$6 Million in Charging Money, and Not One Penny for Level 1?
The good news is that the California Energy Commission, as part of an encouraging new flood of incentives for EVs, is making $6 million available to subsidize charging stations in the state. Applicants, with a deadline of January 28, can score as much as $500,000 each for destination, corridor or workplace charging (providing the parking offers public access). But grants of up to $200,000 are also available for locations such as company parking lots.
The bad news is that the program as currently constituted fails to provide any support for Level 1 charging—specifically the kind of low-cost solution that might work in workplaces where employee cars are sitting all day. The solicitation covers only Level 2 and DC fast charging.
A Rodney Dangerfield Solution?
Basically, 110-volt Level 1—which could be as simple as a glorified wall plug on a stalk—gets no respect from government officials. In a blog post, Marc Geller of Plug In America points out that Level 1 is “the simplest, least expensive and least disruptive way for employers who provide parking to answer growing requests for charging from their employees. The employer has no 'system' to manage, and employees don’t have the distraction of having to move their fully-charged cars to open up the spot for someone else…The one workplace charging solution that is cheap and easy and proven to work is disallowed in a solicitation intended to encourage more people to switch to plug-in cars.”
Geller says that some California municipal employees are even specifically “forbidden” from using existing 110 outlets. This seems a bit crazy, because Level 1 chargers can be put in at a fraction of the cost of Level 2. And if cars are parked for eight hours at a time, 110 volts really should be enough to top off their electrical tanks. According to the Department of Energy, typically Level 1 adds from two to five miles per hour of charging time, so a workday could add 40 miles of cruising—good enough for most commutes.
Barry Woods, a California-based Plug In America member, adds that with Level 1 "the electricity cost per hour is low and the length of charge-time, given the car is parked for a work day, is ample to recover range expended in the commute.
It’s worth pointing out that faster Level 2 doesn’t add that much if you’re charging, say, during a short shopping trip. I hooked up a Smart Electric Drive at the local Whole Foods recently, and after 20 minutes in the store had added one mile of range. Was it worth finding an employee with the key to unlock the station?
Level 1 Widespread in California
It's possible that the California Energy Commission will eventually amend the specifications to allow Level 1 subsidies. In a statement, CEC told me, "As a result of public comments received at last Friday’s workshop, the Energy Commission is reviewing Program Opportunity Notice 13-606 and will be posting the public’s questions and answers, making minor technical corrections, and incorporating an addendum. These changes are in review and will be posted online next week."
It’s interesting, though, that a study by the California Plug-In Electric Vehicle Collaborative entitled “Amping up California Workplaces” finds widespread use of Level 1 in the state. There are 390 public Level 1 stations, 26 percent of the total. Combination Level 1 and 2 accounts for nine percent, and Level 2 only (946 installations) is 64 percent. Only eight Level 2 DC fast chargers are in place, for just one percent of the total. The survey was conducted last spring.
In the poll, only eight percent of respondents said that Level 1 alone was sufficient to meet charging needs, but 31 percent supported a combination of levels (such as stations that offer both Level 1 and 2, or 2 and 3).
It’s kind of a no-brainer that Level 1 should be part of any charging infrastructure. All EVs come with handy Level 1 chargers—all they need is handy places to plug in, especially at work. Why not allow Californians with smart plans for incorporating Level 1 charging into their workplaces to bid on that $6 million?
Blink Back on Duty
In other important charging news, the CarCharging Group said Tuesday it has restored service to the vast majority of out-of-order Blink stations it acquired a month ago. "Approximately a third of Blink's public EV charging stations with known service needs when CarCharging acquired the Blink Network have been serviced and are now available for use," the company said. That translates into 95 percent of the network being online, and 99 percent predicted by the end of the year.
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