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Electric Vehicle information for Atlanta and Georgia

workplace charging

Most EV owners charge at home, since that’s where the car is sitting for the half the day anyway, and that’s all they ever need. Charging at work is the second most popular solution, since it’s the second most common place for your car to be sitting. Some owners actually need to charge at work, either because their commute is very long, or because they don’t have any charging capability at home. For example, multi-unit (apartment/condo) dwellers often don’t have charging available at home and can’t install it.

The U.S. Department of Energy has some very good resources on workplace charging for EVs:

Two more resources that were developed in 2014-2015:

Charging station options

Similar to the options for public charging stations at retail locations, there are several options to choose from for workplace charging.

The cheapest is to simply offer regular wall outlets (aka “Level 1 charging”) in your parking area. Each outlet will need a dedicated 15 Amp (minimum) circuit, and it’s best to locate these outlet in the LEAST convenient part of your parking area (i.e. far from the building). EV owners will happily walk an extra few seconds for the free charge. And note that the cost of the electricity is trivial — about $1.50 per car per day, probably less than you are paying to offer free coffee to employees. Because these are so cheap to install, you can put in as many outlet as are needed and let people leave their EVs plugged in all day long.

The next step up is basic Level 2 stations, which charge the cars much faster. However you tend to run into contention issues, typically managed actively by one or more of the techniques describe below.

The ultimate option is networked, non-free Level 2 stations. By making the station cost a little bit of money ($1/hour is typical), you incentivize the employee A) to charge only for the time they need it and then clear out of the spot, and B) to charge at home if possible, since they can typically charge at home for less than $1/hour. Further, by being “networked”, employees can see the status of the station from their desk; this is useful when they want to see if the station has freed up so they can go plug in their car.

Two popular options for networked, for-pay Level 2 station are Chargepoint (fancy and expensive) and SemaConnect (more barebones and affordable).

Employee coordination

As discussed above, Level 1 stations are so cheap that you can install one for each EV owner that needs it and simply let them stay plugged in all day. If needed, you can implement a decal system, charging an annual fee for that decal, to limit use of those stations to people who paid for them.

Level 2 stations are much more expensive and it’s unlikely that you’ll have one for each EV. Therefore you’ll need to come up with some way for employee to coordinate and communicate amongst each other, but in a way that doesn’t distract too much from daily business activities.

Here are a variety of solutions that companies have found useful for dealing with Level 2 contention:

– Designate at least one EV owner in the company to be the point person for station issues and employee communication.

– Watch for new EVs arriving (and misusing the stations) and educate each new EV owner on the etiquette — e.g. using the handout below!

– Set up an internal email list with all EV owners on it. However, ask employees to refrain from chatting about EVs on the list, reserving its use for station issues that everyone needs to know about right away. Alternatively, set up a separate announcements list and a discussion list, so that owners can opt out of the discussion list if they wish (or filter those emails).

– Set up an internal social media site for station coordination.

– Use ChargeBump, a system that allows you to reach out to someone by license plate. The problem is that it requires that everyone have the app on their smartphone.

– For free Level 2 stations, arrange the stations with four parking spots around each charging station, and develop a time schedule for the spots so that each car gets 3 hours on the station. For example, at one company, the four parking spots have designated time slots of 7am-10am, 10am-1pm, 1pm-4pm and 4pm-7pm. The plug gets moved to the “next” car every three hours, and then the cars do not need to be moved out of the parking spots. As long as people remember to leave their charging flaps open, this slashes the total employee time lost walking out and moving cars every day by more than half.

Sample handout for employees

Below is a sample fact sheet describing EV charging stations you might have at your workplace. I wrote this document in 2012 as EVs started to arrive at my workplace and owners started to inquire about EV charging. When we finally installed EV charging in 2014, this document evolved into a fact sheet about operation and etiquette.

In our case, we had only Level 2 stations. If you offer Level 1 stations (often the smarter choice, as discussed above), then the document below should be modified accordingly.

If you install a networked station (e.g. Chargepoint or SemaConnect), make sure they disable the “stop session” feature. Employees should NOT be able to remotely stop a charging session. Costs should continue to accrue until they physically go out to the car and unplug. Otherwise you tend to see abuse where they stay plugged in all day, even though they were only drawing a charge for the first few hours.

The example below refers to Chargepoint. If your solution isn’t using Chargepoint, then edit that text as appropriate.

The handout is designed to fit on two pages, or a single sheet of paper when printed double-sided. Copy and paste this text into your own documentation system, and then search for and replace any bracketed text (e.g. “[company name]”) with the appropriate information for your installation.

Typically, the sheet gets handed out when a new EV shows up, using the stations inappropriately. Most commonly, a new owner will park in one of the EVs spots without plugging in, which violates the policy that you charge up and then MOVE YOUR CAR. Pricing should also be structured to encourage people to charge up and move out — cheap for the first four hours, then much more expensive. Simply leaving a copy of this sheet on the car is usually sufficient to educate the new owner and fix the problem.

Electric Vehicle charging at [company name]

This document describes the electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure offered by [company name]. Questions? See contact info at bottom of page.

Level 1 versus Level 2 charging

Level 1 charging of EVs means plugging into a regular wall outlet, adding 4-5 miles of range per hour of charging. All EVs come with a charge cord that allows for this. It is slow but it works and outlets are ubiquitous. However, [company name] does not allow Level 1 charging in the parking decks due to problems with circuits getting overloaded.

Level 2 charging of EVs makes use of an EV charging station, typically wall- or pedestal-mounted. These cost thousands of dollars, but charge the cars far faster, adding 10-20 miles of range per hour of charging, depending on the car model.

Locations of Level 2 (high power) chargers at [campus 1]

[edit as appropriate]Location name 1: X pedestals with Y plugs, describe exact location, provide Chargepoint unit names

[edit as appropriate]Location name 2: X pedestals with Y plugs, describe exact location, provide Chargepoint unit names

[edit as appropriate]Location name 3: X pedestals with Y plugs, describe exact location, provide Chargepoint unit names

Locations of Level 2 (high power) chargers at [campus 2]

[edit as appropriate]Location name 1: X pedestals with Y plugs, describe exact location, provide Chargepoint unit names

[edit as appropriate]Location name 2: X pedestals with Y plugs, describe exact location, provide Chargepoint unit names

How to use the Level 2 chargers

Charge for 4 hours max and then please MOVE YOUR CAR. There are far more EVs at [company name] than charging stations, so get the charge your car needs and then please move it out of the way for the next person. Only cars that are actually plugged in should be in these parking spots.

The chargers are not free. It costs $0.85 per hour for the first four hours, and then $5 per hour afterwards. You read that right – FIVE DOLLARS PER HOUR after the first four hours. Costs continue to accrue as long as you are plugged in, even if your car reaches fully charged during the session. This pricing is designed to encourage you to come back after 4 hours and move your car out so the next person can use it. Most cars will get a full charge in four hours, even if starting from empty. Note that while the rate for the first four hours is cheap, it’s still cheaper for you to charge up at home.

You need a Chargepoint card to use the Level 2 chargers. Go to: http://www.chargepoint.com/ and click on “Sign Up” in the upper right corner. Setting up an account requires a credit card for them to bill future charges to. There is currently no signup fee (for a limited time, possibly) but a $25 deposit is required to get started.

If you received a free Chargepoint card from somewhere (e.g. as a promotion), it will only allow you to use free Chargepoint stations, which are quite rare. You will need to activate that card in order for it to work at ALL Chargepoint stations, including the ones that cost money to use (including our workplace stations). When signing up via the form at the website above, simply indicate that you already have a physical card and they’ll associate your new account with that card.

You can also get by without any network card at all by calling Chargepoint from the charging station at time of use – the phone number is on the station. In that case you give them your credit card over the phone and they then activate the charger remotely. This is a pain if you are in a hurry because it takes a couple minutes to go through the credit card process over the phone, and there may be times that you’re waiting on hold.

Most EVs come with a smartphone app that provides charging status from the car’s perspective. Chargepoint also has a smartphone app and website that you can use to get the status of your charge session from the charger’s perspective. On the website you can configure all sorts of alerts (via email, text, etc.) including when your car is all charged up. You can also see the usage status of all of the [company name] stations, in case they were all in use when you arrived at work and you want to know when one becomes available.

[following paragraph only applies to “shared power” stations]
One detail about power delivered … These charging stations are wired to supply up to 6.6 kilowatts (kW) of power per pedestal. Since there are two plugs (“ports”) per pedestal, the charging station will share the power between cars as needed. If two cars are plugged into one pedestal and both are pulling power from the pedestal, the charging station will share that 6.6 kW between the two cars, e.g. 3.3 kW per car. So if another car is plugged into the same pedestal, you may see your car receiving less than its full power capability. If one of the cars unplugs, or fills up, full power then immediately and automatically resumes on the other car.

How to report problems

EV charging parking spot occupied by gas car, or by EV that’s not plugged in – contact Security. [provide appropriate phone number for each campus]. They will leave a note on the car, and will escalate appropriately if a repeat offender. Again, these parking spots are for EV charging only – if you unplug because you are charged up, you need to move your car so that someone else can get to the charger.

Charger isn’t working right – call Chargepoint using the phone number posted on the charger. They may ask for the unit address, which can be found somewhere on the station’s screen. Finally, if a pedestal with two or more plugs, note which plug you were using when you had the problem – e.g. P1/left or P2/right.

How to tell if a car is charged up

All of the EVs on the market have some sort of indication on the outside of the car that shows their charging status. Unfortunately each car model has different LED behavior.

Nissan Leaf: when charging it has 3 LEDs making a bar graph to show progress. Any LEDs blinking means it’s still charging. When fully charged all 3 LEDs turn off completely (after 5 minutes).

Ford models: when charging it has 4 LED segments making a circle to show progress. Any LEDs blinking means it’s still charging. When
fully charged the LED circle turns off completely (after a minute).

Chevrolet Volt (Gen1, 2011-2015): when charging it has 1 LED that is lit on solid. When fully charged the LED blinks. Note that this is the opposite of the other cars, and opposite to what you might expect.

Chevrolet Volt (Gen2, 2016-present): when charging it has a blinking LED. When fully charged the LED is lit up solid. (so more like the other cars)

Tesla models: no indication at all. The charge port lights up when the car is unlocked, but once locked and the owner departs, the indication lighting turns off.

Level 1 (wall outlets) at [campus 1]

[Insert policy on using wall outlets, including explicit statement that they are not allowed to use them if that’s the policy.]

Level 1 (wall outlets) at [campus 2]

[Insert policy on using wall outlets, including explicit statement that they are not allowed to use them if that’s the policy.]

Contact info

[Insert contact info for reporting station problems, requesting badge access, reporting parking violators, etc. It is also recommended that one EV owner take the lead on coordination with the company’s facilities group, and you may want to name that person here as well.]