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Ford chargers for employees could help improve EV infrastructure

Whether it’s Tesla or Ford, it’s becoming quite clear that the idea of an automaker offering free charging for electric vehicles has its limitations when trying to entice people to buy the cars.

Following Tesla’s announcement earlier this year that the company plans to expand its network of free Supercharger stations for the Model S, Ford says it will soon offer its employees free charging perks for its line-up of EVs.

The announcement comes with plans to install a new workplace charging network at nearly 50 of its company offices, product development campuses and Ford manufacturing facilities in the U.S. and Canada.

“Ford’s commitment to substantially extends beyond our fuel-efficient vehicles to include our daily workplace,” said Mike Tinskey, Ford global director of Vehicle Electrification and Infrastructure, in an official Ford press release.  “We know that a growing electrified vehicle infrastructure in key to making plug-in vehicles a viable option for more consumers. Ford is committed to doing our part to help grow that infrastructure.”  

Ford employees will be able to charge the all-electric Focus Electric, as well as Ford’s two plug-in hybrids – the Fusion Energi and C-MAX Energi – at the charge stations.

Ford estimates it will cost the company about 50 cents to fully charge a vehicle, saving employees up to $2 in gasoline each day, which is pretty impressive, especially over a long time period. However, the carmaker also makes it a point to note that the services will “initially” be free to employees for the first four hours of usage, which might not be enough to entice people to make the swap to an EV.

The Ford charging incentive for employees also comes following a recent report that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has gotten 12 complaints of 2012 and 2013 Focus electric models stalling without warning, which could deter people from purchasing the EVs despite working for Ford.

Although none of the reports apparently resulted in an accident or injury, the NHTSA is currently investigating the matter, according to the USA Today report.

tesla-model-s-supercharger-628As for Tesla, industry experts have raised concerns over whether the California-based company will be able to afford to offer free charging for its consumers as it pushes to expand its consumer base.   

In addition, at a cost of $70,000-plus, the Model S is hardly the kind of electric vehicle that most people can afford.

Ford’s plan, which includes a more comprehensive charging network system, however, could enable the carmaker to improve the overall performance and infrastructure for its EVs by collecting important information on electric vehicle usage.

In North America, Ford already has more than 1,700 charging stations available at Ford dealerships and various company facilities. The new workplace chargers, which are expected to begin rolling out in 2014, will boost that number by 200.

According to a report on Tesla’s official website, the company currently has 21 of the fast-charging Supercharger stations in operation in the U.S. Many more are planned and may also include a battery swap option.

Throughout the U.S. and Canada, the number of public and residential charge stations has grown from 3,000 in 2009 to more than 20,000 as of 2013.

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