Thursday, January 2, 2020

California EV Camping

2020 marks a new era of public charging obstacles we EVers must add to the list of road trip challenges. There is a saying "As California leads, the nation follows"  and by and large, this is an accurate assessment of the influence the state has over the rest of the country.

I live in Washington State whom I consider to also be a leader in many things including same sex marriages and rights,  Death with Dignity, Support for the elderly, paid family leave, minimum wage, etc.

But sometimes California doesn't get it right and this law is a shining example of "sensibility takes a holiday" Maybe its processing legislation during the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas that caused this faux pas?

Of course I am talking about California's new requirement that public charging stations bill by the kwh.

But was this California making a "informed" decision based on a need of its citizenry or simply a victim of Big Oil manipulation?  In a decision this incredibly stupid, it can only be the latter. A glance at the "logic" behind the law quickly reveals whose agenda is being served.

Full Disclosure

This is so stupid its hard for me to type without spitting coffee onto the monitor screen.  California wants all providers to have displays on the stations fully detailing the kwh price. This includes Tesla who already stretches the definition of "public."  Despite their many invitations for other EV manufacturers to conform to their standards, none have accepted and the likelihood that will happen in the foreseeable future is zero.  Realize the Supercharger network has no screen at all. So complying with this law would be not only expensive but incredibly stupid.  Tesla drivers all know the cost of charging since their car gives them all that information in advance.  IOW a "victimless" crime??

Only Chargepoint has "wandering" rates with the host determining the cost to charge. Even the Chargepoint app does not have the rates...well, I think the app doesn't. At least they didn't when I realized the app was doing nothing but taking up space on my phone.  Thankfully other companies like EVGO, EA, etc. publish their rates.  EA even tells you on the screen of the station so they are already in compliance. (only shows its just as hard to be perfectly bad as it is to be perfectly good)

What this means is the bill was simply pushed thru senselessly without thinking (like DUH!) it thru including exceptions where the intent of the law had already been met.

Thankfully, there is a grandfather clause added to allow existing stations to get into compliance...At least that is what they say. Realistically, its time for the lawmakers to pull their head out of the sand. Hopefully 3 years will be enough time.

Bill Like Gasoline

The main (and only) supporting statement for this lunacy is consumer protection.  The law is supposed to protect the consumer by allowing them to know ahead of time that XX kwh received will result in the ability to drive YY miles. "Just like a gasser"

Now that sounds fine and my response; When you have enough public charging stations where the expected wait time to plug in will be no more than 5 minutes "just like gas" then fine, I accept your stupidity. Until then, PULL YOUR HEAD OUT!! started when gas was nearing its true cost. Because gassers don't like to deal with reality, they felt it necessary to find the cheapest gas in the area. IOW, no laws were required here. They took it upon themselves to do some research to control their costs. But realize the key difference here; This did not go against Big Oil's profit machine pitting company against company. IOW, Big Oil had no fight here.  Result; NO LAW!!

But were consumers protected? Did anyone go to the gas station to see prices at that station PLUS prices at other stations in the near vicinity? Would that not be "full disclosure?"

The EV Advantage

Due to the nature of how EVs charge, the speed at which kwh's are dumped into the tank varies.  To get the best bang for the buck, its recommended you start your charge in the lower SOC range of your EV and stop soon after the charge rate starts to drop or as soon as you get the range you need to continue your trip.  Well, that is hardly complicated now, is it?

Any EVer with more than a week of experience with public charging understands this. There is an unwritten (and unenforceable) rule that one should unplug from the DC charger when you hit 80% SOC because staying longer is supposed to be rude and the charge rate is now approaching level 2 speeds. (VERY wrong)

Well, I never was in that camp and I never will be. Its ridiculous to tell someone to unplug for no other reason than my simply being tired of waiting to charge.  Besides with per minute billing, they learn the "better" way of charging soon enough.  IOW; there is an incentive to get only what you need and go.

Now there is also the novice EVer who simply takes off without doing any research.  Granted in the old days (2011) the network was sparse, unreliable, etc. You really never knew what you were gonna get! (Stolen from Pawn Brokers... sorry) They elected to practice the ideology that if a station works, charge up as much as the car will take because the next one might be broken.

But the war cry of the Millenia soon came to the rescue; "There's an app for that!"

Plugshare allowed users to warn/advise travelers of where to stop and in some cases, what speed of charge they might see.  It soon became the #1 indispensable Road Warrior app with LEAF Spy being a very close 2nd. (LEAF not included)   This allowed the traveler to peruse their route for stations that had recent successful check ins.  The smart traveler quickly realized that shorter more frequent stops could be a better way to travel but again, the short range EVs still made that a challenge; one that many chose not to take.

Its 2020; Get With The Program! 

But bigger batteries, faster chargers and EA changed all that.  Now, the distance between chargers were shorter, the options plentiful. The need to charge to over 80% simply vanished for most of us. Sure there were still challenges off the main drag and whatnot but the ability to travel was getting to the point where preplanning was almost unnecessary.

Another advantage (of many) EVs had over gassers was the ability to control costs of fueling. For most of us; home charging was well under half the cost of a highly efficient hybrid gasser.  But properly managed, even the much more expensive public charging could also match the gasser's per mile cost. 

IOW, we have options!  Recently, I was able to average  a charge rate exceeding 60 KW on the EA Lacey station. That means more than one kwh per minute over the entire session.  If getting 4 miles/kwh (My average for Dec 2019 was 3.95 miles/kwh) at 18 cents per minute, that is 4.5 cents per mile. Realize DC charging is over 95% efficient. With gas hovering at $3 a gallon, a hybrid would need to get 60 mpg to approach that. But the real advantage? I charged to a point where I had 2 hours of freeway driving. The charge rate never dropped below 50 KW.

IOW, I am rewarded with upgrading to a larger 62 kwh battery with "up to 100 KW" 😎 DC charging.  Not only do I get what I need quicker which allows someone else to charge, the revenue of the station is boosted.  How can that be? You ask. When I am getting so much power in such a short period of time.  Because the power dispensed is a very very very small part of the cost of the station. The provider actually needs to have the station in use as much as possible. The likelihood that this will happen increases when the station habitually turns over in 30 mins or less.

A Bridge To Nowhere

Ok so California has backed these companies into a corner so what can we expect?  Blink instituted a per kwh billing plan years ago. How is that working?  (We are ignoring quality issues and only working Blinks will be considered in this discussion 😜)  Well, it ain't and why? Because it is too much money! Or is it? 

We no longer had any options for controlling our costs. Whether we had a big battery with a beefy charger or a wimpy under 100 mile EV, we were all on a level playing field.  We EVers don't play that game!!  Its all about FB posts of my "300 mile per hour charging session"  or my .48 second zero to 60 time; IOW, we pay for the right to BRAG!!! We don't like being equal among our peers. The sheer volume of "my car's got 2 more miles of range than your car does" posts on Facebook confirms my point.

So what can we expect?  A per kwh billing rate has to be fair to the 100 KW EVers and still bring in enough revenue to cover the EV charging an additional 10 minutes to get that one extra kwh.  Is that even possible??

The only thing that is obvious is someone is going to get screwed BIG TIME. Either the 100 kw EVers will see HUGE charging bill in minutes and their investment in that bigger battery wasted or the per kwh rates will be so low that reservations booked months in advance will be needed to accommodate the increase in 90+ minute charging sessions.

The rampant issues seen at free stations should be enough of a hint to have nixed this per kwh billing plan before it was even suggested.  Cars getting unplugged because someone else decided their charging needs and their travel itinerary was more important?  Threats of keying, tire deflation or outright vandalism because someone got to the station first?  This is what free charging did.

Now billing by the kwh hardly qualifies as free charging but rest assured; when you remove the financial disincentives to unplug, charging times WILL INCREASE dramatically.

Soon, it will become obvious that this law has broken more than it fixed. Customers upset at high bills for charging sessions will not be reduced and frustration over the public availability of stations will increase. IOW; exactly what Big Oil wanted to see. As for me? I am investigating charging routes around California and they exist! 😉


  1. The problem you are concerned by would be largely solved by correcting charge site designs.

    Whether charging by the minute or kW, current charger designs fail to distribute their kW capacity at the maximum constant rate.

    Providing multiple charge cables and spaces per kW source, queuing for kW access by the order the vehicles arrive and plug in, and immediately distributing excess charger kW capacity to the next vehicle in line, when and if tapering occurs, would allow each charger to run at maximum constant capacity.

    Rather pathetic that none of the charge station designers have figured this out yet...

    1. That would be nice but the cost to implement makes it a tough thing to get done. I prefer we simply install enough charging stations to cover the need.

    2. Good luck...

      "Enough" would have to be a massive number of charge stations, if we were to persist in the current failed design of disabling those chargers whenever another EV/PHEV is plugged in, irrespective of the low (or no) kW that BEV may be drawing.

    3. Massive number is correct. Kinda like California freeway needs. That is the way of it. But no matter how many stations you put up, the lack of financial incentive to only get what you need will ensure there will never be enough. The pay per kwh policy is one step towards removing those financial incentives to move as soon as you get the charge you need.

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