Silicon Valley: Too Many EVs, Not Enough Workplace Chargers – Lots Of Anger. Is This The Future For The US?
The need for public charging has long been debated. Is it really a necessity to selling electric cars? Does the charging infrastructure truly have to be nationwide for the electrification of the automobile to take off? Do people buy EVs based on the availability of charging away from home?
Maybe so. Maybe Not.
But as a recent article in the San Jose Mercury News alludes to, that really isn’t the discussion anymore.
People want public charging – especially at work. They feel if they own an EV, they deserve it as an employee, and that desire is causing some headaches in the places where the electric vehicle has been adopted first.
The Mercury News points to German software company SAP as an example. Three years ago SAP installed 16 electric vehicle charging ports at its Silicon Valley campus when a few of their employees started showing up the Chevy Volts and Nissan LEAFs.
Now they have a problem as those 16 workplace chargers are fought over by 61 employees who own a plug-in vehicle. Now the term “charge rage” is being thrown around (and going viral) to describe what is transpiring at these station.
Incidentally, the term “charge rage” was first voiced at the BMW Sustainability Hackathon in Mountain View last April. InsideEVs contributor George Betak notes he then “suggested it to Dana Hull, the reporter who wrote the original article in San Jose Mercury News, when she interviewed me on January 9.”
Apparently the desire to fill-up at SAP has lead to some battles over the use of the chargers, as well as the etiquette that surrounds them – as every wants a free boost at work. With another 1,750-odd employees still without plug-in vehicles, the issue looks to only get worse in the future.
“In the beginning, all of our EV drivers knew each other, we had enough infrastructure, and everyone was happy. That didn’t last for long. Cars are getting unplugged while they are actively charging, and that’s a problem. Employees are calling and messaging each other, saying, ‘I see you’re fully charged, can you please move your car?'” – said Peter Graf to the San Jose Mercury News, Peter is SAP’s chief sustainability officer and the driver of a Nissan Leaf.
Mr. Betak, a BMW Active E drive, and former employee at Yahoo’s Sunnyvale headquarters, relates his own story of what happens when there are too few chargers at the workplace:
“I needed to be somewhere by 6 p.m., and all of the active chargers were full. I couldn’t plug in all day. There was a Volt that appeared to be finished charging, so I unplugged it so I could get a half-hour boost. The Volt isn’t pure electric — it also has a gasoline engine. The next day, I learned that the Volt owner was furious, and he sent out this email blast saying that I stole his charge. It was awful.”
Unfortunately this is the new reality of public charging and electric vehicle ownership; especially at the workplace where people who once had a charger all to themselves are finding the competition for those stations growing over time. That is unless their employer is continually adding capacity – a pricey proposition.
One obvious solution for employers to alleviate some of that tension quickly – and without investing so much capital, is to make available standard 120V outlets.
During a full workday many EV owners can still more than refill their vehicles using a trickle charge, and would be than happy to use this alternative on those days where L2 charging is not available to them.
So, our advice employees with plug-in vehicles; advocate for more spaces, but keep a cool head when you come to work – and don’t always expect to have that special spot reserved for your car. After all, it is public charging.