Workplace Charging Challenge

Workplace Charging Challenge!

In January 2013, the Department of Energy launched the Workplace Charging Challenge as part of its EV Everywhere Grand Challenge. Electric Vehicles (EVs) represent a great opportunity to vastly reduce petroleum usage in the transportation sector, and the DOE has set a goal for the US to be the first country to produce EVs that are as affordable as standard gas-powered vehicles by 2022. As one measure to meet that goal, they’ve started the Workplace Charging Challenge, an initiative aimed at employers to provide electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) – charging stations – at their businesses for employee use.

One of the biggest barriers to entry of the market for EVs is the relative scarcity of stations where drivers can recharge their battery, resulting in range anxiety – the idea that you may not have enough battery charge to make it to work, the store, school, etc., and home again. As such, the charging infrastructure needs to be in place for EVs to be adopted on a larger scale. But charging your car’s battery is not exactly like filling up the tank. Depending on the level of charge and the battery, charging stations take from two to twenty hours to recharge a car’s battery. This makes overnight at-home charging ideal, but in order to double someone’s potential all-electric commuting range, or simply give them the flexibility to run some errands on the way home from work, workplace charging stations are a key piece of the infrastructure needed. The typical car spends anywhere from six to eight hours parked at work on weekdays, making workplace charging a prime opportunity to expand EV charging networks.

So why would employers want to take on the challenge of providing charging stations for their employees, especially if they don’t have many (or any) employees who own EVs?

First of all, infrastructure comes first, so just by virtue of providing the EVSE many employers have seen an increase in EV adoption among their employees. According to a DOE survey, “employees of Challenge partners are six times more likely to drive an EV than the average worker.” Zappos, a shoe and apparel company, installed four level 2 chargers when zero employees owned EVs, and within a year five people had bought EVs. The program clearly demonstrates that the ability to charge your car at work spurs EV adoption.

There are also direct, though usually non-monetary, benefits for employers. Of course employers could charge for the electricity used, but most have provided the electricity for free and been very satisfied (recent partner feedback data indicate that employees are roughly just as likely to utilize workplace charging, whether the employer provides it free or not). The ability to charge your car at work is a great amenity, and when firms are hiring and competing for the best applicants for jobs, EVSE stations have been a major factor in many prospective employees’ decisions to work with a company. It not only helps with recruitment, but also employee retention. Satisfied employees tend to stay at their jobs longer, and anyone who’s worked in HR or management will immediately recognize the financial benefits of reduced turnover.

Beyond just the image to employees and potential hires, workplace charging presents a public image of the company as a cutting edge leader, furthering their environmental commitments and sustainability goals, and can be counted toward LEED points. The benefits for the employees, the firm, and society in general are numerous, and most importantly further the trend toward cleaner, more sustainable transportation.

What are the benefits of becoming a Partner in the Challenge?

In addition to the benefits of having installed EV charging for your employees, joining the Challenge gives employers access to:

  • Informational resources and technical assistance
  • Access to a sharing network of partners and their best practices
  • Peer-to-peer exchange at workplace charging events
  • Support from Challenge ambassador organizations
  • Public recognition of successes

So where are we with the Workplace Charging Challenge?

The goal is to have 500 Challenge partners by 2018, and to date we are more than halfway there with over 260 partners. The DOE just recently released a mid-program update here, if you want to learn more. Partner organizations range widely from tech companies and manufacturers to utilities and universities.

Closer to home, we have been able to identify several firms in the region who are already taking steps toward providing charging for their employees, and we look forward to partnering with them and giving recognition for their work. Just as important, we are working with several others who are interested in the benefits of workplace charging and want to work with us to start the process of installing EVSE and getting EVs everywhere!