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Too many electric cars, not enough workplace chargers creating tension on Silicon Valley tech campuses

Eager to reduce energy use, German software company SAP installed 16 electric vehicle charging ports in 2010 at its Palo Alto campus for the handful of employees who owned electric vehicles.

Just three years later, SAP faces a problem that is increasingly common at Silicon Valley companies — far more electric cars than chargers. Sixty-one of the roughly 1,800 employees on the campus now drive a plug-in vehicle, overwhelming the 16 available chargers. And as demand for chargers exceeds supply, a host of thorny etiquette issues have arisen, along with some rare but notorious incidents of “charge rage.”

“In the beginning, all of our EV drivers knew each other, we had enough infrastructure, and everyone was happy. That didn’t last for long,” said Peter Graf, SAP’s chief sustainability officer and the driver of a Nissan Leaf. “Cars are getting unplugged while they are actively charging, and that’s a problem. Employees are calling and messaging each other, saying, ‘I see you’re fully charged, can you please move your car?'”

SAP is now drafting charging guidelines for its EV-driving employees.

Consider it the dark side of workplace charging, which has joined on-site sushi chefs, massages and stock options as an expected perk in Silicon Valley.

“If you want to attract the best people and top talent, EV charging is a must-have,” said Graf. “It’s a recruitment tool.”
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