Commercial, brand and security considerations

Is hosting EV charging stations a good business opportunity for retailers, a chance to promote corporate commitment to sustainability and improve brand image, or a potential headache in terms of security? Maybe a bit of all three.

Business

Retailers, “both as places of commerce and employers, are ideal candidates to serve as site hosts for EV charging stations,” concludes a 2020 Atlas Public Policy study, Public EV Charging Business Models for Retail Site Hosts.

Benefits may include attracting new customers and employees; new revenue streams from the direct sale of refills to customers; and increased in-store sales from customers who spend time in stores waiting for their vehicle to charge. Charging station advertising is another potentially big revenue stream for retail web hosts, according to the study.

The potential benefits vary depending on the business model, either owner-operator, in which the retailer bears the risk associated with operating and maintenance costs, but can choose the pricing structure; or owned and operated by a third party, in which the charging station owner is responsible for installation, operation and maintenance, and controls pricing and overall customer experience. Different pricing structures include: no fee, nominal fee to cover costs, and profit center.

Retail web hosts face a trade-off between limiting financial risk and maximizing profit when deciding between business models. The study concludes that retailers can earn twice as much as an owner-operator, but “the risks associated with [it] should not be underestimated.

The study offered some insights into its analysis:

  • To optimize sales revenue, retail web hosts need to design fee structures to achieve longer dwell times, but also create sufficient customer turnover, as in-store retail revenue per customer decrease after a long residence time.
  • Retail web hosts with lower expected customer spend per visit should focus primarily on achieving high customer turnover.
  • Retail web hosts should use information about average in-store customer revenue per minute to design pricing structures that optimize dwell time for their business.

Brand

In 2018, Target announced a five-fold expansion of its electric vehicle program to “solidify its commitment to investing in solutions that leave our communities better for future families,” according to its vice president for property management. The retailer started adding electric vehicle charging stations to parking lots a decade ago with its partner, ChargePoint, and now has about 100 in 20 states. The retailer was motivated, he said, by the lack of available public charging stations and the company’s goal of promoting a healthy planet.

In addition to revenue, hosting EV charging stations can improve a retail host’s image, the Atlas report notes. “Hosting electric vehicle charging stations can signal a retailer’s commitment to advancing sustainability goals while helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation.”

ChargePoint cites data on the high percentage of customers who prefer to shop at environmentally conscious companies and employees who want to work for “green companies”, and how electric vehicle charging contributes to that reputation.

But if image is a catalyst in a retailer’s decision to house EV charging stations, then retailers should consider the full image as they go.

It’s easy to find grunts on message boards at charging stations placed in an empty corner of a large car park, with users saying they didn’t feel safe using them, especially after hours. ‘opening. Others sometimes complain about poor lighting at retailer-hosted stations. An industry analyst noted that grid-connected chargers can be placed near where electricity comes into a building, which can put them in the back of a grocery store next to its dumpsters. garbage. A Business Insider reporter recounted her experience charging after hours in a mall parking lot, which she would have skipped for safety’s sake had she been alone (“The biggest obstacle to electric cars n it’s not technology, it’s public chargers feel safer and more accessible”, September 2021).

User safety is a necessary consideration, and there is also the potential for conflict or vandalism when internal combustion engine-equipped vehicles park at an EV charging point, being “ICEed out” in the parlance of EV owners. In online EV forums, there are occasional discussions of applying “proper punishment” in these events, from placing stickers on vehicles, to impounding, and worse.

Additionally, while retail hosts may not be responsible (depending on the business model), user frustration can still tarnish a customer’s overall shopping experience if they plan to charge while he is shopping and he is disappointed. One electric vehicle owner wrote on a charging station locator app: “One in six visible chargers works, and it’s been taken. All other stations look very banged up or show a fault. At one station, the socket is encrusted with cobwebs. »

Finally, national retailers could also face potential criticism depending on which stores are chosen as locations for electric vehicle charging stations. A gap is already widening in the location of public charging stations, and there are growing concerns that without access to charging stations, black and Hispanic communities will be left behind as the country attempts to transition to the era of electric vehicles.

Security

Charging stations are a potential attack vector in the wider energy grid, cybersecurity analysts warn, and they are just as vulnerable as any connected device. In surveys of industry analysts, security is identified as the top barrier to the growth of electric vehicle infrastructure.

Charging stations authorize users and vehicles to use RFID, Bluetooth or Wi-Fi cards, and studies of widely deployed electric vehicle charging station management systems have shown an array of vulnerabilities in their communication components that suggest susceptibility to remote cyberattacks. “We have observed that these vulnerabilities can be potentially exploited by hackers to compromise the availability, integrity and confidentiality of a network of charging stations, or even the electricity network”, concluded a study published by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Cyber. -Physical security of the vehicle charging station system.

Analysts note that electric vehicle charging stations include IoT technology to manage payments and data analytics – up to 16 disparate management systems – providing multiple cyberattack vectors. Studies by cybersecurity firm Pen Test Partners suggest that attackers could potentially use electric vehicle charging stations to gain unauthorized entry into a corporate network or hack into user accounts to charge charges to the wrong account. . “Weak code used at charging stations can expose drivers’ credit card details, leading to monetary loss,” Panda Security analysts warn.

The current lack of security standards and certification for charging stations complicates the security picture. As with any connected system, vulnerabilities must be patched and systems must be scanned for vulnerabilities and monitored for attacks, experts warn.

Cyber ​​isn’t the only threat, as evidenced by an attack in February at a new eight-station Tesla Supercharger station in Oakhurst, Calif., where all charging cables were cut at the base and stolen during a night attack. Vandalism was a possible motive, but it was more likely that the thieves were looking for the copper inside the cables.

According to US Department of Energy guidelines, charging station hosts are encouraged to identify all necessary measures to prevent vandalism and theft of equipment and also to ensure that communication and information technologies of the charging station comply with the organization’s cybersecurity policies.

Comments are closed.