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Campaign Stresses Benefits of EV Chargers for Workplaces

The U.S. Department of Energy has launched an educational campaign that stresses the benefits of installing electric vehicle charging ports in employee parking areas at workplaces.

A row of electric vehicles parked and plugged into charging stations.
Fresh educational campaigns are underway to inform and assist employers on the benefits of installing electric vehicle charging ports in employee parking areas.

CALSTART, along with Forth Mobility in Oregon and Equitable Mobility Powering Opportunities for Workplace Electrification Readiness (EMPOWER), a project organized by the Clean Cities Coalition, are all part of an effort by the U.S. Department of Energy to expand workplace charging. CALSTART’s campaign is known as Charge@Work.

“One of the key things we can do inside of our education and outreach is point the way toward incentives that exist at the state level, or utility service territory level. Because there are plenty of Level 2 incentives,” said Jason Zimbler, director of light-duty EV vehicles at CALSTART, a clean transportation nonprofit, calling attention to Level 2 charging, the most common mid-level home and passive charging technology.

The effort has been picked up and endorsed by a mix of public- and private-sector employers, including Fairfax County, Va. The county has 102 Level 2 charging ports at government facilities, which include public community centers, parking garages and office buildings, said John Silcox, public information officer at the Fairfax County Office of Environmental and Energy Coordination. Of those, 71 of the charging ports are publicly accessible at eight different buildings. Another 100-plus charging spaces are being planned over the next year.

The EV charging ports in publicly accessible county parking lots and garages are available for anyone to use on a first-come basis. The cost is 30-cents per kilowatt hour, which means it would cost about $20 to fully charge a vehicle like the popular Chevrolet Bolt.

“The county hasn’t yet installed any chargers specifically for employee use; that is something the county will pursue in parallel with additional charging for the public,” said Silcox in an email, noting that most of the EV chargers are seeing “strong use,” but it’s difficult to distinguish the visiting public and workers. “We are still gathering information to gain insight into overall use of EV charging.”

CALSTART is planning the release of an interactive portal where employers can explore a range of scenarios outlining a project’s costs. The platform will be able to factor in incentives available to the employer, based on their ZIP code, as well as research related to equipment and installation costs.

“We can run an employer — for zero cost — through a scenario of how much the project will cost, what the timeline’s going to be, and give them this free look at what they have to consider in terms of their money outlay. And that is something they’re very interested in,” said Zimbler.

Part of the thinking behind the move to expand workplace charging is the idea of growing access to charging.

“We have a central thesis which is the infrastructure precedes the vehicle purchase, and this is the gateway,” said Zimbler.

“There’s a lot of variables in the decision to purchase a vehicle, and so this could create a causal relationship between that charger showing up, and that employee trading in their ICE [internal combustion engine] for an EV,” he added, noting the comfort of having access to regular charging is “a critical pillar to how you make that decision.”

Consequently, in Fairfax County officials hope an expansion of charging options helps to reduce anxieties among consumers and employees related to a car’s range and its access to charging, said Silcox.

“We hope through further education and outreach efforts and events — such as those supported by Charge@Work — we can continue to address those concerns and make them aware of the many benefits of EVs, for both drivers and the environment,” said Silcox.
Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Yreka, Calif.