The arrival of plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) brings multiple opportunities for the business community to:
- operate more environmentally sustainably,
- be cutting-edge,
- reduce costs,
- serve the community,
- reap benefits for market share of customers looking for charging and
- providing enhanced benefits for employees.
In addition, with the plans to bring one million plug-in electric vehicles to the roads by 2015, opportunities continue to grow to jump further into the electric transportation market.
Business or Fleet Vehicles
Organizations with “company cars” or business fleets may now be considering adding PEVs to the mix or replacing some or all of their cars with all-electric vehicles.
Several considerations include: the type of vehicles needed (sedan vs truck), which models and their cost, driving distance, charging options, maintenance, rebates or incentives, and facilities.
An early consideration to take into account is driving range. Since most all-electric cars are designed to go about 80 to100 miles on a single charge, you need to know whether this meets your business vehicle needs, since charging on the road in the near-term may not be time or cost efficient.
The variety of vehicles will grow over the next few years as more models are delivered to the market.
- The Nissan LEAF is an all-electric car with a lithium-ion battery, top speed of 90 mph and a range of 100 miles on a single charge.
- The Chevrolet Volt is Motor Trend’s 2011 Car of the Year® but is a plug-in extended-range electric vehicle. Its lithium-ion battery stores power from the electric charge and a 9-gallon gasoline tank fuels an on-board gasoline generator. The electric motor powers the car for the first 40 miles and then the gas kicks in to provide another 375 miles of range on a full tank. It charges in about half the time as the Nissan LEAF but with about half of the pure electric range.
- The Tesla Roadster is an all-electric sports car with a price tag of over $100,000 and has a range of 240 miles on a single charge. Zero emissions as it goes from 0-60 in 3.7 seconds, too.
- Other more luxury vehicles include the BMW ActiveE electric vehicle.
- More manufacturers will be rolling out light-duty electric truck such as the Dodge Ram and heavy-duty equipment, too.
Check out the current and future vehicle list here
Costs for PEVs range depending on the make and model you choose (smaller, economy cars or higher end performance cars), just as it does with the gas-powered vehicles you drive and dealers offer sales and leases. Your cost to “fill up” could be one-quarter to one-third less than running on gas, which can also off-set PEVs higher initial purchase prices. Of course, PEVs emit less greenhouse gas emissions, which will contribute to a corporate sustainability effort at the same time.
What rate your utility will charge for charging depends of your electricity rate plan, time you’ll be charging vehicles and more, and most utilities suggest talking to your account representative for details.
While a company car can be charged up at home or the office via a common 110-volt outlet, most likely business operations will require a higher voltage, faster-charging Level 2 station that requires a 240 volt line.
Fleet managers and those with more than a few vehicles to be charged, such as in a multi-tenant office building or retail location, would need to consider adding charging stations.
Fleet managers should consider the number and type of vehicles in a PEV fleet, as well as range requirements and schedule that would fill charging needs for the fleet. The cost of the investment will include looking at the time and frequency of charging required to service the collection of vehicles to determine the type and number of electric charging stations needed.
Currently, high-voltage, fast-charging units (which take approximately 10 to 20 minutes to charge) are in development, for limited use by some fleet operators and certain public charging locations. Also of use to fleet managers, some of these fast chargers perform a battery check to automatically determine battery voltage, capacity and state of charge, a measure of the amount of energy left in a cell or battery, then delivers only the needed charge.
New options will include using a Fleet Recharge Management System (FRMS), an integrated, computerized charging system that may help to reduce the costly process of managing electric vehicle charging for fleet applications by automatically sequencing multiple chargers.
Of course, for new developments, installing the appropriate number and type of circuits, including additional electrical capacity (if required) during initial construction will minimize costs.
Rebates and Incentives.
Purchasers of PEVs qualify for tax credits through the federal government’s Recovery Act, ranging from $2,500 to $7,500, depending on the vehicle’s battery capacity. The Chevy Volt and Nissan LEAF both qualify for the maximum $7,500 credit. Please visit the IRS website at Plug-In Electric Vehicle Credit (IRC 30 and IRC 30D) to see the vehicle criteria. www.irs.gov, section 8936 and consult with your attorney to understand how to take advantage of these incentives.
The tax credit was extended for 30 percent of the cost of EV charging stations up to $ 30,000 for businesses, for equipment installed before the end of 2011.
Some manufacturers are offering partner rebates on top of the tax credits to achieve 100% rebate on the cost, depending on the facility and installation.
Local incentives may include special electricity rates through the local utility. Duke Energy suggests a business contact their commercial account manager to discuss electricity rate options.
As use of PEVs grows, more employers, building owners and workplace facilities, such as parking garages, retail parking lots or private parking for customers, may opt to include charging stations.
Most currently available PEVs can be easily charged during the course of a workday, which would encourage employers to provide charging for both employees and customers, too.
The new EVSE load will change the energy profile of a building or parking lot location and can raise electricity costs, if it pushes energy consumptions and demand into higher billing changes billing tiers.
The stations will require permitting and inspection. They may be simple to install or require engineering, electrical work and local government approvals. Other systems can include wireless networking and other software for tracking and billing. Installation may require electrical equipment upgrades or bringing power from buildings to parking lots, and possibly additional circuits, panels, meter or transformers.
Adding Charging Services
Overall, getting into the PEV and EVSE arenas adds up to an important part of a company’s larger sustainability or energy efficiency strategy and a viable business undertaking. To initiate the rollout of EV infrastructure, the US government has committed $400 million to charging infrastructure across selected geographic markets. And in some cases, manufacturers are offering rebates on the cost of charging equipment.
Businesses may want to add electric vehicle charging capabilities for their employees or to gain patronage from PEV drivers who may seek out those locations where they can charge up while doing other things, like working, shopping or dining.
- Since many new charging stations are networked or tied to GPS systems, drivers would be able to find them in advance or while on the road, which might influence them to shop at one location over another.
- An employer dedicated to sustainability may incentivize PEV purchases by employees by offering free or subsidized charging while at work.
- A large gathering place such as a conference center or stadium may want charging facilities for guests attending events or concerts.
- Preferred parking might be offered for EVs.
- The organization could charge a premium on top of its standard parking fee for charging privileges or monetize formerly free parking lots for EV charging.
Charging Station Fees and Revenue
According to local ordinance restrictions, equipment used and other factors, charging station owners can set their own prices for charging as a function of market demand, by time or day.
Commercial charging stations can be set to charge at rates variable to the day or time, to track and report energy usage and savings for greenhouse gas and fuel. Most also have the capability to accept credit cards, subscription or membership cards, or payment-by-phone or even offer variable billing rates to optimize time-of-day pricing.
Various manufacturers, engineering firms, renewable energy providers and other service providers are available to help businesses site electric-vehicle charging infrastructure.
View some great resources