Published on March 1st, 2013 | by Andrew Meggison
The Issue of the Public, and Free, Electric Vehicle Chargers
An article recently appeared on Plugincar.com arguing that the public and free electric vehicle (EV) charger trend is not sustainable, and that EVs will have a brighter future if charging stations owners can make revenue from their charging operation. And they might have a point.
The authors argument is that EVs will have a brighter future if the owners of the public charging station can make money off that public charging station. By being able to make a profit of the charging stations more people will install them at their business, and thus more consumers will feel comfortable buying an EV because they can get a charge at any number of locations. It is an interesting argument, but not without its flaws.
In response to the article people have commented that electricity is everywhere. Unlike gasoline, electricity is built into our current infrastructure. Gasoline has to be shipped in trucks and through pipe lines and stored in tanks. Because of this, installing a gas pump costs a heck of a lot more than installing a public charger. Other have responded by saying that given the limited range of many pure EVs, EV owners charge at home using energy that they already pay for. Because of this, the public charging station becomes more of an emergency backup system rather than a primary fuel source.
My view on this issue is by the numbers – there are currently not enough EVs on the road to sustain a for-fee charging station system. Right now very few people are going to pay a service station to plug in. Long term the article’s argument makes sense, but we need to look to see if current automotive trends are even going the way of the EV – and for some manufactures it seems they are not. In fact a recent report showed that as gas prices increase it is actually small, fuel efficient, gas powered cars that would see the largest jump in sales followed by hybrids. But not EVs.
If vast sums of money are spent to service an alternative fuel technology that does not take off with consumers, perhaps EVs, than that spells trouble for future more consumer friendly alternative fuel technologies. I am not saying that the EV market will fail, some reports have it booming. What I am saying is to be cautious with how fast we push the pay for service side. With risk can come reward, but we do not want to create a business environment that is adverse to new technologies, and right now EVs need all the incentives they can get, including free public charging.
Andrew Meggison was born in the state of Maine and educated in Massachusetts. Andrew earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Government and International Relations from Clark University and a Master’s Degree in Political Science from Northeastern University. Being an Eagle Scout, Andrew has a passion for all things environmental. In his free time Andrew enjoys writing, exploring the great outdoors, a good film, and a creative cocktail. You can follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewMeggison