A new debate is raging in the electric-car and charging communities: Whether electric-car drivers should pay for charging like gas, by the kilowatt-hour; or like parking, by the minute.
Electrify America, which has been firmly in the latter camp, released new pricing plans last week that takes a few steps toward the former.
With chargers getting faster all the time, it may make less sense to charge by the minute. Instead, the company will charge users for the time connected, yet also according to the charge rate, to help off-set the added costs of higher powered charging stations.
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Electric cars that can charge at rates charge faster than 125 kilowatts—about the speed of a Tesla Supercharger up until now—will pay the highest rates. The next highest will be cars that charge between 76 and 125 kw, and standard rates will apply to cars at 75 kw or less—about the speediest DC fast charges for most existing cars that offer the technology.
Cars that can accept charge rates of 100, and 150 kw are beginning to arrive on the market. The Audi E-tron quattro is the first capable of charging at 150 kw, which equates to 160 miles in about 20 minutes.
Electrify America, a charging-network division of Volkswagen formed under a court decree as part of VW's legal settlement over diesel emissions cheating, is in the vanguard of installing these state-of-the-art fast chargers. All of Electrify America's highway DC fast chargers it has installed have chargers capable of 150 kw, and at least one charger at each of its stations is a 350-kw unit (often two).
Under the decree, the company is required to have 484 charging stations open in 42 states by the end of 2019, when it plans to have 2,000 chargers online, and will continue to open more through 2025.
READ MORE: Electrify America lays out plans for second round of chargers in California
As faster-charging cars roll out, the company plans to reduce its standard per-minute rates as well, from 30 to 35 cents per minute (depending on the location) to 24 to 28 cents per minute, the company announced at an event at its headquarters in Virginia last week.
Drivers will still pay $1 to initiate a charging session and up to 40 cents per minute for parking after their charge is complete.
Those rates will be set according to different membership levels, which the company also announced at an event at its headquarters last week. The corresponding subscription plans mirror those of other charging networks, although Electrify America is required by its court decree to have credit-card readers that will allow any EV driver to initiate a charge.
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The first plan, called the "Electrify America Pass," will include the mandatory $1 session fee. Users who sign up for the "Electrify America Pass +" for $4 a month, will get lower charging rates and additional discounts.
To help drivers keep track of that, the company also introduced a new app—as if EV drivers need yet another app to find and keep track of charging on their cell phones. While there are several more universal apps that will help drivers find accessible and compatible charging stations beyond a single network, the Electrify America app provides additional services such as tracking your charging session and notifications when the charge rate slows down (as apps from other networks already do.)
Electrify America calls the point at which the charge rate slows down, because the battery can no longer accept such fast charging without damage, the "bulk charge."
Electrify America mobile app
Electrify America also says that the app will be able to upload users' payment info to initiate a charging session. In January, the company laid out plans to adopt the ISO's 15118 Plug&Charge standard which will transmit payment data via the car as soon as it's plugged in, but this announcement didn't further those plans.
The company said more specific rate details will be revealed at the end of May.