Nest: Where One Electric-Car Charger Grew To Three

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ChargePoint electric-car charging station at Nest Labs, Palo Alto, CA

ChargePoint electric-car charging station at Nest Labs, Palo Alto, CA

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While we're nearing 100,000 plug-in electric cars on U.S. roads, they're not evenly distributed--and the largest group of them is in California.

This has led to occasional congestion at charging stations, and now it turns out that happens at workplaces too.

Venture-funded startup Nest Labs, a media darling for its high-design smart thermostat, is headquartered in Palo Alto, California--the heart of Silicon Valley.

The company had installed an electric car charger in January, partnering with the ChargePoint network to do so, as part of an initiative to help its 200 employees make their commutes in a greener fashion.

But within a month, Nest found that during the workday, its charging station was being used to recharge various plug-in cars essentially 100 percent of the time.

As Nest's founder and VP of engineering Matt Rogers explains, the company parking lot includes four Nissan Leafs, a Chevrolet Volt, a Ford Focus Electric, a Ford Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid, and--inevitably in Silicon Valley--a Tesla Model S.

As Rogers noted Friday in a cheerful blog post peppered with photos, Nest quickly realized it needed more chargers--and so it tripled its capacity, installing an additional pair of ChargePoint stations.

Since January, Nest calculates that its employees who commute in electric cars have saved 374 gallons of gasoline and prevented 7,000 pounds (3,200 kg) of carbon dioxide being emitted into the atmosphere.

(Rogers didn't note whether that number nets out the carbon profile of extracting, refining, and transporting the fuel required to generate the electricity to charge the cars--and it's a weekend, so we're too lazy to do the math ourselves.)

Nest also counts two biodiesel-fueled cars in its parking lot as well as innumerable Toyota Prius hybrids.

About one in ten Nest employees bike to work, either from home or from mass transit, and a few simply walk.

That makes Nest likely one of the greener employers in the spread-out Bay Area suburbs, although perhaps less so than some companies in downtown San Francisco who may see half or more of their employees walk, bike, or take public transport.

If your employer isn't quite as progressive as Nest just yet, by the way, here's our guide on how to get your workplace to install charging stations.


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Comments (5)
  1. Why do you feel the need to calculate the number that "nets out the carbon profile of extracting, refining, and transporting the fuel required to generate the electricity to charge the cars" when you don't calculate the same for gasoline-fueled vehicles? It's ridiculous to treat electric vehicles so differently. And by the way, electric cars will win that game every time.

  2. @C Z: What I meant to say was that it wasn't clear if the savings cited were a full wells-to-wheels carbon footprint comparison for both forms of energy, or just the actual gallons of gasoline displaced. So we're on the same page.

  3. ChargePoint's driver and station owner dashboards show kWh dispensed, as directly measured at the station. From that, they calculate and display GHG gases and gasoline savings using the standard conversion factors published by DOE or EPA or NREL or whatever authority publishes such things. Presumably NREL (or whoever) has already done the wells-to-wheels figuring.

    California's grid is significantly cleaner than the US average, with far less coal generation and far more wind and solar etc. than elsewhere. So a CA kWh displaces more CO2 than an OH kWh. But I don't know whether ChargePoint's dashboard accounts for that by considering the zipcode in which their station dispensed the kWh.

  4. Right CZ, I have calculated that I can drive my modified 40 mph GEM NEV,20 miles on the energy it takes to refine (not transport)one gallon of gas...

  5. kudos to Nest for taking the initiative but too many companies pass on helping EV'ers and I think legislation should be required. now, we can argue that this is reverse discrimination against gassers but what about the people who choose to be emission free by sacrificing their time to commute by bus or bike?

    I think its time to realize that if we cannot make decisions based on the greater good on our own, then we should be legislated into doing so.

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