It’s a great time for higher ed to go electric

Several considerations need to be addressed to ensure your EV infrastructure plan is safe, reliable and future-proof.
Dan Dowell
Dan Dowell
Dan has worked with cities, counties, state governments and universities for nearly 20 years to help structure financial solutions to their critical infrastructure needs.

The electric vehicle (EV) transition is approaching faster than expected. A recent analysis by EY found that EV sales will outpace all other types of engines three years sooner than expected. Campuses need to be ready with convenient access to fast and reliable charging stations to support students, staff, guests and electrified fleets.

Let’s look at the most compelling reasons colleges and universities should actively begin integrating EV charging stations into their infrastructure right now.

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Attract and retain sustainability-focused students, faculty and staff

Research shows that sustainability is becoming increasingly important to college students.

EV charging stations are a visible symbol of a school’s commitment to a greener future. A robust and accessible charging network also offers substantial convenience for staff, parents and students who drive electric vehicles. With strategically placed EV chargers throughout campus, students and faculty no longer need to worry about finding a charging station off-campus or taking detours to recharge their vehicles.

Improve sustainability metrics

Providing a reliable EV charging network on campus effectively reduces Scope 3 emissions, including emissions generated through employee commuting. Many universities have pledged to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions either individually or through national pledges, such as the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment. EV chargers are among the most effective tools to help reduce carbon emissions and help eliminate GHG.

Another major step toward campus sustainability is replacing gasoline or diesel fleet vehicles with electric vehicles. Besides the benefits to the planet, fleet electrification lowers operating costs, delivers greater energy efficiency, and brings more of the latest technologies.

Offset costs with funding

Many campuses face headwinds due to limited funding, strained resources, and aging infrastructure. The good news is local, state, and federal funding incentives can make the acquisition of charging stations more affordable. For instance, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law offers a variety of funding opportunities through grants and other finance programs. Right now, 63% of the country is covered by rebates or incentives for EV charging networks. However, each program has unique eligibility, deadline, and submission requirements that must be reviewed and managed carefully.

Create your own power

New methods of energy management are now available to increase energy reliability and resiliency. Localized power grids (or microgrids) can bolster on-site energy capacity, reduce emissions, meet sustainability goals, and ensure power resiliency. Solar microgrids can distribute this stored energy later to help with load shedding and avoid high-cost, peak timeframes. Combining EV charging stations with innovations in solar and energy storage can offer benefits beyond sustainability metrics – including reduced energy spend, stabilized electricity costs, and competitive differentiation.

Tap into new revenue streams

With the proper EV infrastructure in place, campuses can now generate new revenue streams to offset installation and maintenance costs. Chargers can be monetized through different payment models or variables. This could be a per-semester fee for EV charging (much like a parking pass) with different price structures for semester-long, year-long, or daily payments. Chargers can be opened to visitors on a pay-per-kilowatt hour or session. Another model would offer lower fees for Level 1 and Level 2 chargers for those who purchase parking permits, with premium fees for fast-charging Level 3 chargers.

Table 1: Three main types of EV charging technology
Level 1 Level 2 Level 3
110V/120V AC 208/240V AC 480V DC
“Slow Trickle”


“Faster Charging”


“Very Fast Charging1

(for autos equipped with fast charging option)

3-5 miles of range per hour 4-6 hours for a small SUV Less than 30 minutes for a small SUV
Standard household wall outlet Global industry standard No industry standard — three competing standards with regional roots
Best suited for emergency charging Relatively low-cost and moderate electrical infrastructure demands


The most expensive charging system and more complex installation

Navigating the complexities

EV chargers are undoubtably a valuable amenity, but starting the journey toward electrification is not without risk. Several considerations need to be addressed to ensure your EV infrastructure plan is safe, reliable, and future-proof.

How many chargers and what type of charging technology (Level 1, Level 2, or Level 3)? Where will they be placed around campus? Level-2 stations have become both the global industry standard and the most practical application for most sites. However, Level-3 heavy duty may be needed to keep fleets up and running, or for visitors who need a quick charge.

What type of electrical load will I need? Are there high voltage requirements? For DC Fast Charging, 50kW and 400V have been the norm, but it is poised to increase to 800V at 350kW of charging. Plus, the market is already approaching 1,000kW (1MW) and 1,200V. Once the system is up and running, there are technology solutions with smart algorithms and intelligent monitoring to balance electrical usage, optimize available power usage, and protect local electrical systems from overloading.

While it may seem overwhelming, finding a partner with proven experience in hardware, software, energy, and financing structures can speed the path toward campus electrification.


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