Is There Any Business Model For Public Electric-Car Charging? Plug-In 2013 Report Page 2

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Electric-car charging, from NRG Energy

Electric-car charging, from NRG Energy

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While some states--notably California--forbid utilities from being in the charging-station business, to foster private-sector competition, most utilities operate under a mandate to foster public safety and social benefits.

That's why street lights are generally considered a public benefit, and are often provided by utilities to municipalities at cost or below.

There are clearly social benefits to encouraging electric-car use, among them reduced air pollution and lower per-mile travel costs.

The public-safety benefit, presumably in reducing the number of electric cars sitting dead at the side of the road for lack of charge, may be a bit more tenuous.

According to GM's Britta Gross, fully 90 percent of electric-car charging today in done either in the home or at the workplace--and new initiatives to encourage charging at work is now underway.

Chevrolet Spark EV at CCS fast charging station in San Diego.

Chevrolet Spark EV at CCS fast charging station in San Diego.

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Early data from the Oregon portion of the Oregon-Washington Electric Highway show that more than two-thirds of all plug-in electric car charging sessions are now occurring on the DC fast chargers, not the associated Level 2 stations.

While the Electric Highway has seen higher-than-projected usage, the Japanese "TEPCO Paradox" suggests that perhaps charging stations encourage longer-range driving in electric cars--but don't get used all that much.

But what happens if there's no model that produces a profit in the long term for DC fast-charging operators?

More than one conferee noted that Ecotality built its fast-charging network using Federal funds that are now largely gone, while the infrastructure now being installed in California by NRG's evGo network comes from the settlement of a long-running lawsuit.

In other words ... not the free market.

What would you pay for an electric-car charging session? More than $5? Would you do it often?

And how do you think quick-charging stations will be funded in the future?

Leave us your thoughts in the Comments below.

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