Workplace Charging Means More EVs



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Sunday Jun 9, 2019 Workplace Charging Means More EVs It has been suggested that the availability of workplace charging is a big driver for the adoption of electric vehicles.  This has been proven out over the years and it has also been shown that the availability of workplace charging is also effective in staff retention. 


In 2016 Southern California Edison began a pilot program called Charge Ready which provided incentives to install EV charging infrastructure.  This pilot program has installed over 1,000 chargers in workplaces, multi-unit dwellings, fleet locations, and other destinations where people tend to stay for an extended period of time.  The program has been geared toward disadvantaged communities and even in these location they have seen a rise in the number of electric vehicles being used by employees as a direct result of having charging available at work.


Although it is mostly something for the history books these days, range anxiety is still something that worries prospective first time EV buyers.  It's not until they start to use an EV, or have friends who use an EV, that they realize that an electric vehicle can work for them.  Having a place to charge at work is a big help, particularly for those who live in multi-unit apartments or condos and may not have access to overnight charging.  Having a charger at work that they can rely on means that range anxiety is totally banished.   


For the employer making EV charging available at work not only extends their green image, it also helps to retain staff.  If you are relying on workplace charging then you are less likely to want to move especially if the prospective new employer does not have charging at their site.


The question then becomes how much do you charge to charge.  During the early adopter phase it was common for charging to be free.  This was a great incentive to get people into an electric car.  There are a couple of issues that have surfaced with free EV charging.  The first is that it tends to shift charging from overnight to in the middle of the day, especially in the morning hours.  The second is that free charging tends to mean that the chargers get overused and people who may need to charge cannot find available charging stations because other drivers are opportunity charging (charging when they don't need to because it is free).


I really think that the first problem is a transitory.  The grid is moving from fossil fuels, which basically waste electricity produced overnight if there is not enough demand, to renewable energy which may be more available in midday than at night especially if there is a high level of solar involved.  Feeding the EV charger from solar panels more or less eliminates this issue.


Plug-in America recommends that a business charges a little over local home rates.  For example if the local rate is 15 cents per KWh then charge 20 cents per KWh which allows those that need it to get fuel at a lower cost than gas but still makes it cheaper for people to charge overnight at home.


The bigger problem is the overutilization of chargers.  I've see this first hand on a regular basis.  You just have to visit any site that uses Volta chargers.  You cannot really on these chargers being available.  In some locations, over multiple visits, I have yet to find an available charger.  At other locations I do occasionally find a charger free but it is sheer luck.


I've written many times about the chargers in Beverly Hills.  When they first rolled out the chargers they were free and almost always available.  As the number of Plug-in cars on the road increased it became harder and harder to find available chargers.  That being said, part of the problem was that the excellent rules set up by the City were not being enforced.  I would find situations where stations were blocked because EVs used them as convenient parking spaces, or vehicles would hog the chargers for hours even though they were fully charged.  In the end the City did two things, first it banned PHEVs from charging and second it imposed a fee of 25 cents per KWh and a station charge of $6 an hour after 2 hours.  Utilization dropped to almost nothing.


Eventually then found that the ban on PHEVs was illegal in some situations and allowed them to charge again.  They left the fee structure in place and as this was quite reasonable they now have pretty good utilization but it is not that hard to find an available charging station.  They still have the issue of not enforcing the rules so chargers do get blocked, mostly by EVs parking but not charging, but also with the occasional ICE vehicle.


Once chargers become over-subscribed, workers have to go out and move their cars so that other people can get enough charge for the drive home.  This can cause enough loss of productivity that it will be by far the highest cost for workplace charging.  Plug-in America suggests a solution, 110V (Level 1) charging.  In a typical 9 hour day an EV can get between 35 and 47 miles of range using Level 1 charging which is enough for most people.  110V outlets are relatively cheap to install and typically don't take any management.  A simple flat fee amount per pay check could be made for the use of these outlets.


It is clear to me that we need to move toward electric vehicles for transportation and renewable energy to fuel the grid if we are to stave off the worst effects of climate change.  Workplace charging has been shown to help fuel the growth of electric car adoption and should be aggressively rolled out especially where new offices and factories are being constructed.  Combining this with solar helps even more, especially in places like Southern  California where we have an abundance of sunlight.


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