Energy, Utilities & Water  June 15, 2016

Help tech-savvy drivers get a charge out of you

didn’t mean to do it. All I meant to do was meet up with a business contact for coffee at the east-end Laughing Goat. They happen to share a space with Green Eyed Motors, a car dealership specializing in low- or no-emission used vehicles. Then I saw it, in all her glacier-white glory: The 2012 Nissan Leaf. An hour later, I found myself filling out paperwork to make her mine.

It made too much sense. At a cost of $10,000, with $1,500 in tax rebates, it will end up costing my business $8,500 plus tax to have a company vehicle for around-town trips. You can easily spend more on a fancy mountain bike. In addition, we are showing a continued commitment to the environment everywhere we go.

The day after picking up the car, my excitement got the best of me and I decided to use it to visit a client in Aurora, a 70-mile round trip. The battery meter said that I have a range of 85 miles on the current charge. No problem.

Before even leaving the city limits of Boulder, my once-mighty 85-mile range estimate had dwindled to 60. Worry began to set in. With a gas vehicle, filling up takes minutes. With an EV, you’re looking at hours to get to full. Upon my arrival at my destination, I began my research to determine how I was going to make it back to Boulder after my appointment. After downloading the PlugShare app on my smartphone — an amazing app, by the way — it became clear to me that the EV charging infrastructure had matured more than I had expected.

All around me was a sea of free charging stations ready to serve me. The app allows the ability to rate each station. Some stations are frequently out of order, while others are solid choices. The rating system goes from one to 10. Some stations can charge a vehicle in 20 minutes, such as the ones at Nissan dealerships. Other charging stations can get you to 100 percent in a few hours.

On this day, due to my tight schedule, I opted for the Nissan dealership’s fast-charging station. After being offered a bottle of water, a cup of coffee, a comfy seat and free wifi, I began to realize that everything will be fine. The need to recharge the car’s batteries gave me a chance to recharge my own batteries. There is a deep lesson there.

The next day, I had to get myself down to Denver again. This time, I prepared the night before by locating the charging stations that were in close proximity to my appointment in Denver. A Whole Foods a few blocks away had two charging stations that would easily charge my car while I visited this client.

Why would Whole Foods decide to give me free electricity? This is like Safeway filling up your car with gas while you shop. It made no sense to me. As it turns out, it only costs 10 to 15 cents per hour to charge an electric car. Considering that I have a hard time leaving Whole Foods without spending at least $50, they might be onto something here. After my appointment, it was no surprise where I bought lunch.

This made me realize that as more EVs join the fleet of customer vehicles, offering free charging is going to bring in those customers. EV owners are younger and wealthier than hybrid-vehicle owners, on average. If you are looking to attract more tech-savvy, affluent customers, give them free electricity.

The cost to purchase and install an EV charging station is about $2,000, depending on how hard it is to get a 220-volt breaker installed at your location. In addition, the county has some rebate programs to trim the cost. It’s a small price to pay to not only walk the sustainability talk but to feed your business bottom line.

Boulder’s tech scene will only keep growing as the Googles of the world eye its beauty. Let’s welcome them to our area (and businesses) with a world-class EV charging infrastructure.

Shaun Oshman is founder and chief executive of iSupportU in Boulder. He can be reached at 303-630-9974 or shaun@isupportu.biz.

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