Charging the Future: 5 Ways Electric Vehicles are Influencing Architectural Design

Charging the Future: 5 Ways Electric Vehicles are Influencing Architectural Design

Electric vehicles (EVs) will eventually dominate the roads of the future. They are better for the environment, have lower operational costs and are more technologically advanced than their combustion engine counterparts. While EV sales accounted for just 4.2 percent of total car sales worldwide in 2020, that number is expected to grow as several brands plan to launch electric models in the next five years. Not to mention the fact that some manufacturers now promise to sell only zero-emission vehicles by 2035. 

So far, Tesla leads the charge (pun intended) with both innovation and the largest global, fast-charging network of more than 20,000 Superchargers. Still, widespread adoption is mainly contingent on two factors: lower purchase cost and a stable EV charging infrastructure. While costs could change overnight, infrastructure takes time. 

To ensure public charging stations are as easily accessible as gas stations, McKinsey estimates the U.S. will need $11 billion of capital investment by 2030 to deploy the 13 million chargers needed for all of the country’s EVs. 

Architects will play a vital role in infrastructure by redesigning current facilities – and creating brand new ones – to usher in a viable ecosystem for EV technology to thrive. Here are five ways this wave of EV charging infrastructure will influence architectural design work for years to come.

The Rise of Electric Cars

While EV sales accounted for just 4.2 percent of total car sales worldwide in 2020, that number is expected to grow as several brands plan to introduce fully electric models in the next five years. So far, Tesla leads the charge (pun intended) with both innovation and the largest global, fast-charging network of more than 20,000 Superchargers. 

To ensure public charging stations are as easily accessible as gas stations, McKinsey estimates the U.S. will need $11 billion of capital investment by 2030 to deploy the 13 million chargers needed for all of the country’s EVs. Without this investment, EVs may be considered as right tech, wrong time. Here are five ways this wave of EV charging infrastructure will affect architectural design work for years to come.  

#1 Retail and Hospitality Industry

Convenience stores could require an interior redesign plan but what about shopping centers and hospitality businesses? Well known American retailers such as Target or Walmart are already setting up charging stations in their expansive parking lots. This could also work with malls and other mixed-use developments to entice drivers to park, charge and shop longer. 

Marriott Hotels is leading the charge in the hospitality field with more than 3,100 Level 2 charging stations already available to guests. It is a complimentary service at most locations but some do collect a fee. Hospitality architects should expect these stations to impact their parking lot design plans moving forward. It’s also possible to expect proposals for alterations to existing facilities that want to install extra stations to serve non-guests, too. These stations could generate revenue from charging and potentially on-site dining at the hotel.

#2 Convenience Store Redesign

About 80 percent of the 150,274 U.S. convenience stores sell motor fuels. If they adjust their outdoor operation to prepare for an inevitable electric future, they’ll be wise to redesign the inside, too. 

Standalone convenience stores should also consider adding charging stations outside to attract customers in. Either way, these venues will turn to architects to overhaul the prevailing grab-and-go concept into more of a coffee shop atmosphere where customers will feel comfortable spending time in while their car charges. As remote work continues to surge, expect customers to seek these spaces to set up a laptop for a few hours. This means new seating areas, Wi-Fi access, made-to-order food options and other amenities.

The shift from just shelves of products and a cashier to a more inviting space will give each store a personal touch that may help improve the customer’s experience and encourage them to return. 

#3 Gas Station Adjustments

Gas stations are prime location candidates for adding EV charging stations because motorists already flock to them to refuel. Station owners who pivot operations to include charging equipment can hold on to existing customers when they switch to electric models. 

Architects and designers will need to identify opportunities to reconfigure existing parking spaces to longer and wider areas that accommodate charging equipment. They also may consider expanding the station into adjoining lots to create completely new EV areas. The additional space allows for gasoline operations to continue for those who need it, and creates the opportunity to add outdoor play areas for families to stretch their legs while waiting for cars to charge. Designers also can incorporate individual entertainment kiosks at each charging station for drivers to watch TV, or even order food from the venue while they charge. 

There are different charging times depending on the car model, its battery and charging method used. The most common type is AC (alternating current) charging because of the widespread accessibility of standard 120V AC outlets. An onboard charger receives the AC electricity, converts it to DC (direct current) and charges the car battery. Level 1 AC chargers are included with the vehicle purchase and often used to charge overnight at homes. Level 2 240V AC chargers work 5 to 7 times faster for a full-electric car, and will be most commonly used in public charging stations. Different models take between four and 12 hours to fully charge. A DC fast charger on the other hand, can get a battery to 80 percent power in under 30 minutes. Regardless of which charging method gas stations use, there will be a waiting period and an ability to monetize charging time.

#4 Drive-in Movie Revival

With the rise of electric vehicles comes a slight shift in lifestyle. This new technology could offer an opportunity to reinvigorate an old-time entertainment experience. Watching the latest blockbuster film while waiting for an electric vehicle to charge up would not feel like waiting at all. Perhaps drive-ins make a comeback within apartment living communities where residents don’t have the ability to charge overnight, or retail architects pitch adding a drive-in as part of a multi-use development. A “Movie and Mileage” promo could bring drivers in for date night or some family fun. Designs need to maximize the space to make it easy for guests to park, plug in and go without disturbing other viewers.

#5 Independent Charging Station Construction

Upgrading the existing network of gas stations and convenience stores – and adding a handful of chargers to major retailer parking lots – will certainly strengthen the EV technology ecosystem. However, there’s still going to be a giant demand for construction of more independent charging stations. Tesla already has a head start in this regard though it has yet to officially allow charging services to non-Tesla electric cars. 

Without universal charging stations, consumer adoption of the existing EV models is unlikely to grow. It’s exactly why architects will propose designs to construct these venues nearby residential, office, commercial or civic developments. For example, instead of using a traditional commercial lot for a fast-food restaurant, it could be used for EV charging. Stations are expected to house both Level 2 240V AC chargers and Level 3 DC fast chargers from EV charging companies like:

  • EVgo
  • ChargePoint
  • IONITY
  • Volta
  • Electrify America

Architects should partner with these companies to understand vehicle and equipment spacing needs for facility designs. They also can consider creative ways to integrate sustainable design concepts for charging stations. Solar panels, recycled materials and optimized building performance would be welcome features within these establishments.

Learn More from an Architectural Industry Leader 

Charging infrastructure and the architect’s role in enhancing it will influence the speed of electric vehicle adoption. Prepare your firm for the prospects of reimagining gas stations, convenience stores and other public places, as well as creating new venues to give drivers a positive experience.

To learn more about these and other influences on the architectural industry, set up a time to talk to MGS Global CEO and Founder, Aya Shlachter, Or, visit MGS Global Group online to see how our built environment and architectural consulting firm can help expand your capabilities and accelerate your growth. 

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