UPS GameChangers: Workplace Charging Challenge
February 17, 2014, Zack Albert, NASCAR.com
RELATED: NASCAR Green
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- If NASCAR President Mike Helton reports to work at the company's Charlotte offices instead of the Daytona Beach, Fla., headquarters, he'll now have a place to recharge his 108-mile-per-gallon Ford C-MAX Energi plug-in electric vehicle.
As part of the ever-evolving NASCAR Green initiative for making the corporation more environmentally friendly, NASCAR earlier this month joined the U.S. Department of Energy's Workplace Charging Challenge with the debut of five electric vehicle charging stations in the NASCAR Plaza building in Uptown Charlotte. With the recent advancements in electric vehicle performance, the charging stations dovetail nicely with two major NASCAR objectives -- sustainable energy and the need for speed.
The quintet of silver charging units, made by NASCAR Green official partner Eaton, brings the total of company-wide stations to 20. Charging stations were added to NASCAR's Daytona offices last July -- joining those in its Concord, N.C., offices and at partner track Michigan International Speedway -- leading NASCAR employees and guests to start plugging in.
"We expect those to be fully utilized here in short order between now and the middle of this year," said Dr. Mike Lynch, NASCAR vice president of green innovation. "We've got a mix of our manufacturers' cars that are plug-in down there now as well as personal vehicles coming online, so those charging stations are getting pretty close to fully subscribed already."
NASCAR signed a memorandum of understanding with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) last September. Officials with the DOE were on hand for Thursday's announcement, welcoming the latest company to the list of more than 55 employers who have already committed to the workplace challenge.
"They're doing a bunch of great work across the board, from fan engagement on various clean energy technology opportunities to this workplace charging challenge to integrating biofuels into their work," said David Danielson, assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy. "It's clear that NASCAR's very serious about their green initiative and works at it to support it."
While NASCAR's green efforts have taken on a national scope at its race tracks and events across the country, the impact is being felt in its backyard as well. Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon was there Thursday to applaud NASCAR's growth as an eco-conscious corporate neighbor.
"NASCAR clearly has shown that it's about more than just racing cars," Cannon said. "It's shown that it's really about community in that it's working to do things that allow it to be a leader in the country in terms of its commitment to issues like this around energy."
Danielson estimated that 200,000 electric vehicles will travel American roads by this spring. With carmakers' growing emphasis on performance to match the reduced environmental footprint, NASCAR fans and employees can have the best of both worlds while going electric.
"That's the thing about these cars. They're so counterintuitive," Lynch said. "You look at them on TV, and that's a two-dimensional kind of experience and it looks kind of interesting, then you get in them and you feel that pull. I mean, you're basically driving an electric golf cart with a heck of a lot more power to it and handling, and it just pins your ears back. To see them in three dimensions live is a totally different experience than online or on television."
Lynch drives a Chevrolet Volt. Helton also has a Tesla in his garage. Dan Hesse, CEO of NASCAR sponsor Sprint, also recently took delivery of a Tesla, backing his company's participation in the workplace challenge with the addition of a charging station to each of the 14 parking garages at its Overland Park, Kan., headquarters.
The IMSA Tudor United SportsCar Championship, a NASCAR-owned road-racing series, has already delved into using alternative fuel in competition with diesel and hybrid-powered race vehicles. Could a NASCAR-related series where making a pit stop to plug in instead of gas-and-go be that far away?
"When you talk about the racing product, the internal combustion engine is here to stay in the U.S. It's not going anywhere," Lynch said. "Our (Sprint) Cup, Nationwide and (Camping World) Truck series racing is an incredible product. Sunoco Green E15 (fuel) is here to stay, not going anywhere any time soon, but is there the possibility that we'll be thinking through some viable, actionable new racing project that could reflect some of this plug-in car technology? Absolutely. It's something that's very much on our radar screen, and we're working analytically on it and thinking through from a product standpoint in a real way."