Overpriced DC Fast Charging Hurts EV Adoption, Favors PHEVs

Overpriced Dc Fast Charging Hurts Ev Adoption Favors Phevs

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I recently came across a very interesting post on X, or Twitter, or whatever Elon identifies it as these days. An EV owner had a free charging plan for his Hyundai Ioniq 5, included at the time of sale. This, of course, made road trips easy and fun, as there was no direct cost for charging. But, the party recently ended:

Like many other EV owners, he’s now noticing that DC fast charge pricing kind of sucks. He points out one station in Wichita that charges a whopping 64 cents per kilowatt-hour for a charge! I’ve personally seen this bad or worse at many stations, with EVgo stations being the worst offenders in many cases.

In EVgo’s defense, the partnership with GM and Pilot/Flying J truck stops did produce a great experience. An overhead canopy kept the rain or sun off. Pull-through spaces made it easy to charge with a trailer. Long cables made it easy to pull everything up under the canopy. More importantly, the amenities at these truck stops were great every time one of these stations was along my route, with clean restrooms, good cheap food (especially the pizza), and much more.

But, I had to admit that the price was outrageous at over 60 cents/kWh. I did it anyway, as the local Electrify America stations were often in a Walmart parking lot with no pull-through spaces. At least in Tennessee, it made sense to pay an extra couple of bucks for the comfort and convenience.

Sadly, many Electrify America stations elsewhere are priced just as expensively if not more than the far better Pilot/Flying J stations. And, you get nothing special when paying the same price at such places. While Electrify America has massively improved reliability this year at many locations, the amenities are often severely lacking. At night, there are no restrooms (Walmart started closing the doors at night). ICE vehicles generally don’t block stalls, but they crowd the areas near them, making it tough to get in there with a trailer without unhooking. There’s no shade. Often, there aren’t even trash cans and there’s never a squeegee to get the bugs off.

Worse, many Electrify America stations are located in terrible places like shopping centers, where there’s no food or snacks in easy reach and it’s even harder to maneuver in and get a charge (I’m thinking a lot about stations in Memphis and Nashville as I type this).

So, yes, it makes no sense from an EV driver perspective to pay that kind of money for the average Electrify America station, and it’s something many people would only do if EA was the proverbial only girl in town.

The Bigger Problem: EV Adoption

The rising prices are bad enough for those of us who have an EV and are never, ever going back to gas. We pay them when we must, but it’s still better than the alternative. But, what about people who aren’t sold on an EV yet? Their point of reference isn’t going to be better stations at Pilot or cheaper stations elsewhere. Instead, the big question will be how these stations stack up against gasoline.

Assuming $3/gallon gasoline (outside of California, obviously), the fuel cost per mile for the average American vehicle (25 MPG) is about 12 cents/mile. That’s what people driving across the middle of the United States are paying in their gas-powered machines today. A comparable EV gets in the ballpark of 3 miles/kWh. So, when prices are 64 cents/kWh, that’s a fuel cost of 21.3 cents/mile, almost double what a comparable gas car is paying to get down the road.

What do new EV drivers get for the extra money at this price? Fewer places to fuel up, longer time spent charging, and sadly a dearth of amenities in many places. So, we shouldn’t be shocked Pikachu when we see people choosing to stay with gas for road trips when there are gas stations with canopies, restrooms, and food 24/7 at almost every exit on the interstate.

Asking people to pay more for the privilege of losing all that just doesn’t make a lot of sense. Early adopters and enthusiasts will put up with this to drive an EV, but mainstream buyers are only going to look at the dollars and cents. For buyers who mostly drive from home and only go on the occasional road trip, it might still make sense. For people who regularly fast charge? Not so much.

The Real Winner Here: PHEVs

If DC fast charging costs more than gasoline, there’s one easy way to get the best prices in both situations. A plugin hybrid (PHEV), whether we want to call it a hybrid or call it an extended range EV (EREV), can get electric range at home, often enough to cover local commuting. In a garage or driveway, a PHEV can get electricity for the same price as an EV and do just as much electric driving locally as an EV on most days for most people.

When people figure out that EV fast charging is more expensive than gas and charging at home is cheaper than gas, they’ll naturally opt for the best prices on both fronts. By buying the PHEV instead of the BEV, the buyer gets cheap city driving and then cheaper highway driving without having to wait to charge, put up with badly-located charging stations, and all of that.

Solving This Problem

One of the big things driving expensive EV fast charging is that there’s a big investment required to get a station going. Not only does the equipment cost tens of thousands of dollars per stall, but the required utility connection and the expensive monthly demand fees add up to great ongoing costs. Battery storage can alleviate that, but then you must pay for the batteries somehow. In the end, all of those costs need to be passed on to the customer in some way or other.

At present, there are simply too few customers to split these costs between, or in other words, utilization is too low. But, getting utilization higher will require adoption to increase, and high prices will hamper that. So, a mix of subsidies (already happening) and companies willing to keep prices low and take the hit to get utilization up will be needed. Or, at minimum, better amenities need to compensate for the high prices.

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