By Jonathan Marshall
In keeping with its strong support for clean transportation, PG&E is giving employees an opportunity to charge plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) at selected company locations in Northern and Central California.
The utility is launching an employee personal vehicle charging pilot project at seven locations, including the main office in San Francisco, Oakland airport, several sites in San Ramon, and one in San Luis Obispo. These locations already have charging facilities for clean corporate vehicles in the utility’s fleet. The Level 2 chargers will fully charge a Chevy Volt in about four hours, or longer for an all-electric vehicle.
Employees will pay market rates for electricity through personal accounts with ChargePoint, which provides the chargers and handles billing. PG&E and other regulated utilities are barred from directly selling charging services to the public.
“We already have the charging infrastructure for our own fleet, so we thought, why not make it available to employees for personal use,” said David Meisel, PG&E’s senior director for transportation services. “If this pilot is successful, we plan to increase the number of charging locations for employees, and to share lessons learned with other employers to help stimulate broader adoption of electrified vehicles.”
Last year, Americans purchased nearly 100,000 plug-in vehicles. Sales within the United States and internationally are projected to grow fast, as declining battery prices bring the benefits of clean, quiet, peppy, and low-maintenance electric vehicles to millions of new customers.
As PG&E Corporation Chairman, CEO and President Tony Earley wrote in a recent article, “Large-scale transportation electrification is one of our greatest opportunities — maybe the greatest — to change America’s energy future. That’s a bold aspiration to be sure. But, it’s one that, however distant the possibility may seem today, is within reach if we continue to pursue it.”
Market researchers predict — no surprise — that California will continue to lead sales of these new vehicles. One key facilitator will be the availability of convenient charging stations. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that California has nearly 1,800 public charging stations and more than 5,200 public charging outlets—more than a quarter of the national total.
A 2012 survey by CALSTART estimated that an additional 800 charging stations were available to employees of 27 companies in the state. More companies like PG&E are joining their ranks every year.
Workplace charging programs like PG&E’s “fill a critical gap in PEV charging infrastructure needs by extending electric miles, building range confidence and creating second “PEV showrooms” that help increase sales and technology adoption among employees,” according to the California Plug-In Electric Vehicle Collaborative.
Employers may understandably view workplace charging as a low priority and a possible hassle. But there are plenty of direct employer benefits in addition to the obvious environmental gains. As CALSTART notes, “Workplace charging can act as a relatively low cost employee benefit that helps an employer achieve business goals while helping their employees with transportation needs,” by attracting productive staff, improving morale and reducing turnover.
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