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Google, Verizon, 3M Join DOE’s Workplace EV Charging Initiative

Outgoing U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced 13 major U.S. employers and eight stakeholder groups have joined the Department of Energy’s Workplace Charging Challenge, which aims to increase workplace charging by tenfold over the next five years.

Recent years have seen electrical vehicles (EV) become increasingly popular as consumers recognize their economic, environmental and practical advantages — they are cheaper to operate, less polluting and can be fueled at home. Despite these advantages, a lack of public charging stations makes it difficult for EV drivers to fuel up on the go, limiting their range and hampering EVs' potential for widespread adoption.

Participating companies include Google, GM, Nissan, 3M, Chrysler Group, Duke Energy, Eli Lilly and Company, Ford, GE, Tesla, Verizon, Siemens and San Diego Gas & Electric. The companies will assess their workforce EV charging demands and develop and implement plans to install charging infrastructures for at least one major worksite location. DOE will provide technical assistance and establish a forum for participating companies to share information.

Sears also announced strides towards democratizing EVs through a separate partnership with ECOtality, offering fast-charger stations in several of its stores in Tennessee and Arizona. Sears customers will be able to charge EVs up to 80 percent capacity in less than 30 minutes — the fastest charge rate currently available, ECOtality says.

Nissan also separately announced plans to triple the country’s current EV quick-charging infrastructure with the addition of at least 500 stations over the next 18 months. The company says there are currently only 160 fast chargers available for public use across the U.S.

“We envision a quick-charging network that links communities and neighborhoods where people live, work, shop and socialize,” said Brendan Jones, Nissan's director of electric vehicle marketing and sales strategy. “Having a robust charging infrastructure helps build range confidence, which boosts interest in and use of electric vehicles.”

In related news, Daimler, Ford and Renault-Nissan signed an agreement earlier this month to jointly develop fuel cell systems to power electric drive trains. The goal is to launch the first mass-market fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV) as early as 2017.

@Bart_King is a freelance writer and communications consultant. @mikehower contributed.