California is the leader in electric vehicles. At the end of 2021, California had 40 percent of registered electric vehicles in the nation, the largest number of electric cars of any state, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. The state’s requirement that all new cars sold after 2035 be zero-emission vehicles and the shift of rental car fleets towards electric vehicles have driven guests’ demand for on-site charging stations.
“It’s a definite given,” said Tony Roumph, Area Managing Director in San Francisco for Noble House Hotels and Resorts, which operates the Argonaut and Zoe hotels in the city.
In San Francisco, increased charging stations are not just guest demands, but the law. As of Jan. 1, 2023, the city requires all commercial parking facilities with more than 100 spaces to install Level 2 charging stations in 10 percent of those spaces, up to a maximum of 200 spaces, or a smaller number of so-called “fast” chargers.
The demand for charging is happening at city center hotels and at resort destinations like the Omni Rancho Las Palmas Resort in Rancho Mirage.
“We have multiple charging stations on the property now, and we’re adding more,” said Ed Moreno, Resort Manager. The hotel is directly across from a lot with about 60 Tesla charging stations. Still, he says, “there are times when it’s more demand than we can handle” with, he estimates, one in every five guest cars wanting to plug in.
There are, of course, some challenges for properties who want to meet this new guest expectation.
First is the cost of installation, which includes chargers, concrete pads, signage, and permits. In some cases, companies that make and operate EV charging stations will take on the installation work for a property, although some may want to charge a fee to whoever plugs in. That may not be the guest experience a property wants—and also may not work if the hotel’s own parking is valet only.
Second is ensuring the property’s electrical system can manage this large increase in load. Roumph noted that one of Noble’s sister properties had to spend more than $100,000 to modify its wiring and other electric infrastructure to accommodate chargers. Utilities often find that their substations, local transformers, and lines can’t handle the new load, so installation may not be possible until those facilities are upgraded.
These likely are temporary hurdles in a state that is moving rapidly toward an electric transportation future.
“EV charging is like WiFi,” said Dallas Robinson, the President of Evolve, a company that builds EV charging infrastructure in California and British Columbia, Canada.
“At first, WiFi was something that some hotels were reluctant to include, then something that you added for a fee or for loyalty members, then WiFi became an amenity that you pretty much had to have.”
But unlike WiFi, EV charging is receiving major federal and state government subsidies.
California is expected to receive $384 million in federal funding from the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Formula Program over the next several years to install fast-charging stations along major transportation corridors throughout the state. Grants are available under the program, which can cover up to 80 percent of the cost of charging centers at properties along those corridors.
State grants are available through the California Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Project (CALeVIP), which provides funding for installing publicly available EV charging stations.
Once a property has its electric chargers installed and working, Robinson said drivers can easily locate them using public apps like PlugShare—attracting a different type of customer to hotels.
Robinson added that hotels can offer EV charging through their loyalty programs.
“If you’re a frequent guest of a certain chain, you might want to offer free charging, whereas other people just stopping by pay for it, which gives an added value,” he said.