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.

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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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