Driving on Sunshine: Envision Solar EV ARC – Electric Vehicle Autonomous Renewable Charger


Workplace charging is becoming an increasingly popular employee benefit, used to attract the highly educated technical workers who represent the majority of early adopter electric car drivers. Since the goal of electric transportation is true zero emissions, pairing the chargers with solar panels is appealing. The energy source is zero emission, zero carbon and inexhaustible. 

One of the challenges to employers who want to offer workplace charging is the project management complexity, cost and facilities disruption that installing electric vehicle charging stations can present, especially when electrical upgrades, trenching or concrete casings are required. 

Envision Solar, a San Diego based company that has installed large solar canopy projects at premium commercial property facilities ranging from the campus of University of California to General Motor’s Warren Michigan facility, has developed a solar-powered electric vehicle charging station designed to solve those challenges. 

The EV ARC is a "transportable" unit designed to be delivered on a trailer and dropped into a parking space. The unit does not require grid tie – no trenching, wiring, load planning or panel connections. Most installations do not even require permitting according to Envision’s CEO Desmond Wheatley. 

The system is capable of producing from 2.3kW to 4.2 kW per day, depending on the type of panels a customer selects. Envision estimates that to be 80-150 miles of charge, enough to service about 10 typical EV commuters per day. The EV ARC comes with dual charge heads so that two EVs can be charged at a time.  During times that the unit is not in use, the solar energy is stored in a 22-28kWh battery at the base of the mast that holds the panel array. The array is anchored by an 11,000 lb steel plate which is sized to fit within a standard parking space. 

Envision Solar sells the units for between $45,000 to $65,000 depending on the configuration, which can include a large LCD screen for advertising and other communications. The EV ARC was designed to provide a highly visible installation. The keel underneath the canopy provides ample space for signage. A 30% federal tax credit is available through 2016 and is expected to continue in some form thereafter. Envision CEO Wheatley says that with all tax advantages considered, the cost for the entry level unit is “in the low 20s”.

Wheatley makes a convincing case that in a commercial setting, the EV ARC is actually very price competitive with other EVSE installations. The biggest expenses, he pointed out, were usually the project planning and civil engineering costs. Charger installations that are located at the edge of a parking lot require lengthy trenching and conduit runs. Conventional solar canopies, which the company also installs, can require weeks or even months-long disruption to a parking facility. The simplicity of pulling up a trailer and dropping off a self-contained unit is appealing. Wheatley pointed out that for tenants who lease their facilities, the ability to relocate the units if they moved offices or decide to relocate the EV charging station give the solution a decisive advantage for those applications. He added that although the economic justification of the EV ARC does not center around competing with grid power, the use of solar power completely eliminates concerns about utility demand charges while demonstrating a commitment to environmental sustainability. 

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