Workplace Charging for Plug-In Electric Vehicles

With proper workplace charging implementation, employers can help increase the convenience and affordability of driving electric for their employees. Workplace charging can demonstrate leadership in adopting advanced technologies.

Employers and workers can find resources on planning, organizing, and executing successful and educational workplace charging events in the Clean Cities Workplace Charging Toolkit.

From 2013 to 2017, the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Workplace Charging Challenge partnered with organizations that committed to provide plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) charging stations to their employees. Many of the best practices, lessons learned, tools, and templates available here are based on the accomplishments of Challenge partners.

Evaluating and Planning for Workplace Charging

Determining if a workplace charging program is right for an organization often begins by gauging employee interest through a survey. The following resources can help employers understand how workplace charging may support their sustainability portfolio:

Employers should consult their utility, electrical contractor, charging equipment provider, and other stakeholders early in the process to identify and discuss potential challenges. For example, special consideration is needed when determining whether to offer charging at workplaces located in leased facilities.

Installing Workplace Charging

Charging equipment delivers electrical energy from an electricity source, such as the grid or solar panels, to a PEV. Level 1, Level 2, and direct-current (DC) fast charging each offer benefits and require different considerations for workplace charging:

  • Level 1 stations are less expensive than Level 2 stations, but they charge vehicles at a slower rate and generally may only be used by one vehicle during the standard workday. See Level 1 Electric Vehicle Charging Stations at the Workplace for more information.

  • Level 2 stations are the most commonly used at workplaces, and each Level 2 connector is capable of charging more than one vehicle per day. It is often necessary for organizations to establish policies that encourage employees to share the stations and move their charged vehicles after a certain amount of time. Some Level 2 stations enable easier sharing with multiple connectors that allow vehicles to charge in succession without owners having to disconnect or move vehicles.

  • DC fast charging may be used as part of a strategy to alleviate charging congestion or to allow employees to charge in a very short amount of time. Often, DC fast charging stations are the most expensive to install. Learn more in a Drive Electric Minnesota case study

Employers seeking to procure charging infrastructure and offer workplace charging must also consider costs associated with equipment, installation, maintenance, and electricity. Costs Associated with Non-Residential Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment provides information on the costs associated with purchasing, installing, and owning the equipment. Federal, state, and utility incentives can provide discounts that lower workplace charging costs.

By evaluating goals and needs, employers can select the best workplace solution. Find available charging equipment options using Plug In America's Get Equipped resource or GoElectricDrive’s website and consult DOE's workplace charging Request for Proposal Guidance.

Managing Workplace Charging

Organizations offering workplace charging for plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) can benefit from setting clear guidelines in the areas of administration, registration and liability, sharing, and pricing to help ensure a safe and successful workplace charging experience. For organizations offering charging at Level 1 charging receptacles, or wall outlets, consider important Level 1 safety and management policies.

Administration

The first step toward successful workplace charging administration is to designate a responsible individual or group for ongoing operation and maintenance issues of the charging stations and any related costs. In larger organizations, workplace charging operations are typically handled by a sustainability or facilities manager; however, in smaller organizations where these positions may not exist, it may be unclear who is directly responsible. By ensuring that all appropriate departments and individuals know who is responsible for the administration and enforcement of the program, employers will be able to address challenges swiftly and efficiently.

See the Other Considerations section of the Charging Infrastructure Procurement and Installation page for more information on charging administration. Additional areas to consider when developing workplace charging administration policies include:

  • Charging Access – Some employers may decide to limit charging station use to employees while others also allow visitor use during certain hours of the day (see the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) sample workplace charging policy for additional considerations). Employers can increase charging station use by charging fleet vehicles at night or by allowing public charging after business hours.

  • Enforcement & Security – Management should identify who is responsible for enforcing workplace charging policies. Options may include parking garage attendants, security personnel, or employee self-monitoring. When considering enforcement and security options, employers may also want to consider how to prevent against vandalism and theft of charging stations after regular business hours when the identified enforcement personnel may not be available.

Registration and Liability

Many organizations require that PEV-driving employees register their vehicle, and some require them to sign a standard waiver. Examples include:

  • Registration – Many employees are required to register their PEV with their employer through an internal registration or ticketing. This registration allows the employer to accurately count the number and type of vehicles that are actively using the worksite's charging stations. A registration form may include language that requires vehicle owners to agree not to hold the employer responsible for any damage to the vehicle that occurs while it is parked at the charging station. Depending on the charging station or charging service provider, the employer may also need to set up an account with the charging network and obtain access cards or key fobs for employees.

  • Waiver – Some employers also require their PEV-driving employees to sign a standard waiver of liability or a user agreement. These documents stipulate, among other things, that the employee accepts responsibility for any risks associated with use of the workplace charging stations. Some employers may require all employees using their parking facilities to sign a parking liability form. In this case, it is easy to add language specific to charging rather than creating a separate form. Employers are strongly encouraged to consult with their legal counsel regarding potential liability related to workplace charging stations.

Station Sharing

Employers should consider developing a policy that specifies what employees should do when there are more PEVs that need to charge than there are charging stations available. When creating charging station sharing policies, management should consider how far employees are commuting and the types of PEVs they are driving. The vehicles' battery pack size and state of charge (almost empty to nearly full) will influence the time required to recharge. For example, employers could give preference to drivers of all-electric vehicles who need workplace charging to complete their daily commute.

It is important to ensure PEV drivers are aware of who is enforcing the policy, as well as the consequences for not following the stated charging policy. There are many strategies for managing charging station sharing, including:

  • Assignment – For organizations with more charging stations than PEV drivers, assign a single employee to a charging station. For organizations with fewer stations than PEV drivers, assign two "charging buddies" to each station. These "charging buddies" coordinate their charging on a daily basis. Alternatively, assign two employees to each charging spot but give one charging access in the morning and the other access in the afternoon.

  • Reservation System – Use an internal shared calendar or other reservation tool. This system allows employees to book their charging access in a similar way that employees book conference room reservations.

  • Time Limit – Use a well-enforced time-limit policy to ensure that workplace charging stations are shared among employees. A time-limit policy can be enforced in a number of ways. For example, employers can program the charging station software to provide free charging for up to four hours, after which it charges the user a $10 per hour fee. Other employers may have a similar four-hour maximum charging time. While most do not enforce a fee, they encourage drivers to voluntarily move their vehicle. If drivers do not adhere to this policy on three separate occasions, they may have their charging privilege suspended.

  • Employee Self-Managed – Provide a good communication platform such as a dedicated intranet forum or email listserv for PEV drivers. These communication platforms allow employees to let each other know if they are in need of charging or that they have completed charging and a charging spot is free. Employees in a self-managed charging system charge their vehicles on a first-come, first-served basis and often agree to the rule that only PEVs that are actively charging can use a parking spot associated with a station. Even in a self-managed workplace charging program, it is very important that participants have a designated management point of contact to coordinate with if users are experiencing issues with equipment or co-workers' behavior.

Pricing

Employers that provide workplace charging must decide if and how employees will pay for charging station use. Many existing workplace charging programs are free for employees. However, fees can help offset capital and operational costs associated with workplace charging. It may also increase the perception of fairness, as not all employees can use PEV charging. See the Fees section of the Charging Infrastructure Operation and Maintenance page for more information.

If an employer institutes a payment system, it is important to develop a fee structure that is not a major barrier to use. In fact, a fee structure may help relieve charging station congestion. Charging employees at a rate slightly above local residential electricity rates is recommended as it allows people who cannot charge at home to benefit from the economic advantage of driving electric while discouraging those employees who do not truly need to charge at work from occupying the stations.

It is important that employers choose which scenario is right for them and clearly state the policy in relevant employee educational material. It's important to have a consistent policy in the case of PEV charging price because employees factor these anticipated costs (or lack thereof) into their decision to purchase PEVs. Employers should check with their accountant or chief financial officer to determine any tax implications of providing free charging to employees.

Level 1 Safety and Management Policies

Organizations offering PEV charging at Level 1 charging receptacles, or wall outlets, can ensure a safe and successful workplace charging experience by considering the following safety and management policies:

  • Level 1 charging receptacles should meet the National Electrical Code for safe charging of PEVs and should comply with local building codes (learn about related codes and standards on the Codes and Standards Resources page). Employers should confirm that the Level 1 charging receptacle is a commercial grade National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) outlet connected to a dedicated circuit breaker. Ground-fault circuit interrupter outlets, which protect against electrical shock, are required for outdoor use. Additionally, it is a good practice to ask an electrician to inspect the Level 1 charging receptacle and ensure it is in good condition before using it for charging. See the Other Considerations section of the Charging Infrastructure Procurement and Installation page for more information on compliance, permitting, and inspection.

  • Employers should consult best practices for installing Level 1 charging receptacles in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). DOE's Americans with Disabilities Act Requirements for Workplace Charging Installation provides additional information on ensuring the accessibility of workplace charging equipment.

  • Employers are encouraged to consider cordset weight and typical length of the cord when determining the Level 1 outlet height. Putting strain on the Level 1 charging receptacle or the cordset by having the cordset hang in the air should be avoided.

  • By annually checking their Level 1 charging receptacles, employers can ensure that the devices are working and capable of safe operation.

Engaging Employees

Once charging is available at work, employers may want to engage employees on how they can take advantage of this. DOE's PEV Outreach Resources for Your Employees offers tips for educating employees about why and how they can take advantage of workplace charging. Ride-and-drive events may also be an effective way to introduce employees to PEVs and workplace charging.

Below are some examples of how organizations have made workplace charging available to their employees:

  • Local Businesses – Learn how three small companies—Hollywood Woodwork, MOM's Organic Market, and Posty Cards—have successfully installed charging stations for their employees.

  • University Campuses – Learn how higher education institutions are promoting PEV adoption by faculty, staff, and students.

  • Healthcare Facilities – Learn how hospitals and other healthcare organizations are improving local air quality by promoting employee PEV adoption.

  • Utilities Power Change – Learn how New Jersey's Public Service Electric and Gas Company, and Southern Company's unit Georgia Power are launching workplace charging programs for their commercial customers.

  • Federal Agencies – Learn about considerations for implementing charging at federal workplaces, as well as examples of federal agencies that have done so.