In a program aimed at encouraging employers in New Jersey to provide employees with a way to charge electric cars while at work, Public Service Electric & Gas is offering approximately 150 free plug-in stations to businesses in its franchise territory.
The so-called smart-charging equipment will be given out on a first-come, first-served basis to businesses that secure a commitment from a minimum of five employees that they will use an electric car for their commute.
Beyond hoping to foster greater adoption of electric cars, PSE&G believes the two-year study will provide the state’s largest utility with important data to better understand the impact of workplace charging on electric demand and the power grid.
Only a few thousand New Jerseyans now own plug-in vehicles, but that number is expected to ramp up significantly as more auto manufacturers offer electric cars to buyers, according to Jess Melanson, director of energy services for PSE&G. Nationwide, there are about 200,000 electric vehicles, mostly in California.
“This is an evolving market,’’ he said. “We do think workplace charging is going to be a big part of the infrastructure we will need. Most of the charging will occur at home or at work.’’
Charging electric vehicles, especially as they become more widespread, could pose problems for the grid, especially on hot summer days when electricity demand spikes.
While PSE&G will provide the charging systems for free, participating workplaces will need to install the units and pay for the electricity, which varies depending on the type of electric vehicle being charged. For instance, the high-priced Tesla, which has a much bigger battery and greater range than other electric vehicles, uses about one-third to one-half of the electricity consumed by an average single-family home, according to Melanson.
“Our company believes there is a strong future in electric cars in New Jersey, and workplace charging is a critical part of that future,’’ said Ralph LaRossa, president and chief operating officer of PSE&G. “Electric cars not only benefit the environment, but are cheaper to own and operate than conventional cars.’’
The program will cost the utility about $400,000; the entire cost will be borne by shareholders, according to Melanson.
There are not many publicly available plug-in charging stations in New Jersey, with most estimates being about 120 across the state. There have been small initiatives by lawmakers, such as requiring charging stations at rest stops along the New Jersey Turnpike, but they have yet to be enacted.
The result, some environmentalists argue, is that New Jersey is lagging behind other states in promoting electric vehicles, which reduce air pollution and emissions contributing to global climate change.
PSE&G hopes the program will help improve the state’s air quality, reduce costs for employees, and encourage more widespread adoption of electric vehicles.
“Electric-vehicle charging is usually a matter of hours, not minutes, so charging your EV at work is an ideal solution,’’ said Chris Outwater, president of Liberty Access Technologies. The company is providing the data collection system that will help the utility evaluate the impact of electric cars on the power grid and its ability to deliver electricity to its customers.
For Roseann Dilorio, an executive administrative assistant at PSEG, the utility’s parent company, workplace charging works well for her.
An owner of a Ford C-Max Energia, she drives her vehicle 24 miles round-trip a day to PSE&G’s parking garage where there are 13 electric charging stations available to those who signed up for the program. The car, which runs on electricity and gas, limits how much traditional fuel she needs, only filling up about once a month, she said.
PSE&G launched this employee program a year ago. According to data compiled by the company, the 13 participants are estimated to have saved 5,300 gallons of gas and avoided spending nearly $19,000 on gas just on their commute. The utility also says it helped avoid 50 to 60 tons of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas contributing to global warming, from being released into the air.