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Bechtel’s Impact Report

Sparking the Electric Vehicle Revolution

  • 15 May 2024

Construction experts recommend steps to overcome a major hurdle for EV adoption: charging infrastructure

There’s one big speedbump on the road to sparking the electric vehicle revolution: the slow pace of new EV chargers for the public and for vehicle fleets.

“Everybody wants to be moving faster,” Darren Hall, Electrification Specialist at Bechtel. “Manufacturers want to sell more vehicles and meet the demand of commercial customers and consumers.”

People buying EVs are not guaranteed a place to charge them while travelling. And electric vehicles rolling off production lines risk becoming a “stranded asset” for companies looking to put them to work for deliveries of other types of work.

“The scenario that really frightens fleet owners is stranded mission-critical or revenue-generating assets," said Jessie Aubry, Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure Lead at Bechtel. “It’s a bus that is supposed to get kids to school that can’t charge. Or a delivery truck that is not generating revenue.”

The electrification specialists at Bechtel recommend a few approaches to speeding up the delivery of new charging infrastructure, such as earlier integration with the construction supply chain, integration of cross-functional project teams, and a focus on utility planning.

Early Integration with the Construction Supply Chain

One way to avoid the stranded asset risk is to start procuring electrical equipment long before the EVs arrive to join the fleet.

“If a client is converting a fleet to electric over the next year, for example, they can’t afford to wait 18 months for the electrical gear to get delivered,” said Hall. “I recommend designing charging infrastructure in close collaboration with our supply chain experts. They can help determine how much design is necessary before ordering materials. Or they can help tailor designs to what is available now.”

Bechtel experts say integrating design teams with supply chain can help customers meet aggressive electrification timelines. It also establishes a standard that can be applied as a charging sites network expands to accommodate future additions to the fleet.

Integrating Cross-Functional Project Teams

Integrating the broader team that designs, procures, and builds charging infrastructure – such as a firm like Bechtel that combines the engineering, procurement, and construction functions, or EPC – can help make the process run smoother.

“There can be less back-and-forth between the designer and installer when it’s done inside the same company,” said Aubry. “In a disaggregated project there’s extra time needed for communication among different vendors. Designs and deliverables are sent in different templates. It adds complexity. Our integrated approach can help smooth that, accelerating decisions between design, equipment procurement, and installation.”

An integrated approach is a systematic and strategic approach to planning, designing, and building charging infrastructure for electric vehicles.

“Our differentiator is making the process move faster and with an eye toward the broader electrification program,’ said Aubry. “We can get electric vehicle charging infrastructure scaled up faster with a holistic view.”

Electric Service is an Early Obstacle

New chargers require coordination with the local electric utility. This coordination ensures that the installation is safe and meets the necessary requirements, but most sites will need the utility to deliver new electrical capacity.

“Any fast-charging project will require new service from the utility,” said Aubry. “The power utility should be one of the first calls you make. They are great planners if they have insight into your plan. They are also going to have design requirements that make them a key interface with your contractor. While you’re waiting for new service consider alternative designs like onsite generation or power storage”

Conclusion: Start Planning Early

Electric vehicles are only one piece of the puzzle for electrification. The charging infrastructure will also determine project feasibility and schedule. Insufficient charging infrastructure will deter consumers from buying new EVs or make a fleet miss out on potential operational savings.

“Don’t wait until you have a formal request for proposals for installation to reach out to a delivery partner like Bechtel,” said Hall. “Reach out early so that we can assist with an efficient conceptual design. Early engagement allows us to help you avoid unnecessary challenges on this electrification journey.”

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