The days of free public charging for electric vehicles may soon be coming to an end, despite there being a lot of it out there right now, whether solar powered or as an incentive deal when buying the EV. Plug In Car's European correspondent Laurent Masson, though, is looking ahead and is making the argument that free electricity will actually hinder growth of charging networks. Instead, he writes, utilities and charging station providers need to become more like *shudder* oil companies.

With a small number of EVs on the road, free public charging at restaurants or hotels is a perk for attracting customers, and the corded parking spots are not costing the property owner that much. It would be totally different if there were millions of EVs out there roaming for electrons.

For example, Tesla Motors is offering Model S owners free fast charging at its Supercharger network. Masson says that Tesla could be giving away $5,000 of free electricity per Model S based on rates in the area he lives, if it drove 100,000 miles solely on Supercharger power (not a likely scenario). Masson assumes the Model S would consume 300 watt hours per mile, which would make for 30,000 kilowatt hours after 100,000 miles. If a lot of the Model S electric car get sold, how long can Tesla afford to give away electricity? How long can anyone? The answer is that sooner or later, there needs to be sales and profit involved, somehow, Masson argues.

So, more private investors are needed to expand public charging networks as EV sales numbers grow. Pat Romano, CEO of EV-charging station maker Coulomb Technologies, said that EV owners are willing to pay somewhere around $1 an hour for charging, and think that $2 an hour is "expensive." In the US, most EVs are charged for a rate of about 3.3 kilowatts per hour, and that much energy usually costs about 50 cents. The days of free charging are coming to an end, but so far, EV owners expect to see the fee stay at a low level.


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  • 65 Comments
      sirvixisvexed
      • 1 Year Ago
      "utilities and charging station providers need to become more like *shudder* oil companies." Utility and charging station providers need to be more like ANY BUSINESS. "Oil companies" is kind of a bad comparison. Green has to get along with green in order to work, though I am also a bit skeptical about how competitive the rates at a public station would be versus what you pay at home. I feel like they'll be a bit inflated at first, though I would understand paying a premium for 480 volt, since basically no home will have chargers that fast. I'd still stick to home charging whenever I could...rather than bleeding a few bucks several times a day while running errands just to top off for the sake of topping off.
      PeterScott
      • 1 Year Ago
      As much as the media is all in a tizzy about the inadequacy of charging stations recently, it is all but irrelevant to EV growth, because for most drivers, most if not all of their charging will be done at home. They don't NEED a network. Since the NEED doesn't exists and most charging will occur at home, there really isn't much of a business for EV charging as a business. It really makes more sense to continue as a value add perk provided by Shops,Employers, Restaurants, Hotels and EV companies.
        PeterScott
        • 1 Year Ago
        @PeterScott
        @ Rotation. I get it. EVs are just no good, because they can't match gas powered cars for your weekly coast to coast trips across the continent, and until they can do that they are useless for everyone. Thanks for enlightening us. /s
        Rotation
        • 1 Year Ago
        @PeterScott
        I wish. Didn't we just go through a week of discussions of how only an idiot would not charge an EV every night, regardless of the range? At the moment, we still need a charging network.
      Jmaister
      • 1 Year Ago
      Free charging? Hello tax. Nothing is free nor gonna be free.
      cinilak
      • 1 Year Ago
      No ****, when there's millions more of them, it won't be free. No way.
        Tysto
        • 1 Year Ago
        @cinilak
        Well, certainly, that's very likely. I mean, these days, you have to pay 75c or a dollar just to get 5 minutes of air to top off your tires. However, I think there's a long way between now and then, when store owners will be happy to have affluent EV drivers hanging around for 30 minutes at a time.
      taser it
      • 1 Year Ago
      Here's what will happen, once the battery technology catches up and the the range and charging fill-up approximates that of an ICE, then companies will create recharging stations much like gas stations today and they will gladly sell you a hoagie and a soda while you wait the 10 minutes for your charge to complete. It will cost a nominal fee to charge; however, the speed and convenience of the charge (number or chargers, locations) will more than make up for the cost. So the EV driver will have 3 options. Slow-medium charge at home(when at home); Slow-medium charge at work or small-business (when available); fast-charging at recharging station. All these other
        taser it
        • 1 Year Ago
        @taser it
        Delete "all these other" To elaborate, the slow-medium charging at businesses may be free, but it's likely that they'll contract out the chargers (for upkeep) and there will be fees involved for all but the largest businesses.
      • 1 Year Ago
      My take is that free charging is good for EVs and the business that put them in. Most spots are two-four max. Lets say two of them are being used 24/7. We know that is not the case, but that is 48 hrs or at the most $20 a day of "free" electricity. Right? That would cover at least 8 drivers/cars. I don't know about the rest of you, but I don't sit in my car for 6 hours waiting for "free" electricity. That's a waste of my time. I would stop with or without my family and have food, shop, movies. I would be spending at least $10 during my "free" charge. Do I shop where "free" charging is? Heck yes! Those business are earning a ton more from me. A single stay covers the cost of the entire day with just one of the car owners buying something from the business. I would and do go into business with "free" charging and thank them with both my words and my wallet. I would encourage all of you to do the same. Paid charging is okay, but I don't think it is the answer. Charging someone $1-$2 an hour to spend money at their business is kind of like charging people to use the bathroom. I know that there is cost in maintaining bathrooms, but it is good customer service not to. Can you image if you have 8-50 cars/drivers coming into your store, so they can get some of that "free" electricity. I say bring them on. You will have the guy who charges his car and does not support the business, but that would only be a small %. That is part of doing business. Not everyone that uses the bathroom, buys a burger, most do. BTW- if I stop to use a bathroom, 90+% I buy at least a drink from the store as a thank-you for having bathrooms available. It's the right thing to do.
      PeterScott
      • 1 Year Ago
      You are exemplifying the pointless tizzy. You plug your car in at night and your drive it to work, errands the next day. Rinse and repeat Ad Infinitum. You need a network why? Tens of Thousands of people are doing this with only a 73 mile mile range Nissan Leaf.
      ElectricAvenue
      • 1 Year Ago
      One data point: I parked my Leaf unplugged at an airport for 10 days. When I came back the battery state was shown to be the same, with the range estimate 4 km (2.5 miles) lower. It should be possible to build an EV that does not lose significant amounts of energy when parked unplugged for extended periods. Prior to the recent firmware update the Model S had a problem with this. Hopefully it does not have that problem any longer.
      Randy C
      • 1 Year Ago
      Charging for public level 2 charging is a flawed business plan in the first place. To me, charging up to $2 an hour to do something I do in my driveway for next to nothing is ridiculous. It's actually more expensive than gasoline. I applaud the foresightedness of businesses that have installed EV charge stations but trying to charge for their use is not going to appeal to anyone that has overcome their range anxiety.
        canuckinaz
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Randy C
        Randy, Do you consider paying higher prices for a beer in a bar "ridiculous" when you can have the same beer at home? Granted, there are other amenities that come with a bar (more TVs, attractive waitresses, etc.), but the point is that everything costs more at a business than it does at your house. When you charge at a commercial EVSE, you are paying for the convenience of being able to charge your vehicle away from home, thereby ensuring you have enough range to get home if you have traveled beyond the round-trip range. This doesn't seem ridiculous to me.
      Peder Norby
      • 1 Year Ago
      To take that one step further, in our city a $40,000 per space grade separated parking structure was built as part of a new development. All the spots are free so that folks can shop there. We have more than 4 such expensive free parking spaces for every car in America. Typically one at home, one outside the home, one at a place of work and two in the community. Again, typically for free I pretty sure that a 4/1 ratio will never happen in the EVSE world. The cheaper the fuel, the more EVSE's the great the chance of car sharing. Then we can stop building so many expensive parking places and the roads that access them :) Cheers
        paulwesterberg
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Peder Norby
        Self driving cars will become robot taxis and we will all carpool to work.
      2 wheeled menace
      • 1 Year Ago
      Well, the days of free public charging won't last forever. But you'll still have your garage. You'll still have the ability to buy solar panels and flip the finger to the charging stations and the electric company if you make the investment. Can't do that with a gas car - pump slavery lasts forever. Biodiesel? ok sure, but your supply is limited. The sun on the other hand, has what, a billion years left in it?
        DarylMc
        • 1 Year Ago
        @2 wheeled menace
        I'm quite excited about this. Don't have an EV yet but we did get some solar panels just before Christmas. Ive recently got the inverter talking to a PC and uploading the stats to a website and am absolutely itching to show anyone who is interested. Thanks to my dear wifes power saving efforts, I expect our power bills will be zero for the near future. http://pvoutput.org/list.jsp?userid=18337
          Marcopolo
          • 1 Year Ago
          @DarylMc
          @ DarylMc Power in Victoria has risen 245 % in two years.
          2 wheeled menace
          • 1 Year Ago
          @DarylMc
          Okay dude, that solar output tracker is super cool! Looks like there's a lot of big solar arrays out there. A 5kw array is a good size. Good on you for going solar!
          DarylMc
          • 1 Year Ago
          @DarylMc
          Hi Marco Yeah sad but true If I pay zero for power who does pay? On a side note I'm super excited about logging the solar. Check it out.
      Rotation
      • 1 Year Ago
      Yes. I don't think charging should be expensive, but if the companies don't make any money off the actual charging then they don't have good reason to make sure there are enough chargers and to keep them working. Enough chargers to attract people to show up is all they need to fulfill their promotional goals, and that's a problem. If chargers make money for companies, they have incentive to put in enough so one is always available. That's good for EV drivers.
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