Ford Adds Workplace Charging: Now It's Marketing Time

By · September 17, 2013

Charging the Focus

The Focus Electric is one car employees will be able to charge at the workplace. Meanwhile, the Focus could use a marketing push. (Ford photo)

Ford is bringing electric vehicles closer to home, adding 200 workplace chargers at 50 of its locations, including manufacturing plants in North America, sales offices, headquarters buildings and product development campuses. The new chargers complement 1,700 already at dealerships and other facilities in North America. Installation begins this year and continues into 2014.

According to Mike Tinskey, Ford’s director of electrification infrastructure, the chargers will be free to employees for the first four hours of operation, after which they’ll be expected to move and let someone else plug in. The free juice is said to save employees up to $2 a day.

They're Plugging In

Ford’s internal research, Tinskey said, shows that people driving the company’s plug-in hybrids, the C-Max and Fusion Energi models, are taking three of four trips (averaging approximately 13 miles per journey) in all-electric mode. “Charging at the workplace is the right place to put it,” he said. “Our employees can charge at work, and then they can make all of their miles traveled in electric mode.”

The chargers are networked together, and Ford will use the workplace project to gather data about company-wide carbon dioxide reduction and the number of hours employees are charging.

“We’re on the leading edge of a trend for corporations to do this in the workplace,” said Ford’s Todd Nissen.

So far, approximately 900 Ford dealers have been certified to sell electric cars, but the effort is still gearing up. The company started off in slow motion with U.S. electric sales, particularly of the Focus Electric. With a $4,000 price cut (to $35,995), the car is doing better, with 175 sold in August (versus just 34 sold in the same month in 2012). Last month’s resultsare better than those for Chevy’s Spark EV, which had sales of 102 in August. The Ford plug-in hybrids are each selling about 600 a month, together still less than the plug-in Prius.

C-Max Energi

Ford's C-Max Energi is off the show stands now: it sold 621 in August. (Jim Motavalli photo)

But Tinskey is still able to say that Ford had “a good month” for electrics in August. By my count, total U.S. plug-in sales were 1,396. The company’s doing much better with regular hybrids, moving 6,105 of those.

There has been progress, and Ford said its EV sales are up 288 percent compared to last August. “We’re now selling the electrified vehicles at the same rate we’re selling our other products,” Tinskey said. “A year ago, that was four percent of our sales, but now it’s 14 or 15 percent. And much of our business is coming from other companies, particularly Toyota.”

A Marketing Push

Still, it might make sense for Ford to launch a new promotional blitz on its electric cars, an effort that could complement worthy efforts like internal workplace charging. The Focus Electric benefits from the price drop, but its lease price is still $100 a month higher than many comparable EVs such as the Nissan LEAF (with a healthy 2,420 sold in August).

Ford is commendably committed to electrifying the fleet, and the will is there from the top down. The culture is there, thanks in part to Bill Ford, who was a lonely voice for EVs and hybrids in the 1990s. The carmaker has had low expectations for the Focus, but it’s a good car and—like the rest of the plug-in fleet—would benefit from a concerted marketing effort.

New to EVs? Start here

  1. Seven Things To Know About Buying a Plug-In Car
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  2. Incentives for Plug-in Hybrids and Electric Cars
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  3. Buying Your First Home EV Charger
    You'll want a home charger. Here's how to buy the right one.