While electric vehicles continue to grow, public and private electric utility companies are chomping at the bit for EVs to become mainstream. Why? Once EVs are everywhere those utility companies stand to gain quite a lot. Not only in additional profit centers, but they can use EVs to shed load that would otherwise go to waste. In turn, the general public gets access to EV charging and makes EVs a viable option for many who may consider switching to EV. Incentives have played a large role over the past decade bringing in many more EV drivers by easing many of the costs associated with EV charging equipment. However, in many cases these programs, while helpful, could be doing a lot more to aid in the overall growth of EVs.
So how can incentive programs ultimately help the EV movement progress?
The biggest problem with nearly every incentive and rebate program is they tend to overpay for solutions that may work but are five times as expensive at times. In the example above you'll see that CALeVIP was greenlighting installs that costs nearly $10k per station. While these solutions no doubt solved the access to charging problem, this cost is outrageously high.
When Orange does a retrofit our costs average between $2000 - $2500 per outlet, that's the all-in cost nearly 1/5 the cost. When these overly expensive solutions are installed they only further inequity because when more stations do need to be installed these buildings are locked into expensive infrastructure costs that they will be unable or unwilling to bare. All this really does is pour money into these companies without actually solving the long term needs of the communities and inevitably slows down the growth of EVs.
The biggest downside to EV ownership has always been access to charging. Even in states like California where multiple public charging networks exist it's still a pain point, especially for multi-family housing. The reason is the public charging model simply doesn't work as a daily source of fuel, most EV drivers prefer to charge at home or work. For those living in a single-family home with a garage this won't be much of an issue, but for those living in multi-family housing getting charging on-site can be a real pain. So how can utility companies help? By offering easy-to-access incentives, especially targeting lower-powered charging stations.
Why? Lower power stations help bridge a number of gaps in the EV charging space. They allow buildings that are power capacity limited the ability to add at least some charging stations. Further, because of the lower power, they can install for far less than a typical Level 2 station, due to the use of lower gauge wiring. This makes EV charging in many disadvantaged areas far more reasonable as no additional infrastructure will be necessary and can keep costs much lower.
This matters mostly because while incentives are extremely helpful, they also run out quickly due to the high cost of charging in many areas. By leveraging a lower-powered solution that still covers drivers' daily needs the incentives go a lot further and bring charging to many more communities than would have been possible otherwise.
This is going to bring a lot of hate mail with it but the fact remains that over 90% of EV drivers prefer to charge at home or work and it's not hard to see why. Most public charging networks are a complete nightmare. Charging prices can fluctuate from station to station and sometimes are wildly overpriced. Additionally, stations can often be broken as maintenance is not a priority and above all else, Level 2 charging is not suitable for a gas station model as it requires about 8 hours to completely fill most EVs on a Level 2 charger.
Charging times are just too slow for a public Level 2 station to make sense unless its deployed on a massive scale, meaning one in nearly every parking space. On average most EV drivers need to charge up 2-4 hours every night to replace the electricity they used that day. This means that if you are relying solely on a public charging network, you will need to spend a lot of time hanging out at the public station to ensure your car has enough power to get around. The bottom line is people want to charge at home when it's convenient and it's one of the things that make owning an EV so great.
DC Fast Public stations are absolutely essential, however, they should be more for long-haul trips and emergencies not as the sole location for your charging.
At the end of the day, the utility companies stand to gain quite a lot from the EV market and with a little more time and investment can ensure that the EV movement continues to gain momentum.