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.
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.
Additional areas to consider when developing workplace charging administration policies include:
- Parking and Signage – Maximize the benefits of charging stations by clearly communicating the spaces designated for PEVs.
- 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.
- Accessibility – DOE's Americans with Disabilities Act Requirements for Workplace Charging Installation provides additional information on ensuring the accessibility of workplace charging equipment.
Registration and Liability
Many organizations require that PEV-driving employees register their vehicle through an internal registration or ticketing system that is managed by administrative services, facilities, transportation, or the security department. This registration allows the employer to accurately count the number and kind of vehicles (either plug-in hybrid electric or all-electric vehicles) that are actively using the worksite's charging stations. Once registered, some employers provide employees with rearview mirror hangtags or window stickers that signal they have permission to charge to other employees and the entity responsible for enforcing charging policy. Lastly, 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.
A registration form may include language that requires vehicle owners agree not to hold the employer responsible for any damage to the vehicle that occurs while it is parked at the charging station. It could also specify a timeframe that the employer is obligated to address maintenance issues with the charging stations once they have been notified of the problem.
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.
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. In a self-managed program, it is important to make clear whether or not participants allow fellow employees to unplug their vehicle when it is finished charging. Because this can be a sensitive matter, some organizations use window placards in each PEV stating the driver's contact information, permission for other employees to unplug their vehicle, and what time the next driver can unplug the vehicle while still meeting their minimum charging needs. These organizations often ask that PEV drivers disable the charging cord and alarm on their vehicles. Finally, 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.
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. 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. Plug In America recommends charging employees at a rate slightly above local residential electricity rates, which 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 code ventilation requirements if applicable (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.
- Employers should consult best practices for installing Level 1 charging receptacles in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
- 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.