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Nissan Talks Chicken-and-Egg Issue of EVs

Sections: Fuel Economy, Powertrain

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Nissan Press Photo- LEAFs charging at Evernote

Is workplace charging the key to wider acceptance of EVs? We say yes. (Photo courtesy Nissan North America.)

The PR team at Nissan has released two videos recently that discuss the chicken-and-egg scenario facing EVs and comparing it to what gasoline-powered cars faced early in their existence.

In the first video, titled “Growing the Grid – Nissan Looks Back at Developing Highways, Fueling Stations and Similarities to Today,” Nissan interviewed 97-year old Charlie Yeager. The footage shows him eyeballing cars at Nashville’s Lane Motor Museum, including the electric Triumph Spitfire we featured here recently.

Yeager said he remembered a time when “You had to pretty well memorize where the gas stations were and where you could get off the road and have a chance of getting back on after you repaired a tire.”

In a similar way, EV owners who push the limits of their cars’ driving range probably have memorized the locations of EV charging stations in neighborhoods they frequent. If not, they may rely on in-car technology like that in Nissan’s LEAF to pinpoint the nearest charging station and get directions to it.

But it’s the dearth of charging stations in wide swaths of the country that can be the most challenging obstacle for widespread EV acceptance. And without sufficient market penetration of EVs, convincing business owners to install charging stations is a difficult proposition. That’s a shame because the ability to charge at work would effectively double the daily driving range of EVs for most people, making them a more viable option for those who may not be comfortable with the limited driving range allowed by current battery technology.

In its second video, Nissan talked to a business owner who saw not only the convenience of offering on-site charging for employees, but also the time and money savings. In fact, Evernote CEO Phil Libin offered employees a $250 monthly bonus to go toward the purchase or lease of a vehicle capable of being granted a HOV lane exception sticker from Evernote’s home state of California. Since this is coming from Nissan PR, you may not be surprised to learn that amount just happens to pay the full amount of a lease on a new LEAF, which is of course eligible for the sticker that allows it to be driven in the high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane even when only one person is in the car.

Libin said, “The math really works out. We have a lot of very talented and very valuable people and they waste a lot of time in traffic. So if we can save them a half hour a day, and that is very easy to do, a lot of people save much more than that, very quickly that winds up adding up to a whole lot more than what we pay for the car so it just makes economic sense.”

Evernote installed 10 Level 2 charging stations and one DC quick charge station for employees to use, and judging by the video, they see plenty of use. The company is one of many participating in the Department of Energy’s Workplace Charging Challenge, which we told you about some time ago.

This, to my eye, is the only way EVs can advance past this chicken-and-egg stage in their acceptance. Unless my employer one day installs a charging station, I’m highly unlikely to buy or lease an EV. My newspaper job requires me to drive sometimes up to 35 miles round-trip in the middle of the day while covering news stories– something that would wreck my ability to get home without range anxiety, even though my round-trip commute is only 20 miles when you don’t count miles driven in the middle of the day. Others may not have to drive much, if any in the middle of the day, but might face a commute that wouldn’t give them much reserve driving range for the return trip without the ability to charge while at work.

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