September 23, 2016

How Hospitality Businesses Can Manage EVs

  • Subline: Ways to cater to guests with electric cars.
It's not uncommon to see electric cars charging in the parking lots of hotels and resorts during the summer travel season. It's not uncommon to see electric cars charging in the parking lots of hotels and resorts during the summer travel season.

Recently I was visiting clients in northern Illinois, traveling in my Chevy Volt. A number of hotel and resort properties near Chicago  - where EV ownership is above the national average - offer charging options for guests - often for free. Owners of electric cars tend to be young and affluent, and providing charging options is a surefire way to attract them. But is it worth it? And as electric cars become more common, how should hotels, lodges, and resorts respond?

Just Part of the Friendly Service

For now, a lot of properties provide a basic service available at no costs to their guests: they make standard 110v outlets available in public parking areas, and ensure guests with electric vehicles know they can use them. Many hotels and resorts have outlets in their parking areas already (usually near electric signs, lighting poles, or next to buildings), so there’s no investment in new infrastructure.

The cost of electricity depends on local utility rates, but most EVs won’t be able to draw more than about $3 of electricity during an overnight charge on a typical wall outlet. For most hotels and lodging providers, it’s worth absorbing that cost in exchange for bringing more travelers with larger disposable incomes through the door.

Some larger tourism-based businesses (or those near major EV markets, like coastal California) have opted to install upgraded charging infrastructure. Regular 110v wall outlets will only give electric cars another 40 or 50 miles of range after a long overnight charge. A 240v charging station can provide 200 miles or more over 10 hours, usually enough for guests to reach their next destination. Of course, that infrastructure comes with a cost: level-two charging stations run $700 to $2,500 for the hardware, plus extra for the installation. Many properties opt to provide the more robust charging to guests for free, but as electric vehicles become more common - and charging stations become more crowded - that model might need to change.

Little Guys Can Compete, Too

What about smaller properties? There may be creative ways to cater to EV owners without expensive infrastructure costs. At a small bed-and-breakfast I own, we adapted an old 240v outlet originally designed for a clothes dryer into a level-two charger. It’s given us some interesting marketing opportunities, and we’ve seen increased business (from Tesla owners in particular) during the shoulder season. It was well worth the limited investment.

If you’re in the hospitality industry and you’re interested in talking more about how EV owners fit into your marketing strategies, drop us a line. We’re big marketing nerds, and we love to talk shop.