Owners of public electric-vehicle charging stations would do well to bill their customers about a $1 per hour. That's the rate where they can make money but won't make EV drivers feel gouged, according to the Christian Science Monitor reports, citing several members of the EV charging station industry.

Pat Romano, CEO of EV-charging station maker Coulomb Technologies, told the publication that $2 an hour is "expensive," especially given that most EVs charge at a rate of about 3.3 kilowatts per hour – and that much energy usually costs about 50 cents.

The subject is topical because the time of free charging is starting to come to an end. Many states control the utilities that supply the electricity and, therefore, the pricing. Still, California, the most populous U.S. state, recent passed a law that lets owners of charging stations set their own charging rates.

Either way, per-hour pricing may ruffle some feathers because cars like the Tesla Model S and Coda Sedan suck up electricity at about twice the rate of cars like the Nissan Leaf, according to the Monitor.

There are about 12,000 EV charging stations throughout the U.S., with about 4,300 that are publicly accessible, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Coulomb, which two years ago set a goal to install 4,500 stations throughout the U.S., reported in April that it had shipped more than 2,400 units.


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  • 59 Comments
      Electron
      • 2 Years Ago
      $1/hour....if the owner sells 8 charging hours per day on average (and that's a big if...)that's $8/day and ~$3000 per year in revenues. Now for cost: once 6.6KWH chargers become the norm that's probably ~$0.60/hour in electricity cost alone leaving the owner just $0.40/hour or ~ $1168/year to cover maintenance, depreciation, cost of a parking space etc. Seems to me level 2 commercial charging is not a particularly lucrative proposition at $1/hour.....
        Dave
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Electron
        Its quite a bit worse than that. 6.6kwh goes into the battery. since it is ~85% efficient, thats 7.75 kwh through the meter i believe. at 12 cents per hour average (possibly more since this is the middle of the day when people are shopping, eating, etc.) thats 93 cents per hour for the electricity, leaving only 7 cents per hour to pay for the charger (and the installation, which is much more expensive than the charger itself)
          Electron
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Dave
          @ Dave: so I think what we have here is a situation where the provider needs to charge quite a bit more than what the consumer is willing to pay. Makes the case for commercial level 2 charging difficult, unless the provider has a larger agenda like attracting customers to his business.
          jkirkebo
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Dave
          It's not quite that bad. The EVSEs are usually of the 30A variant, which can only supply up to 7.2kW on 240V and 6.24kW on 208V.
          Rotation
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Dave
          6.6kW doesn't go into the battery from a 6.6kW EVSE. The EVSE delivers 6.6kW and then the car charger loses some of that power before it gets into the battery.
      • 2 Years Ago
      I believe that this topic of how much to charge per hour to charge for electricity will be debatable and should ultimately be dependent on how fast the delivery of the charging station is and how quickly the battery of the car can absorb it. If it were possible for the cars to ultimately be quick charged say as fast as you can pump some gas, then I believe that this is an awesome price to charge the consumers. But that idea probably won’t be true for a while due to the complications that could arise such as battery overloading too quickly or destroying the life of the battery or something else of this nature. Since it would be at this current charge rate of most plug in cars are 3.3 kilowatts per hour, I believe that this price is quite fair for everyone involved since the suppliers would make money by implementing a price higher than they get it for and the consumer wouldn’t feel ripped off since it is quite a fair price that they pay for the convenience that are receiving. But when the faster charging plug in vehicles comes such as the Tesla Model S and the Nissan Leaf, I am sure that the owners of the cars would be quite happy for this price that they are charged and that the charging station owners would probably be upset to see them basically charge their vehicles at cost.
      hahiran
      • 2 Years Ago
      I know that I've frequented restaurants that have them, if for no other reason than their commitment to gas-free driving. So while the chargers themselves might not make a tremendous amount of money, the benefits for business owners might be worth the initial outlay, while the ongoing hourly charges might break them even on the equipment at some point.
      PaloAltoWorldView
      • 2 Years Ago
      $1 per hour is exactly the break-even point of electricity-vs-gasoline for the Chevrolet Volt, assuming $4 per gallon gasoline. For $1, you get either 2.6 kWh worth of electricity, which takes you about 9 miles. Alternatively, the same $1 buys you 0.25 gallon of gasoline, which also takes you 9 miles. If the price is the same as gasoline, why bother with the relative inconvenience of finding a charging station, monitoring the time, the billings, etc.? Conclusion: For Volt owners, the price would have to be (substantially lower than) $1 per hour to make any sense. Obviously, if you have a pure electric car, you have no choice.
        2 Wheeled Menace
        • 2 Years Ago
        @PaloAltoWorldView
        I'm not sure what jacked up utility rate you're paying out there in Palo Alto, but that scenario is not true for the rest of the united states. Electricity comes out to 10 cents per kilowatt-hour out here in a suburb of Salt Lake City, UT. That's $1 for 10kw-hrs.
          Marcopolo
          • 2 Years Ago
          @2 Wheeled Menace
          2 Wheeled Menace Hang on, bicycles, moving to Salt Lake City, ......Good Mormon! , you're not trying to tell us something are you 2SM ? :)
          PaloAltoWorldView
          • 2 Years Ago
          @2 Wheeled Menace
          The premise is in the article above, duh. It says $1 per hour. If the Volt gives you 2.6 kWh per hour of usable energy, that's of course almost 40c per kWh, which is my point precisely: It's too expensive. At home, we pay perhaps 11c per kWh. Not 39c or 40c. My point is that at close to 40c per kWh (= $1 per hour) a Volt owner breaks even with $4/gallon gasoline. Capische?
      SVX pearlie
      • 2 Years Ago
      "that much energy usually costs about 50 cents." Double the variable cost to $1.00 per hour? Totally reasonable given that there is also fixed cost in infrastructure to recoup, not to mention the 150 sf footprint.
      mustang_sallad
      • 2 Years Ago
      ..."most EVs charge at a rate of about 3.3 kilowatts per hour" - you need to say either "a rate of 3.3 kW" or "a rate of 3.3kWh per hour". The second sounds clumsy for sure, but "kilowatts per hour" doesn't make sense in any context. Where I'm from, the Coulomb stations all charge 1$ per hour, but that always includes parking as well, as these EVSEs are in paid parking lots. The parking rate is typically 2.50$ per hour in these lots, so it's a good deal no matter what way you look at it. Oh, and then there's the fact that they still have never actually charged me for that 1$ - first time I've ever seen any product or service be free without advertising it as such.
        Anne
        • 2 Years Ago
        @mustang_sallad
        I just thought the same about the kilowatts per hour. Auto journo's better learn this new stuff. Not being able to tell kW's from kWh looks as silly for a green car web site as thinking torque and power are the same thing or not knowing the difference between mpg and mph.
      SNP
      • 2 Years Ago
      This is absurd, what private company would ever go into the business of supplying and maintaining these units? @ $1/hr, that's $24/day at best. Even if you cut the price of purchase and installation by 90%, the owner would still have to struggle to weigh the business sense of it. And now for the customer, LMAO!. Nissan Leaf would take 4-8hrs to charge...that would get you at best 70mi. You could buy a Compact car at half the price of a leaf, and pay the same amount to travel just as far @35mpg. This just sounds so silly - doesnt all this resemble a dictatorship? It's like when China mandates the purchase of an EV fleet regardless of how they perform.
        @bobbleheadguru
        • 2 Years Ago
        @SNP
        It takes me 15 minutes to fill up my Chevy Volt with gas at a gas station. Contrast that with the 15 seconds it takes to plug it in. I go to downtown Ann Arbor because of the charging station. The fact that the stations exist encourage me to eat/shop downtown. The 4-8 hour charge time argument is deflated when you consider that if you drive 15,000 miles per year (that is above average)... that is 41 miles per day. That is about 1 hour of driving per day (less if it is hwy driving). So the average car SITS for more than 23 out of 24 hours per day. What difference does it make from a convenience perspective if the car is just sitting there... v. plugged in to something?
          PaloAltoWorldView
          • 2 Years Ago
          @@bobbleheadguru
          What does any of that have to do with the price of charging? You are not addressing the question, the choice at hand. In either case, 15 minutes to fill up your Chevy Volt? Are you in a wheelchair or something? I fill up the Volt in about 2 minutes. And yes, it can take 15 seconds to plug in the car, but by the time you've driven out of your way to find that charging station, studied the parking rules, negotiated someone hogging the spot, etc., that's also more like 15 minutes in many cases, as opposed to 15 seconds. I'm all for the Volt, but let's not exaggerate the benefits.
      Mark Melocco
      • 2 Years Ago
      So yoú're in the business of EV charging stations and lets say you want a 10% ROI (return on Investment). Assumptions: Cost of buying and installing 1 charging station of $5000, electricity cost of 20 cents per KWh, $50 per month maintenance (based on my understanding of average corporate PC maintenance charges) and 30.4 avg days in a month. So fixed monthly charges = ($5000*10%)/12 + $50 = $92.00 Margin per hour = $1 -(3.3Kwh * $0.20) = $0.34 $92/ $0.34 = 270 hours a month or 9 hours a day needs to be sold to achieve the desired 10% ROI. That's not going to happen right now and possibly never. I think closer to $2 per hour, over and above the standard parking charge, looks like it may eventually become viable. Feel free to correct my calculations if you think they are wrong.
        Chris M
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Mark Melocco
        You're assuming a rather high electrical cost, especially considering commercial wholesale rates and special EV charging rates that are available. That could make a considerable difference on the ROI. Moreover, many public charging installations will be installed at roadside restaurants and motels, they might not be all that concerned with getting a good return on electrical sales, as they'd make much more profit from EV drivers eating and resting at their facilities while their cars recharge. Good customer relations, such as providing what the customers need at a reasonable cost, can pay off big time.
        PaloAltoWorldView
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Mark Melocco
        You are largely correct except that in some places where charging is FREE, the 24/7 utilization rate is now 40% or higher. I know this for a fact, because I have seen the exact measurements. But if it were not free, that utilization rate would most likely be a lot lower, depending on the price. I do agree that the price per kWh should be a lot lower than 20c/kWh.
      2 Wheeled Menace
      • 2 Years Ago
      1.5-2 times the regular electricity rate would be acceptable to me. Still notably cheaper than gas per mile at that rate. And most charging would get done at home anyway. You could pay off the infrastructure cost fairly quickly that way. And you could do it privately. There has to be a profit motive involved, and i think there's a lot of margin in what you can charge for electricity considering how cheap it is compared to gasoline ( per mile )
      Rotation
      • 2 Years Ago
      If they're going to charge per hour, then car makers need to switch from 3.3kW to 6.6kW charging ASAP. It's a no-brainer.
        Dave
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Rotation
        Definitely. But I suspect the chargers will have to charge at least $3 per hour to be profitable since they will be used during peak hours when people are out and about. (of course it will depend on location, location, location as they say in real estate)
          SVX pearlie
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Dave
          When EV charging demand ramps up, then demand-based rates will make sense, just like convenience stores and good locations for gas stations.
          Rotation
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Dave
          Not in my state, Chris M. I'm looking at my electric bill right now and it's $0.28/kWh at peak rates. Now, that's residential, but even if commercial rates are half this, that's going to make it tough to even break even.
          Chris M
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Dave
          Even at peak rates and level 2 - 6 Kw demand, the electricity would still cost less than $1 per hour. Now level 3 high power charging would be more expensive, but could sell well as customers using it would be looking to save time with rapid charging, not the very cheapest rate for charging.
        Mart
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Rotation
        The problem is that the charger is in the vehicle. The rate of charge is determined by engineers looking to prolong battery life. Increasing the rate at which the charging station can "put out" doesn't matter as long as the rate the charger in the car can "take in" is low. A Chevy Volt or Th!nk City owner can't get electricity any faster from a 30a/240v Level II station than they can from a 15a/240v station, because output is limited by intake.
          SVX pearlie
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Mart
          A Chevy Volt with a 35-mile pack *and* onboard ER generator doesn't need it any faster - it's not like the car stops dead when the pack exhausts.
        Naturenut99
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Rotation
        They absolutely need to switch to 6.6kW charging.
      Ashton
      • 2 Years Ago
      it should be billed on per kwh, any other method is ludicrous.
        Dave
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Ashton
        Actually, the cost of the equipment is often far greater than the cost of the electricity. So paying per hour to use the parking space and the charger makes sense. Also, paying by the hour encourages people to move their BEVs when they are full (or at least have enough to get home), thereby making room for someone else to use the equipment.
          JakeY
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Dave
          "Actually, the cost of the equipment is often far greater than the cost of the electricity. So paying per hour to use the parking space and the charger makes sense." I don't think this number includes parking fees. If it does, it's much cheaper than parking in my city even without the charging. I think they only charge by the hour (for charging "service") because like the article mentioned, many states don't allow charging station owners to charge people for electricity (without being considered as an energy utility).
        Chris M
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Ashton
        There are two instances where billing by time makes sense: 1. If the charging rate was at a standard rate, say 3.3 Kw. 2. if the parking fee was included in the price. That would require the charge outlet to function as a parking meter as well, and as an added bonus could discourage non-EVs from parking there.
        jeffwishart
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Ashton
        @Ashton, It's actually illegal for any entity other than a utility to charge on a kWh basis. That is why there is the set pricing per hour. The power rate (kW) is a different story, but it would take some smarts in the EVSE units.
        Derek
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Ashton
        And also charge by the hour to prevent nonelectrics from hoarding those parking spots.
      Spec
      • 2 Years Ago
      I just can't see how private chargers can ever work as a private business. Perhaps some chargers at distant destinations where people drive to. But for most charging, any business model that is profitable for the private charger company will seem a rip-off to an EV driver than can charge for a tiny fraction of that price at home. So you'll only use them when you are desperate.
        SVX pearlie
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Spec
        "I just can't see how private chargers can ever work as a private business. " Compare with McDonalds. The food isn't that great, but it's become ubiqutious, growing out of what was originally highway / roadside service to lead a new market in consistent and convenient eating. And that's the point: convenience. EVs are pure luxury vehicles, not the result of some sort of pure cost-benefit analysis (no new car beats a cheapo beater, much less the car you currently own outright).
          SNP
          • 2 Years Ago
          @SVX pearlie
          @Spec, except gas wont shoot up to 6 or 7 unless there's a global catastrophe worse the last recession. It could inch up to 6 or 7 over the next 5yrs.
          SVX pearlie
          • 2 Years Ago
          @SVX pearlie
          Right now, and for about as long as I've lived, probably longer, the new car market can't compete economically with a used gas car. And they are completely mature, have been for decades. If gas shoots up high enough, the economics will change like in Britain - people will ride bicycles, or work at home. EV charge stations need to be more ubiquitous, so that people can reasonably expect to use one where the might need one. That network makes EVs more convenient, and therefore, salable. 10 years is far too long of a timeframe. Try 5 - I see EVs being far more near-term than you do. Next product gen, every platform will be designed to leverage plug-in to some extent. It's smart economics and future-proofing. You'll see.
          Spec
          • 2 Years Ago
          @SVX pearlie
          Right now, the EV market clearly can't compete economically with a used gas car. They are in an early adopter phase. However, if we see gas shoot back up . . . to maybe $6 or $7 per gallon, the economics will change. If gas becomes expensive and there gets to be a lot of EVs, the economics of charging stations may change. But I think that for the next 10 year or so, they are mostly just a "loss leader" that can be used to attract people.
        PeterScott
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Spec
        I agree. EVs are spawning some business based on questionable economics(like "Better Place"). Low end charging stations definitely seem to be non starter as well. EVs are all about home charging.
          SVX pearlie
          • 2 Years Ago
          @PeterScott
          Work charging would be the biggest bang for the buck. Simply let companies fully depreciate EV charging stations within the first year. That would allow faster adoption to charge at the primary long-wait destination.
          Vlad
          • 2 Years Ago
          @PeterScott
          ...or work. Where it is probably easier to provide free charging as a perk, or for a fixed monthly fee, and not even bother with more complex solutions.
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