Calstart Kicks Off EV Employer Initiative with Workshop, Website
Workplace charging of electric vehicles has the potential to take the technology to the millions of potential early adopters who live in apartments and condos and can’t install their own EVSE – electric vehicle supply equipment. All that’s needed are decisions on who pays for what type of EVSE, who pays for the electricity and how, who gets first access to limited charge points, is it all taxable, who might face liability, and fair access for the disabled.
These issues and more were broached at a day-long conference at Google headquarters in Silicon Valley last week by more than 150 equipment providers, government officials, utility reps, real estate executives, and vehicle developers and manufacturers. Many of the speakers were themselves drivers of Nissan Leaf, Chevy Volt and plug-in hybrid cars.
“We really do want to bring in a lot of new blood,” said David Danielson, assistant secretary for efficiency and renewables with the U.S. Department of Energy. Workplace charging, he said, represents “an opportunity to accelerate outcomes” as the U.S. strives to have electric vehicles be as affordable and convenient as gasoline vehicles by 2022.
“We’re going to see extraordinary change,” said David Sandalow, DoE’s acting undersecretary of energy and assistant secretary for policy.
“We’re doing more” (than DoE), said Cliff Rechtschaffen, senior advisor to California Governor Jerry Brown. “The state is walking the walk,” he said.
“It’s essential for us to reach critical mass,” Rechtshaffen said. “We need home charging, we need fast charging, we need workplace charging.”
“We’re looking for employers public and private,” he said, to step up.
“Workplace charging is a second showroom,” said Alex Keros, advanced vehicle and infrastructure planning manager with General Motors. “It really can become an important metric.”
Jack Broadbent, who heads the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, said BAAQMD has installed EV chargers at its headquarters in San Francisco. “Does this change represent a benefit for employees?” he asked. “We think it does.” But Broadbent said too that his agency’s experience in securing permits for the charger installations shows a need for “streamlining.”
Workshop host Google has already installed 227 Level 2 chargers, augmenting 160 older Level 1 units, all connected via the Coulomb ChargePoint network, said EV initiatives manager Rolf Schreiber.
“Googlers themselves are by nature rabid early adopter technogeeks,” Schreiber said – many of whom live in apartments and need their workplace charge ports. Google was in the midst of installing a wireless Evatran unit (F&F, July 23) last week as well as a high-power DC fast-charge unit. About 30% of the electricity for Googler EVs comes from Google’s large solar photovoltaic installation in Mountain View, and some comes from a nearby landfill gas generator.
Google has logged some 44,000 EV charging sessions since April of last year, Schreiber said. Tasks as the internet leader works toward its goal of EV chargers at 5% of all parking spaces include planning for higher loads and appreciating the cost of maintenance. Google has also found that economical Level 1 charging is for the most part adequate, Schreiber said, because most employees park for many hours.
“If you put it in at your workplace, you’ve got to keep the costs down,” said Matt Zerega of Sempra-San Diego Gas & Electric. “Ultimately, the numbers always matter.” He said that the sweet spot in user perception of value is about 30¢ per kilowatt-hour, which equates to $5 per gallon gasoline. After that, he said, EV drivers are unhappy, and would-be EV drivers get balky.
“Don’t spend too much on your equipment,” Zerega said. “Level 1 works in almost all cases.”
“There’s a huge opportunity for a scalable Level 1 system,” said Ford’s Mike Tinskey, who’s been promoting Ford’s expanding line of EVs (F&F, March 28).
But don’t be so so fast to slow-charge, said Coulomb Technologies founder and CTO Richard Lowenthal. “It’s inconvenient, it’s slow, and it’s bad for the environment.”
Level 1 is bad, Lowenthal said, because long charging times tend to take the equipment into peak power times. With Level 2, Coulomb employees have finished their charging by late morning, when rates go up. With Level 1, “You are always charging on peak,” he said.
Lowenthal said that his firm is working to alleviate the fear of charging – or, rather, the fear of having no charging – that is holding back the EV industry (the other problem is battery cost). “We are absolute capitalists,” Lowenthal said. “We think money makes the world go around. We want a sustainable industry.”
He said it’s up to employers to decide if employees have to pay for the electricity they use charging on the job. Workers at Coulomb clients Google and Apple get their electricity for free, he says. Microsoft charges for charging.
Peter Light of solid oxide fuel cell manufacturer Bloom Energy said that his office in Sunnyvale, Calif. has EV charging, but “no plan.”
“We’re trying to figure it out as we go along,” he said.
“As a user, I’d be willing to pay for workplace charging,” Light said.
Leaf Versus Volt Versus Tesla
Also talking money was Car Charging Group COO Ted Fagenson, who said the $2.49 per hour his firm now charges at parking installations is unfair to drivers of cars like the Nissan Leaf sedan, which draws less power than cars like the Tesla sportster. He’d like to charge by the kilowatt-hour, he said, but is prohibited from doing so by most utility authorities.
Fagenson reminded workshop attendees that his company pays all installation costs and for all electricity, asking only for space and the right to collect from the EV drivers who use its equipment (which can come from any number of suppliers). Workplace owners engaging the Car Charging Group to install EVSE equipment face “no out-of-pocket expenses, whatsoever, ever.”
Also on hand was Miami Beach-based Car Charging Group CEO Michael Farkas, who noted that his firm has bid to acquire its charging services rival 350Green.
Don’t Forget ADA!
Should a Leaf driver who needs his workplace power get parking slot preference over a Volt man with a built-in gasoline fallback? Those issues have been faced by Bloom, said Peter Light, who cited his firm’s example of seven chargers at two locations and eight to ten EV drivers. The small scale has allowed for people to ask others to move their cars when charging is complete, he said, suggesting that such informal arrangements aren’t scalable.
Informality wasn’t an option for Sonoma County fleet manager Dave Head, who found himself wrestling with questions of taxes and the Americans with Disabilities Act when embarking on a workplace charging project. “It’s an extremely difficult issue and its can’t be taken lightly,” he said of ADA access for EV drivers. “It’s the law.”
Head said too that Sonoma County will charge its employees for using country EVSE. “We’re going to charge a fee for charging,” he said. “We just have to figure out how to do it and be fair.”
The large real estate outfits CBRE and Cushman Wakefield were represented at the workplace workshop too. Property owners, said CBRE sustainability chief Dave Pogue, “will react to a demand.”
“It’s a reactive industry,” he said. “Give us something to react to.” If America could meet President Obama’s goal of a million EVs, Pogue said, “the building industry will respond.”
John Mikulin, regional lead for EV deployment with the U.S. EPA’s San Francisco office, said that the agency recently renegotiated its office lease, for 15 years, and induced its landlord to install EV chargers. Employees now have access to a pair of Level 2 chargers by Coulomb and Eaton. “Put it up as a bargaining chip,” he said. “When you’re in negotiations, that’s the time to ask for these things.”
“There’s a huge opportunity here,” said John Boesel, president of Calstart, which organized the Workplace Charging: Filling a Critical Infrastructure Gap event at Google headquarters. “Employers can help advance this particular fuel, electricity, more than any other,” he said.
Calstart, as part of a new EV Employer Initiative, has promised to hold a series of free monthly webinars on the topic (starting September 25) as the beginning of a national campaign.
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