How much should drivers of electric vehicles expect to pay to use fast-chargers on the highway, or in the city?
It’s the subject of fierce debate, particularly when the likes of Tesla announced an increase in their charging rate to 52c a kWh, or when Evie Networks first introduced a “time-based” fee for its new network of fast chargers.
Many EV drivers don’t get to pay at all – either because they do most of their charging at home, and mostly use excess rooftop solar or off-peak rates, or because some of the fast-charging infrastructure is currently free of charge, as with the NRMA charging stations in NSW, and the charging facilities offered by many local councils, or the “free kilometres” offered by Tesla and other proprietary networks.
On a recent driving (and walking and sitting) holiday in Tasmania, we rented an EV and mostly charged wherever we were staying overnight. But on two of the long drives – from Hobart to Launceston and from Launceston to Triabunna, we had cause to stop at fast-chargers on the route.
(Actually, we probably didn’t need to, but we were stopping for coffee/lunch anyway and decided to top up while we could).
The one exception was the decision to deliberately stop at a fast-charging station at Kempton, about one third of the way from Hobart to Launceston – not because we needed to, but because we wanted to find out if it was really true that it was charging $1 a kilowatt hour for charging, well above the equivalent rate for a petrol pump.
We put in only 2.56kWh – because we didn’t want to break the bank and because there was a principal at stake – and sure enough, the bill came in at $2.56. See the receipt below.
The charging station is located at a petrol station owned by Bennett Petroleum, and is the first of many they intend to install as they negotiate the shift from fossil fuel cars to electric. Another fast charger, also under the Bolt brand, is installed at one of their servos at New Norfolk. It charges the same rate.
Good on Bennetts for taking the initiative and being the first privately owned petrol station owner in Tasmania to start on the transition to EVs. But why the high rate, we asked. The answer given: To compensate for the cost of the equipment, the cost of installation, the cost of a power upgrade, the cost of electricity, and the cost of maintenance, including billing systems.
Spokesperson Julia Di Ienno says the fast charger was installed nearly two years ago, and has been doing good business, including from repeat customers. So EV drivers are clearly happy that it’s there. And it was, for a while, the southern-most EV fast charger in Australia, and the first in Tasmania.
Asking $1/kWh does sound steep, and as more chargers are installed competition may force a rethink. But Clive Attwater, the head of Electric Highway Tasmania, which has led the creation of a network of fast-chargers that now effectively link the whole state, believes some people end up paying more than $1/kWh in certain circumstances at other charging stations.
EHT’s network of 50kW chargers, for instance, have a per kWh rate of just 25c/kWh, which Attwater says represents the cost of electricity, but it also adds a time of use rate of 25c/minute.
Attwater justifies this on two accounts: First, it helps repay the initial capital cost of the charging infrastructure. He describes it as a type of equipment rental. Secondly, it stops people “squatting” on fast chargers, leaving their EVs at the station while they leisurely complete their lunch, dinner or just go for a long walk.
Attwater’s aim is that no more than 5 per cent of visits to a charging station should result in a queue, or a wait, and this is one way to manage it. (And we should point out that Tesla also imposes a time charge on those cars squatting at its super-chargers after charging is complete).
Attwater points out that the charging rate of most EVs slows down dramatically after the battery reaches an 80 per cent charge level (lower for some). So at his charging stations, the combination of a kilowatt hour charge and a time charge results in a cost of around 60c/kWh for those charging to 80 per cent.
But for those people who do want to charge more than 80 pct, and up to 100 per cent, out of habit, or range anxiety, then the cost may end up being even more than $1/kWh because of the added time factor. Attwater suggests it might be smarter, cheaper, and less time consuming to either drive a little slower, or stop more often and enjoy the faster charging rate.
You can here an interview with Clive Attwater in the lastest Driven podcast. The Driven Podcast: Tasmania gets itself ready for electric driving holidays