March 3rd, 2020 by Loren McDonald
In advance of its “EV Day” show and tell event Wednesday in suburban Detroit, General Motors announced plans to expand availability of workplace EV charging for its employees.
GM will add 3,500 new EV charging plugs throughout its US and Canadian facilities and will work with charging infrastructure companies to begin installing the charging locations starting in late 2020. GM has slightly more than 900 charging stations currently, and 120 total GM facilities in the US. Most of these charging stations are clustered in larger sites and/or sites with a concentration of EV activities, according to the GM spokesperson. According to GM, this will triple the number of charging locations that GM currently provides for its employees.
“With the internal popularity of the Chevrolet Bolt EV, and with the well-publicized GMC and Cadillac models that will roll out in the future, GM is committed to ensuring that all employees are able to conveniently charge their vehicles as the employee EV-owner population grows.” —GM press release
GM will prioritize locations of the “level 2” (L2) charging station sites based on employee need. With L2 chargers able to add up to 25 miles of range every hour for the current Chevrolet Bolt EV model, GM believes these charging stations will be ideal for employees to charge up their EVs throughout a workday.
According to a GM spokesperson, “there’s no charge to use the charging stations we already have, and we expect that to continue for this big expansion coming.”
Seeing perhaps several rows of parking spaces with dozens of charging stations sends a clear message to workers — whether white collar engineers or blue collar factory workers, that message is that GM is serious about its long-term electrification strategy and goals. It is one thing to see executives talk to the press and investors about EVs, yet another for employees to walk past dozens of plugged in GM EVs in the parking lot as they enter the facility where they work 5 days per week.
“This is another step down the path to making EV ownership easier for everyone, especially for our own employees,” said Mark Reuss, GM president. “Charging infrastructure is crucial to wider acceptance of EVs, and we’ll continue to do everything we can to improve it, both for our employees and for all our customers. We encourage other companies to do likewise.”
While installing additional charging stations at GM facilities may sound like a tiny step, it is perhaps another sign that GM executives recognize that it will take a lot more than introducing a few new EV models to drive growth in sales of EVs. In a meeting with Reuss in January, he told me that dealers needed to see 3 or 4 EVs from GM to realize the company is serious, and that EVs were “not just a hobby.”
That was a telling and insightful comment, and in a similar vein I think Reuss and other GM executives recognize the power of employees seeing perhaps several dozen charging stations in the parking lot where they work, instead of perhaps just a handful.
“Over 90 percent of EV owners charge either at home, at work or a combination of both,” said Rick Spina, vice president of EV/AV commercialization and infrastructure. “We have new EVs from GMC for the 2022 model year and from Cadillac planned for the 2023 model year, and we want to make it as convenient as possible for our employees to enjoy the rewards of EV ownership.”
Providing access to charging stations at work is a great benefit, but meaningless unless employees actually buy GM EVs. A GM spokesperson told me that employees currently have access to special pricing programs for most GM vehicles, including the Bolt EV. GM also has its GM Family First program that enables employees to extend preferred pricing to family and friends. The spokesperson was not aware of any plans for specialized or additional employee incentives specifically for EVs, nor any plans for providing incentives or assistance to help employees install Level 2 charging stations at home.
According to GM’s press release, the company also recently accelerated its commitment to power 100 percent of global operations with renewable energy by 2040. The company has a stated goal that 100 percent of its facilities in the US will be powered with renewable energy by 2030. If GM delivers on its goals, it could mean that by 2030, potentially hundreds of employee-owned EVs would be charged at GM campuses throughout the day and all be powered by a green grid.
I asked the spokesperson if GM had any plans to test vehicle to grid (V2G) and or vehicle to building (V2B) technology at its facility locations, but his response provided little insight into GM’s V2X plans. That said, during a dinner in January with Rick Spina and Alex Keros, Lead Architect – EV Infrastructure, it was clear that they both had significant experience working with utilities. I’ll be surprised if we don’t hear any news from GM in the next 12 months on the V2G/V2B/V2H (vehicle to home) front.
During Wednesday’s ”EV Day,” we expect to learn specifics about future GM EV models, including the Hummer by GMC, perhaps two new Cadillacs, and one or two new Bolt-based models. Now, about that Chevy Suburban …
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