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Electric Car Charging At Work: The Next Big Push

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2011 Chevrolet Volt plugged into Coulomb Technologies 240V wall charging unit

2011 Chevrolet Volt plugged into Coulomb Technologies 240V wall charging unit

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If you drive an electric car, the chances are that you do most of your charging at home.

Why wouldn't you? It's the place your car probably spends the most time during an average 24-hour period, and it's the place you can always be sure of a good charge.

But those with longer commutes may be interested in charging at work too--and workplace charging could be the next major push for the electric vehicle industry.

While Silicon Valley companies have been quick to jump on the workplace charging bandwagon, it's unfortunately not the same everywhere. Few businesses are likely to install a row of chargers--or even a single charger--if there's just a single employee who needs access to one.

It's even less likely to happen if that single employee hasn't yet bought their electric car, but is interested in charging at their workplace--one of the many "chicken and egg" scenarios the electric car world cultivates.

More chargers = more electric cars

For the electric car industry itself, workplace charging could mean a big boost in the number of EV adopters. It's reassurance, more than anything else--a charger at both ends of your commute is certainly one way of combating range anxiety.

As the Los Angeles Times reports, electric car charging network Ecotality suggests workplace chargers are used three times as much as regular public chargers. It's a figure which has grown a full 61 percent in the first half of 2013 alone, as electric vehicle ownership increased.

Talking to the Times, John Boesel from Calstart, a clean transporting consultation firm, says workplace chargers "would really help increase the viability of the EV market".

The challenge is getting your workplace to see the viability of installing chargers. They need to be cost-effective for the business, as well as useful for its employees.

That's why we wrote a guide last year on how to get your work to install chargers. Find enough allies within the business, show them how other businesses have implemented something similar and do the groundwork to make the transition as easy as possible, and you're half way there.

Some firms, such as ChargePoint and Ecotality, offer competitively-priced schemes allowing employees to pay a reduced amount for charging. How long the struggling Ecotality's Blink services will last is unclear right now, but ChargePoint's annual business subscription service, which makes it as easy as possible for employers to set up chargers, is a useful alternative.

Pricing varies. Some employers offer free charging, but surveys have shown that EV owners are happy to pay for the convenience--even if the cost is slightly more than charging at home.

"Virtuous circle"

ChargePoint's Pat Romano suggests the main benefit is employer-employee relations. "You're saving the employee a lot of money in fuel. It's the easiest way to give your employee a raise," he said. Boesel adds that installing chargers is a "virtuous circle"--that businesses with workplace charging result in more employees buying or leasing electric vehicles, which then leads to even more chargers being installed.

Since January, the Department of Energy has been helping that virtuous circle with the EV Everywhere Workplace Charging Challenge.

While no financial incentives are available, the DoE helps with planning and technical support, and it's seen as many as 48 companies (including big names like Google and General Electric) install chargers on at least one of their sites.

If you're looking to convince your own employer to install chargers, have a read of our guide and direct them to the EV Everywhere site--it'll make your daily charging even easier, and may even convince a few workmates to buy an electric car of their own.

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