The Low-Cost Electric Car Charging Station That Every Employer Should Have

Public Domain. PlugShare

It's a common misconception, but EVs don't need expensive charging stations to get a charge.

As Lloyd wrote yesterday, electric cars could help "kill the duck" if more people charged at times of low demand and/or high supply. In solar-heavy regions, that means utilities are very motivated to get people to charge during the day at work.

Yet employers are often intimidated by the idea of installing expensive electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure, especially if they aren't sure how many people would actually use it.

Luckily, there's a cheaper option to get folks started. Contrary to popular misconceptions, electric cars don't actually need fancy chargers to get a charge. In fact, all of them come with a cord that can plug into a regular wall outlet—charging up the battery, even at the measly 120v we usually have access to here in the United States.

So why not install more 120v outlets in convenient locations in employee parking lots? (The cost per employee using the service is likely to be a dollar or so a day—not bad for a significant office perk/environmental benefit.)

Yes, it takes longer. I have to charge overnight to get a full battery on either my Nissan Leaf or my plug-in hybrid Pacifica. But in the context of workplace charging, this may not be such an issue. That's because most people, most of the time, spend a solid full day at work—meaning 7 or 8 hours of charge. Equally, the average commute in the US is around half an hour—meaning most employees would not be arriving at work with a fully depleted battery.

So if you know of an employer who is a candidate for electric vehicle charging, but is put off by the cost, suggest to them they install some regular outlets first. Even if they are adding some more robust, fancy charging stations, it might be worth adding a few regular wall outlets, too, so that those who can afford to wait can trickle charge, leaving the Level 2 chargers for those who need them most. (Workplace charging tends to create its own demand as employees adopt EVs at a higher rate when its available.)

A couple of other unique advantages to this admittedly less sexy approach:
1) A regular wall outlet is less likely to be visible to/in demand by the general public, meaning if you are not ready, able or willing to share your power, it's more likely to be used by employees and close contacts only.
2) Unlike fancier Level 2 charging stations, wall outlets can be used by the greenest of all electric vehicles—the electric bike.

In addition to employers, an approach like this could make a lot of sense to other locations where people spend more time. Hotels and airport parking lots, for example, would be ideal candidates for adding more wall outlets. (The image above comes from PlugShare, and was snapped at Fast Park and Relax at Raleigh-Durham airport.)

Oh, and if you're expecting a lot of Teslas, consider add a few 240v (NEMA 14-50) outlets too. The type you plug a dryer into. The Model S and Model X come with an adapter as standard, allowing them to get a faster charge.

Just be sure to consult with a licensed electrician to make sure your set up is safe and can cope with expected demand.