Government Champions Workplace Charging Endeavors

Updated June 29, 2016

Expanding the deployment of plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) will require increasing the availability of PEV charging infrastructure. While PEV owners use electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) at their homes to charge their vehicles overnight, their greatest need while away from home is to have access to charging at the workplace. To meet this need, employers across the country are increasingly installing Level 1, Level 2, and even DC fast charging EVSE. This has supported the rapidly expanding PEV market, as employees with access to workplace charging are six times more likely to drive a PEV than the average worker1. More than 35 laws and incentives exist in over 20 states, and at the federal level, to support EVSE installation. Workplace charging occurs more frequently in states with EVSE incentives2. These facts are increasing momentum for PEV ownership.

Federal Workplace Charging Support

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) established an initiative to encourage by 2022 the development and deployment of PEVs that are as affordable and convenient for the American family as gasoline-powered vehicles. As part of this initiative, DOE also created the Workplace Charging Challenge (WPCC) to inspire employers to provide charging for employees at their workplaces. The WPCC actively supports and recognizes employers nationwide that are considering or already offering charging to their employees. State and federal agencies also benefit from WPCC support when creating workplace charging programs of their own.

Charging at federal facilities and for federal agency employees has traditionally been allowed on a case-by-case basis. Agencies, however, had no specific authority to allow employees to use existing wall-outlets as Level 1 charging or to use existing Level 2 EVSE currently available to fleets. This changed in 2015 with the enactment of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act). The FAST Act authorizes agencies to allow employees and other authorized users to use existing infrastructure, or install new EVSE, as long as the agencies recoup the costs. Widespread implementations of federal workplace charging is expected following passage of the FAST Act as agencies choose the best charging options for their facilities. Executive Order 13693 also instructs the federal government to consider the development of policies to promote sustainable commuting and work related travel practices including workplace vehicle charging for federal employees.

Although federal workplace charging programs are just ramping up, private workplaces have long benefitted from federal support. Businesses are eligible for a federal tax credit that offers up to 30% of the cost of a charging station, with some limitations.

States Encouraging Workplace Charging

States have incentivized EVSE deployment for several years, though the focus for many has recently shifted to growing workplace charging opportunities. Tax credits for EVSE installation were originally intended for fleet deployment of PEVs, but many companies across the country are now taking advantage of these programs for their employees. The District of Columbia, Louisiana, Missouri, New York, and other states offer employers tax credits of varying amounts for EVSE installation. Many states, including Georgia, require public accessibility to the charging stations in order to qualify for tax credit eligibility.

Grant and rebate programs for charging stations are also available and are particularly important for local governments, schools, and other workplaces that are tax-exempt and may not be eligible for direct tax incentives. A few states, such as Delaware, offer both grants and rebates for EVSE, with funding amounts dependent on the entity installing charging, public accessibility, and the type of charging equipment. Texas requires grant recipients to allow the public to access charging stations at certain times—a methodology used by many companies across the country to allow the public to charge during non-work hours. States like Illinois and Pennsylvania have more general grant and rebate incentive programs, while Nebraska offers EVSE installation loans with an interest rate of 5% or less. Other states offer low-interest loans to help finance charging station installation, particularly when the EVSE is accompanied by a company-owned PEV.

States have also developed programs specifically for workplace charging, such as Massachusetts’ grant program for Level 1 and 2 infrastructure that requires workplaces to have 15 or more employees to be eligible. Connecticut’s grant program is even open to state agencies interested in applying for funding to support charging equipment at their facilities. For DC fast charging, Maryland has a program that will cover up to 50% of the cost of charging equipment for qualified businesses. In California, the South Coast Air Quality Management District is authorized to use funds to reduce employee emissions, with EVSE installation approved as an emissions reduction method.

States Leading by Example

To encourage workplace charging programs and “walk the talk,” many states have agreed to take steps to install charging stations for state employee use. In 2013, California, Maryland, Massachusetts, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont signed a Multi-State Zero-Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Memorandum of Understanding, signaling their intent to promote ZEVs, including PEVs, and install charging stations. Many of these states have since implemented their own workplace charging programs. California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, New Mexico, Oregon, and Vermont are among the states that have made charging available to state employees. Separately, Colorado state agencies are evaluating workplace charging, and Utah and Washington have installed stations for employees at state facilities. Executive orders and state bills have established a majority of these programs.

Alternatively, many states are creating workplace charging programs for their employees by opening fleet charging equipment to employees during designated times, allowing employees to use existing Level 1 outlets in parking lots, or leasing space at buildings to provide charging access to tenants. New York and Maryland state grant programs have also provided funding for charging access at state universities and agencies. This model is often a combination of workplace charging and public charging, and can be free or require payment, depending on the state.

Workplace Charging in the Community

States work to educate the public on the benefits of workplace charging through a variety of strategies. Illinois, for example, has hosted workplace charging workshops for local businesses to learn more about PEV and EVSE offerings and incentives. Many states partner also with their local Clean Cities coalitions to host workshops, ride and drives, webinars, dealership trainings, and other events to engage with the local community about workplace charging. States have also hosted events to promote financial incentives that encourage workplace charging, such as workshops to launch new rebate programs.

Utilities are increasingly supportive of PEV programs, including workplace charging. Regulated utilities and public utility commissions have been working together to test new charging programs across the country. Programs that focus on workplace time-of-use rates and incentivizing charging equipment are a few of the options state regulators have agreed to explore.

Charging Forward

As more states look to promote efficient transportation technologies, such as PEVs, their efforts will be coupled with support for the deployment of additional charging infrastructure. State and local governments are always exploring new stakeholder engagement methodologies to promote charging infrastructure installation, particularly through public-private partnerships. Governments can continue to collaborate with utilities, auto dealerships, and DOE’s Clean Cities program and Workplace Charging Challenge to educate the public on PEVs and EVSE options and benefits.

While the rate of PEV adoption has increased more broadly, several geographic regions still have few workplace charging programs primarily due to a lack of local PEV deployment efforts. However, experience suggests that as more PEVs hit the roads in these areas, states will likely re-evaluate their vehicle and infrastructure incentives to support deployment. This will likely be the case even for states where such incentives have existed; in recent years, more than 300 PEV-related state laws and incentives have expired or been repealed as states' PEV markets have become self-sustaining or the PEV technologies have improved. The evolution of laws and incentives will continue nationwide as new and more affordable PEV models and EVSE technologies are introduced to the market.

1 U.S. Department of Energy’s Workplace Charging Challenge Mid-Program Review: Employees Plug In, U.S. Department of Energy, 2015
2 Ibid.