Electric Car Charging Stations … an Amenity?

By Brian Koontz, ECOtality’s National Accounts Manager

1) What is the big draw for hotel owners installing electric vehicle charging stations?

Last year Nissan and Chevrolet debuted the first mass-market electric vehicles. Since their release, consumers have shown a strong interest in EVs. Nissan accepted 26,000 reservations for the LEAF since the model’s launch. Every major automaker, from Ford to Toyota to Volkswagen to Mercedes, has announced plans to introduce plug-in electric vehicles. The hospitality industry has taken notice of this growing trend, and forward-thinking hotel owners have started examining options for EV charging station installations not only as a new service to offer guests, but also as a means to stand out from the competition.

EV drivers are typically “early adopters” of new technologies. Hotels that want to cater to the cutting-edge business traveler and weekenders are finding EV charging stations to be a valuable addition to their portfolio of amenities. Hotels owners also see the early installation of the stations as a way to lure back return customers.

A recent Center for Responsible Travel report found that 74.5 percent of U.S. travelers say the environmental policies of hotels influence their lodging choices. Not surprisingly, sustainability initiatives are also top of mind for owners installing stations. The hospitality industry was one of the first industries to embrace eco-friendly programs, and EV stations are a logical feature to add to their sustainability portfolios. EV charging stations can also help hotels achieve ambitious LEED certification standards.

2) How can EV stations support a hotel’s existing branding and management practices?

EV stations support hotel branding initiatives in many ways, from extending the customer experience to the parking lot, to creating a desired atmosphere of modernity. For example, ECOtality works with hotel management to create branded Blink charging stations that fit cohesively with the hotel’s aesthetic. Additionally, some hotels, including L’Auberge resorts in San Diego, have integrated the Blink InCards—the RFID cards needed to charge a car—into their valet program, creating a simple, high tech solution for valet services that want to incorporate hotel branding. Hotels can also elect to mark-up the services fee for EV valet parking, or offer it as a fee-based service for non-guests.

3) What are the different advantages of the various EV charging stations on the market?

Different chargers are going to appeal to the specific needs and desires of different hotel owners.  Some chargers provide only a simple on/off switch, while others offer greater functionality through advanced communication capabilities and more advanced hardware, such as our Blink charging stations.

In our conversations with hotel managers, we heard that greater functionality is an important consideration in the decision process for hosting an EV charging station. Each charging station has a specific “look,” which can also play an essential role in a hotel owner’s decision. For example, L‘Auberge Resorts preferred the sleek look of smart touch screens, finding the range of capabilities to be a better match with the hotel’s other luxury, high-tech amenities.

ECOtality’s Blink charger comes equipped with a revenue-grade meter and touch screen that enables users to interact with the charger and select charge times when utilities rates are the lowest. Blink station screens can also be used for various advertising and media opportunities that range from hotel promotional programming to advertisements. These ads can be an additional revenue generator for the property owners.

4) What are the major hesitations owners cite when weighing the decision to install?

There are obviously going to be a number of factors that owners weigh in regards to the decisions they make at their respective hotels. One particular issue that comes up more often than not is cost of installation and whether or not they will receive a significant return on their investment.

However, the EV market is only going to continue to grow. Hotel owners that choose to install now maximize on opportunities to secure early adopters as loyal, returning customers. Also, installing charging stations while EVs are on the verge of becoming mainstream, allows hotel owners to appear truly ahead of the curve.

5) What is the profile of the typical hotel that chooses to install?

There is no “typical” profile of a hotel owner that chooses to install. We have seen interest in stations throughout the country, particularly in areas that have high concentrations of EV adoption and owners, such as Nashville, Tennessee and the greater Dallas metro area. The interested properties mostly appeal to the business traveler, but others cater to the weekend getaway traveler. Because each hotel identifies a different reason to install, their profiles range immensely.

6) What are examples of successful installations?

The Loews Vanderbilt is good example of one of ECOtality’s prime hospitality installations, and as the first commercial host site for Blink charging stations in Nashville, Tenn. The property installed four public chargers on site to complement the Loews Hotels Green Program, and has been charging EVs for more than eight months. The Residence Inn (Marriot) in Chattanooga, Tenn., also installed two charging stations for complimentary use by guests, as a way to boost their sustainability initiative. As a part of the Chattanooga Green Lodging Certification Program, the hotel integrated the chargers with its other environmental initiatives, including an extensive plastic recycling program and towel/linen reuse program.

In Dallas, the Kimpton’s Hotel Palomar incorporated EV charging stations into an extensive amenities program. For a limited time after install, the hotel is offering free public access to the stations through the hotel’s valet and EV discounts on accommodations, dining, and spa treatments.