What Is Charging as a Service?

It feels like there’s a subscription service for everything these days. From streaming services to community-supported agriculture to pet supplies, organizations are ready to provide an offering for your every need. It may come as a shock (pun intended), but today, this even includes electric vehicle (EV) charging.

Many vendors have begun to offer charging as a service (CaaS) as part of their product lines. Rather than site hosts directly owning and operating charging equipment, CaaS gives municipalities, companies and fleet operators the opportunity to, essentially, rent electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) for a monthly fee from a provider.

What are the benefits?

Under the CaaS model, customers shift the risk of ownership to the charging provider, who takes the responsibility of owning, operating and maintaining the equipment. Additionally, capital costs are often a burden and obstacle to deploying charging infrastructure, and CaaS moves these costs to operating expenses, allowing customers to more easily transition to electric.

What’s included in a typical CaaS contract vs. the traditional direct-ownership route?

Included with CaaSNot Included with CaaS
-Installation
-Hardware (stations)
-Software (network operations and station management)
-Maintenance and reliability assurance
-Station decommissioning
-Site preparation
-Kilowatt-hour sales through the meter (this doesn’t change and is still the responsibility of the site owner)

While site preparation isn’t included in typical CaaS contracts, Duke Energy customers can benefit from the utility’s Charger Prep Credit program, which can help reduce the costs to make a site ready for installation. Learn more about the Charger Prep Credit program in a post on our Plug-in NC website.

Pricing Considerations

Every vendor has its own unique pricing structure, but CaaS customers typically pay up to $200 per month for a Level 2 (dual-port) station. Prices ultimately depend on the characteristics of the desired station — its manufacturer, network capabilities, amperage, etc.

Contract Considerations

CaaS contracts are normally four to seven years, with most being five. While the estimated life of Level 2 EVSE can exceed five years, CaaS is a relatively new model, so a five-year contract could allow a customer to renegotiate service rates, select a different provider, opt for direct-ownership models instead or swap out equipment for updated technology and start a new CaaS contract. Given that many vendors don’t have extensive offerings with CaaS, buyout and opt-out terms are important to negotiate. It is recommended that contracts match manufacturer warranties, which are commonly five years.

If you belong to a local or state government, be sure to check which of your preferred charging vendors are on a statewide term contract. Utilizing the state contract allows you to expedite the process of going out to bid for products and services because the NC Department of Administration has already done this at the state level.

Another option would be to take advantage of Sourcewell, a cooperative purchasing agreement that streamlines the procurement process, eliminating the need to issue a request for proposals (RFP).

Who manages the stations and network?

Some concerns we’ve heard about CaaS revolve around station and network management and customer needs being met when giving up control of ownership and operation. Many CaaS contracts allow the customer to have full access to software applications to manage the charging network, specifically around scheduled charging, maximum station and site kilowatt limits, and variable pricing structures for public charging stations. However, certain CaaS providers may establish a contract to serve their own desires, such as maximizing utilization or reducing charging costs — priorities that may conflict with the customer’s operational needs and desired outcomes.

CaaS Providers

There is a distinction in CaaS providers, with vendors typically falling into two groups. The first group is focused on supporting light-duty applications, whether that is for fleet, public or workplace charging. These vendors enter into agreements deploying both Level 2 and DC fast charging stations, depending on the customer’s needs. The second group primarily deploys high-powered DC fast charge stations and emphasizes transit electrification and medium- and heavy-duty depot-based charging.

If you’re interested in pursuing CaaS or owning EVSE and aren’t sure what your options are, we can help!