Friday, March 30, 2012

Changes for a Better EV Life: Paying for Your Work-Related Driving

Having driven CO2 Fre for over a month now, I feel I can now safely make some recommendations for change that would make my life infinitely easier.  Some of these things I've been writing about long before I purchased my Nissan LEAF; I knew going in some sacrifice would be required for the greater good.  That's not to say there aren't great things like the burgeoning Charging Infrastructure and wonderful LEAF features to help get me through the day!  But there's always room for improvement and if you don't speak up, nothing will get done.

Charge at Work in Lieu of Per Mile Reimbursement

Recently, I learned about a perplexing issue affecting a Government employee who drives an EV and was was asked to attend a conference as a part of that person's work duties.  Unfortunately, this individual already uses most of the car's battery capacity in just getting to and from work each day.  Thus, to get to the conference the car would require supplemental charging to increase its range.  Since this car is a 100% Battery-Electric Vehicle (BEV), the only way to increase the car range is via plugging into an electrical outlet.  But because there is no Government policy allowing its employees to charge at work under any circumstances, the worker in question would have to spend potentially hours of personal time at a public charger, perhaps paying a premium for that time just to satisfy job requirements.

One could and I have argued that Government employees and contractors should be able to charge at work.  But that's in the line of getting to and from the workplace when circumstances beyond the driver's control conspire to make it impossible to get home when leaving for work on a full pack, such as might be with traffic or cold weather.  Of course you shouldn't get an EV if you can't either charge at work or can't make it to work and back on a full pack 95% of the time or more, but for those situations where you do need a supplement, it's in the government's best interest to sell the energy to the employee rather than making this employee spend idle hours at a public charging spot.

Of course, OPM allows a Per Mile Reimbursement of 51¢ (at the time of this writing) which applies equally to EVs and ICE vehicles.  So of course this money could be put toward the electricity used to power the car.  After all, if the fuel reimbursement is 19¢—with the other 32¢ per mile representing additional wear and tear on the vehicle—that's a windfall for an electric car.  For example, my vehicle gets better than 4mikWh (6.4kmkWh) at the moment and for the most part my electricity comes at the Super Off-Peak rate of about 6¢kWh meaning I only require about 1.5¢mi (0.93¢km) in fuel.  And at 19¢mi payed by the the employeer, this comes the equivalent of 76¢kWh for a car like mine, which is almost 6 times the regional average of 13¢kWh, higher even than most all of the electricy sold in the U.S.  Indeed, any workplace offering a per mile reimbursement rate of work-related travel is likely to be just as lucrative in terms of energy cost.  But that's obviously not the issue.

It's about the time

The real issue here with EV drivers isn't the money at all, it's the time.  Most Americans mistakenly have in their head the idea that a vehicle operates by first filling it with fuel at some designated fueling station, in minutes, then using it until near empty, then going to another designated fueling station and repeating the process.  This, however, is an incorrect paradigm for EVs.  For an EV driver the logical situation is to charge the car each night, then charge some more where you're parked, then charge some more at the next place you park, and so on.  You never let the battery get toward zero and you prefer not to charge to 100%.  That's why the 4-tiered charging pyramid you see above, derived by the my friend Bob Bruninga, has charge at home at the bottom, charge at work in the middle and public charging at the top with a small point at the summit to represent Level-3 Charging like with CHADeMO.

Again, it's the employer's call, be that the Federal Government, Local Government, Public Non-Profit or Private Business, as to whether an employee may charge at work.  But there are so many idle hours parked at work and with so little cost to you, the employer.  Yet there's so much time benefit—potentially a large percentage of your poor, loyal worker's personal day.  And when the only reason they need to spend those extra hours charging is because they have to go that extra mile in the line of duty, they don't just need the money.  Simply forget the 19¢ fuel you'd normally give your workers and just let them charge at work, just for that day, at least, just so they can effectively do the job your require of them and still save you money!