Charging At Work? Electric-Car Drivers Will Pay More Per kWh, Study Says

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Nissan Leaf electric car with eVgo quick charging station. [courtesy eVgo]

Nissan Leaf electric car with eVgo quick charging station. [courtesy eVgo]

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Most electric car owners charge their vehicles at home--it's one of the real perks of owning a plug-in.

Some drivers may also charge at work, for most owners the second-longest stop their vehicles are likely to make. It's particularly important if your car is running low on range, or if you want to make as much of the electric mode as possible, in a plug-in hybrid.

Some people get their juice for free at work. In fact, it's becoming increasingly popular, causing charger congestion at some workplaces and leading employers like Nest Labs to expand their quota of stations, just to serve their employees. But how much would potential owners be willing to pay for charging at work, should they be required to?

The latest survey from the Electric Power Research Institute, or EPRI, has the answer: 10 cents per kilowatt-hour more than their home rate.

That's in Texas at least, specifically the Houston and San Antonio metropolitan areas, where EPRI's latest survey is centered. Among data showing Texans' perception of electric vehicles and their likelihood of ever buying a plug-in car, respondents were asked how much they'd be willing to pay for charging at work.

For 39 percent of those surveyed, the answer is 10 cents per kWh more than they'd pay at home.

On the survey, each price point on a sliding scale showed a gasoline-equivalent price, helping responders make their pick. $0.10 more than the home rate per kWh, or about $0.20 in total, is equivalent to around $1.50 per gallon for gasoline. So while 100 percent of those surveyed would happily pay nothing over their home rate for work electricity, a significant proportion would be prepared to take a slight financial hit, given that charging would still be hugely cheaper than filling with gas.

Need Electric Car Charging At Work? Here's How To Get It

Around 15 percent of respondents would pay up to $0.30 more than they'd pay at home ($0.40 total), or the equivalent of $3.00 per gallon. After that, willingness to pay extra quickly tails off--since charging at work would quickly work out more expensive than gasoline.

The results suggest that people do have realistic expectations of electric car ownership, and that not everything they come across will be free. For some, the benefits of charging at work, saving money they'd be spending on gas overall, outweighs the small negatives of nominal extra charging fees.

At the same time, people aren't stupid--make it too expensive, and the benefits quickly disappear.

Other key points

Other details to come out of the survey? When charging at home, over half of respondents are happy to pay at a fixed rate for their electricity for the convenience of charging at any time--rather than paying a discounted rate, but only being able to charge overnight.

Around a fifth would be willing to pay around $500 to have a Level 2, 220V charging station installed at home--something the survey points out could foretell unfulfilled expectations for early adopters, since a typical Level 2 installation costs upwards of $1,500.

Finally, 46 percent are still willing to pay more for a plug-in vehicle than other vehicles--showing understanding that the technology costs extra, and that the financial benefits may be in the longer term.

You can read the full report for free via the EPRI website.


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Comments (19)
  1. Have a question about the title "Drivers Will Pay More" versus the article that says they are "willing" to pay more. Isn't that different. Doesn't "will" mean it is definitely going to happen whereas "willing" means people will accept this situation if it does happen.

  2. i agree, reading the headline one has a very different impression then the story. It should say "EV Drivers willing to pay for convenience of workplace charging."

    which makes sense. if you have to leave your car at the office for 8-10 hours, and it means you don't have to drive somewhere for a Level 3 charge or lose range ans skip some errands, would you be willing to pay a buck extra? Sure. Look at a chevy volt, 13 KWH effective charge, it's $1.50 premium to charge at work. Nissan Leaf. 20 KWH $2-3 more. That's pocket change to make sure you can go shop, go out, etc. For people who make the money to afford a volt or leaf, it's a small expense to never worry.

  3. People are willing to pay what work places pay in terms of per KWh...

  4. Assuming that a Prius gets 50mpg and gas is $4/gallon ($0.08/mile).

    A typical EV gets anywhere from 2.8 miles/KWh to 4 miles/KWh (grid to wheel).

    @$0.10/KWh, that is $0.025 to $0.035 per mile
    @$0.20/KWh, that is $0.05 to $0.07 per mile.
    @$0.25/KWh, that is $0.06 to $0.09 per mile.
    @$0.30/KWh, that is $0.08 to $0.11 per mile. This is where Prius will make more $ense.

    "Around 15 percent of respondents would pay up to $0.30 more than they'd pay at home"

    Those people are crazy. It is called price gauging at those price.

    Even at $0.10 more than home rate is crazy. The standard CA baseline is about $0.12/KWh. That is baseline. Almost NOBODY stay below that. @$0.22/KWh, Prius is cheaper. No wonder Prius sells well in California.

  5. You are forgetting (like most people) that providing charging infrastructure also costs money. Many businesses or municipalities would love to install charging stations, but they must at least hold some glimmer of paying for itself.

    A commercial grade EVSE will cost at least $2,000 for the hardware. The install can very easily cost at least 5 times that due to the cost of trenching required to install them.

    So let's say one is able to install 10 EVSEs for the bargain price of $30k ($20k hardware, $10k to install them) or $3k / each. At a $0.10/kWh profit, it will take 30,000 kWh sold to break even. If the station sells 10 kWh / day, it's going to take 8+ years to break even assuming that the EVSE does not require maintenance.

  6. I disagree with your estimate. Here is a list of reason why:

    1. EVSE doesn't cost $2k. Sure, some models do, but nobody need those fancy network EVSE. Clipper Creek has a nice commercial one (L2) for less than $1,400 or even cheaper for $600 right now that supports 4.8KW.

    2. Business doesn't need to provide anything more than an outlet. I am okay with just an outlet.

    3. The installation cost of the EVSE has been greatly over inflated for price gauging. It is NO different than wiring for standard lights or commerical grade powers. Sure, digging trenchs will cost more money. But that is one time cost. My work place saved money by installing them by the buildings AND by the transformer stations.

  7. Also, we are talking about "work places", aren't we?

    So, if a company can spend $30k to make employee happy and loyal, then I am sure a lot of companies will be gladly to do so.

    Also, many of those installations do come with tax incentives. Not to mention that you do tend to keep employee there longer at work so they can get a full charge. If I work 1 extra hour per day so I can get a full charge, my extra hour will be MORE THAN enough to pay for the EVSE cost.

    Also, a station can easily sell 20KWh/day since all the workplaces I know are running out of charging spaces instead of having unfilled ones. A 5 yr breakeven point isn't so bad for companies to earn some green credits and employee satisfaction.

  8. @Dave: From a nuts-bolts-and-cost-accounting angle, your point is valid. But companies take into account far more than dollars + cents in looking at what keeps employees happy + productive in the workplace.

    Taken to the extreme, your argument leads to Victorian working conditions. Whereas some successful companies like Google offer remarkable services + amenities in the workplace to keep employees happy + onsite:

    For a different take, consider a story we did a few days ago on a Silicon Valley startup that views charging stations as core to its mission:

  9. Which brings us back to the "Why" of the survey.

    Why is EPRI trying to gauge people's willingness to pay a premium for electricity? This seems like an exercise to jack-up the price of electricity to the level of "market-pricing" rather than what the electricity actually costs the owner of the EVSE.

    I think the problem is that EVSE's are not likely to be a good stand-alone business. It reminds me of pay toilets of years ago. Yes, you can try to charge customers to use your toilet. Yes, running a toilet costs the business money. But in the end, everyone expects the toilet to be free and you can't fight that.

  10. The vast majority of companies out there now, can't be bothered to install any EVSEs because of the upfront cost to install these stations and the ongoing cost to maintain said infrastructure.

    In the area I work right now (I'm in southern California, a supposed EV/plug-in mecca), the closest EVSEs are over a mile away at a Walmart and Walgreens.

    The closest workspace charging locations I see are over 5 miles away. In a 10 mile radius from here there are maybe a handful of businesses with charging on site.

    And this is in an are where public charging infrastructure has been pushed for 2 years now.

    Showing businesses that they at least have a chance of recouping at least the ongoing cost of installing EVSEs is a good thing.

  11. Most business have 240V outlets. They definetly all have 120V outlets. A typical 120V outlets is good enough to fill up about 11KWh for a 8 hr working day. That is 33 miles in range for most plugins.

    Even more incentives for the workers to stay longer at office and it only cost the business about $1-$2 per day to keep that employee working longer...

  12. There are more comments in this thread
  13. 1) People pay a premium for new technologies. Look at what people used to pay for a cell phone, a smart phone or a PC when they first came out.

    2) at least in SoCal, they have a dedicated EV rate of 6 cents/KWH if you have a submeter.

  14. 1) people pay premiums for the bragging rights.

    2) EV Electric rates are 6 cents/KWH

  15. There are more comments in this thread
  16. What you pay for electricity at home is irrelevant. Your home is on a Residential rate and your workplace is on a Commercial rate. Commercial rates have many more taxes and are considerably higher.

  17. @Andy: That's entirely dependent on where you live and what your power company has agreed with your state Public Utility Commission. Where I live, residential charging ranges from 14 to 25 cents per kWh. Commercial charging starts at 2.5 cents per kWh. Electricity rates vary enormously by jurisdiction.

  18. Also, different type of business get different rates. Large Industrial and small commercial are different in rates as well.

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