Five Lessons Learned Installing Electric Vehicle Charging Stations at Spoke Coworking in Tucson, Arizona

Spoke Coworking shares their journey of installing EV charging stations in Tucson with the help of TEP program and various challenges they faced.

Five Lessons Learned Installing Electric Vehicle Charging Stations at Spoke Coworking in Tucson, Arizona

As a coworking business on East Speedway in Tucson it just made sense to offer electrical vehicle (EV) charging. With intrigued interest and the incentives offered from Tucson Electric, as well as the IRS, EV charging was far more affordable than we had thought.

To get started, we reached out to TEP via their program. Very quickly, they had a team connect with us and talk through the process. It all seemed very straightforward and relatively simple. They provided a surprisingly short timeline for the entire project. We were excited!

Wanting to provide a mostly green and environmentally friendly office space, we first needed to decide what level of charging we wanted. Based on our budget and the fact that we offer coworking services, including a comfortable lounge with screaming-fast WiFi, we determined that Level 2 was affordable and would give us the opportunity to meet community members that might be interested in our business for more than just charging their cars.

The plan is to welcome electric vehicle owners who come charge up and allow them to conveniently pop-in to enjoy our Lounge, internet, and air conditioning while they wait.

As for the process, we completed all the necessary paperwork for the TEP program, got it approved and began shopping for the charging stations we wanted. This part took considerable time. There were a lot of options while everyone offered different prices and features. What was important in our decision making was the software and support response time. We also wanted, and something that would stand up to AZ weather (fingers crossed). We found what we wanted, but we were informed it would take 3 months to arrive. By now we were familiar with the term “supply chain issues.” While 3 months was not optimal, and the company originally quoted us 4 weeks, we weren't exactly surprised—just annoyed.

At the same time, we were having our office build-out completed, so we asked our contractors if they would take on the electric vehicle charging project, which gratefully, they willingly accepted. If we did not already have this relationship, we would soon find out that it would be difficult to move forward with the project. Not only were there supply chain issues, but it also seemed there were very few contractors willing to take on a small job when there were plenty of bigger and better jobs available for them. Our timing was pretty bad in finding contractors all around. Instead, there was one charger that was basically turnkey (buy the charger, get the contractors, and get the permits). We did not select that, though. ?

In hindsight, going turnkey probably would have been a better route, because it would have been a much smoother process. Instead, we had to get an architect and/or electrical engineer as well as another person to submit the plans to the City. That alone took weeks of daily phone calls and hours of our time to find someone willing to help with our small EV charging project.

The hardest part for us was the permit process and finding an electrical engineering firm that would take on our project. We had all but given up when our Contractor recommended the same Architect that did our build out. We had already tried that route, but he was very busy and difficult to get in touch with. Eventually, our Architect recommended an Engineering firm. From there, we needed to mention the referring parties and ask the right questions to get the permitting done.

Well—mostly done. We got it done enough to move forward with installing the EV charging stations at our coworking office in Tucson. We thought we were 100% good to go. We started to submit the final paperwork back to TEP in order to start the process of the refunding program, but when we went into the City permitting site, we discovered that the final permits had actually not yet been issued.

Queue another call to the Contractor—he came out the next week with the blueprints and the printed permits showing that 2 of four were done. He informed us he needed to call the City to find out why the other 2 were not finalized and let us know that the final inspection would hopefully be the next day. One email later, we found out that there was a flood plain issue, but it was resolved over the phone and by showing further documentation that the Contractor had on hand. PHEW… So today we are waiting for the final permit.

Lessons learned:

  1. If you can find someone to do the whole sh-bang from start to finish—it's worth it. You'll save time/money and headaches. (If you need specific recommendations, come on in and we can chat. We'd love to meet you!)

  2. If you do it yourself, be prepared—there is a lot you cannot do yourself. You need Electrical Engineers to create blueprints and documentation, and you yourself cannot submit these documents either; you must pay for the proper person to submit them on your behalf.

  3. Be patient—with labor and supply chain shortages, nothing is truly turnkey anymore. Expect to wait for delivery as well as the work to be done.

  4. Plan for the unexpected—set aside some money and expect that it will cost more and take even more time than you thought. If you are counting on those electric company or IRS refunds, realize that you will need to float the funds for as long as it takes before the entire process is complete.

  5. Consider location—while we are on a main street (East Speedway Blvd in Tucson), the placement of the chargers on our property was greatly debated. There are ways to save money by being closer to the Electric, and depending on your location, parking lot, and budget, your own specifics will vary.