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Dealers Annoyed With Price of EV Charger Installs

As the industry continues struggling with its planned swap to electric vehicles, we’ve seen plenty of framing suggesting dealer networks are only too happy to participate. But it’s usually juxtaposed with articles indicating that pushback exists, typically whenever the metaphorical rubber meets the road. This month provided several premium examples stemming from the National Automobile Dealers Association Expo (NADA Show 2022) held at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Though the best had to be when several dealer groups piped up about how much it’s actually going to cost them to install some of the newer chargers some manufacturers believe should be mandatory if they’re intent on selling EVs. Some showrooms are finding out that not all buildings are wired for the high loads incurred by modern charging systems, requiring additional financial investments they hadn’t counted on. With automotive dealerships using product delays as leverage for unprecedented vehicle pricing, it’s nice to see them getting a taste of their own medicine. Or it would be if the costs for updating facilities weren’t guaranteed to be reflected on future window stickers. 

A recent report from Automotive News highlighted some of the NADA exchanges, offering up a few anecdotes where dealers were blindsided by how much it actually costs to set up some of their stores. In one case, the Orlando, Florida-based Starling Automotive Group said electricians doubled their estimate when they wanted to install Level 3 chargers yielding 150 to 350kW of draw. Having already reported on the exchange from the NADA event, Automotive News conducted a recent follow-up interview to see how things were progressing.

The dealer group realized that installing the latest chargers was about to become substantially more complicated after the utility company explained its buildings weren’t rated for the kind of power usage required. Starling said the company stated that they would need to upgrade building services before any chargers could even be installed, effectively doubling the original estimate to a new total ballparking at $220,000.

That’s in addition to any downtime that occurs during the installation process, which could take well over a year to complete. But the General Motors focused Starling Automotive was hardly the only example of a dealer group realizing EVs came with some hidden costs. Automotive News also caught up with A Hyundai dealer in New Jersey that had encountered similar problems:

“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.

Similar to Starling, the Hyundai dealership is worried that the manufacturer might withhold product if it cannot support EVs as asked. Presently, this trend is limited to companies that have committed themselves the hardest to electrification. But the assumption is that it’ll gradually become commonplace as more EVs hit the road. One of the best ways to showcase how quickly your new battery-powered products can charge is by hooking them up to a fast charger and showing the customer, reducing fears about range anxiety and driving downtime that are normally associated with electric cars. Opening them to the public is also a sly way to convince people to frequent your lot, especially if the vehicle they’re driving didn’t originate from there.

Not all dealerships will be impacted equally. Stores that have upgraded their service centers within the last decade may already be set for a smoother Level 3 charger install. Others will have to bite the bullet and shell out some additional dough to ensure they’re within code. Though one wonders how this complication hadn’t occurred to anyone before electricians started showing up to lay the groundwork.

[Image: Michele Ursi/Shutterstock]

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