As electric vehicles become more popular, some electric cooperatives are offering their employees a new perk: free EV charging in the staff parking lot.

“If we truly are after the EV market, then why wouldn't we do this?" said Boyd Lee, vice president of strategic planning at CKenergy Electric Cooperative in Binger, Oklahoma. “The more of our own employees who are driving the vehicles, the more rolling billboards and the more credibility we have."

CKenergy has installed two Level 2 chargers and one Level 3 charger that employees can plug into for free. A Level 2 charger can recharge a vehicle in a couple of hours, and a Level 3 charger can do it in less than an hour. A basic charger without a payment function costs about $650, Lee said.

The cost of charging is only about 12 cents per kilowatt hour, he said. If 60 co-op employees all drove EVs to work and used the chargers, it would cost the co-op about $720 a month.

Currently, only two employees drive EVs to work, but the co-op anticipates putting in more chargers once electric pickup trucks start rolling off assembly lines in greater numbers, Lee said.

“When the pickups come out, that's when our folks will be getting EVs," said Lee, who drives his all-electric Ford Mustang Mach-E to work every day.

In Wyoming, Powder River Energy Corp. has installed a dual-port Level 2 charger at its downtown Sundance location where employees park. The charger is available to employees, consumer-members and visitors on a first-come, first-served basis.

“It's such a low cost to charge; it's 4 to 5 cents an hour," said Tim Velder, a marketing and communications specialist at the co-op. “How are you going to stand there and tell somebody at the end of the day, 'We'd like to have 25 cents please.' It makes more sense to just make it a perk. It's no different than the free candy and pens at the front counter or the coffee that employees guzzle every day."

Kevin Yingling, manager of member services at Delaware Electric Cooperative in Greenwood, likens the perk to the co-op's onsite fitness center.

“Not everyone may use it, but it's there for anyone who wants to take advantage of it," he said.

The co-op installed two dual-port Level 2 charging stations in its employee parking lot last November and secured a state grant to pay for 90% of the cost. Five co-op employees drive EVs to work regularly. The cost to the co-op for the first three months of 2022 was a total of about $150, Yingling said.

So far, the co-op isn't charging employees to recharge their EVs, but that could change as Delaware EC develops its wider EV strategy, he said.

Yingling reached out to other co-ops through NRECA's Professional Communities to see how they handle the issue. Those that responded all said they offer free EV charging to their employees.

“Some employees have asked why they don't get a free gallon of gas if the EV drivers get free charging," he said. “My answer is that we're not a gas company; we're an electric company."

Lee said he expects more and more co-ops to offer free EV charging as an employee perk.

“If we're going to promote EVs to our members, then I want our employees to walk the talk," he said.