Electric Vehicles: Big Benefits, Big Challenges

July 18, 2016 By Carl Weinschenk

electric_vehiclesEnergy managers and facility managers should think about electric vehicles on two levels. The first is practical:  How will the organization set up charging stations and handle the increased energy load that will result? In the longer term, companies need to maximize this potent new approach to transportation.

Driven by Tesla and others, EVs are a rising star in transportation. The demands on organizations will rise in parallel, since corporate parking facilities is a logical – and, if commutes are long enough, necessary – place for these vehicles to be recharged.

The most immediate impact of EVs to an organization is that it will increase power loads in the facilities. Seth Cutler, the General Manager of EV Infrastructure for Current, which is a GE company, told Energy Manager Today that the spending indeed is an issue:

“As adoption rates of electric vehicles continue to increase and infrastructure is deployed, chargers will represent a larger portion of a commercial property’s energy spend. In today’s environment, this has been less of a concern but our platform has been designed with the future in mind.  We have architected our EV infrastructure platform to allow for load control through our cloud services.  Commercial property owners also have the ability to recoup their costs through point of sale solutions at the charging station.”

Increasing expenditures on electricity is far from the only issue, however. Buildings must be aware of how many EVs will be served and deploy the requisite stations. This number, of course, can grow over time. There also are physical issues, such as changes to the layout of parking areas and more closely control of where employees with these types of vehicles park.

The way in which the EV sector will evolve is still being clarified. What is clear is that it will grow from an already significant base. Visiongain estimates that more than 2.2 million units will be in the field this year. Paul Stith, the Solutions Lead for Smart Integrated Infrastructure for Black and Veatch, told Energy Manager Today that the transition to electric vehicles is just the start.

What is coming on the heels of that are a great number of other applications for electric vehicles. [A next step] is the typical service vehicles used on campuses and in schools. Electrifying those vehicles is moving at a rapid pace followed by vans, work trucks and anything for goods movement. Anything today being propelled by an internal combustion engine on the ground has the ability to be electrified.

Like many energy efficiency and renewable technologies, EVs are being driven by public and employee opinion. Indeed, the ability to easily recharge vehicles will make a nice photo opportunity for corporate reports and be a good recruitment tool for prospective employees.

Stith said that an ever increasing number of companies see the value of EVs and the charging stations that go with them. So far, according to Stith, the cutting edge, is in places such as Silicon Valley. In the San Francisco Bay area, he said, special lanes for electric vehicles can reduce commute in some cases from two hours to a half-hour.

The concept is catching on, but a bit unevenly. “It is geographic, but less so by the moment,” Stith said. “In high tech areas with companies that have a strong focus on sustainability, it is happening in pretty big ways already.”

At least three corporate areas are directly impacted by electric vehicles: Fleet management, energy management and human resources. “If your company in its operation uses transportation to any degree, then the fleet managers and team members that are part of that should be out front and looking at what does electrification means to their business bottom line,” Stith said. “It’s not too soon to start looking at it.”

One comment on “Electric Vehicles: Big Benefits, Big Challenges

  1. I don’t mean to be rude, but this article (and 90% of the articles on Energy Manager Today/Environmental Leader) has a large number of glaring spelling/wording mistakes. It’s very distracting and makes it hard to read smoothly through the article. The content is great, I just wish the articles were proof-read before posting.

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