I started working with electric vehicles in 2000, which was the year that California’s zero-emission vehicles (ZEV) mandate (that ZEVs make up 10% of new vehicle sales) was set to take hold. As with many best-laid plans regarding the environment, the goals of the mandate were never fully realized.
Now, more than a decade later, we have a second wave of interest in ZEVs, mainly plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs). This second wave has sparked a new interest among auto manufacturers and consumers, which is clearly surpassing what we had expected in 2000. There are now six models of PEVs being marketed to mainstream consumers, and the future is even brighter. Advancements in battery technology continue to move forward, and the hope is that soon we will see lower prices and will be able to go longer in between charges.
What has changed from the turn of this century? A lot!
- While PEVs are still more expensive than traditional vehicles, the price of this generation’s PEV is lower compared to its predecessors.
- Consumers are more aware of air pollution, climate change and energy security issues than ever before, which is motivating individuals to purchase and fleets to adopt PEVs.
- Policies in some states are helping consumers to make the leap to PEVs with a carrot approach. For example, California, home of the defunct ZEV mandate, and the federal government are providing $10,000 tax credits off the base price of a PEV.
- Gasoline prices are higher than they have ever been, making the operating costs of PEVs considerably lower.
- Finally, the Department of Energy’s challenge for organizations like CALSTART and NextEnergy to help build the electric vehicle charging infrastructure is much more focused and better defined.
The immediate challenge facing PEV advocates today is building out the electric vehicle charging infrastructure to reduce the consumer’s anxiety about vehicle range. Since the top two places a PEV owner charges his vehicle are the home or work, developing a charging infrastructure at the workplace is critical. Seventy five percent of Americans drive to work every day, and once we get there, we often remain parked for four to eight hours. This argument is so compelling, that I believe ample workplace charging will motivate a significant number of drivers to consider and purchase PEVs.
Since installing EV chargers in CALSTART’s parking lot, the number of employees that have EVs as their main vehicle has gone from zero to three in a matter of one year—representing 15% of our employees. This story is repeated from a variety of employers who are a part of the Employer EV Initiative (evworkplace.org), a program that works with employers to develop guidelines and best practices for workplace charging.
Also, workplaces could easily become an organic showroom for PEVs. The unintended benefits of employers installing charging stations for their employees are that they will:
- Encourage more commuters to opt for PEVs
- Provide employers with a competitive advantage to attract talent
- Vastly improve regional air quality and help mitigate climate change and other concerns.
Ultimately, this is an opportunity for the business community at large to literally “lead the charge” in an effort that will have a positive impact that goes far beyond providing an attractive benefit to employees. A mass adoption of workplace charging will lead to more PEVs on the road resulting in increased energy security for our nation and a cleaner environment for our children.
If you are interested in learning more about how to implement workplace charging at your facility, attend the Workplace Charging Conference at NextEnergy on June 18, 2013. Click here for details.
For more information about the DOE’s Workplace Charging Challenge, click here.