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Amazon Logistics Manager Says EVs Are ‘Past The Tipping Point’ And Industrial CRE Needs To Take Notice

Delaware Valley Paving's Eric Faggioli, NAI Michael's Marcus Daniels, Solar Landscape's Kristen Brandt-Unton and Amazon's Mark Purcell speak at the Philadelphia Industrial & Logistics Summit on April 23, 2024, in Conshohocken.

Amazon has been building out infrastructure for electric vehicle fleets over the last two years, and it has reached a turning point that industrial real estate developers and owners should take note of, one of the firm’s senior managers said Tuesday.

“The [electric] vans are coming … I believe we're past the tipping point,” Mark Purcell, a senior construction manager with Amazon Logistics, said during Bisnow’s Philadelphia Industrial & Logistics Summit held at a Velocity Partners-owned industrial site at 70 Portland Road.

Amazon leads EV infrastructure as the largest private owner of such vehicle chargers in the nation, according to Bloomberg. The firm put “piping in the ground” before it knew what those sites would look like beginning two years ago, Purcell said. It has added more than 17,000 chargers at about 120 stations, Bloomberg reported.

Roughly 3 million electric vehicles hit the road last year, but more important to industrial owners is the rapid rise of electric fleets. Amazon alone has more than 13,500 electric vans. Electric trucks have lagged and there are still fewer than 13,000 on the roads total, but their use quadrupled in 2023, according to the Environmental Defense Fund

“I've been talking about the vans,” Purcell said. “But, trucks, eventually, that technology is going to catch up with them. So there are EV trucks out there. What happens when that comes in? Are we going to add chargers now to the dock areas?”

Purcell said developers need to be designing and preparing their sites for these vehicles. That can include building in extra space for charging stations and battery storage and wiring in increased power capacity, CBRE said in a December report.

“For the engineers and architects out there, it's about fleet management. We’re not talking about employees using the vehicles. That’s probably coming,” Purcell said. “I have fleet management code requirements on how we make that work with [any authorities having jurisdiction].” 

Companies that don’t have the same horsepower or capital as Amazon can start with charging stations that can be modified to the particular site a company owns, Purcell said.

Planning for EV is not a matter of walking into the Philadelphia Energy Co. and “just asking for 10 megawatts” of power access within the next month for a site, Purcell said. 

It takes time to build up the infrastructure, adding one or more power sources and the necessary gear, but firms can start small or partner up, he said. Prologis, for example, offers electrification options for its clients’ fleets.

Though there's a spark to the EV movement, the U.S. lags behind other industrial nations' infrastructure for and sales of such automobiles, according to a report by firm JATO Dynamics. 

In recent years, for example, there have been fewer than 10 vehicles per charger in China, South Korea and the Netherlands. However, there are an average of 24 vehicles per charger in the U.S. over the same time period.

Despite the U.S.’s relatively slow adoption, Amazon is betting big on EVs taking hold.

“So, we have to try and see into the future. It comes back to what kind of company are you?” Purcell said. “Are you going to invest and innovate, even maybe when you don't see things as clearly?”