Workplace charging: An opportunity for EV adoption
Workplace charging stations enable employees to take advantage of off-peak EV charging times.
Discussions about the need for EV charging infrastructure usually focus on two areas: home charging and highway fast-charging. What is often overlooked, however, is the vast opportunity for drivers, employers and utilities to charge EVs at their workplace.
Providing EV charging stations is a cost-effective and highly visible way for a company to show it’s working toward sustainability goals. Even a few parking lot charging points reveal that a company supports the shift to cleaner transportation and their EV-owning employees.
The charging solution for apartment-dwellers and utilities
About 40 percent of Americans reside in apartments and condos without a dedicated private parking spot. Commuters who would otherwise immediately go electric, but do not have their own charging station, would be more likely to make the switch to a zero-emission battery-powered car if workplace charging were available.
Utilities also benefit from workplace charging. The Edison Electric Institute forecasts that there will be nearly 19 million EVs on US roads by 2030, up from about 1 million today. Workplace charging is a potent tool to spread energy demand from all those EVs throughout the day.
For many years utilities have offered special time-of-use rates and other reward programs for EV owners. By providing a lower rate per kilowatt-hour at night, electric-car drivers are encouraged to schedule charging when demand is low. Every EV has this capability via the dashboard or an app.
There is often excess power on the grid during those middle-of-the-night hours – sometimes supplied by strong winds or nuclear generation — which can be soaked up by EV batteries. A utility’s primary goal is to discourage every EV driver from charging at the same time, such as late afternoon, which can trigger the use of polluting peaker plants or the requirement of building additional infrastructure for those peaks.
Utilities pave the way for workplace charging
Currently, fewer EVs charge in the middle of the day. In response, utilities have begun to incentivize the installation of workplace charging infrastructure, which encourages EV drivers to charge their vehicles during working hours, which is an off-peak charging time.
Texas-based Austin Energy has one of the nation’s most effective workplace-charging programs. The utility provides a rebate of up to $4,000 (or 50%) of the cost to install approved Level 2, 240-volt, or Level 1, 120-volt outlet charging stations.
Austin Energy also provides rebates up to $10,000 to hosts who want to install a DC Fast Charger. But an expensive quick-charger is not necessarily the best choice for several key reasons. First, employees commonly leave their car parked for most of the workday. A 240-volt charger, which adds about 25 miles of range per hour, is already very fast.
Canada’s Ontario-based Alectra Utilities is also helping employers add EV charging. The Alectra Drive for the Workplace program provides companies with a reliable and cost-effective car-charging software solution. The system manages the power demand of a building, onsite solar and storage, and the EVs charging in the parking lot. EV-driving employees save money because the system monitors the price of electricity by initiating a charge when the cost-per-kilowatt-hour is low while ensuring the EV gets a full charge on time.
Two hours charging is more than enough for a typical commute. Rules and incentives can also be set up to allow multiple EV-driving employees to plug in throughout the day. Employers can establish reasonable plans to start with just a few Level 2 chargers while putting in make-ready infrastructure to expand the number of stations as more of the workforce buys an EV.
Level 2, 240-volt charging is well-suited to everyday use. It’s gentler on batteries, because there’s mounting evidence that daily DC fast charging can be detrimental to the long-term health of an EV battery.
Future capabilities using vehicle-to-grid technology
The importance of the workplace EV charging is already catching on. Wood Mackenzie, the research firm, forecasts that there will be a half-million workplace charging stations in North American and Europe by 2022. That number will leap to 1.25 million chargers by 2025. Forward-thinking utilities and companies are anticipating the time when workplace parking lots are filled with plugged-in EVs.
Also being recognized is the potential of vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology. A utility often needs upgraded power lines, transformers and other equipment to handle infrequent peaks in demand. But a V2G smart system reverses the flow of electrons going to the cars. Communications and hardware – now in development but only deployed in Japan – instead pulls energy from the car and pushes it to the grid. The EV battery becomes an energy storage device for buildings!
In March 2020, Nissan demonstrated the ability to pull power from a Nissan Leaf EV to restore energy to a convenience store suffering a power outage. A similar system using workplace charging could help an employer avoid expensive demand fees for short periods of high power needs. This capability might be a couple of years away, but it signals the widespread creation of workplace microgrids.
Microgrids will enable local entities to manage their own energy resources and loads. Definable boundaries can be set to strengthen the microgrid’s reliability, lower costs and even completely “island” itself during grid outages.
The EV future one workplace charger at a time
While two-way EV charging could be game-changing, we don’t have to wait for those systems to benefit from workplace charging. The list of immediate benefits to employers, utilities, and drivers can be enjoyed today.
Every single EV represents the elimination of tailpipe emissions and a step-change decrease in transportation-related greenhouse gases. A single glance at a workplace parking lot with electric cars charging is a clear endorsement of the shift to sustainable transportation.
Learn how to profile and manage EV charging load with solutions for electric utilities by Geotab Energy.
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Chad Saliba is a Business Development Manager at Geotab Energy.
Geotab's blog posts are intended to provide information and encourage discussion on topics of interest to the telematics community at large. Geotab is not providing technical, professional or legal advice through these blog posts. While every effort has been made to ensure the information in this blog post is timely and accurate, errors and omissions may occur, and the information presented here may become out-of-date with the passage of time.
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