Charging Stations As Job Perk Key to EV Adoption

Those who want to see electric cars succeed say they are not likely to increase in popularity until more charging stations are installed. So reports the Los Angeles Times.

Currently, electric car owners charge their vehicles at home, at charging stations that can cost $500 to $2,000. But the market for these cars is not likely to become more viable until the driving range is extended, as consumers are not going to drive them very far for fear of becoming stranded before they reach their destinations.

But it’s not as easy as it sounds. The stations can’t be installed at every intersection, like a gas station, as it can take hours to charge a vehicle, a situation that would create a parking problem and leave drivers waiting.

The solution, some say, is to encourage employers to install charging stations at their place of business. That way, workers would feel more comfortable driving to work, and they could have another place to charge their cars before running errands.

“That would really help increase the viability of the EV market,” said John Boesel, CEO of Calstart, a clean transportation consulting firm.

Workplace chargers are used three times as often as typical public chargers, according to statistics provided by charging station supplier Ecotality. In a recent survey, Ecotality found the usage of workplace chargers was up 61% in the first half of 2013.

The increase mirrored the growth in electric car ownership. There were 8,600 plug-in hybrids and battery electric cars sold in the U.S. in June, compared to 3,300 in the same period last year, The Electric Drive Transportation Association. July estimates put plug-in sales at more than 5,800 vehicles, compared to 3,010 in July of last year.

And yet there are only a limited number of charging stations. As of July 20, that figure was 7,849 public and private non-residential charging stations in the U.S. Some 1,580 of them are in California, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Some electric car manufacturers have tried to grow the charging infrastructure. Nissan says it will triple the number of half-hour-chargers in the U.S. to 600 by the middle of 2014. (One hundred of them will be in Nissan dealerships. Tesla Motors currently has 16 30-minute Supercharger stations for its own customers. It plans to open another 27 by the summer’s end.

Brendan Jones, Nissan’s director of electric vehicle infrastructure strategy, said electric car companies have a certain obligation to grow the charging network, but he adds that the charging companies, themselves, are the ones who have put a lot of money into building out the country’s charging infrastructure.

But the real boost will be when large employers begin installing them. And the employer can then decide whether to make the electricity free to employees, or charge them a per hour or kilowatt-hour. The main incentive for employers is the goodwill they will build with workers, who can also gain carpool lane access in California. So reports the LA Times.

The state and federal government is getting on board. Earlier this year, the Department of Energy launched a campaign to help large employers install chargers, providing planning and technical support but no money. And last year, the California Energy Commission gave out more than $420,000 in grants to finance charging stations at UC San Diego and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, as well as other projects, according to the LA Times.

Connecticut has also jumped on board. The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection is making funds available for towns and businesses to install charging stations across the state. So reports the New Canaan News.

The new “EVConnecticut Incentives” program offers up to $2,000 in rebates for the installation of Level 2 chargers that meet program guidelines. Level 2 stations provide 240 volts, enough to enable electric car owners to top-off their charge while working.

The convenience of a charging station is actually a marketing tool for businesses as electric car owners reportedly spend more time at their destination if they have the ability to charge their vehicle, the New Canaan News reports.

To read the full LA Times article cited in this story, click here

To read the full New Canaan News article cited in this story, click here


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