Public Electric Car Charging: How You Pay

Yesterday, we detailed our troubled attempt to charge a Tesla Roadster at the parking structure across the street from's offices. Here we'll detail how a charging-point user can expect to be billed when things go smoothly.

We signed up for a ChargePoint account online, loading it with the minimum $25. Days later we received a ChargePass in the mail. It’s a bar-coded key tag ($9.95 apiece) that unlocks charging stations and identifies us to the network. In case you don't get your pass right away or don't have it on you, the Coulomb Technologies charger's display provides a toll-free number you can call to get access. Some stations will support credit cards, too.

So, how does a consumer get charged for charging? That will vary.

As described by Brian Levin, vice president of CarbonDay, our region's Coulomb charging-station distributor, the hardware is purchased by the parking operator, municipality or what have you. The owner decides whether to provide the service gratis or to bill by the session or by the hour. Typical rates are $1 or $2 per hour, though a minimum might be required. The operator can also vary the rates by time of day. Once your car is fully charged, the facility can stop billing, continue to bill you for tying up the charger or give you a time window in which to unplug and relocate the car.

How do you know the car is charged? If your car doesn't support smartphone apps, email or text messages — as many are planned to — the ChargePoint network does. My dumbphone was of no use, so I configured our account's preferences to send both text and email messages for all four possible alerts: when charging is complete, if a ground fault is detected, if the charger becomes disconnected or an over-current situation arises. As assigned, it alerted me via text and email within a minute when the charging attempt described yesterday failed. Pretty cool.

There are good reasons to leave a car plugged in even if the battery is charged. Battery packs lose energy over time, especially if the car does any battery conditioning, such as cooling. Our Tesla hummed and gurgled when parked after driving, even when not plugged in. If the required power isn't coming from the grid, it comes from the battery itself, costing you range. Likewise, in cold climates some electric cars will warm the battery pack when plugged in, which ensures maximum capacity and range.

Even in the event of a successful session, we wouldn't have been billed because InterPark, which operates the parking structure across from our offices, has decided not to charge those who charge, if you will, for the rest of the year. You obviously still have to pay the daily or monthly parking fee just like every other car in the lot. Come 2011, they'll revisit their payment strategy.

How much you pay per charge at a public station will determine the cost advantage — if any — over a conventional car. We know cost savings are all but guaranteed if you charge at home, but if you charge at 120 volts, you're typically adding around five miles of range for the Tesla Roadster. In short, at 120 volts, $1 would buy you five miles. For a car that gets 30 mpg, one gallon of gas at $3 amounts to 10 miles per dollar. If the gas-powered car's mileage or the cost of charging per hour are higher, the return is even worse. If you charge at 240 volts, it's a better deal because you're adding more range for the same amount of time.

So why don't operators charge per kilowatt-hour? Levin says only electric utilities are allowed by law to do so, but that might change. The electricity cost isn't the only issue, though. A charger attached to a car isn't available to another motorist, regardless of how much juice it's drawing. The ChargePoint units can be programmed to end a session after a preset number of hours. Municipalities and parking operators will have to weigh one consideration versus the other. Ultimately, consumers will influence how rates and details are structured. "We think there will be a free market, and if three people on the block are charging $1-2 per hour and one guy is charging $5 per hour, it will correct itself," Levin said.



Charging by the hour is pretty close to charging by the kWh if you are delivering a constant number of kW. If you charge $1 per hour for an X kW service, and $2 per hour for a 2X kW service, then you are charging by the kWh indirectly.


I imagine that it will eventually cost you (at a charging station) the same to fully charge your EV as it does now to fill with gas.


In a regulated Utility's territory, only the utility should be allowed to sell electricity on a retail basis. If you "rent" a charger by the hour i believe you would be gouged. The best scenario would be to have utilities sell electricity directly to electric car owners at normal rates, billing the electricity directly to their monthly bill. It would be up to businesses, the city and the utility to pay for the installation of charging stations, with many businesses offering free charging to attract customers. Adding a separate company that owns the charging stations would reduce or eliminate the cost advantage of electrified transportation, which by the way should be just a few cents per mile.

Paul Scott

Here in California, the PUC recently ruled that EV charge stations may charge by the kWh. This makes things easier, but as others have already said, charging by the house for a set current can be essentially the same thing.

Jason Horn

Suggested for reposting:

"A large part of the electric car projects are just a scam to get a certain group of VC's to control the lithium fields in Afghanistan! He who controls the electric cars controls the trillions of dollars of lithium revenues. It is just like oil all over again. The U.S. Department of Energy had one guy, who George Bush appointed running $25B worth of taxpayer money. He was working with 3 other guys in this small group who gave the money only to hooked n car companies who they could control the battery orders for and thus control the Lithium profits.

Dmitry Medvedev Came to Silicon Valley on June 22, 2010 and met with some of the venture capital companies that helped lobby the leverage for the electric car companies that just got funded. Only the car companies got funded that would play in this scheme.

Ener1 Battery Systems who got zillions of the dollars from DOE per the Loan Guarantee and ATVM Director Seward.

Is controlled in part by Russian “business man” Boris Zingarevich.

Who is best friends with the Russian Dmitry Medvedev, who arranged for all of Russia to extend current agreements signed with foreign automakers between 2005 and 2008 granting preferential duties on imported components for eight years in return for sourcing 30 percent of parts locally, according to the Industry and Trade Ministry. Once those arrangements expire, the carmakers would need to commit to buying 60 percent of components in Russia within six years to get more tax breaks.

Dmitry also appears to own interest in lots of Lithium processing and mining company technology in Russia which is pretty close to Afghanistan.

Afghanistan is: the "Saudi Arabia’ of lithium". American geologists have discovered huge mineral deposits (Many $1 trillion of dollars worth) throughout Afghanistan, according to the New York Times. Lithium, gold, cobalt, copper, iron, among other valuable minerals are lying beneath what is already a war-torn country with little history with mining. Off and on over the decades, geologists—Soviet, Afghan, American—would investigate and chart some of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth, only to put the work on hold as violent conflict erupted. Now, corruption, in-fighting between the central and district governments, foreign interests, and greater zeal from the Taliban might come into play to disrupt a potential economy evolving around these natural resources. With the Ministry of Mines, a Pentagon task force is now helping organize a way of handling the mineral development and bidding rights. How this unfolds socially, environmentally and politically should be interesting.

The New York Times reports: The value of the newly discovered mineral deposits dwarfs the size of Afghanistan’s existing war-bedraggled economy, which is based largely on opium production and narcotics trafficking as well as aid from the United States and other industrialized countries. Afghanistan’s gross domestic product is only about $12 billion. The two most prevalent minerals are copper and iron. Niobium, used for making superconducting steel, has also been found.

The effort to get that money for Ener1 was strong armed by Republican Sen. Richard G. Lugar, one of the deans of Congress, and his junior colleague, Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh.

Richard Lugar and Lachlan Seward co-managed the Chrysler Bail-out.

Lachlan Seward was appointed by George Bush to run all of the tens of billions for the DOE ATVM and Loan Guarantee Programs. He & Matt Rogers gave most of the money away to their closely aligned interests and negated competing applicants. --

Another place near Afghanistan that there is lot's of Lithium is in Mongolia. Blum Capital has targeted the Lithium fields in Mongolia, said to be the second largest fields after Afghanistan in the region. Mongolia touches Russia so mining and equipment access could first take place there via Russia. China wants the Mongolian Lithium too so there is some two-way bidding that each country (Russia and China) do not know about. The owner of Blum Capital is Senator Feinsteins husband. She recently made him the Goodwill Ambassador to Mongolia.

Blum's wife, Senator Dianne Feinstein, has received scrutiny due to her husband's government contracts and extensive business dealings with China and her past votes on trade issues with the country. Blum has denied any wrongdoing, however. Critics have argued that business contracts with the US government awarded to a company (Perini) controlled by Blum may raise a potential conflict-of-interest issue with the voting and policy activities of his wife. URS Corp, which Blum had a substantial stake in, bought EG&G, a leading provider of technical services and management to the U.S. military, from The Carlyle Group in 2002; EG&G subsequently won a $600m defense contract. In 2009 it was reported that Blum's wife Sen. Dianne Feinstein introduced legislation to provide $25 billion in taxpayer money to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp, a government agency that had recently awarded her husband's real estate firm, CB Richard Ellis, what the Washington Times called "a lucrative contract to sell foreclosed properties at compensation rates higher than the industry norms.

Pan American Lithium Corp is led by Andrew Brodkey, CEO, President and Director – who has 25 years in the mining industry as a mining engineer, lawyer and senior executive with a focus on corporate legal and business development activities at major mining companies with an emphasis on Latin America, including Magma Copper Company and BHP Copper Inc. Mr. Brodkey also created the International Mining & Metals Group of CB Richard Ellis, Inc (“CBRE”). He and Mr. Blum work together on Lithium deals

" In 2009 the University of California Board of Regents, of which Blum is a member, voted to increase student registration fees (roughly the Univ. of California equivalent of tuition) by 32%. Shortly thereafter, Blum Capital Partners purchased additional stock in ITT Tech, a for-profit educational institution. These events suggest a conflict of interest on Blum's part. Also see: and and

America "should" get all the Lithium before the competing empires get it but this private group of special interest manipulators should not get to take billions of dollars of taxpayer money to set themselves up with a personal arrangement at the expense of the taxpayers and the American companies they killed off by their manipulations. That is the bad thing that is happening here."

Post a Comment 

Please remember a few rules before posting comments:

  • If you don't want people to see your email address, simply type in the URL of your favorite website or leave the field empty.
  • Do not mention specific car dealers by name. Feel free to mention your city, state and brand.
  • Try to be civil to your fellow blog readers. This blog is not a fan or enthusiast forum, it is meant to help people during the car-buying process and during the time between purchases, so shoppers can keep a pulse on the market.
  • Stay on topic. We want to hear your opinions and thoughts, but please only comment about the specified topic in the blog post.
view posting rules

If you have a TypeKey or TypePad account, please Sign In

Search Results

KickingTires Search Results for

Search Kicking Tires

KickingTires iPhone App