On Nov. 1, 2021, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Vehicle Technologies Office announced the winners of the FY’21 “Low Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Vehicle Technologies Research, Development, Demonstration and Deployment” funding opportunity. Included in this year’s round was a Topic Area of “Electric Vehicle Workplace Charging.” One of the announced winners was the Columbia-Willamette Clean Cities Coalition (CWCC) and their EMPOWER proposal – “Equitable Mobility Powering Opportunities for Workplace Electrification Readiness.”
Leveraging their experience with the Drive Electric USA program, East Tennessee Clean Fuels is providing administrative support and project management guidance for the EMPOWER program.
This proposal included 30 DOE Clean Cities Coalitions as a large workforce that would lead the boots-on-the-ground implementation of a new national workplace charging alliance. The work will begin with a year’s convening of diverse transportation electrification representatives that will share experience, listen and craft a program that will encourage participation by workplaces in diverse communities across America.
“This project offers a great opportunity for Clean Cities Coalitions to listen to the communities we work within and find out how workplace charging could benefit them,” Brian Trice, Executive Director of CWCC, said.
The project aims to…
“… reach upwards of 2,000 employers and secure at least 650 employer commitments to install and support workplace charging programming, and 3,500 installed EVSE/units at employer sites. Additionally, our goal is to end up with at least 20% of our employer commitments from diverse employers in qualified opportunities zones that benefit underserved communities and people of color. Participating workplaces will provide critical feedback on our workplace charging resources as we produce them, allowing us to continually improve our program system and materials during the project period. This feedback loop is a critical part of the successful development of a national workplace charging program that is both effective and user-friendly.”
The EMPOWER project will accelerate the interest and support for workplace charging nationwide using a national landing page/funnel and website that will house our tools, resources and information, along with consistent messaging, tactics and coordination with national data and utility partners. This project has a primary goal of advancing employer commitments for workplace charging programs and installations. Secondary goals include collecting and advancing electric vehicle charging research and increasing career pathways in the EV charging industry for underrepresented communities.
“We are looking forward to engaging directly with unrepresented and overburdened communities through this project,” Jonathan Overly, Coordinator of ETCF, said. “We will be listening to what these communities have to say about electric vehicle infrastructure in their communities and considering it as this project progresses.”
Major project partners working with CWCC include Cadeo Group, East Tennessee Clean Fuels (ETCF), Louisiana Clean Fuels (LCF), ICF International, Shift2Electric, Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA), National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Training Program (EVITP), Cerritos College, Washington State Department of Commerce, American Lung Association (ALA), the University of Tennessee at Knoxville (UTK), Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).
The project also has charging provider partners that include Siemens and Chargepoint and the following diverse utilities: ComEd, Alabama Power, Entergy, Eversource, Memphis Light Gas & Water (MLGW), OK Gas & Electric (OG&E), Northern Indiana Public Service Company (NIPSCO), Green Mountain Power (GMP), Baltimore Gas & Electric (BGE), Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), Avangrid, Electric Power Board of Chattanooga (EPB), Pepco Holdings, Western Farmers Electric Cooperative (WFEC), Central Maine Power (CMP), Knoxville Utility Board (KUB), Rocky Mountain Power, Burlington Electric Department, Portland General Electric (PGE), Southwestern Electric Power Company (SWEPCO) and Kentucky Power.
The project team is receiving $3,970,539 in federal funds while providing over $1,000,000 in cost share from non-federal sources.
Read on below to learn more about the project!
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The EMPOWER project will build on our team’s learned understanding of workplace charging as well as the management of complex federal projects. We are utilizing a similar management structure in the coordination of our more than 30 Clean Cities Coalition partners and employing “regional Captains” based on the U.S. DOE’s geographic delineation. These regional Coalition Captains will be responsible for oversight and assistance to their underlying Coalitions, channeling two-way communications from the Strategic Advisory Team (SAT) to Coalitions and from the Coalitions to the SAT, resource deployment and ensuring that support is available when needed.
With a) parts of the country exceeding 5% electric vehicle market share, b) many new plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) options becoming available and c) many states starting to develop statewide Drive Electric partnerships and programs (e.g., see the DRIVE Electric USA initiative), this national workplace charging collaboration is important at this critical time of market inflection.
Workplace charging helps with employee recruitment and retention; offering plug-in access at work also proves an organization’s credibility when talking about sustainability efforts. Other benefits of workplace charging need further research and will be part of our program’s evaluation. Reliable access to a charging station at home remains a barrier that prevents many drivers from owning a plug-in vehicle. Workplace charging can provide a pathway for plug-in ownership for those considering an EV who live in apartments, condominiums or otherwise do not have access to an overnight charging station.
Workplace charging can affect large swathes of our community and directly affect many new EV owners, plug-in hybrid owners and a growing used-EV-owner populace.
An essential facet of our program design will be the diversity, equity and inclusion lens in place for all facets of this project. We will be looking at our team’s makeup, how we promote the program and the emphasis we make on our outreach to make a determined effort to fairly advance the benefits of transportation electrification where it will have the most significant AND most diverse impact.
Workplace charging is also increasingly seen as a value to electric utilities. Utility program administrators are forecasting the value of frequency regulation, load following and load shifting grid interactions with EVSE and EVs. Workplace charging can flatten the curve of demand by charging mid-day and lessening the extra evening demand during what is typically a peak evening event.
The EMPOWER project team understands the potential of our energy resilience and is collaborating with ORNL and the PNNL to help ensure that data from this project can inform national laboratory research and tools. This project will provide consistency for workplace charging resources and valuable research to continue evaluating the many associated variables of these programs and create a long-term plan to support a framework for communication and support for key market actors. There can be many regional differences that may affect how an employer or utility may respond to workplace charging programming – our resource package will allow for localization to help ensure that partners feel comfortable approaching their key stakeholders.
The Clean Cities Coalitions that will be part of the initiative include (listed from West Coast to East Coast):