By Allen Penticoff
As more people buy electric cars, and the manufacturers leap headlong into electric car production (GM will have 20 electric car models in the next few years; Ford will have 15), there will be more need for public charging of these vehicles.
While there are some truly public charging places, paid with tax dollars, they are relatively rare. Few cities and states can afford to put them in. In Rockford, there are only two places (I am aware of) that offer true public charging. One is in Sinnissippi Park near the Nicholas Conservatory where there are two Level 2 charge points. The other is at Camelot Towers, where there are four charge points. It is rare to see someone charging at the park, but the Camelot Towers charge points are often in use. Neither is convenient to retail shopping.
Nonetheless, EVgo makes a business out of providing charging points, for a fee across the nation. They claim there are 40,500 public charge points. They are building a network across the nation for DC fast charging along interstates and freeways, often at rest stops. With DC fast charging one can gain 75 miles of range in 30 minutes and an 80 percent charge in 45 minutes (this would, of course, depend on the size of your battery capacity).
Automakers Nissan, BMW and Ford have worked out deals with EVgo to provide some free charging to new EV owners. Nissan’s EZ-Charge offers two years free charging of 30 minutes of fast charge or 60 minutes of Level 2 charging per session with low per minute/hour rates after that. BMW’s plan is called Charge Now and features integration with BMWs onboard infotainment system. New Ford C-Max Energi owners get three years free charging of four hours of Level 2 per session.
EVgo is not the only company offering charging plans. There is also Charge Point, Blink and others. An electric vehicle industry organization, the ROEV Association, has made progress on coordinating these networks along with the auto manufacturers so that wherever you find a fee-based charging station you won’t have to have a separate card for each provider. Together they have about 19,000 charging stations. Prices for charging may vary from one to the next as whoever installed it has their own pricing.
As an example, outside of the manufacturer subsidized plans, EVgo offers three subscription levels. First is for frequent chargers called “On The Go.” This plan has a $19.95 per month fee on a 12-month contract. DC fast charging is 20 cents per minute and Level 2 charging is $1.50 per hour. Their “Level 2” plan has a $5.95 monthly fee with DC charging at $4.95 plus 20 cents per minute per session and Level 2 charging at $1.00 per hour. For infrequent use, the “Flex” plan has only a $4.95 one-time registration fee with DC charging at $4.95 plus 20 cents per min and Level 2 charging at $1.50 per hour. The latter two plans would be best for plug-in hybrids like the Volt and older EVs with smaller batteries.
Breaking all those dizzying numbers down. If 30 minutes of DC fast charging provides 75 miles of range for $6, that works out to 8 cents per mile for your power. This is roughly the same as paying $2.50 per gallon for gas while getting gas mileage of 30 mpg. However, those “fees” can double your cost. This is why I say most EV owners are not traveling far looking for power yet—at home charging is much cheaper. But that is changing.
These networks, EVgo among them, offer smartphone and in-car apps that show the nearest charging stations and what the use is. This is a nice feature. If there is a charging point and all the available cords are in use and will be for a while—you can look elsewhere. This is the kind of networking that the ROEV Association is promoting along with technical standards to make electric vehicle ownership and use as convenient as possible. R.