NATIONAL REPORT—Electric vehicles have become more than the odd-shaped cars that were pointed at when seen driving on the highway or local street. According to a report by Hybridcars.com, there were 93,444 plug-in electric vehicles (EVs) sold in the U.S. year-to-date through August; through that same month, there have been more than 500,000 EVs sold in the country since 2008, with the Chevy Volt, Nissan Leaf and Tesla Model S the top sellers by a large margin.
According to Seth Cutler, general manager, EV infrastructure for Current, powered by GE, the use of EVs is not only beneficial to the environment, but they also provide cost savings to their owners.
“Since they do not use fossil fuels, EVs reduce greenhouse gases and the carbon footprint created by gas-powered vehicles,” he said. “EVs are widely regarded as a clean transportation option, and technology has advanced in recent years to improve range, speed and comfort. EV drivers also reduce costs on gas, and many incentives for purchasing EVs are available.”
GE, through its Current subsidiary, is bringing EV charging stations to Hilton Worldwide, Inc. properties, thanks to a partnership formed last year. With already hundreds of properties in the U.S.—including the Waldorf-Astoria in New York—fitted for charging stations, the partnership has more installations set through 2017. And, if Current’s predictions are correct, there will be plenty of need for them; the company forecasted that, worldwide, there will be 12 million EVs on the road by 2021 and, by 2040, 35% of all vehicles sold will be electric.
Even though the partnership was formally announced last year, the wheels were put into motion on the project as early as 2012, “when the EV market emerged as a real and lasting vehicle segment,” said Cutler. “We wanted to install a range of EV chargers to help make Hilton hotels an even more attractive hospitality option to the more than 700,000 EV drivers worldwide today. A property in Albany, NY, was chosen as the first Hilton EV charging pilot site. This location’s proximity to GE offices, along with the support of a New York State Energy Research and Development Authority [NYSERDA] grant, allowed Hilton, Hertz, Skyview and GE to move ahead, working closely and efficiently to install, monitor and measure the initiative. After a successful pilot program, Hilton announced it would launch EV chargers to all Hilton hotels in late 2015.”
When the partnership with Hilton and Current was announced, Jim Holthouser, EVP, global brands, Hilton Worldwide, said, “By teaming with leading organizations like Tesla and GE to add more electric vehicle charging stations, we’re making the travel process easier for a growing number of our guests. We believe technology can and should take the friction out of travel—no matter if you’re road-tripping in an electric vehicle or flying into town and need to find the best way to get to one of our hotels. Our goal is to support our guests in their travels no matter what technology they’re using.”
Four types of charging stations have been installed at Hilton hotels: the Tesla wall-charging unit, which is exclusive to Tesla vehicles; the universal GE WattStation and DuraStation brands; and EVConnect, a networked intelligent charging station that integrates connectivity to offer the hotel a holistic look and management of its chargers.
Cutler noted, “This wide-ranging portfolio of charging stations allows Hilton to offer guests charging options for all EV plug-in vehicles. With efficient options fitting to any make and model, Hilton guests can easily recharge their vehicles overnight, or top off their battery during a meeting at the hotel.”
Culter added that those hotels that have installed WattStation and EVConnect charging stations are also able to access cloud-based software packages that “offer a number of benefits, including control of charging station access to ensure availability when EV-dependent guests arrive; the ability to derive revenue from station use; generation of user and usage reports; and remote views of station operating conditions.”
For EV owners braving the elements while charging their cars outdoors, Cutler assured that all of the stations comply with industry safety standards.
“EV charging stations that operate as Level 2 stations [208-240V generally] must comply with the industry standard SAE J1772,” he said. “This standard governs the flow of electric power between the charging station and the vehicle to ensure that power flow halts if there is any interruption in the connection. The J1772 port connect creates a tight seal and ensures that even in the rain, there is no risk of electricity flowing outside of the connector and the vehicle’s charge port. All of our chargers comply with these standards and we are absolutely committed to safety in all EV charging development.”
But what happens if there’s a power outage at the hotel? Cutler said that the use of the stations during a power outage “depends on the source of the power being supplied to the charging station. If the stations operate on a separate electrical power supply that is not affected by the power outage, then the stations may still operate while the building itself experiences an outage. In many cases, the hotel building and its parking lot, which supports the charging stations, run on the same power source and would be out at the same time. In that case, the chargers would be non-operational until power is restored.”
Culter pointed out that there are more than environmental benefits for hotels that install charging stations: “Hotels are installing charging stations to support guests who choose electric vehicles for benefits including lessened environmental impact, lower operating costs and the sheer fun of driving electric vehicles. Hilton and other EV-capable hotels benefit by gaining loyalty and respect for their support of clean energy and environmentally conscious solutions.”
For Current, powered by GE, which bills itself as “leading the transition to a 21st century ecosystem by helping companies redefine the way they use energy and data technologies,” the partnership with Hilton was a milestone for the company.
“Our work in the EV charging space has been years in the making, and when Current, powered by GE, launched as GE’s first startup in 2015, EV charging was included in its portfolio,” said Cutler. “At its launch, Hilton signed on as one of seven initial customers, and we have been able to build a close partnership. Current works to help customers like Hilton better manage energy through holistic, efficient and intelligent energy solutions, and EV charging stations are just one piece of our work together.” HB