How long will Electric Cars drivers be willing to pay more than gas to fill up on the road?
At current gas prices vs the costs of plugging in at a network public station, gas is winning hands down on price.
Before we go too much further let’s make some assumptions and some reality checks.
1. Even though our job here @ CarStations is to list public stations, the reality is upwards of 90% of all charging is either done at home or work. This is generally a significant savings over gas for the consumer.
2. Right now the cost of going to a network style public charging station for a non-Tesla station(which is generally free for Tesla drivers) can be expensive. According to the Blink Network website for example it costs .49 per KWH(Kilowatt Hour) in California as a member for Level2 charging. For a Chevy Volt to go 40 miles of EV range it takes about 13 KWH worth of charge. This works out to over $6.00. A Toyota Prius can do that for $3.00 worth of gas. Some other network stations are cheaper, but it’s still not cheaper than gas.
3. There are thousands of businesses and locations that do offer free charging in exchange for staying at their hotel, restaurant, etc and also for marketing purposes. This is similar to the free Wi-Fi model, but for this we are focused on the stations that do charge.
Beyond the cool Factor of Tesla, many electric cars and Plugin Hybrids are bought with the idea of saving money by not paying gas. People do the math on buying an electric car and if you commute back and forth to work it certainly can be a large savings compared to a similar gas vehicle. In these cases where previously you might spend $200-$400 month in gas, in California you might spend $40 of electricity at your home or perhaps free/cost reduced at work.
However, as noted with the cost of using public stations that charge a fee costing more than gas or at the very similar costs, what happens as more people hit the road in the coming years when cheaper long range vehicles start rolling out?
We’ll take an electric goggles view of this and make a prediction
From what we have read gas station owners don’t really make much money on selling gas. According to the industry, convenience store owners only profit about .03 per gallon. They make money on all the other stuff you buy while there. This is why you see highway stations with restaurants, etc. Convenience store owners could potentially fix their overall costs long term with Solar or negotiated power agreements vs the highly volatile cost of gas and can simply focus on their core business of selling you everything else. It’s possible then that charging up will be much lower cost than even today’s gas prices. They may even have Level 2 stations available for free if your willing to wait with a receipt of a food purchase over a certain amount.
More non-convenience style business and public locations we believe will move toward a “free” model provided by businesses to attract customers, similar to how free Wi-Fi has become a must for some businesses. Again, perhaps a code is provided based on a purchase, etc. Will neighborhood vs highway “convenience store” type charging locations even survive in the future if your mostly plugging in @ home? We guess probably not.
Anyway, it’ll be interesting to see how it all plays out over the coming years.
This leads to an interesting question for the “charging station” industry in general. Will charging network companies survive in the future? What will be the model? That’s a another topic of speculation for another post.