The appetite for electric vehicle charging stations is greater than you think.
When I proposed we launch a PSEG employee electric car incentive program, I expected it would be two years before we had 13 drivers for spots set aside at our Newark, New Jersey, headquarters. Instead, it took two months to fill the spots.
The enthusiasm was summed up by one of our employee participants, Jimin Liu,
“I was juiced up when they announced the program. I signed up as soon as I could, and once I had the spot, I leased a Nissan Leaf. The program made it convenient and economical to do my part to help improve the air quality.”
Participants received free charging and free parking (important in Newark) guaranteed for three years (matching the length of a car lease). In fact, the response was so strong that the company will be expanding the program later this year.
PSEG is not alone. With increasing awareness that reducing emission from the transportation sector is critical to healthier air, there is growing interest in developing the infrastructure to support wider use of electric vehicles.
Six months into our program, NASA announced the impact on climate change gases of its own ten-driver electric car program at the Kennedy Space Center. NASA calculated that in one year, these drivers had avoided emitting approximately 60,000 pounds of CO2.
That seemed like a big number, so at the end of the first year of the PSEG program, we thought we would tally our own carbon avoidance numbers. Our employees – just on their commutes –drove 120,000 miles and avoided emitting 50 to 60 tons of CO2 from their cars. Our numbers were larger than NASA’s mainly because of the larger number of participants and longer commutes of our New Jersey employees.
Of course, the amount of total pollution avoided is dependent on how much of this savings is offset by emissions from electrical generation. In states with clean energy (nuclear, hydro, renewables), it will be greater than areas heavily dependent on coal. In New Jersey, we get more than 55 percent of our energy from emissions-free nuclear and have a growing solar component as well, so the net reduction in CO2 by going electric is significant.
We collected other data as well. In the first year, we estimate that the 13 employees avoided buying 5,300 gallons of gas (again this is just for the commute driving), which would have cost them more than $19,000 (some of this may have been offset by electrical costs, though many participants charged mainly at work, for free).
The NASA and PSEG programs can be seen as simply two small pilot programs both encouraging their employees to buy and drive electric. I prefer to view them as windows on a future – a future where electric cars have, in some cases subtle, and in other cases profound, impact on various aspects of our lives: from reducing CO2 to help fight climate change and reducing localized pollution to strengthening America’s energy independence and bolstering local economies. This also will bring fundamental change to both the corner gas station and the large public electric utilities. It will require new thinking about how we pay for our roads. And, it will force us to evaluate how electric cars might strain the electric grid, and, hopefully, foster innovations in how individuals interact with it.
These two programs may not give a crystal clear view of what lies ahead, however they do provide a small window on what we might expect and give some among us time to anticipate, foster and shape it.