D.O.E. Pushes Electric Car Workplace Charging

By · February 05, 2013

EVs charging at Google

An electric vehicle charging at Google campus.

Former U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu resigned on Friday, but one day earlier he made one last push for greater access to electric car charging at work. He announced that 13 major U.S. companies joined the new Workplace Charging Challenge—with the goal of increasing the number of U.S. employers offering workplace charging by tenfold in the next five years.

Anytime a car sits in parking lot or garage for a long time is an ideal time for charging. For many workers, that eight hours of otherwise idle time, could be mean a full top-up, useful even at 110-volts. Home and public charging gets the lion’s share of attention regarding EV charging infrastructure—but workplace charging represents one of the best untapped opportunities to essentially double the daily range of a pure EV (depending on the car or charging level), or to extend the electric miles of a plug-in hybrid.

The first 13 employers to sign the Workplace Charging Pledge as Partners, include 3M, Chrysler Group, Duke Energy, Eli Lilly and Company, Ford, GE, GM, Google, Nissan, San Diego Gas & Electric, Siemens, Tesla, and Verizon. The pledge simply means the company will develop and implement a plan to install workplace charging infrastructure for at least one major worksite location.

In a speech last week at the Washington Auto Show, former Secretary Chu outlined the new initiative. “The market for electric vehicles is expanding dramatically, giving drivers more options to save money on gasoline while reducing carbon pollution,” said Chu. “These 13 companies are taking strong steps to make charging infrastructure more broadly available to their workforce—setting an example for others to follow and helping America lead the global race for a growing industry.”

For more information about the challenge, visit http://www1.eere.energy.gov/vehiclesandfuels/electric_vehicles/workplace_charging.html.

Comments

· · 1 year ago

I always kind of lumped "workplace charging" in with "public charging," I guess under the assumption that the chargers would be accessible to anyone and not just employees. I guess that doesn't really work with places that have employee-only parking lots!

· · 1 year ago

Well, my workplace needs some "pushing".

We have over 2,000 employee and only 3 spots to charge but have over 12 plugin cars...

· · 1 year ago

Workplace charging could make a world of difference. Much more than public charging stations.

And it doesn't even have to be complicated. Some 120V outlets would be a god-send for many. 240V EVSEs are nice but certainly not necessary.

· · 1 year ago

"Doubling range" etc etc... Yes, it would be awesome, but unfortunately (semi)-public L2 charging ends up being mostly useless to EV drivers unless implemented just right.

Another case in point, my own company: 4 EVSEs in the parking lot, free for any of 1000+ employees. Result: unless you show up super-early, you're not getting a charge, ever: that plug-in Prius may be full by 9am, but will likely stay there all day. Another spot seems permanently allocated for someone who figured he could save a few bucks by charging his Leaf exclusively at work (never mind the waste of doing so during peak hours).

Unless EVSEs are either ubiquitous, can be scheduled/reserved and/or their use is made expensive enough, their availability won't be predictable let alone guaranteed. And sadly a range boost "maybe" is almost as good as none re trip planning in an EV.

On-site/nearby L3 aka quick-charging would offer a fall-back option, but such stations are still too rare in many areas.

A few companies in the SF bay area got this right though:
Intuit, Facebook, Spirent communications all installed both L2 and L3, and those are not restricted to employees only. Thank you.

· · 1 year ago

With a modified stock EVSE, all that would be needed is a long row of 240V outlets to plug into. You could have dozens of outlets and add more as you needed them for little cost. You would put the responsibility of providing charging "stations" on the owner of the car. My stock Nissan Leaf EVSE was modified for $300 to accept 120V or 240V power at EVSEupgrade.com. Works perfectly.

· · 1 year ago

@Mr. O.

I have the same feeling. We have about 1,200+ employee and we only have 5 charging post. My work place said that they are going to install ONLY enough charging post for about 0.5% of or 1 for every 200 employee. That is b/c 0.5% is about the current plugin sales rate. We told our employer that this is below forecast since our workplace is located in a "greener" country with much higher median income level and people care about plugin cars. So, we have been asking our employer to increase the charging spot to at least 1% to 2%.

With that said, we do have the same problem with Prius Plugins where they are holding up the charging spots for over 8 hours when they only need 4 hours.

· · 1 year ago

@ Mr. O, I too have felt the frustration of coming upto a VOLT or PiP that is fully charged at a public charger. I could tell it was full, lights were off, and the ChargePoint EVSE said Complete. I left a kind note on the vehicle, with my telephone number and knew when I unplugged the car so that I could charge (spot directly adjacent to it) the alarm would go off (as the VOLTS have that if its activated) sure and behold it wen off, lasted 2-3mins then the alarm reset itself. Never got a call from the person, and I even waited a few minutes before getting dinner to see if it sent a txt/email to the person saying the car was unplugged....Nope Nothing. I proceeded to charge my LEAF.
Was I disrespectful? No. Was I in the wrong? I don't Think So, I left all material and info if that person wanted to contact me. Truthbetold, Maybe I embarrased the person by them thinking they were hogging the spot??

If my car was fully charged or atleast over Half, I wouldnt mind someone unplugging my car, as long as they hooked it back up when they left (if it needed it) Or left me a note.

I Think this is a new revolution for car owners, respect, curtousey and willing to share and adapt with other EV, PHEV owners.
---- Enough of this rant -----

Back on the topic of charging at the workpace, I work in a government/Navy compound and we have plenty of 110/120V plugs around the gargae, when I asked them for permission to charge.. "Its Illegal, you would be stealing government resources", When I asked for a future dedicated Spot for the 5 EV's here to SHARE one plug... "Thats Not fair for everyone else to have a reserved Spot"

I just laughed and walked away....Typical Government Employee, not wanting to take ownership and make effort for a small change.

· · 1 year ago

@Justin H,

I have to assume from your description that this Volt was plugged into a free EVSE. The ChargePoints around here are pay-per-hour. The good news is, it will reset when you unplug the Volt (so he wouldn't be stuck with your bill). The bad news is, if someone unplugged you and then plugged you back in, you would have to physically walk up to the EVSE and swipe your credit card again.

I am fortunate enough to have access to L1 charging at work. They have teased putting in L2, but haven't pulled the trigger yet. To be fair, there are only two plug-ins in the company, so not a huge demand. But I know that installing EVSEs would make others seriously consider one for their next car.

· · 1 year ago

@Brian, Yes it was a FREE EVSE, the J1772 plug did not lock on the VOLT like it does on the LEAF. So yes, there is the instance that there is an issue with somone tapping into somone elses chargepoint account.... Maybe the free ones dont *lock*. But I moved the plug back to the EVSE, then re-swipped my chargepoint card so It would be tagged on my account for usage and to re-activate the juice.

The only paid EVSE is at one walgreens and it locks to the car and needs the swipe of the card to turn off/release. Love the free charging infrastructure!

· · 1 year ago

@Justin H,

Well, I understand your need to "share" the charging facility. But I disagree with your action of unplugging other cars. First of all, even if it is fully charged, the Volt still draws a small current depending on the temperature to keep the battery cooled/warmed for the next drive, unlike your Leaf which doesn't have the battery thermal management. Second of all, I would ONLY do it if the owner gives the permission. But in this case, it didn't. Third of all, the owner can remotely start the car and preheat/precool the cabin using grid power. Fourth of all, just b/c Volt has a gas tank, it doesn't mean it is filled. It is their choice to drive electrically and your choice to have a tow truck as a backup. Tempering with other people's charging process is against California law.

· · 1 year ago

You know, actually, the biggest advantage Workplaces could give, is to just install plain old 'table lamp' Nema 5-15 110 volt outlets. Green buildings are forced to provide a few parking spaces with them to get the Green LEES certification. This would be trivially cheap from the employer's point of view, and, even though 110 volt charging is slow, it would at least give the EV's 9 hours (8 hours plus 1 hour unpaid lunch) of charge....Heck, I could run my EV for quite a while on a daily charge like that.... With the tesla all i'd need is the 110 cord... With my Volt i'd need the 110 EVSE, but I'm saving the employer the expense of providing one.

The low draw of 110 volt vehicles (and, since there was previous comment on this, if you're lucky its as much as 110 - I finally did the unthinkable and let my Tesla Roadster Die... I had to walk home and pick up my 110 cord. The place I finally plugged into to get 1 kilowatt-hour of charge had me at 108 volts on my Tesla voltmeter, and thats with an exceptionally high 122 volts no load (the pwr co's substation is across the street, hehe) keeps the business' demand fine lower, providing another incentive for them to do this.

(The first I know with Lees certification put in electric vehicle outlets, but ran 250 feet of 'Saturday Helper' 12/2 UF to the outlets, so my Tesla always accuses me of using an extension cord, but at least there is 100-101 volts at my car to do charging.).

· · 1 year ago

@ Bill.

I agree with you. But with the upcoming spread of EV and longer commute. I would think it is also no big deal to offer a 240V charging station. On a hot/cold day, the Volt wouldn't even fill up with 40 miles range if plugged into a 110V outlet for 10 hours. So, it certainly wouldn't work if you have 40 mile commute each way. That is actually pretty typical for SF Bay Area.

· · 1 year ago

@ModernMarveFan

Assuming the typical 9 hour /day employee, it would almost work, and it would totally work if they'd put a slightly bigger battery in the volt.

· · 1 year ago

@Bill.

I agree. A 60 miles range would help a lot. But I would think it is easier to offer a 240V charger by the employers. Of course, I will take both. :)

· · 1 year ago

Can anyone estimate the cost difference to run 110v vs 220v wiring with sufficient capacity to handle multiple cars drawing a charge? Is it double? 1.5x?
I am thinking about those larger corporations that have sprawling campuses and 1,000+ parking spaces. I see this as a perfect scenario where a little planning goes a long way. Put in electrical service capacity that can be tapped by future expanded charging equipment. Running the electrical once has got to be cheaper than running multiple times...and if the premium for running 220 is modest enough, I figure would be an easy up-sell. Dropping to 110 at the endpoint would allow more cars to trickle charge.

FYI I'm not an electrician or electrical engineer so go easy on me...

· · 1 year ago

@Sevie,

I think the wiring cost is minimal but the cost of digging and laying pipes are far more expensive.

With that said, the extra thick copper wires are more expensive. Depending on the distance, I think that cost is still lower than the cost of digging and laying new wirings...

· · 1 year ago

@Sevi

The wiring cost from the main panel to the end car is trivial in all cases for one charge point.

As you add charging docks, the size of the individual docking station or outlet could greatly increase the construction cost if a new Panel board/ Feeder / or as some Nissan Dealerships have experienced, an entirely new enlarged electric serivce to run 4 - 30 amp EVSE's.

Installation instructions on most EVSE's that I have seen require a dedicated circuit to provide 'reasonable' short-circuit protection, in other words, while putting 2 - 30 amp evse's on the same 80 amp breaker would work, the EVSE would require a locally mounted satety switch or breaker with 40 amp fusing anyway, so in almost all cases its cheapest and less complication to run dedicated circuits.

However, an outdoor panelboard feeding dozens of EVSE's could be used and then have the branch circuits individually fused or breakerd. However if you just wanted to run a huge feeder and tap off individual fused safety switches at the EVSE, you could also do that provided you didn't cause large load imballances.

So to answer your question more fully, 1 -120 volt - 8 amp charger outlet is not much cheaper than the wiring for one 240 volt 70 amp evse wiring (although the evse is $2195).

But 20 - 120 volt 8 amp outlets would be cheaper than the huge $$ required for 20 - 70 amp EVSE's. The main problem here is the CODE doesn't allow any demand factors since it is conceivable that at 9 am at the start of work EVERYONE's batteries are dead and they all need the full 70 amps.

Incidentally, the cheapest way to implement twenty 70 amp evse's would be a 1200 amp 120Y/208 3 phase panelboard near the parking lot, or a 600 amp 230Y/400 feed derived from 3 buck transformers off of a 277Y/480 volt feed in the US. For Canadian locales the feed would be from a 347Y/600 feed, and slightly larger buck transformers would be required.

Now contrast that with charging 20 volts at the standard 'reduced' 8 amp rate. You'd only need 10 - 20 amp circuits, and the panelboard feed to the 10 circuits would only need to be 100 amps single phase 120/240 (a minimal house style service), or 80 amps 120Y/208 3 phase.

IN the first case of a new 1200 amp additional 3 phase 120Y/208 load, a new larger electric service would almost always be requiredto handle the added 384 kw load.

In the second case the existing service might be enough to handle the added 20 kw , saving the renovation expense... Hope this helps..

· · 1 year ago

@Sevie: Sorry, the 20 - 70 amp evses draw around 291 kw not 384.

I was thinking about 80 amp , 240 volt operation in stead of 70/208

Do you have a particular scenario you'd like to compare? Are u talking a huge number of EV's like 200 or something? That would be a major project.

· · 1 year ago

I guess I am thinking of a few key pieces to a workplace project:

1) The company must support/promote EV use so that charging at work is a perk available to everyone who has a plug and there is emphasis on proper charging etiquette. This is the HARDEST piece, in my opinion. Without it the rest is just a thought experiment.
2) The project is scalable so there isn't an investment in 200 EVSE chargers for 10 EV's. Likewise, they don't install 5 charging parking spots "today" and have no plan to expand once the number of EV's grows beyond 15!
3) They have a plan for how much electricity they wish to provide their employees...If they feel that 25-30mi range more than fits their employees typical commute, providing everyone with a 120 hook up would more than fit this need. In my mind: 120v X 10A = 1200W. At 90% charge efficiency the car would still get better than 1kW each hour. 9 hours, 3 miles per kWh puts you at 27miles. Am I just falling for the Volt marketing that the typical driver goes less than 40mi round trip each day? If true it puts the company in a generous light by providing over 1/2 their daily commute. They aren't giving out "free" gas...

I guess I am biased toward putting in 120 to MANY parking spots vs level 2 to less spaces. Adoption of EV's will come from scale--even if the majority now are plug in hybrids. IMHO, the infrastructure will be built out because of the masses and they will go plug in hybrid, not pure EV, first. Pure EVs will definitely benefit so I support the widespread adoption of the "lesser" plugs in more places.

· · 1 year ago

@Sevie

You are not biased. Since your employer can get a Lees certification with just the 120 volt outlets, you save him not only huge wiring/ distribution/ fusing/ and lack of new electric service entrance costs, you also save him from buying 200 EVSE's !!!

(The 200 Volts or Leafs or Imiev's have to bring their own portable EVSE's that come with their own cars, saving the employer a HUGE expense.)..

Point taken about the car not necessarily being 100% fully charged at work, but 90% full is much better than nothing at all.

· · 1 year ago

First, re wiring and EVSE (or simple outlets) installations costs: they can be huge irrespective of how much current and how many circuits are desired.
If a load center has to be upgraded to add new circuits: thousands. Service needs change? thousands. Digging to reach the parking spots: thousands++. Pouring a little concrete to anchor the EVSE/outlets into: thousand(s). Engineering, permitting, inspection... hundreds here, more there, depending on the complexity of the whole thing. Etc etc.

Just at my home: if I hadn't anticipated getting an EV, and taken the chance to upgrade my ancient electrical service and add beefy wiring to the garage at the same time the roof was getting torn down, that stupid single EVSE installation would have snowballed to way over 10k$.
.

Now, re 120V/L1 charging at work instead of 240V/L2: more, slower charging may be great for plug-in hybrids (any drop of gas saved is a good thing), but it will prove insufficient to make a significant difference for EVs in many situations.

To illustrate: say I drive a Leaf and live 30 miles away from work. The round-trip can simply be done without charging during the day; no L1 required.
(I'd add that, even if L1 was available, I wouldn't normally use it: going through the hassle of uncoiling the EVSE that came with the car, possibly drive over the cord to deter theft, plug both ends, lock the handle, then reversing those steps in the evening, isn't worth to me the whooping $1 in gained electricity).

Now say I live 50 miles away. There some at-work L2 charging becomes required, L1 won't be quite enough anymore already (at least not if one wants to go roughly the same speed as everyone else on the highway, which is I'm sure other carpool lane users would appreciate).

· · 1 year ago

@Mr. O

Wouldn't you resign yourself to 'slumming it' and using a 120 volt outlet if it made the difference between getting home and running out 5 miles from home?

What if your employer gave you the choice between 'free' 120 volt outlets, or $2.50 per hour L2 devices? What is the most likely choice your co-workers would make?

· · 1 year ago

Mr. O:

Installation costs don't need to be excessive. A pressure treated 4x4 with the bottom 3 feet soaked in Tar will last along time and be a very stable support for an ev outlet and the green sign above it.

You haven't priced the difference between a 1200 amp 3ph panel board and a 100 amp single phase one. There is a price difference here. The price difference between using an existing service and having to put in a whole brand new one is the cost of the whole brand new one.

Unless a gov't agency where they wouldn't care, a private employer would also care about how much the new facilities are going to increase his demand fine charge. Larger units would increase his monthly cost by $15 / kw in most places.

· · 1 year ago

It is clear this isn't a one size fits all problem. Mr. O's scenario described a longer drive where Level 1 wouldn't accommodate driving a Leaf (but a Tesla would work:-]). 50mi one way is a lot of driving...and I can't comment on how common that is where you live. In MN my friends mostly commute between 5 and 45miles one way. And the bell curve has the VAST majority under 30miles one way. This is the Twin Cities, to be clear, so larger metros like Chicago, LA, etc. are not going to be the same.

However, those that fall outside the range have made a choice to spend more time behind the wheel and right now are spending $$$$ in gas (or in the future a large battery) as a result. Being at the front end of the EV movement has perks--electricity is cheaper than gas--and drawbacks--inconsistent (or absent) charging infrastructure. Building out the infrastructure is NOT going to be out of kindness--companies will build it out if it benefits them: Greening up their image, a form of compensation for employees, etc.

If it makes financial sense (read: employees paying for their electrons) then the cost of installing Level 2 charging for those that want it will be paid for by them as well. 18.5kWh daily charge (Using 50 miles and 3mi/kWh, replenished at 90% charger efficiency) at $.15/kWh runs around $2.75 (yes, that is probably too cheap per kWh, but I don't know the additional charges for larger service etc.). How much are you willing to pay? How much is the average EV driver willing to pay?

I'd be willing to contend an employer won't wish to pay for every single dime of every employee's commute once acceptance breaks 5% of cars in the lot. It would further drive the transition, mind you, but this is another subsidy (like the Federal tax credit) that WILL expire.

· · 1 year ago

@Bill: while I'd welcome having L1 available, for 1h or less, I usually wouldn't bother. Simply taming the AC or slowing down a little would increase the range more.

Re L1 vs L2: if it was either/or, I'd choose $2.5/h L2 over free L1, with cost depending on how long the spot is used regardless of whether any power is drawn.
(while on the topic, in some circumstances, I'd prefer L3 even at $50/h).
I almost never need to charge during the day, but when I do I want it available and fast enough to give me all the range I need. That's where L1 can fall short.

Plug-in drivers obviously have different priorities, they probably charge more often and cost matters more than speed, so I suspect most would prefer free L1. At $2.5/h, L2 would end up slightly more expensive than gas (assuming 16A charger).

Re installation costs: sure you can hack something together yourself on the cheap. But to avoid a liability snafu, companies will usually want to do it right, complying with code and city requirements, and in such cases labor and other costs will make the hardware's look negligible.
Again, my house: new service entrance panel: $200. Installation: $2500 + couple hundreds for permitting etc + new GFIs as required by code + 300 to redo/refinish the wall...
Much later, the EVSE: I couldn't install it on the carport wall even though it's supported by closely-spaced 4x4s: it's connected to but not "integral part" of the building, therefore it's not "structural" so is unsuitable for any permanent electrical installation I was told. Surely your lone wood pole would face similar objections.
.

@Sevie: I also consider 50 miles one-way an unusually long commute, I was only illustrating that L1 at work is of limited usefulness to EVs.
In the case of the Leaf, for up to ~70 miles/day it's not needed, and beyond 100 it's not enough.
For a Tesla, L1 at work makes almost no sense: it'd only help someone whose driving that day falls precisely in a +/-15 miles window around 270-some miles, and even then, one would argue that driving only a little more conservatively on such distance would make way more difference than 8h on 120V...

Re reasons why companies may provide EV charging: one in the SF bay area, Evernote, went one step further, by not only installing a bunch of L2 but also L3, and buying a fleet of Leafs to share between employees. The idea is not just to boost happiness but also cut down commute times.
I think it's a smart move: with just 1h of extra productivity or rest per day due to avoided traffic-jams, each car pay for itself within a few years. Or instantly, if it helps retain just one good employee. Win-win.

· · 1 year ago

@Mr. O

I'd have to see the particular structure, but my house is made of 4 x 4's on 16" centers and I'm allowed to have electricity in it. Ask any small farm what a "Farm Pole" is (its the point of demarcation/meter location for the entire complex).

I've seen inspectors raise silly objections before. Many times they will pass something very unsafe and will fail perfectly safe installations... Hopefully this doesn't happen too much with the more seasoned ones.

A service change around here in NY State triggers an interior inspection, demanding smoke detector / CO detector installation and a costly sump pump / rain water diversion system. So the 100 amp service say is around $2000, but the other stuff is another $1500 if I had to state a broad average. I've had the type of construction mentioned pass for swimming pool pumps NEAR THE POOL. The requirements for pools are more stringent than for EVSE's. So I can only speak of NY State outside NYC, where romex or BX (supposedly) isn't allowed.

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