Workplace plug-in vehicle charging is currently a niche benefit in most parts of the world and largely only benefits a handful of employees, making the required upfront investment a bit of a hot-button issue. In this article, we will look at two trends that are generating pull for workplace charging, the challenges faced when considering workplace charging, and what the future holds for workplace charging as part of the overall network of plug-in vehicle charging infrastructure.
Seen as forward-thinkers, employers are installing EV charging stations to lure in plug-in vehicle drivers with the offer of on-site EV charging or even free EV charging. Plug-in vehicles are still perceived in most parts of the world as more expensive than their internal combustion counterparts — and, indeed, the purchase price is still often higher even if the total cost of ownership isn’t. As such, they appeal to educated consumers who have done the math and are drawn to the lower cost of operation due to lower maintenance and lower fuel costs.
A significant subset of buyers also purchase plug-in vehicles for the environmental benefits. The environmental theme resonates with the core ethos of many companies — like Google’s “do no evil” mantra that has led it to becoming one of the top corporate investors in clean energy. Installing on-site plug-in vehicle EV charging stations is a way for companies to put their beliefs into action while also serving as a visible manifestation of these core values for employees, visitors, and business partners.
Looking towards the future, workplace charging presents a lucrative opportunity for both utilities and employers, as the increase in daytime solar generation is already driving the daytime price for electricity negative during peak generating periods in some areas of the world. Installing workplace charging with integrated demand response capabilities has the potential to serve as a massive cushion for utilities to lean into in order to efficiently absorb excess solar capacity. The Western Area Power Administration wrote about the potential earlier this year:
“Electric vehicles (EVs) are quickly becoming one of the largest exible loads on the grid in certain parts of the United States. Bloomberg New Energy Finance projects EV electricity consumption to increase to approximately 33 terawatt-hours (TWh) annually by 2025, and 551 TWh by 2040.
“While most industry analysts see EVs as a boon for utilities, load management risks are an issue. Managed charging—remotely controlling vehicle charging by turning it up, down or even off to correspond to grid conditions—could present utilities with an effective, new demand response opportunity.”
It’s not all rainbows and butterflies for workplace charging, as implementing a workplace charging program is fraught with challenges. First and foremost, management must be convinced that workplace charging is a worthwhile investment – and it is an investment. Employee time is required to define the installation scope, location, and number of stations — though, this effort can be offset to some extent by leveraging a plug-in vehicle charging network operator, but potentially at a higher upfront capital cost.
When it comes to capital, the stations must be purchased and electrical work must be performed to get the stations powered up. When the total cost of installation is estimated, the budget must be carved for the installation. The motivation for installing the stations will likely dictate which cost center will pay for the stations — is workplace charging an employee benefit? Is the company using the stations to attract new talent? Did the CEO/CFO/COO buy a new Tesla and want new stations so she can charge at work? Many factors play into the funding equation and are best evaluated in advance of the initial exploratory effort.
Employers must decide if employees will be required to pay for the use of the stations, and if so, if that is a taxable expense. This discussion varies immensely by company, city, county, state, country, utility, EV charging network operator, technology selection, and numerous other factors, but it is an important part of the decision.
We recently published our first report focused solely on electric vehicle charging. It’s a deep dive into residential EV charging stations, public EV charging stations, commercial EV charging stations, EV service equipment innovations, EV charging business models, and electric vehicle adoption trends. Above is one short section of the report.