Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Workplace Charging 101: Level 1

The big EV news of the month was the first Tesla S deliveries. For luxury car buyers, the ground has shifted. Buying the best car now means buying the electric car. And given the range, workplace charging won’t be a big concern of Tesla S owners. But what about the rest of us?
As we try to rev up plug-in vehicle sales, what sort of charging infrastructure should we be focusing on?  Where should continuing government support for infrastructure be directed? 
Level 2 charge stations at Walgreen’s will not get asses in EVs.
I don’t mean to pick on Walgreen’s; I’ll charge there if I need to.  But the efforts to ensure charging is available to enable the takeoff of plug-in cars has become bogged down. Too much attention and too many public dollars are getting tied up in the race for public level 2.  
As we consider where limited resources ought to go, we should recall that the workplace is the number 2 location for charging after the home (where about 80 - 90% of charging will occur.) Why? Because the cars sit for many hours. 
Unlike random public locations - shopping malls, downtown parking garages, Walgreen’s - the workplace is where, like the home, many cars return to most every day.   Given the distance most commuters travel, charging at level 1 at work enables most drivers to get back all the juice expended getting to work.  Level 1 charging has the added benefit of minimal grid impact, minimal cost for equipment and minimal running cost. A full workday of 120V charging likely costs less than many other perks offered by employers. Or EV drivers could be charged a buck or two to cover the cost, although I suspect many businesses might find the cost of collection not worth the effort. 
Private companies and large public institutions are beginning to consider the issues surrounding employee and visitor parking.  Charging equipment and service providers are making their pitch, which focusses on selling what they’ve got - Level 2 charge stations and networked services. There’s is undoubtedly a role for Level 2 to play at the workplace, but it makes sense to gauge the need for faster charging before investing in costly systems. 
How could we use the logic of workplace charging to buck up plug-in car sales?  Most workplaces can’t follow the Google model, where every driver gets a Level 2 charger despite the cost and inefficiency of an EV sitting all day at a charge station long after the charge is complete. 
The workplace needs to become the place that is “ready when you are.”  A national effort to make the American workplace EV ready with access to 120V charging would be a good next step.