Many public charging stations are owned or operated by private charging network companies, which can be identified through resources such as the Go Electric Drive “EVSE Products, Charging Network and Service Providers” tool or through one of the main industry associations, such as Electric Drive Transportation Association, Plug In America, or Zero Emission Transportation Association. The DOE AFDC’s Alternative Fueling Station Locator also identifies the private charging network companies for the stations in its database. These charging networks may commonly require a membership to recharge an EV at their stations, although some States do not allow membership requirements if the charging network uses public subsidies.
If membership is required, users may need a physical membership card, or they may be able to log in with their phone. Like cellular networks, some charging networks partner with one another to allow users to “roam” and charge across different networks’ stations. Charging network companies also provide users with station information to locate and get directions to their charging stations.
For site planners pursuing a networked charging station—a charging station that is connected to the Internet through cellular or wired broadband service to enable payment, access management, and usage monitoring—a charging network can be a logical partner to engage early in the site-level planning process. As partners, charging networks can bring technical expertise and facilitate connections to other important project stakeholders, such as architects, engineers, and contractors. They also develop training resources, such as specifications and installation guides, for EV installers.
Once charging stations are installed and activated, the network can help a site owner or tenant set up the charging station policies, including pricing, access control, administration rights, and advertisements. In addition, a charging network can provide advice to the EV infrastructure site planner on best practices for running the charging station based on experience with other sites, including those in similar contexts or geographic locations.
As discussed in the EV Infrastructure Project Planning Checklist (in the "Decide on Ownership Model" checklist item under Project Development and Scoping), both utilities and utility customers can own and operate charging stations. In addition to utilities, it is also common for charging network companies to own and operate EVSE on property owned or leased by the site host. For example several charging network companies partner with retail locations such as fast food chains and shopping malls to provide network-owned and -operated direct current (DC) fast charging. Alternatively, site hosts can pursue business models in which they own the equipment while the charging network maintains and operates the equipment. The exact options for these roles depend on the network and equipment provider chosen.1
Several resources are available to help locate charging network companies and the business models and partnering roles they offer, as summarized in the "Select Equipment and Network Provider" checklist item in the Select Equipment and Network Provider section of this toolkit.
1For example, see the “EV Charging Station Business Models” section (page 14) in Pennsylvania DOT’s AFC Deployment Plan.