The Department of Energy (DOE) has been on a tear over workplace electric vehicle charging, and it seems that corporate America is falling all over itself to keep up. Barely six weeks ago, the agency launched the Workplace Charging Challenge with the goal of nudging the private sector into a tenfold increase in the number of companies offering workplace EV charging within the next five years. Thirteen major U.S. employers signed on to kick it off, and already another 16 have joined themselves to the cause.
The Charging Challenge is part of the Obama Administration’s public-private EV Everywhere initiative, which has the goal of making EVs just as affordable and convenient to refuel as gasoline vehicles.
With EVs, affordability and convenience both pivot on battery range. EV batteries are far more expensive than, say, fuel tanks, and that cost is directly tethered to the amount of power you can pack into them. Currently, EV manufacturers have focused on making EVs affordable by engineering batteries that have enough range for a typical daily commute and errands.
That’s where workplace EV charging comes in. Aside from being a nice perk for EV owners with short commutes, workplace charging enables longer commutes, and more after-work errands, without having to stop off at public charging stations along the way.
Workplace charging can also make EV ownership more realistic in areas of the country that don’t yet have a solid, convenient public EV charging network in place.
In the context of EV Everywhere, the availability of workplace charging is a nice, fat juicy piece of low-hanging fruit, which could make a significant difference when a new car buyer is deciding whether to stick with a gas-powered vehicle or not.
An extra bonus is the convenience of fueling up while your car is parked at home or work rather than having to make a detour to a gas station, and the estimated cost equivalent of $1.00 per gallon for charging an EV battery is pretty sweet, too.
Corporate America Hearts Electric Vehicles
The Workplace Charging Challenge isn’t particularly onerous. It simply commits the participants to develop at least one workplace charging station and share information about the project on an open source basis. Its primary goal is to establish leadership cost-efficiency models so that other companies don’t have to reinvent the wheel with every installation. That’s particularly important for smaller companies as well as institutions on a tight budget.
The newcomers are AVL, Bentley Systems, Biogen Idec, Bloomberg LP, The Coca-Cola Company, the City of Sacramento, Dell, Facebook, The Hartford, The Hertz Corporation, National Grid, New York Power Authority, NRG Energy, OSRAM SYLVANIA, Raytheon Company and Southern California Edison (note: just guessing here that AVL is the Austrian engineering company).
That’s on top of, by the way, technical and organizational support from DOE along with a network supportive from trade associations and research institutions including California Center for Sustainable Energy, Green Parking Council, California PEV Collaborative, CALSTART, Electric Drive Transportation Association, Electrification Coalition, International Parking Institute, NextEnergy, Plug In America, and Rocky Mountain Institute.
Considering that the Charging Challenge has already more than doubled the number of participants, it seems likely to bust through its five-year deadline in short order.
As for affordable long range EVs getting into the mass market, we might not have too long to wait for those, either. The Obama Administration just launched a major public-private research initiative called JCESR that aims to accelerate the development of advanced EV batteries that pack more punch at a lower cost.
In the meantime, long-range EVs are starting to seep into the early adopter market, with Tesla Motors providing perhaps the best-known examples.
The company’s relatively affordable 265-mile range Model S recently made headlines when a New York Times reporter famously muddled a long distance test drive, but several fans of the car quickly proved that episode to be an outlier by replicating the same trip along Tesla’s new East Coast charging network without a glitch.
Right around the same time, three Tesla enthusiasts also took a problem-free Model S road trip from Portland, Oregon to New York City. Marry that with a truly affordable mass-market EV, and you’re golden.
Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. You can also follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.