The Electricity Is Too Damn High.

AuthorGoozner, Merrill


Electric vehicle owners face a gnawing fear every time they take a long road trip. Will they run out of juice before finding the next charging station? That fear has a name: range anxiety.

During my first long trip in an EV earlier this year, range anxiety was a real concern. While I found charging stations using PlugShare, a trip-planning smartphone app, my new car came dangerously close to running out of power before I reached one in the parking garage at a fancy shopping mall, less than a mile off the interstate. My wife and I enjoyed a relaxing meal at the food court while the charger took 40 minutes to refill the car's battery.

But I had a new worry as I pulled away from the electron pump. The roadside charging station, run by the for-profit company EVgo, charged nearly three times the price I pay for electricity at home. During two charging sessions (coming and going), the station charged an average of 45 cents per kilowatt hour in addition to the $5 monthly fee I had to pay for their "low cost" plan. The average residential rate for electricity in the U.S. is under 14 cents per kilowatt hour. Compared to $4.50 per gallon for gasoline, my EPA-rated 112 MPG-equivalent EV was getting about 40 miles per gallon on the road, significantly less than the hybrid I had just traded in.

Unless that price comes down significantly, the U.S. will have a difficult time meeting the Biden administration's goal of EVs reaching 50 percent of vehicle sales by 2030. The recently enacted Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the Inflation Reduction Act contain tens of billions of dollars in new incentives to help people buy EVs. It established a major program to build a network of charging stations across the U.S. and plans to invest a substantial share of the money in disadvantaged neighborhoods. The auto industry is betting heavily on a rapid shift toward EV adoption. Every major car company is building new assembly and battery plants.

But will people buy EVs if the price per mile at the electron pump is no different than what they pay at the gasoline pump now? Tens of millions of American households will not have the chance to charge at home, where electricity prices allow owners of energy-efficient EVs to shave two-thirds of the cost off their daily commute. They will be dependent on the private operators of the new charging stations.

Deploying EVs quickly and broadly is mandatory if we're to succeed in slowing global warming. It will establish the U.S. as the leading competitor in the emerging global EV manufacturing industry, which China now dominates. But the key to achieving those laudatory goals is ensuring that the pocketbooks of middle- and lower-income Americans are taken into account as we make the switch.

Right now, the emerging policy framework is ignoring price. But there's still time to change course--by encouraging small businesses, nonprofits, and local governments to compete with national chains in the EV charging station market, and by directing state utility commissions to establish rate structures that lower prices at the electron pump.

The people without an at-home charging option will include those without off-street parking; those who live in homes without garages or who can't afford to upgrade their homes to accommodate the 240-volt line needed for at-home charging; those who live in buildings where landlords or condo associations won't or can't afford to install the necessary infrastructure; and those whose employers don't set up workplace charging stations. This group, disproportionately poor and working class, may decide to leave the lower-priced EV models that will soon be rolling off assembly lines sitting on dealer lots. Why switch when the price of the daily commute or around-town travel...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT