Several years ago, I told Mr. Stevens that I thought the combustion engine would be gone from new vehicles by the early 2030s. He said I was living in, essentially, sustainability lalaland. Since then six automakers have announced phase outs in the 2035-2040 range. Last week, the United Kingdom became the first country to mandate that all new homes have chargers for electric vehicles starting in 2022. This legislation follows the announcement last year that the UK would ban the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030, something 30 other countries have done too, including China. I love that the country of the Beatles, high tea, Harry Potter and Love Actually is leading the world on legislation to drive adoption of electric vehicles. And ok, I might have been a bit early, but clearly not in lalaland.

Back on US soil, yours truly has been trying to prepare for our next car to be electric. This switch should not be complicated except that our garage is a large shed, something pretty common in older New England neighborhoods. We still have a porte cochere to cover the driveway from the age of horse-drawn coaches. We don’t have electricity in the garage. Electrifying a garage shouldn’t be too difficult right? Right. Unless you take this opportunity to address that the aforementioned shed is not really waterproof either. Last I checked, water and electricity is a bad combination. Which is how a simple quest for electric vehicles has turned into a major garage renovation project. I have a sense we are not the first, nor will we be the last, historic homeowner to face this conundrum. And our house is considered modern by British standards.

Over the next ten years, you are likely to go electric too, if you haven’t already. Here are a few things to be aware of.

  1. The difference between Level 1, 2 and 3 chargers. Level 1 is a normal plug, but it takes a really long time to charge a vehicle. Level 2 is like a clothes dryer plug and takes about 5 hours to recharge a car. Level 3 is super fast (under an hour), but super expensive. Most charging stations are Level 2.
  1. The US now has over 100,000 charging stations, but availability of charging stations is not equal. There are more charging stations in California than in 39 other states combined. You can see a map of charging station density here. The American Jobs plan has a provision to support another 500,000. However, a tax credit expires at the end of this month that subsidizes 30% of the cost of both home and workplace charging station installations.

How does this connect to employees and the workplace? Two topics are becoming increasingly hot. First, getting access to charging stations at work. If you don’t have them, employees will make numerous, quite passionate, inquiries insisting that you need to get with the modern times and get them installed. One company’s sustainability team is getting more than one request a week right now. Then once you have them, how do you allocate access to them, assuming there will soon be more EVs than chargers? At some companies, you book time slots. Others work on the honor system. But this will soon become something that someone needs to manage.

Second, fleet transitions are underway. In 2020, the Corporate Electric Vehicle Alliance was founded by Ceres and companies including IKEA, Amazon, AT&T, DHL and Genentech to push policy to help accelerate fleet electrification at corporations. Just a few years ago, we were working on campaigns to encourage employees to select a hybrid vehicle for their company vehicle. As charging infrastructure improves, many companies will make the default auto choice electric. With that comes the interesting question of how to reimburse employees for the electricity used by the company car charging at home. And how will you account for that home charging in your emissions reporting?

The age of vehicle electrification is rapidly arriving and combined with grid level switches to renewables, clean transportation may be closer than we think. The sooner, the better. It’s also a relief to know that at least on this topic, we are no longer in sustainability lalaland.

Quote of the Week: “Within a decade, the internal combustion engine automobile is likely to look exactly like what it is – a machine that converts gasoline into much more heat than forward motion, a bizarre antiquity.”

Stephen Petranek