapid charging units (43-50kW) which can output 80% of a charge in around 30 minutes.

Out of the 35,000 public electric vehicle charging stations, less than 5,000 locations offer rapid chargers 5, meaning electric vehicle owners travelling distances further than their ‘real world’ range typically have to add up to 3-4 hours to their journey time 6.

So, what is deterring a car park operator from getting into the EV charging market? Some believe it’s the capital outlay compared to the volume/rate of return.

How much does it cost to install a Commercial EV Charge Point?

Depending on factors such as the speed of charge, functionality, location and distance from charger to electricity connection, the cost of installing a commercial 7kW ‘fast’ EV charging point can range from £900 to over £4,000 per unit. A commercial 50kW rapid charger installation can cost upwards of £20,000 per unit7. This is in addition to potential electrical upgrades, signage, parking bay markings as well as the cost of providing the electricity.

How much does it cost to charge an electric vehicle?

A Nissan Leaf driver could spend around £7 adding an 80% charge using a 7kW fast charger on a public charging network at a rate of 20p per kW 8.  In a typical day, with each charge taking around 4.6 hours, an EV charge point may be able to accommodate three drivers and generate £21 revenue. In this example, based on electricity costs of 14p per kW, an EV charge point might return a profit of around £6 per day. At this rate, a return on investment could be seen in just two years (based on a top rate installation cost of £4,000 per unit).

A rapid charge on the same basis would cost a Nissan Leaf driver around £10 and take just 36 minutes. In this instance, an EV charge point might accommodate up to 30 drivers a day with a total profit of around £90. With installation costs of roughly £20,000 per unit, a return on investment could be delivered in just over six months.

Business Models for Commercial Car Park EV Charge Points

Despite these figures, running EV charge points are still worth the consideration of commercial car park operators as the rate per kW does not have to follow the example shown above.  EV drivers with limited options have been known to fork out more pence per kW when in need.

For instance, until recently, EV charging points at motorway service stations were largely in the control of Ecotricity. Billed as the ‘Electric Highway’ is consists of around 150 motorway and ‘A’ road services in the UK providing over 300 individual chargers. Whilst they used to be free to use, the cost is now 30p per kWh. They have recently sold out to sustainable energy provider GRIDSERVE who have bold ambitions for hybrid solar farms and Solar Electric Forecourts® 9.

There are a range of possible business models that commercial car park operators could adopt:

  • Loss Leader Model – free EV charging is offered to encourage drivers to visit a venue, such as a retail shopping centre or supermarket
  • Cost Recovery – a usage fee is applied on top of the cost of the electricity charge to cover the cost of the EV charge point installation and maintenance
  • Profit Delivery – a usage fee is applied that covers cost and returns a profit
  • Third Party Funded – an EV charge network operator funds the cost of installation in return for full control of their operation and income

Whilst all of the above are interesting options only the third party funded model removes the initial capital investment in the chargers. However, the loss of control of pricing could impact on the overall profitability of the car park, should cost per kW rise to an unpalatable level.

This is why solar electric vehicle charging deserves serious consideration.

Potential of Solar Powered Electric Vehicle Charging Points

A CGI of a Solar Powered Car Port with EV Charger Available from RFS

These days it’s commonplace for homeowners and businesses to tap into the ‘free energy’ provided by the sun. Even in the UK, where we have just 1493 hours of sunlight per year 10, a simple 5kW solar panel occupying 32m2 will generate up to 20kWh per day, or 4,500kWh per year 11.

Installed on the roof of a multi-storey car park or as a series of solar carports on a surface level car park or raised deck car park, that’s a decent volume of electricity generated, and all for ‘free’.

Suddenly, the return on investment of installing and running electric vehicle chargers looks less expensive.

Solar Car Ports and Electric Vehicle Charging

A solar carport is a structure that offers shelter to parked vehicles and their drivers whilst also generating renewable energy from the sun.

The energy generated from the solar panels can used to power electric vehicle charge points or other facilities within a car park building, such as LED lighting.

By combining electric vehicle charge points on solar carports, a car park operator can benefit from installation cost reductions whilst future proofing an EV charging installation.

Importantly, by integrating an EV charge point with a solar carport and a solar energy storage system, car park operators can harness the electrical infrastructure of the solar carport as well as potentially avoid the cost of essential upgrades to their light commercial electricity connection.

Most light commercial energy supplies can only accommodate one rapid charging station so need to be upgraded, this is known as a ‘reinforcement cost’ and can range anywhere from a few thousand pounds to hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Whilst there would still be a capital cost consideration, integrating EV chargers with solar powered carports and energy storage systems could avoid the additional strain on the grid supply, and therefore the ‘reinforcement cost’.

A further benefit to considering solar carports for EV charge points is that covered parking is more desirable to drivers who are keen to remain sheltered from wind and rain, so can therefore be charged at a premium.

Government incentives to Employers installing EV charging points

Employers looking to install EV chargers in their company car park may be eligible for funding assistance.

The Government Office for Zero Emission Vehicles currently offers businesses a grant of up to £14,000 12 to install EV charge points for their employees or staff fleet vehicles to use. The grant covers 75% of the installation costs, equating to £350 per charger for up to 40 chargers and the chargers must be off-road, i.e. in a private car park.

Find out more about Solar EV Charging

As a leading car park designer and construction contractor, Metpark UK is able to assist commercial car park operators and business owners looking for help and advice on the viability of installing EV charge points and solar electric vehicle charging into their car park structures.

We can provide car park designs, feasibility studies and cost proposals helping commercial car park operators and facilities managers make sound, commercial-led decisions. As well as being car park designers, we also provide a full build service for raised deck and multi-storey car parks.

For a no-obligation, confidential discussion contact our team on 01695 566880 or email us.

Note: Stats correct at time of publication.

Electric Vehicle Statistics Infographic

A PDF of this infographic is available here. Third party use: this infographic can be used by third parties as long as MetparkUK is credited and, if online, a link is added back to