Saturday, March 28, 2015

The High Cost of Fast Charging Verses TDI's; IOW, Someone is Smoking Something!

Recently it was announced on the Seattle area LEAF owner's Facebook page that NRG EVgo  will be putting in 4 very badly needed fast chargers located at malls in Marysville, Tacoma, North Bend and Northgate.  The locations will go a long way towards making gaps smaller or doubling up on some of the busiest stations in the area.  So, it would seem that this would be a good thing, right??

Well, apparently not all good things are good.  Complaints on the higher pricing the EVgo will be using was immediate and I thought a bit misleading.  One poster provided an example of a single use fast charge that would be $4.95 connect fee and 20 cents a minute. A 30 minute charge would run the user $10.95.  Comments that a TDI would be cheaper (guess the Prius is not in vogue any more?) immediately came up.

Wow! this is a bit of a one sided comment.  I expect (and see) those types of comments from oil companies but on a EV site?? What?? wait a second, lets look at this again!

First of all, we are looking at a worst case scenario for transportation expense in the LEAF. It really can't get any worse so using a single event to determine anything is way off base from jump street.  So is it really that expensive? But then again; the right question should be "Is this what we really want?"

First of all, how much should a fast charge cost?  Well, we currently have two basic choices. Blink (maybe they should only be considered ½ a choice to match their reliability?) and Aeroenvironment or AV.   Blink charges 49 cents per kwh so only the deadest of LEAFs with time to kill would run the tab to $10.   AV has two options; a single unlimited session for $7.50 or the dreaded subscription model of $19.99 a month for all you can eat.  Both are definitely cheaper than EVGo but to answer the question;  No, neither Blink or AV is what I want.

Both Blink and AV encourage users to "slow roll" the stations. Slow rolling is a term used to describe a LEAFer taking on more charge than they really need because it does not cost them any more money.  Now, you might say "If Blink charges 49 cents for each kwh, how can they be slow rolling?"

The answer is that the higher the SOC, the longer it takes for the LEAF to absorb a kwh.  The difference at SOCs above 90% can be nearly 10 minutes per kwh!  Only a billing model based on time will encourage people to get only what they need and move on allowing more people to charge at any given station and reducing wait times for people unlucky enough to be the 2nd or even 3rd person in line.  So in this scenario, the answer to the question is "Yes, EVgo is the only fast charge provider providing me the time based billing I want.

The other thing is apathy. Ok, well maybe that word is a bit over the top but in my last post I lamented that despite WA State's great start out of the gates, we have, by all appearances, dropped out of the race!   EVgo represents more options which might help create better billing between AV and Blink while maybe even driving down EVgo pricing. So EVgo is providing cnoices, so in answering the question "Is this what we want?" the answer is Yes, EVgo is providing competition.

But they are still spendy right?  Let me ask you; Who has paid $1.29 for a bottle of water at 7-Eleven knowing full well, you can buy a single bottle of water at the Trader Joe's across the street at the case price or about 29 cents?  Why did you do it?  Own stock in 7-Eleven? or was it simply convenience, less hassle and a better location?  Lets face it; the better option is to buy the case and carry a few in your car. I actually go a step further. Although, I admit to not liking plastic (I actually use Plastic Coke bottles, refilled with water but only because they freeze much better) I work in random areas where sometimes water is not easily accessible or simply tastes horrible. So I generally carry 2-3 bottles with me just in case. I do store then in my Seahawks cooler so they are not in direct sunlight and what not...

But the point is you pay for speed and convenience at 7-Eleven, not because they are cheap or have better water.  So now EVgo has only plans for locations and we have seen AV and Blink with plans that did not materialize or were MUCH slower to materialize than stated so its a bit premature to think EVgo has it going on but preliminary locations  are nearly exactly where they need to be.

Not sure I like the mall concepts especially Tacoma Mall since it is legendary (my office is just down the street from them) for being very time consuming getting in and out of there during rush hour traffic. Simply way too much stuff going on in too small a place complicated by the fact that the mall is bordered on one side by what is now a 30+ year construction project.  But the locations are convenient. I think I am not alone in saying that a fast charge network in the right places with high reliability could easily demand a 50% higher premium and still have people flocking to their sites. So to answer the question rating EVgo;  Not sure yet although I can say that the current providers AV and Blink rate no better than a "C" for convenience and that is VERY generous.

Ok so now we seem to have EVgo filling a lot of needs but again that cost.  Well, as I see it, you have a few options.  A subscription fee now drops the cost to $14.95 a month with 10 cents per minute.  This could drop the charging rate $4 per 30 minute session if you used it every other day. Keeping in mind on a longer trip, a well placed network could be sipped from 4-6 times in one day.  But lets make it more reasonable.  Back when everyone was free, the most I used the fast chargers was 7 times in one month for a total of 101 minutes.   So using the EVgo plan that would have cost $14.95 plus $10.10 or a total of $25.05. Now that makes it cheaper than Blink since I gathered roughly 73 kwh or  $35.77.  But keep in mind; I rarely got much more than I needed and even more rarely made anyone wait more than 5 minutes. Now, I am not saying this to be viewed as a nice guy or anything because if I need it, to Hell with anyone else but I do admit to a lot of sessions being very late at night.

So what it boils down is a single use fee is expensive, 7-Eleven taught us that, or a subscription fee which makes it a bit better.  But neither addresses the "TDI dilemma"  So if a TDI gets 45 miles per gallon on the highway, is that a fair comparison?  Using the best case fossil fuel figures against the worst case EV figures? Well, oil companies seem to think so and I thought we were beyond that but looks like even that subject should be reviewed.... AGAIN!

I made a comment on line that a TDI making a run to the corner grocery and back in December, would cost more than the EVgo single fill up.  Remember short trips in Winter can reduce the most efficient car into full sized SUV numbers.  My Prius averaged 15-25 MPG on those short 3 mile roundtrippers. I have talked previously about my Corolla getting 4-5 MPG above EPA but not because of my stellar driving, its because my Corolla is only used for optimum driving trips.  So back to the cost scenario.  MY lifetime "fuel" cost over two LEAFs is running 2.1 cents per mile. this includes home utility rates at just under 1.9 cents per mile along with any and all public charging costs.  Now, I don't pay for a charge currently on a regular basis with anyone but if using last years figures, I drove 16,957.8 miles for a total cost of $346.95  or 2.04 cents per mile.  Add a $20 a month sub cost to say AV and its now 3.46 cents per mile. In the examples above, the AV subscription would be cheaper than EVgo while EVgo is cheaper than Blink, so an EVgo subscription would be slightly higher. Ok, lets say it doubled our EV costs, so we would be looking at nearly 7 cents per mile.  So all of a sudden, we see that EVs even with "exorbitant" fast charge costs, is NOT more expensive than a TDI.  In reality, a subscription would not have doubled my per mile cost and either I would have driven more miles or had less home cost due to the additional charging done on the road. I suspect reality will be a bit of both.  So again; with more places to charge, even on a cost basis; EVgo still seems to answer our question favorably.

But there is still the "Just take the Prius" crowd and I do fall into that category by definition only in that I also have a gasser to go along with my LEAF.  So my Corolla drove 5912 miles for a cost of $512.44 in gas or 8.66 cents per mile, keeping in mind, I averaged 39.77 MPG. IOW; again a nearly best case fossil fuel comparison since the only time I did anything remotely resembling in town driving was trips to the gas station and there were a LOT of them; 18 with 8 of them coming after gas dropped below $3 a gallon making the numbers even better.   BUT even if ignoring maintenance costs, I still have to add insurance which was basic liability, no collision (obviously not something someone would do to their precious TDI) added another $372 a year which now pushes the cost to 15 cents per mile but as mentioned, cheapest possible insurance so again best case presented for Big Oil (as if they would have it any other way!)

But "HOLD ON!" you say.  And yes, I did not include insurance costs in the LEAF numbers and why? Well, insurance cost varies greatly AND we all have to have it so why include it in the 2nd car but not the first? Because having a second car is optional so is all the expenses tied to that option.  I could throw in insurance on the LEAF but in a LEAF verses TDI in a single car household, its a wash.

In summary; EVgo entrance to the Pacific Northwest brings us new stations, new options, new competition and the correct way to bill for fast charging.  It would be difficult to get too excited over all this until they announce their 2nd round of stations will I be able to determine if they will fit my needs. There is already reports of construction on one of the locations EVgo will be so its looking like they are getting things done quickly. I can only guess we shall see several more stations going up this year.

So to anyone who thinks the Prius is cheaper; please enlighten me because I had 3 Priuses in which I tracked every single penny that went into driving them. And yes, I had months where my fuel costs only were below 6 cents per mile! I was proud... well, at least until I got my ZENN EV and began to truly realize what the real definition of economic driving meant.

Now if you are a two car household (I actually consider myself to be a 1½ car household) post your costs and lets compare them with the TDI. This should be fun! ;)


EVgo has finally posted a Seattle page complete with typo's and pricing!


  1. I firmly put us in the "1¼" household group. Our '14 LEAF (which replaced out '11 last July) already has 12,500 miles. The bulk of our charging is done at home, with maybe an average of $3-5 spent monthly on public charging. I've spent $19 on a tire rotation for maintenance. Six-month insurance premium (full coverage, maximum), $195.35.

    Our Subaru Impreza ('12) turns 3 years in August, and only has 17,000 miles. We spend an average of $15-20/mo in gas (some months no gas, some months lots when we take road trips). Aside from oil changes (free), no major maintenance yet other than annual switching of snow tires ($20). Insurance is the same as the LEAF: $195.35. We average about 30 MPG.

    1. Although our Impreza is a solid car, especially since we are heavily oriented toward the outdoors and recreation (snow sports included), it will be the last ICE car we purchase.

    2. Thanks for commenting! Ya, my Corolla I have to have for work purposes for clients in Grays Harbor. Unfortunately there is only rumored to be one L2 charger at the Chevy dealership in Aberdeen and nothing else. A fast charger going that direction is vital and would be literally overrun!

      But until that happens, I cannot get rid of the Corolla. The other issue I have is mileage. My 15,000 mile lease simply is not enough. I drove the Corolla much more than normal the last few months only to reduce the miles on the LEAF

  2. We are new to our used Leaf as of November, already its taken over most of the commuting miles at around 8 cents a mile. The electric rate here in New England is almost 25 cents a kwh if you count fees, 11 cents for just the generation. I think I will hit 1000 mi on the Leaf for April mostly from my 50 mile commute most days. Our 2007 Nissan Sentra is chugging along at 26-28 mpg or 10 cents a mile until the gas prices head back up.

    I think my Leaf costs are a bit higher than reality as they are estimates from carwings compared against my monthly total kwh usage. With the heat running hard all winter its hard to get a clear image of how much of our new usage is from overnight charging.

    1. I would not use Carwings as the decider. What I do is reset my miles/kwh meter and Trip A odometer daily. Record this in a log along with ahr and Hx readings from LEAF Spy. I also record kwh available and GIDs for every full charge. Then I use a formula that uses 87% of power from the car (miles/kwh) reading to calculate power from wall. For example, I recorded 5.0 miles/kwh on a day's worth of driving and drove 50 miles which means car used 10 kwh. from the wall, I divide 87% into that or 10/.87 or 11.5 kwh which is a good approximation of power from the wall.

      I did have a utility grade meter inline with my EVSE but relocated and the garage is a bit tighter and found the meter sticking out from the wall to not be in a good place so I took it out. But did record two months of data so that is how I arrived at the 87% figure.

      Also I read an article on 20 most costliest cities and the Northeast ranked highest for public utilities which was a shocker to me as I always thought the Bay area had the highest...