Plugging in

Bill Us By The kWh Used, Say EV Drivers Of Public Charging

Providers of public charging stations need to ditch the smart cards and start charging owners per kilowatt-hour for the electricity they use while charging.  That’s the message from a study released on Friday by U.S. EV research firm PlugInsights.

Most people would prefer to pay for the electricity they use, not the time they spend charging.

Most people would prefer to pay for the electricity they use, not the time they spend charging.

Talking to 3,700 EV and plug-in hybrid owners across the U.S., the study examined how people use their cars, how they  charge their cars, and their views on public charging infrastructure, and reinforced what we already know: membership-only charging schemes only hurt EV adoption.

Part of the Recargo Inc., — the company which now owns PlugShare and the U.S.-based news site PluginCars.com — Pluginsights first survey also reveals that a massive 81 percent of all EV owners surveyed charge at home, while the majority of charging away from home takes place at either public free charging stations or in the office car park.

But it also shared what many advocates have been saying for a long time: EV owners tend to drive within the limits of their car.

Charge for energy delivered, not time

Over the past few months, more and more charging providers around the world have started to experiment and implement payment systems to charge plug-in car owners for the electricity they use to charge their cars.  In most instances, these charges have revolved around a pay-per-use model, with owners having to pay a flat fee regardless of how much electricity their car consumes or how long they are parked at the charging station.

But a massive 73 percent of all those questioned in the survey said they would prefer to be billed per kilowatt-hour of use.  We’re not surprised, however: most EV owners we know feel the same way, highlighting a need for charging providers across the world to ditch RFID smart cards in preference of credit-card or even coin-based payment systems.

Yet many owners did feel that high costs associated with existing pay-to-charge models meant that they sought alternative places to charge instead of paying to fill up. In some instances, we’d suspect they patronised rival businesses to ones offering pay-to-charge facilities, highlighting the notion that charging for electricity can severely impact driver behaviour.

In some countries, charging per kilowatt-hour may be a fairly easy switch to make, but in the UK there’s a legislative hurdle which must be overcome first: only utility companies are currently allowed to resell electricity. Only one charging provider in the UK at present — Stroud-based Ecotricity — is a registered utility company.

In order for other charging providers to resell electricity on to customers in the UK then, either charging providers would have to register as utility companies, or there would have to be a change in legislation.

A lack of reliable charging infrastructure causes problems, especially where quick charging could help long trips

Because of a lack of enough quick charging, the average longest trip ever taken by respondents in the survey was just 98 miles for EV owners, 336 miles for long-range EVs like the Tesla Model S, and 361 miles for plug-in hybrid owners.

Essentially, it seems the majority of owners chose to make longer trips in another vehicle rather than take their EV and risk a failure in charging infrastructure, or at least didn’t want to wait around for a long, overnight 240-volt ‘slow’ charge.

Charging stations just aren't reliable enough yet, says the study.

Charging stations just aren’t reliable enough yet, says the study.

Many others questioned also stated they felt existing charging stations were too overcrowded, with the time spent queuing to use the quick charge facilities negating the benefits and ease of use that quick charge standards aim to offer. Moreover, many stated they felt frequent equipment failures meant they could not rely on public charging as much as they would like to.

Home charging stations are just too expensive

Despite the majority of EV owners buying and installing a dedicated charging station at home, a massive 68 percent of those questioned in the survey felt that domestic charging stations are severely overpriced, with nearly a third of owners saying that the cost of installation was far higher than they felt it to be.

In both the U.S. and Europe, we’ve seen a dramatic drop in the price of domestic charging stations, but many consumers are still being caught out by high installation fees. These are sometimes caused by unscrupulous installers, but often by the fees and legal red-tape which accompany the installation of charging equipment in many U.S. states.

Luckily, there’s an active EV enthusiast movement building and designing their own charging stations which can be made and installed for far less. But until they become more common, pricing of home charging units still remains a problem.

Only a small proportion

The full study is available to buy at Pluginsights.com, but it is of course pointing out that while we feel the survey seems fairly representative of EV owners around the world, only accounts for two percent of all EV owners in the U.S. We’re sure too that attitudes vary from country to country and even from state to state.

But what do you think of the survey? Do you agree with its findings? Let us know in the Comments below.

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