Tampa Bay Clean Cities Coalition (TBCCC)

Workplace Charging: What Employers Need To Know

 

TECO cover

TAMPA, Fla. (Dec. 2, 2016) The market for plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) is growing. As of March 2016, more than 400,000 PEVs are on U.S. highways, powered by electricity made in America! The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is working to increase the adoption and use of PEVs through a number of national goals.

An important initiative promoting PEV adoption is the Workplace Charging Challenge, which encourages U.S. employers in all sectors of the economy to provide PEV charging access at their worksites. The Challenge provides resources, tools, and technical assistance to implement and manage workplace charging programs. To help get Tampa Bay involved in this initiative, Tampa Bay Clean Cities Coalition (TBCCC) and TECO Energy hosted a workshop on November 10 to introduce the Challenge to area employers.

Keith Gruetzmacher, senior manager of marketing services at TECO and TBCCC steering committee member, welcomed more than 25 attendees from both the public and private sectors. He emphasized that this first meeting in the Tampa Bay area is an important step in moving workplace charging forward. One of the key ways to support the adoption of plug-in electric vehicles is to make driving PEVs more convenient by building the nation's charging infrastructure. This workshop will help attendees get the right tools for their particular application.

Steve Reich, TBCCC coordinator, introduced the Clean Cities program and shared TBCCC's mission to advance the energy, economic, and environmental security of the U.S. through efforts in the Tampa Bay region to reduce petroleum use in transportation. Why transportation? In 2015, petroleum products accounted for about 92 percent of the total energy used by the U.S. transportation sector (U.S. Energy Information Administration). According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in 2014 transportation also accounted for approximately 26 percent of the nation's greenhouse gas emissions. In 2015, TBCCC stakeholders displaced 7.7 million GGE (gasoline gallon equivalents) of petroleum and reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 8.1 thousand tons, primarily through alternative fuel vehicle use.

Steve and Melissa

Melissa Solberg and Steve Reich

Reich then gave an overview of electric vehicles and charging equipment, going over basic terms and definitions. He explained the differences in power supply and function for hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs), plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), and all-electric vehicles (EVs). There are three types of charging stations: Level 1 (L1), Level 2 (L2), and DC Fast Charging (DCFC). Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE) includes all the equipment needed to deliver electricity from a power source to a plug-in vehicle's battery.

Steve Reich presenting at WPC Workshop

Commercial grade Level 1 charging is the least expensive but takes the most time to complete a charge. While Levels 1 and 2 are most popular for workplace charging, DC Fast Chargers, which deliver a full charge in about 20 minutes, are most practical for fast food/service locations. Dunkin Donuts is now offering fast charging at area stores. Reich noted, "We're getting close to reaching the same convenience factor of traditionally fueled vehicles."

Britta Gross, director of Advanced Vehicle Commercialization Policy for General Motors (GM), then spoke on the current state of EV adoption and barriers to adoption. She explained that plug-in car sales for 2016 have significantly exceeded sales in previous years, confirming again the continued growth in the EV market. GM realized it was important to come to market with a new generation of Volt. The 2016 model has improved range, a more comfortable interior that now seats five, and an exterior design to appeal to a broader market. Gross said, "We're learning. This is what engineering is all about."

Also of note, Florida currently ranks second in national plug-in sales, outselling states such as New York and Washington. Gross drew applause when she announced that during the last 24 months, the leading EV sales segment in Florida has been Tampa, beating out Orlando and Miami. Lower gas prices have contributed to lower EV sales, but Gross said the market is looking healthier. GM's new Bolt is all-electric with a noteworthy range of 238 miles, compared to the first-generation Spark's range of only 82 miles. Production cost is still somewhat of a barrier and GM expects it will take four to six years for EV production to become profitable, but automakers are committed to delivering what customers want.

WPC Brochure

Another barrier to EV adoption is inaccurate, misleading, and even sensational press. Gross emphasized the importance of educating the public about electric vehicles. One of the best ways to persuade drivers is to get them behind the wheel in ride-and-drives, allowing them to experience first-hand what EVs have to offer. She said the primary outlet for advertising and outreach is social media, where EV owners and advocates tend to share their EV passion and knowledge.

Different business models such as car sharing are becoming more successful as well. GM is working to create the largest EV fleet in ridesharing, giving real-world EV experience to a more diverse number of riders and drivers through GM's Express Drive service in cooperation with Lyft. Keith Gruetzmacher added that local bus riders now have access to HART's new HyperLINK service to transport them those last few miles from bus stops to their homes or businesses. This new ridesharing, app-based service complementing the bus system is the first program of its kind in the U.S. Expansion plans for HyperLINK call for using all-electric vehicles.

NREL EV

Photo courtesy of NREL

Gross said that DCFC improves the perception of infrastructure, which is often barrier to EV adoption. Easy access to a network of fast chargers would eliminate consumer fears of the limited range of EVs. Offering workplace charging and chargers at multi-unit dwellings also improves perception. Driving consumer demand will grow the EV market, as will installing charging infrastructure at a faster pace and making vehicles more affordable.

Alex Kolpakov, research associate at USF's Center for Urban Transportation Research, reviewed EV adoption rate in the TBCCC region as compared to the state of Florida. Although the growth rate in the coalition region has slowed, it is consistent with overall growth statewide. The coalition region has 17.5 percent of the statewide EV fleet, and there are currently over 400 EV chargers in the Tampa Bay area. Based on the growth trend over the past two years, the number of EVs and PHEVs in the TBCCC region is expected to increase by 332 percent over the next five years. 

Kenneth Hernandez, program manager for Alternative Fuel Vehicles at TECO Energy, offered an introduction to the Workplace Charging Challenge by sharing TECO's own experience. In 2012, TECO initially needed chargers for EV fleet vehicles, but eventually decided to expand and install workplace charging as interest in EVs grew among employees. The driving force behind TECO's program development was that fleet managers wanted EVs in the fleet, but as employees saw EVs being charged at work, they began buying them as well. Currently TECO has more than 30 charging ports available.

Kenneth Hernandez

Kenneth Hernandez

Hernandez noted several important steps to follow when implementing a workplace charging program. Employers only need a 120-volt outlet to start providing charging, and then as employee interest grows, they can provide more outlets or a Level 1 charger. He discussed the difference between public chargers and "behind the fence" charging for employees. Considerations for public charging stations include ample lighting, a more "techy" look, retractable cord, brightly painted striping, bollards, and wheel stops (also for EVSE protection), and other safety features. Hernandez also suggested having a policy in place to include electrical supply installation when planning to remodel or build to accommodate growing infrastructure.

He encouraged attendees to sign on to the Challenge through the DOE website, set aside parking, and mark the space clearly with signage. Just having the parking sign draws attention to EVs. He concluded with a general message to employers: "Provide it, learn from it, and move forward."

NREL EV Charging Station

Photo courtesy of NREL

Following TECO's introduction to the Challenge was a panel discussion moderated by Melissa Solberg, sustainability coordinator for Tampa International Airport. Area employers and employees shared first-hand experiences with workplace charging.

First up was Mark Gorman, senior principle engineer for Space and Airborne Systems at Raytheon, the second EV owner at his work location, and a champion for workplace charging. Raytheon initially offered workplace charging in 2012 with seven installations at three worksites that employed known EV users.

Gorman said employers should consider the motivation for providing workplace charging. To determine if there are EV drivers and the demand for EV chargers, he suggested surveying employees. Like TECO, Raytheon noticed that more drivers bought EV cars once charging stations became available. Raytheon Largo increased from one to six employees with EVs after providing workplace charging. Other considerations include whether to allow public access to chargers, the best places for installation, dual or single port stations (he recommends dual), and whether or not to charge employees for power usage.

When choosing an installation location, Gorman advised avoiding front parking spaces, which are choice spots that non-EV drivers will use. He reinforced TECO's advice to use paint that sets EV parking spaces apart, and that making them visible is good advertising for EVs. Gorman noted that workplace charging sends a "great message to employees and the community" about a company's good environmental stewardship—and, you don't have to be a "tech person" to get this done.

Britta Gross then shared a brief history of GM's workplace charging journey. In early 2010, GM, which is now a Workplace Charging Challenge Partner, began installing infrastructure because engineer employees were excited about the new electric vehicles. GM started with just two chargers at one assembly plant and then expanded to additional sites to allow EV driving between facilities. GM now has 533 workplace charging stations, including 25 assembly plants.

NREL charger

Photo courtesy of NREL

GM offers workplace charging to their employees at no cost, deciding it was too much trouble to collect a small fee. The company decided to forego the cost of networking chargers so they could install more units. Employers should consider where to cut costs if needed. In line with TECO's suggestion to plan for electrical supply installation, GM's facilities department became creative about installing additional outlets with new construction projects to allow more charging locations.

Gross also agrees that workplace charging enhances corporate image. GM's public policy department leverages the company's workplace charging achievements in annual sustainability reporting and the communications team shares those achievements with journalists when illustrating GM's "bigger story."GM has installed both Level 1 and Level 2 chargers, basing their decision on which charger was the best fit for each site considering budget and electrical capacity. With L1 charging, employees don't have to worry about moving their vehicles during the workday. Outlets are reliable (no maintenance issues) and can easily be included in the cost of ongoing electrical projects in parking lots and garages. Many EV owners prefer L2 chargers for the convenience of not having to supply their own charge cord and for the assurance of having a fully charged car by noon in case they need to leave the workplace. After three years of providing workplace charging, GM developed an electric vehicle charging etiquette for users based on what the company had learned. They happily share this helpful guide with other employers.

The final panel participant was Michelle Jenkins, sustainability coordinator for the Environmental Protection Commission (EPC) of Hillsborough County. EPC installed their first charging station in 2011 with funds from a grant that provided 100 ChargePoint units to the Tampa Bay area. This charger offered both public and employee accessibility. Not long after that, EPC added two private stations for charging fleet vehicles. Due to increased demand, a second public ChargePoint unit was later added.

EPC Build It

Photo courtesy of EPC

Jenkins brought home a common theme that surfaced through all the presentations: "If you build it, they will come." Like GM, TECO, and Raytheon, EPC found that providing workplace charging increased the number of employees driving EVs. Their real-world experience confirmed DOE's claim on the Workplace Charging Challenge website: "Employees with access to workplace charging are six times more likely to drive a plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) than the average worker."

Taylor Ralph, president of REAL Building Consultants, followed the panel discussion and addressed how green vehicles and EVSE apply to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), a building certification program developed by the U.S. Green Building Council that provides a framework of best practices for green building projects. LEED assesses performance in various sustainability metrics, including energy savings, resource efficiency, greenhouse gas reduction, improved indoor air quality, green materials, waste reduction, and alternative transit.

Ralph discussed recent changes related to EVSE and green vehicle points outlined in LEED version 4, effective November 1, 2016. LEEDv4 now requires the installation of EVSE with preferred parking spaces, in addition to providing preferred parking spaces for low emitting vehicles, for three LEED points. To meet LEED standards, EVSE must provide a Level 2 charging capacity or greater; comply with relevant regional standards for electrical connectors; and be networked or Internet addressable. Ralph said employers should communicate the EV charging availability to employees: "Sustainability can be inspirational for your employees to lead more environmentally responsible lives." Workplace charging encourages sustainability and helps employees encourage each other to do better.

Helda Rodriguez, president of NovaCharge, rounded out the workshop by focusing on EVSE cost and site considerations. She said that DCFC is best suited for people on the move (i.e., fast food, retail outlets) rather than the workplace, where employees often cannot or do not want to leave their desk after 20 minutes to unplug their vehicle. L2 chargers make more sense, requiring three to four hours for a full charge.

NREL juice bar

Photo courtesy of NREL

EV chargers are offered in a variety of configurations and pricing. Employers must determine which EVSE solution works for their application—networked, basic, or authenticated. Networked charging is completely self-managed and offers point-of-pay features, user authentication, and data collection and reporting. Basic charging is safe and reliable, open to all users, and lower cost. Authenticated charging is in between, requires an RFID card or pin code for access (authentication), avoids recurring network costs, and offers high-quality service. There are currently two networks available for networked chargers but within the next year, a system will develop that services all drivers. Rodriguez compared this evolution to the first ATMs that required the right card at the right teller location before becoming universally applicable. Since this upgraded convenience will allow the industry to grow very quickly, she recommended choosing equipment open to multiple networks. EV drivers can locate charging stations through a number of free smartphone apps from providers such as PlugShare and ChargePoint, and through DOE's Alternative Fuels Data Center online.

In addition to site considerations already discussed, Rodriguez recommended installing the charger between two parking spaces for easier access, ensuring that signage is at the end of the parking space so the car does not park over it, and remembering that shorter distance from the unit to electrical service means lower installation cost. Another advantage of providing two parking spaces is that it allows a second vehicle to begin charging when the first vehicle finishes. In Florida, employers should also keep in mind potential damage to chargers from the sun, water, and yard maintenance equipment.

Rodriquez noted that the two newest electric vehicle additions to the Tampa Bay region include a public charging station at the City of Dunedin public library and the Tampa Downtown Partnership's all-electric free shuttle service, Downtowner, which officially launched on October 20. 

Employers are leaders and businesses are embracing EVs at the workplace to attract and retain talent, in retail and hospitality to attract new customers and build loyalty, in multi-family dwellings to increase occupancy, in parking operations to attract new drivers, and in fleets to lower fuel and maintenance costs. Considering the current and projected growth in EV adoption, Rodriquez proposed that offering EV infrastructure might become as common as offering Wi-Fi. She said employers should be ready: "Being part of workplace charging gives your company national visibility." It is a visible, "overtly green" sign to customers that a business is a sustainability leader.

 A full album of event photos is available at https://www.flickr.com/gp/145244183@N04/AnM968

Written by: Jana Huss, Tampa Bay Clean Cities Coalition
Photography by: Ryan Wakefield, USF Center for Urban Transportation Research

tbccc

The Tampa Bay Clean Cities Coalition advances the energy, economic, and environmental security of the United States through its efforts to reduce petroleum use in transportation in our six-county region. It is the area's recognized resource for technical assistance, networking, identification of grant opportunities, and information exchange in the area of advanced transportation options, fuels, and technologies.