Vol. 22   No. 2
July 2016
  • MGE Talks Business
News Briefs

Car Show Yields an Unexpected Result: An EV Charger Installation

MGE lowers customers' bills due to lower fuel costs

Tom Marmet, lead systems engineer at GE Healthcare, worked with the team that brought EV charging to GE's Madison facility.

Hear the words "car show" and you think of new models being rolled out in Detroit. But "car show" means something different at GE Healthcare in Madison. They recognize employees who drive hybrid and electric vehicles by featuring them at a car show.

"We learned that people don't understand how plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) work, and the shows can help bring employees up to speed," said Tom Marmet, lead systems engineer and a member of the Green Team at GE Healthcare.

The shows also uncovered a roadblock to PEV ownership. "People didn't have a way to plug in their vehicle at work," Marmet said. The GE Healthcare Green Team wanted to install an electric vehicle charging station in the parking lot. "We were excited about an onsite charger from a sustainability standpoint. The car shows helped us understand employees value it too," he said.

MGE can help

So they turned to MGE. "Tom Olson (MGE senior account manager), Dave Toso (MGE senior engineer) and Debbie Branson (MGE new market manager) coached us on best practices and potential pitfalls of the charging station," said Ben Stoll, program and facility manager at GE Healthcare. "They helped guide a survey of our employees, station procurement and installation, and the future administration of the station."

A helpful free tool: MGE's Workplace Charging Guide [548 kB PDF].

Involve a cross-section of employees

Staff support at every level was needed for the program's success.

"The critical variable was the buy-in of our senior leadership," Stoll said. "They were in full support. Once we knew the cost structure, we were told to go as fast as possible. It's a very positive reflection on GE. The union was also supportive. We have union members on the Green Team, and they were avid promoters."

Others Stoll cited as invaluable to the project's success included Tom Marmet and the Green Team; GE Healthcare's local management team, which includes Plant Manager Mark Goyette; as well as HR Managers Nate Hilburger and Carol Sartori.

Conduct a survey

MGE's Branson helped Marmet with an employee survey. It confirmed that support existed for the program. A majority (84%) thought GE Healthcare should install a station, more than a third (38%) were considering a PEV purchase and nearly three-quarters (70%) said a charging station would increase the likelihood they'd purchase a PEV. Roughly 4% of employees already had a PEV—but many didn't drive them to work because they couldn't charge.

Address employee concerns

Employees did have some concerns. "Issues like whether an employee could get to and from the charger on their break," Marmet said. "And the perception of initial and ongoing costs." But the increased electricity costs from the charger should be nominal—likely less than $500 a year.

Please note: PEV charging may affect demand charges. Talk to your MGE account manager about your electric rate and options for managing demand charges.

Sustainability was one reason the project moved ahead. "We're focused on innovation and sustainability," Marmet said. "The charging station positions us as a leader. We can recruit the best people—it shows we value and support our staff."

Choose a charging station

Chargers come in two basic styles: Level 1 (inexpensive, but takes longer to charge) and Level 2 (more expensive, but charges faster and some models allow multiple users).

This was an easy decision for GE Healthcare. One of its corporate "siblings" (GE Energy) makes a Level 2 station. The station can charge two vehicles at a time.

Select a location

Location issues include compliance with the American Disability Act, installation costs and ready access for employees.

Let users dictate terms

GE Healthcare's charger was installed in May. They can't offer PEV owner feedback yet. But one insight they provided: Let users run the show. "Rather than dictate how to sign up for and use the chargers, the PEV owners worked it out," Marmet said. "They'll navigate any issues, and we hope this creates a sense of ownership."