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Putting a Charge Into Private Club Parking: Electric Vehicle Charging Stations

Electric vehicles (EVs) have become a common sight at private clubs across the United States. It’s not unusual to see a Tesla or two sprinkled throughout a club’s parking lot and as the world’s automakers ramp up EV development, electric cars and trucks will become even more common. In fact, Volvo plans to go all-electric by 2030 and GM will follow suit in 2035. Ford and Stellantis (formerly Fiat Chrysler) have set a goal of 40% of their vehicles being electric by 2030. So, while electric cars are still a relatively rare sight, it won’t be long before they make up a large portion of member and guest vehicles. 

Clubs are always on the lookout for new amenities and resources to offer members, and EV charging is certain to be a priority for clubs in the coming years. In fact, the club is the perfect place to offer charging since it typically takes three to five hours to fully charge an electric car. That’s just enough time to play a quick round of golf, hang out at the club swimming pool, or enjoy a morning tennis match followed by lunch. 

“Private clubs are devoted to providing an extraordinary experience to members and their guests,” said Henry Wallmeyer, president and CEO of the National Club Association. “That means providing every opportunity, resource and amenity that members could wish for. Now that we are at the advent of the electric vehicle age, EV charging is becoming an essential amenity for clubs to offer their members.” 

What it Takes 

With the auto industry’s evolution to EV being completed over the next decade, most clubs are likely to install EV charging stations in the coming years. And considering that the high-income auto enthusiasts who are buying Teslas and other EV brands are within the same social and economic demographic that often makes up private club membership, clubs are likely to lead the way in installing the technology. So, for private clubs the question isn’t whether to install EV technology, but when, which types and how many units. 

Let’s start with when. If clubs are already seeing electric vehicles in their parking lots, the answer may be “now” or at least “soon.” The equipment is relatively affordable and simple, and clubs have already begun installing charging stations. But just because the auto industry has begun the conversion of all-electric fleets, that doesn’t mean that you need to add EV charging stations to all of your parking spaces now. It will be nearly a decade before even the most ambitious automakers plan to be all electric, and a few years later for the others. Plus, drivers won’t all immediately switch over at once; they will continue to drive their gas-powered cars and trucks for a while. Today, the average vehicle on the road is 12 years old—and that trend will continue even after the auto industry completes the conversion to all-electric production. Realistically, it will be another 20 years or so before clubs’ entire membership will be driving electric vehicles. So, clubs can stagger their installation of EV charging over a number of years.  

“EV equipment is expensive, and clubs don’t want to invest valuable capital before it’s necessary,” said David Rich, vice president of the parking consulting firm Rich & Associates. “Plus, as with any new technology, it’s reasonable to assume that the cost will drop significantly as new manufacturers enter the market. Why spend $12,000 per space today when the same technology may cost $1,000 or less in a few years?”  

According to Rich, clubs should work closely with their planning teams to estimate what demand is going to be over the next 15 to 20 years and how that demand will grow from year to year. Then they can make an informed decision about how many EV units to install each year. 

After working out the related issues of when and how many EV units to install, the next essential issue is what type. There are three basic types of charging equipment. Level 1 is more of an entry level charger, and it uses a normal 120-volt connection, similar to a standard household outlet. It’s the slowest charging option available and tends to be more suited to overnight charging. Level one chargers typically cost between $300 and $600 each. 

“This may not be the best choice for private clubs,” said John Abraam, principal at Strategic Energy Solutions, Inc. “They may be underpowered when it comes to clubs’ needs because it takes so long to fully charge a vehicle so that vehicle may end up monopolizing a space that the club wants to turn over every three or four hours.” 

Level 2, the most common charging station, may be a better choice for private clubs. Level 2 is 240-volt technology that can fully charge a vehicle in as little as three hours. Level 2 stations cost between $2,000 and $13,000 and average to $6,000 each. A level 2 station can typically fully charge a vehicle in three to eight hours. 

Level 3 charging stations are by far the fastest and most expensive. They operate at 480-volts and can provide an 80% charge in about 30 minutes. The average cost of a fully installed level 3 EV charging station is around $50,000 to $80,000 and they may require a utility company to install new service. For private clubs considering a level 3 station, it’s a classic cost/benefit question. Private clubs pride themselves on providing the absolute best member experience, but many will find the cost prohibitive. Realistically, it’s probably not useful to charge a vehicle in 30 minutes if that vehicle is going to be parked in the EV space for four or five hours anyway. 

It’s important to remember that the decision about which level of charging station to utilize doesn’t revolve around the brands of vehicles that are being charged. Each original equipment manufacturer uses the universal level 2 J1772 connection or one of two DC CCS or Chademo connectors (Tesla, perhaps the best-known electric vehicle manufacturer, has its own proprietary connector, but an adapter is included with each Tesla to allow vehicles to charge at all L2 stations). So don’t let knowledge of which brands of electric vehicles are owned by your members dictate your decision. Rather, the decisions should be based on cost and how the parking owner wants the charging station to affect the use of parking spaces. If more frequent turnover is desired, levels 2 or 3 may be suitable; if long-term or overnight charging is the norm, level 1 may suffice. 

Infrastructure Considerations 

The EV units are the most visible element of the charging stations, but the installation doesn’t end there. Infrastructure is required to bring electricity to the units. EV charging requires power supplied by a local utility, wiring to convey that power, a conduit to house the wires and the charging stations. If the club’s current electrical infrastructure is sufficient, you may be able to tie into the club’s electricity. Vehicle charging will use so little electricity over the month that it won’t significantly increase the club’s electric bill. 

According to Paul Young, vice president of sales for JuiceBar, a Connecticut-based charging station manufacturer, if there isn’t sufficient power to manage EV charging coming into the club, many utilities will provide the infrastructure at no cost to the club. 

“Utilities are helping to bring power in when there isn’t any,” said Young. “Programs vary from state to state, but most states are invested in promoting electric vehicle use. Utilities pull power in and pay for the infrastructure, paying up to 100% of the cost. The utility will do the heavy lifting and the country club will only be responsible for the cost of the charging stations themselves.” 

Canoe Brook Country Club 

Canoe Brook Country Club in Summit, N.J., stands out as a leader in providing EV charging to its members. The club installed two units, one double pump with two chargers and another stand-alone charger, as part of a club renovation back in 2014. The project was relatively simple since the club was already undergoing a renovation; it was just a matter of running electrical wiring to the three charging spaces and selecting the appropriate charging technology.  

The EV charging program was an initiative of the club’s long-range planning committee, who recognized that electric vehicles are the way of the future. 

“The committee saw that we would have to accommodate members with electric vehicles, and they decided that we should do it once and do it right,” said Albert Costantini, Canoe Brook’s general manager. “We didn’t want to wait until members were beating our doors down for chargers, and we didn’t want to have to tear up our newly renovated parking lot in a couple of years to accommodate new chargers. 

“We started with three chargers to meet our anticipated short-term needs,” said Costantini. “However, we put in sufficient wiring to triple the number of chargers without impacting the course. In fact, we’ll probably do that in the near future.” 

The club chose level 2 SemaConnect ChargePro 620 Gateway chargers because the price was reasonable, and they can charge any brand of electric vehicle. They were careful to include in the contract with SEMA that the club wouldn’t be included in the company’s published list of charging stations, though.  

“This is an important point that every private club should pay close attention to,” said Chris Williams, Canoe Brook’s director of facilities. “You don’t want nonmembers stopping by the club to charge their vehicles. These chargers are solely for our members and their guests.” 

The club installed the charging stations in the most popular, centrally located parking spaces, directly adjacent to the clubhouse’s entrance, to encourage members to use them. Club officials estimate that about 50 cars a week use the chargers and, because the club got a favorable kilowatt rate, it only costs about two dollars per charge. Clearly, the cost of providing EV charging is negligible and pales in comparison to the member benefits the units provide. 

Service and maintenance are typically an ongoing concern with any technology. However, Canoe Brook’s units are self-diagnostic and immediately recognize if there is a problem with the equipment. If a problem does arise, Sema sends a new head unit via overnight shipping, and the replacement unit can be easily installed by club maintenance personnel.  

The charging stations are immensely popular among the members who already drive electric vehicles, and as auto fleets convert to all-electric production, the club will install additional chargers to keep up with demand.  

As Canoe Brook Country Club’s leadership team recognized six years ago, electric cars are the future, and their members are going to need increasing access to EV charging resources. Canoe Brook’s EV program should serve as a model for other clubs as they look to offer EV charging at a reasonable price to the club. 

A Member Amenity for Today and the Future 

EV charging may seem like a limited member amenity because few members have electric vehicles today. But the demographics of those who drive electric vehicles closely mirror private club demographics. Drivers of electric vehicles tend to be affluent, concerned with sustainability and ahead of the curve when it comes to obtaining new technologies and equipment. The same can be said of many private club members. As Canoe Brook Country Club’s leaders found soon after installing their EV stations, members want access to EV charging, and they appreciate having the option of charging their vehicles while they are at the club. 

It won’t be long before electric vehicles are the rule, rather than the exception. When that time arrives—and it will be sooner than most people realize—clubs will need to have adequate EV charging resources to meet the needs of their members. Now may be the time to start ramping up to meet that need. 

Bill Smith is president of Smith Phillips Strategic Communications. He can be reached at [email protected]