The workplace charging is just one of several initiatives Berkeley Lab is launching this year as it steps up sustainability efforts. This month it also started a pilot program intended to be a model for expansion across the Lab aimed at minimizing solid waste and increasing the diversion rate—or the percentage of waste that does not go to landfill—to more than 75 percent.
"I'd like every initiative to contribute to three sustainability goals at Berkeley Lab—to effectively reduce our energy, waste, or water footprint, to cultivate a living laboratory that leverages our operating infrastructure to support Laboratory research, and to institutionalize sustainability by actively engaging Lab staff to make improvements," said John Elliott, who was hired as the Lab's first chief sustainability officer in 2012. "Our scientists do cutting-edge sustainability research—I want to extend that leadership in research to the operations of the Lab."
A Lab survey in early 2012 found about 20 employees owned EVs at the time. "But we saw that we could have hundreds of EV owners over the coming years," Elliott said. "We need to have a plan around EV charging."
In the first phase of the plan, expected by early May, the Lab will provide about 10 spaces for slow (120 volt) charging available to permitted users at a cost of about $1 a day. One Level 2 "fast" charging station will also be made available. For Berkeley Lab program manager Nance Matson, workplace charging will mean an end to her range anxiety. She loves her Nissan Leaf, but with a range of just 70 miles for her 60-mile roundtrip commute, she can't drive it as often as she would like. "I have to plan my commute, meaning if I'm going to go anywhere besides work and home, I can't drive the Leaf. I have to drive the Prius," she said. "Workplace charging would be a really wonderful thing."
Howdy Goudey, a Berkeley Lab scientist and also a Leaf owner, thinks workplace charging could spur more people to get an electric vehicle. "There are people with commutes that can't reliably make it back and forth in one charge, or it limits their ability to make an extra trip," he said. "I think it's an important thing to increase the flexibility of driving electric. Workplace charging is the second best to home charging."
In the second phase Berkeley Lab plans to install about five fast (240 volt) charging stations in coordination with vehicle-to-grid research being done by scientists in the Lab's Environmental Energy Technologies Division. In a vehicle-to-grid system, car batteries serve as a resource to the grid, either providing power or storage in response to demand. "You can imagine a whole networked series of cars across the state that have ability to increase or decrease charge and balance out the variability associated with renewable energy sources," said Berkeley Lab scientist Sila Kiliccote, acting leader of the Grid Integration Group.
Berkeley Lab has also joined the U.S. Department of Energy's Workplace Charging Challenge, which seeks to increase by tenfold the number of employers offering workplace charging in the next five years. As a partner to the pledge, Berkeley Lab will assess demand and develop and implement a longer term EV-readiness plan.