Hotels! Why aren’t more of you targeting a built-in clientele: EV drivers? Whenever we EV enthusiasts need to charge away from home on a road trip, we look for reliability, comfort, and convenience. Whenever possible, we choose restaurants, shopping plazas, and — yes — accommodations like a hotel where there is EV charging available on site.
Hotels haven’t made that decision easy for EV drivers. Only 26.6% of all hotels had installed electric vehicle charging stations on their property, according to a 2022 survey of 17,000 hotels in the American Hotel and Lodging Association. Even hotels that were EV-compatible seemed to have just a spot for a single car or charging capacity available only for certain models.
Little had improved for EV road trippers by summer, 2023. Sure, some well-planned excursions were workable, but nearly every stop on a trip had to be oriented around finding a workable EV charging station.
Then in early September Hilton announced that, beginning in early 2024, up to 20,000 Tesla Universal Wall Connectors were slated to be installed at 2,000 of their hotels in the US, Canada, and Mexico. It would foist Hilton’s planned EV charging network into the top spot by capacity of any hospitality company. That was hopeful, for sure. EV road trippers would find an easier time locating EV chargers next summer.
But were other major hotel chains jumping on the EV charging bandwagon? It couldn’t happen soon enough for me.
My plea was answered quickly. Soon after the Hilton press release, the Marriott hotel chain revealed that they had selected EV Connect as their preferred EV charging provider. The press release explained, “Marriott International is shaping the modern hospitality industry with its portfolio of nearly 8,600 properties, operating under 31 brands spanning 139 countries and territories. As Marriott is focused on enhancing the guest experience and making it easier for travelers to choose sustainable transportation options, charging stations at Marriott properties will be visible on the EV Connect app, allowing guests to locate and pay for EV charging.”
I was intrigued. When I was in grad school, I traveled a few times a year to deliver my white papers at conferences. I always chose a Marriott for my solo hotel stays, as I found them to be affordable, comfortable, well-staffed, and safe. I am one of those people who adhere to brand loyalty, I guess.
“Our guests increasingly expect EV charging stations at our properties, and this collaboration will help us meet rapidly evolving consumer demand and further the company’s sustainability goals,” said Andrew Bodziak, Senior Vice President of Global Operations at Marriott International. “With EV Connect, we can offer properties an end-to-end turnkey service, simplifying the planning, installation, and maintenance processes while simultaneously delivering high-quality service our guests expect.”
EV Connect, huh? I opened my iPhone and swiped to my page filled with EV charging apps. I rarely need these apps when I’m in Florida and road-tripping with my white Model Y (so decadent). The Tesla Supercharger network is quite convenient and stress-free. When I’m at my summer cabin in the Connecticut woods, however, it’s an entirely different story. We plug in our 2017 Chevy Bolt at a Level 1 charger outside a shed and pretty much keep a running trickle all the time. When we travel away from home, we are quite dependent on the kindness of friends or the elusive availability of EV chargers — preferably Level 3 — along highways and byways.
My available apps for on-the-road charging are AmpUp, EVgo, ChargePoint, and Electrify America — with a frequent reliance on PlugShare to locate chargers that are working and open. I must say that I wasn’t familiar with EV Connect prior to my due diligence for this article. Press information stated that the company was established in 2010 and serves customers across 41 states in the US. Then I read that EV Connect is a subsidiary of Schneider Electric — a company that I do know from their work on unified interoperability protocols, devices, homes, and buildings as well as their board member status at the Connectivity Standards Alliance.
The company says that its EV Connect charging platform simplifies charging station set-up, management, and optimization, backed by premium customer service, from installation to driver support. It explains that Marriott properties will have the ability to choose the charging hardware deployed on the open platform, allowing them to scale EV charging needs for the unique needs of individual locations. “With EV Connect Shield,” they continue, “a comprehensive parts and labor warranty plan, Marriott property owners will have peace of mind knowing that critical operational and maintenance tasks are performed by qualified personnel, including charging station repair, software support, and fieldwork labor, from resolving minor technical issues to parts sourcing and replacement service.”
The EV Charging Solutions for Marriott International describes their new relationship with EV Connect. The terms were glowing and mutually congratulatory. “As an approved vendor for dozens of utilities across the US, EV Connect can partner with you to create sustainable travel preferences at your property,” they narrate, talking in corporate speak to Marriott franchise owners, from the sound of it. “EV Connect also provides a best-in-class app that leverages location-based services to allow guests to easily find, access, and securely pay for EV charging at properties. With over 12 years of experience, we’ll make the experience hassle-free with our premium 24/7 dedicated customer support team.”
So EV Connect is a service, an intermediary among the chargers, EV driving guests, and individual Marriott owners.
I downloaded the EV Connect app to add it to my repertoire. My iPhone wanted me to log in, which I did, and I set up an account. The 2 chargers in my area that were highlighted were both at car dealers, which meant that there would be limited hours and a likely animosity toward EV drivers who stop to charge. I tapped one of dealerships to learn more about the app’s features, and it required me to “connect in seconds by scanning the sticker on my charging station with your phone’s camera.” A bit like AmpUp then. The available chargers in a wider geographic view were kinda sparse in my southeastern Florida area. Perhaps that will change as the Marriott and Hilton hotels come on line….
In the meantime, we who drive EVs will continue to live by one of the most important strategies for a successful multi-day, multi-state EV adventure: charge vehicle overnight wherever we’re staying by plugging into a Level 2, 240-volt outlet or charging station. We continue to be an independent, resilient lot of folks, don’t we?
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