Electric Car Charging Station Rates – Free or to Charge?
Today we are tackling the subject of: Will charging a price to charge up your electric ride be a workable model in the future?
The media isn’t quite aware of some of the interesting situations, behaviors and outcomes occurring with electric cars beyond the above the surface discussions of electric car vs gas, how fast the Tesla is vs a Corvette, etc. Lost in the traditional media and brewing beneath the hot bitumen surface is a host of monumental societal shifts that either are occurring right now or will occur with the advent of hundreds of thousands and soon millions of electric cars, plugin hybrids; public and even private charging stations out in the world. Sometimes we EV drivers feel like the home brew computing club back in the 1970’s wondering why everyone else out there doesn’t see what’s coming and inevitable
We here at CarStations sit in the unique position of seeing the growth of electric cars and charging infrastructure happen in real time. We are able to see electric car/charging infrastructure issues and their exciting possibilities.
One of the first major issues being worked out in the marketplace right now is how, if and can charging station owners charge drivers? This is particularly a hot topic among drivers, the charging station manufacturers and charging network owners. There are several different models ranging from charging per hour, charging per kilowatt hour, single session charging, free charging, free conditional charging(buy something or stay at hotel) and so on.
To complicate things more, an electric car owner can bring a portable plug and charge up on many 120 and 240 outlets (voltage here in the U.S.).
As you can imagine most drivers prefer a “free” station, but questions arise as to whom is paying for the infrastructure, electricity, etc.
Will charging for a charge work in the future or are we headed to a free or cheap model?
There are already thousands of charging locations that are free or low cost and likely are to stay that way. For example. Let’s say you’re a shopping mall. One of the ways shopping mall’s measure their revenue is how long they can keep someone at the mall. If you as an electric car driver (I am sure the mall would love it if your a Tesla driver), need a charge up and it’s convenient, it’s quite likely you will be spending some time and hopefully some dollars at the mall waiting for some juice. The mall does not care if they spend the equivalent of $10-$15 per day to have several people spend significant time hanging at the mall. It’s also free marketing for them to distinguish between other shopping avenues. Early adopters are much more likely to patronize and be more loyal to a location that is Electric Car friendly. This in turn creates great word of mouth and positive comments about the location on CarStations website and apps.
The same marketing logic is true of many locations. Automotive dealers are realizing this themselves. An auto dealer in a major market can spend hundreds of thousands on advertising each year, just to get people to their dealership. Ones that are selling electric cars already have charging stations installed. So, what is a few dollars to an auto dealer for some positive advertising? By encouraging any electric car driver, regardless of brand, to come and hang at the dealer they create great word of mouth. Isn’t it likely by being so accommodating they just created a future customer or at least recommend to a local friend? Sadly this has not been the case yet for all, but some smart auto dealers are embracing it. See Mossy Nissan in San Diego for an example of good cheap word of mouth. On the other hand, it can go the other way if the auto dealer excludes electric car drivers.
Early adopters are likely the people who influence on technology within their group of friends, relatives, neighbors, etc. Ask any EV driver how many cars they have directly help sell and there is a large portion that have done so. A few bucks in electricity for the positive word of mouth for future sales is usually an easy incentive.
Hotels are beginning to see this is a must need amenity. Many are offering it for free to customers and patrons. Here is the Viking hotel in Rhode Island and the Patterson, CA Best Western are a just two examples of many hotels, motels and bed and breakfasts offering electric car charging already on CarStations.
Although not the majority, there have been some businesses who install charging stations thinking they are going to make money like it’s some sort of vending machine. Here is a good tip business owners. If your charging more than the cost of Gas, why would anyone stop there? In fact you may just antagonize EV drivers. There are several businesses out there trying to charge $2,$3 dollars(US) or more per hour. This is more than buying gasoline. People aren’t always buying electric cars to be green, they are buying them as the cost to “fill” them up is so much less and maintenance is nearly zero when compared to a gas car. Your average home charging costs are generally 1/4 10 1/9 the cost of gas. With so many free places to charge and with a portable cable they can even plug into Grandma’s dryer plug.
So, as you can see. It’s complicated It’s also quickly changing. If we had to make a prediction based on relatively stable electric rates, Level 1 and Level 2 charging at locations that want your business will be majority free. QuickCharge or Fast charging might be able to charge for the convenience, but with Tesla giving away free SuperCharger fill ups, who knows what the future model may be? Maybe car companies, just help build the quick charge network and it’s free for everyone for the first 3 years like the free maintenance programs now with cars?
Electric cars are truly a disruptive technology that will take us places no one has thought of yet. What happens when the world begins to shift from oil transportation? Social behaviors will and are already changing(CarStations is an example of drivers helping drivers). With the distributive nature of plugging in and filling up almost anywhere there is a plug, the power of transportation shifts into the hands of the consumer. Perhaps it could become a real free(dom) market after all? We will explore more deep electric thoughts in future posts about other ev topics like how the coming of the electric car will be seen 30 years from now as the longest economic expansion period in history. Well, we hope