U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Steven Chu recently announced that 13 major U.S. employers and eight stakeholder groups have joined the new Workplace Charging Challenge to help expand access to workplace charging stations for workers driving plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs).

The Workplace Charging Challenge is a collaborative effort to increase by tenfold the number of employers offering workplace charging in the next five years. The Challenge supports a broader effort of the DOE’s EV Everywhere Grand Challenge, announced by President Obama in March 2012, to make PEVs as affordable and convenient for American drivers as gasoline-powered vehicles by 2022.

PEVs can offer consumers significant advantages over gasoline-powered vehicles, including savings on fuel costs, added convenience and reduced maintenance costs. Electricity is cheaper than gasoline to power a vehicle, generally equivalent to about $1 per gallon. Consumers can also charge up at home or at workplace charging stations as they become available.

“The market for electric vehicles is expanding dramatically, giving drivers more options to save money on gasoline while reducing carbon pollution,” Chu said. “These 13 companies are taking strong steps to make charging infrastructure more broadly available to their work forces, setting an example for others to follow and helping America lead the global race for a growing industry.”

The first 13 employers that have signed the Workplace Charging Pledge as partners are 3M, Chrysler Group, Duke Energy, Eli Lilly and Co., Ford, GE, GM, Google, Nissan, San Diego Gas & Electric, Siemens, Tesla and Verizon. The pledge commits each partner to assess work force PEV charging demands and then implement a plan to install workplace charging infrastructure for at least one major work site location.

Verizon, for example, is promoting more sustainable fleets and the use of alternative-­fuel vehicles as part of a company commitment toward meeting ambitious sustainability goals in its business.

“Verizon has installed several electric vehicle charging stations at various company facilities, which help support our customers, employees and our private fleet,” said James Gowen, Verizon’s chief sustainability officer. “We are currently conducting employee surveys to find the next locations to expand our charging station program. The information we gather from those surveys will inform how us about we increase the number of electric vehicle charging stations currently available to our employees in the workplace by 2014.”

A recent survey of members of the Verizon Green Team, which consists of more than 10,000 employees in 23 countries interested in improving the environment, found that more than 80 percent of the respondents would be more interested in purchasing an electric vehicle if they had a place to charge it at the office.

Eight stakeholder organizations have also signed the Ambassador Pledge to develop and execute plans to support and promote the workplace charging initiative. They include California PEV Collaborative, CALSTART, the Electric Drive Transportation Association, the Electrification Coalition, the International Parking Institute, NextEnergy, Plug In America, and the Rocky Mountain Institute.

To support the partners and ambassadors who sign the pledge, the DOE will provide technical assistance and establish a forum for them to share information.