This week is the North American Auto Show, the annual circle jerk of the automotive superpowers, as they demonstrate the latest and greatest in Detroit. Despite it precarious status as the center of the automotive world, Detroit still holds sway over the direction of the industry and, if this year is any indication, the future is electric. From the Chevy Volt, to the Cadillac Converj, to the new Prius, to an unknown Daimler electric, full-electric cars are destined to hit the market very soon.
At almost half the total operating cost of a standard vehicle (at 12,000 miles per year), these are financially attractive vehicles. But, what would it mean to actually power one? In today's world, filling up is a task done once, maybe twice, a week for the average commuter.
But, with electric, you have to top off daily, if not more than that. The expected range for a Volt upon release is somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 miles per charge. If I live 25+ miles from work, I have a dilemma; round trip exceeds my round-trip range. Let's do a mental experiment...
Fast forward 5 years. It's now 2014. 25% of the vehicles on the road are full-electric (yes, it's optimistic. Deal). In 2006, there were 250,851,833 registered vehicles (wikipedia). Assuming a zero growth rate, that means that 62,712,958 cars will be full-on electric in 2014 (it's an experiment). Ignoring distribution, socio-economic factors, et al, this means that each state has to deal with 1,254,259 vehicles likely purchased for daily commuting. (Ok, not Arkansas, but you get the idea.) In reality, vehicles would be concentrated around metropolitan areas, large employers, and ideological centers (Berkeley and Ann Arbor).
Which leads to my question. Assume that I, the conscientious consumer and commuter, purchases one of these Messianic vehicles to drive to and from my job 25+ miles away.
How do I charge it while I'm at work?
As a potential driver/charger/employee, I propose the following:
- Let me pay. Wire up spots, chip my badge and let me scan-in every day. I park at the first available spot, scan my badge at the terminal for my parking spot, and you bill me via payroll for the energy I consume.
- You pay. Wire the lot, let me park wherever I can and plug in. Since it costs less than $1 to charge the car for a 40 mile trip, you eat the sub-$30 per month cost to get me to work, making up the difference in "parking fees".
- We share. You up the parking fee to cover the under $360/year/vehicle cost to charge my car. Since only 25% of driver need the power, you can balance the cost against the drivers who don't suck down the electric, normalizing the costs.
Which ever method you choose, there are a few things you need to consider now.
- How will you measure the cost of charging electric vehicles for your employees (they'll need it)?
- What is the value of your employees driving electric vehicles? Can you market or enhance your brand by demonstrating your commitment to non-fossil-fuel-based vehicles? Might that not be worth something?
- What are the tax implications for "fueling" your employees?
- If you compensate employees for business use of personal vehicles, what are the tax/legal implications of electrics?
- Do you have the systems or technology in place to accommodate the next generation of drivers? (I'm guessing no.) How fast can you accommodate them?
The heavily-electric world is being sold to your employees today. It will be your problem tomorrow. Are you ready?