Recharge at Work? At Least For Your EV

PARC's new EV charging stations

PARC’s new EV charging stations

Here in the Valley traffic is still congested but it’s a little, well, quieter and greener lately. Every day more Teslas (ok, lots of Teslas), Volts, Priuses, and Leafs silently appear on the roadways. EVs are cruising, perceptions are changing, and the momentum is due to several factors, including consumer choice options as well as discounts and incentives. According to IEA’s “Global EV Outlook: Understanding the Electric Vehicle Landscape to 2020,” EV sales exceeded 100,000 units for the first time in 2012, with the largest share of the worldwide market in the U.S. due to the Volt followed by Japan from increasing Prius sales.

However, analysts and the industry alike agree that battery cost, charging station accessibility, and driving range remain as huge hurdles to further adoption. Automakers are igniting their own mile per charge market challenge, battling to see who will reach 200 miles on a single charge first and at an affordable cost point. A recent Wall Street Journal article reported on GM’s initiative for a 200-mile range EV for $30,000, while Tesla’s Elon Musk has been quoted as saying that “it didn’t require a miracle” to see a 200-mile electric car at the $35,000 price point sometime in the next three or four years. These are hefty goals considering current EVs (outside of luxury long-range Teslas) currently have 100 miles or less range.

In the meantime, EV owners continue to be plagued with “range anxiety.” A variety of initiatives have been popping up around the world to address both charging options and still encourage further adoption. Earlier this year, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced a plan to make 20 percent of new NYC parking spaces EV ready. And by the end of 2015 the Netherlands will have the world’s largest network of EV fast-chargers. With more than 200 across the country by completion, residents will be within 50km of the nearest station offering the capability to charge batteries in 15 – 30 minutes, according to media outlet TreeHugger.

While fast-charging stations are still nascent here in the U.S. and as Tesla establishes its own proprietary version, one new charging trend is taking hold – workplace charging stations.  It is mutually beneficial as an attractive employee benefit, an incentive to drive and adopt EVs, and a showcase for forward-thinking, sustainably-minded corporate leaders.

At PARC, we recently installed charging stations for these reasons, plus an additional important one: We believe in “walking the walk” if we’re “talking the talk.” As we continue to consult and partner with both automotive companies, battery manufacturers, and the U.S. Department of Energy for our battery technologies, it didn’t seem quite right that we weren’t embracing and supporting EVs on our own campus.

Our charging implementation opened last month and currently consists of eight stations installed with the backbone to support 24 total stations. When we started our workplace charging installation last year, we polled our 200+ employees to get an understanding of current and future EV needs. At the time, there were only two EV drivers but we planned ahead for projected adoption. Good thing we did as there are now 14 EV drivers, and we are now working on installing more stations to meet our employees’ needs. In fact, one employee purchased an EV specifically because he knew charging would be available at work. We find this to be an incredible testament to the program and the future of EV adoption.

From permitting to construction and implementation, workplace charging is not always an easy endeavor. But it’s one that we believe is integral to the future. And while PARC researchers help to innovate toward that 200 mile per charge goal inside the building, our EVs can charge outside at the same time.

Here at PARC we’d like to know your thoughts. What do you see for the future of EVs?  We invite your comments below.

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