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USA: Santa Barbara and others set to impose high electric car charging station access fees

Electric car charging stations are necessary to give electric car owners the freedom to roam, but some charging station owners are imposing high access fees to use the stations, at times making the cost per mile to drive electric higher than the cost per mile for gasoline.

Recently the Santa Barbara City Council approved installation of six electric vehicle charging stations downtown, and that users would be charge $5 per hour to access the stations. Buried in the middle of recent news of quick charging networks coming to California and Chicago is the factoid that access to those stations would cost $7 per 15 minutes. Some electric car charging stations have no access charge, while for others access to the station costs a nominal amount, and in other cases the access charge is very high. Perhaps this is a sign of a young industry, one in which the “going rate” has not been settled upon, and different organizations see the electric car charging business model through different lenses.

The typical cost for electricity is $0.11 per kilowatt-hour. An electric car with a 3.3 kilowatt charger will consume 3 kilowatt-hours per hour of charging, or about $0.35 worth of electricity. The next wave of electric cars, with 6.6 kilowatt on-board chargers, will instead consume 6 or more kilowatts per hour of charging, or about $0.80 of electricity. The question is, who should pay for the electricity, who pays for maintenance of the charging station, and how much should charging station usage cost (if anything)?

And to complicate the question, in the current phase of electric car acceptance there is a widespread feeling that “we” should do as much as possible to encourage electric car adoption. Hence, many think the public charging stations should be free to encourage electric car adoption. If the current policy is for free electric car charging, when should the policies change to start charging a fee to access charging stations?


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