Not Free, But Ubiquitous, Convenient, Dependable EV Charging

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Recently, CleanTechnica published an article which I had written about discrimination in the world of EV charging. My aim was to start a conversation, not push free charging. For your edification and enlightenment, I have collected the ideas that have been presented from around the world — from comments on CleanTechnica to comments on Facebook posts.

Please note: I am not advocating for charging to be free. I am concerned about wasted resources and that fossil fuel car drivers get discounts on fuel and EV drivers do not. I am also not advocating for superchargers at shopping centres. Level 2 charging is fine by me. It should be possible to charge while I dine out, while I watch a movie, while I wait for hours to see a doctor!

Charge while you shop

Plenty of chargers for everyone at Countdown NZ. Photo courtesy of Sean White.

From Australia

“This is the conversation we need to have. Thanks, David.

“I mostly charge my BYD T3 minivan at home (up to 32A single phase) even since I started working as a courier. On days when I get a bit range nervous I don’t have many options for a DC fast charge here in Perth, and charging at 6kW can hold me up.
On hot days (>37°C) I learned that the ABB and Tritium chargers don’t like to be located in the sun (either that or my van has comms problems at those temps).

“I don’t understand the business case for charging stations but think that crowdfunding could be an option for getting more chargers at locations/businesses who already have idle 3 phase outlets. I see that I can still buy a 5m 3 phase Type 2 cable for $250 online, or over the counter in Rydalmere NSW. It looks like the same one I bought when I picked up my van in Sydney to drive to Perth.

“I get 20% off ChargeFox charging because I’m an NRMA member. I don’t think it’s discriminatory: you only get the discount on petrol because it’s overpriced to begin with and the discount only applies to the retail brand that is owned by the same company that owns the supermarket. So you overpay for groceries, overpay for petrol, but you get a voucher that says you saved 6 cents per litre!

“You could have just shopped at ALDI and bought petrol at Costco and saved the equivalent of 20 cents per litre.”

Over time, we’ll see EV charging infrastructure become more pervasive. It’s like motels that used to advertise AC as a feature, but now it’s expected.

Not Free

Charging spot at Woolies Mount View, Queensland, Australia. Photo courtesy of Majella Waterworth.

One correspondent wrote to Woolworths and received this response via Twitter: “Hi Marcus, as a business we are committed to a low carbon future. We’re trialling zero-emissions vehicles in our own fleet and we’re installing EV charging stations in many of our new developments to support our customers who’ve already made the switch to EVs. Our Everyday Rewards program is focused on helping customers get extra value out of everyday activities — and we’re always looking for new ways to do that as Australians evolve the way they live. Thank you for your suggestion. We’ve passed it on to our Everyday Rewards team.”

Wow! Looking forward to action being taken on this idea! I have written to Aldi and am awaiting a response.

New Zealand

“I was interested to see the new Hastings Countdown supermarket has installed 6 free 7kw BYO Cable chargers. Having done the math, free EV charging is still significantly cheaper than fuel discount vouchers. Take for example a 6 cents per litre discount on a 60lt tank. This saves $3.60 for the customer and one can assume costs the supermarket the same, $3.60. The average cost of commercial electricity is 18 cents (figure accurate 2021) per kWh, so if we factor 7kWh being about an hour of supermarket shopping, then the cost to the supermarket is $1.26 to buy customer loyalty. Seems like a no brainer to me. Less than half the cost. Disclaimer, neither of these models include any provision for installing fuel pumps, tanks, chargers, and infrastructure.

“In New Zealand we can get our AA rewards points transferred to chargenet and get discount off charging. Pity Australia is not so forward thinking. Driving an EV is so cheap we really don’t need any extra discount.

“I find this transfer of points to be better than using it for our petrol cars. Chargenet credit doesn’t expire, and per AA points/cent gets 4x more km on our EV than petrol. So in NZ it’s better to have an EV for fuel points than a petrol car. Caveat: our petrol cars are not normal, so our difference maybe larger than most people.”

United States

“This is parallel evolution. I have argued for big shopping centres to roof over with solar panels for years. Start a new ‘Green Stamp’ program that discounts the electrons based on how much is spent. Do people spend enough time at the supermarket to warrant superchargers? In and out type retail establishments can’t directly benefit from electricity sales, but they can benefit from selling fuel. That’s not discrimination, that’s just the way it is.

“Here in the States, Kroger offers fuel points as well. I don’t care so much about EV charging, but I do wish that I could do SOMETHING with these points instead of letting them go to waste. I’d be ecstatic if Kroger would offer an equivalent dollar amount that I could donate to a food bank, or something like that. Or just lower the price of groceries, period.”


“You get about 12 miles in 30 minutes in a Tesla Model 3 or a Nissan Leaf. That’s about 1/2 gallon of gas in an average ICE or about $2.5 worth of gasoline in Southern  California. I always plug in to the level 2 at my local supermarket because I want to promote companies installing more destination chargers. I also try to shop where there are destination chargers for the same reason.”

Shopping malls with food courts and movie theatres are more likely a couple of hours’ stay, and some large grocery chains offer everything from hairdressing to travel services, so they’re often more than 30 minute stops too.


“In the US where chargers have been added at store lots they are typically at the perimeter of the lot far from the door, this is often simply due to proximity to the power source without saw-cutting up the pavement to run lines to the chargers. This does tend to put the spaces far from the door, but I believe that is merely due to the logistics of the construction in most cases.

“Whether it is cheaper depends on whether you are getting power from the existing building panel (common for AC chargers and single DC chargers) or from a separate transformer & switch gear, which is more common for high-power DC chargers with multiple posts. There is one such DC install with multiple posts near me that is also near the building. It was a nightmare with constant blockage by stink-engine powered cars. Signage and enforcement eventually straightened that out, but it is in fact a policy now by that network to avoid the problem by siting DC chargers farther from the shopping center entrance. I have spoken to the network people about this, and it is fairly common knowledge within the community of OEMs and network operators. Close-in parking is prized by those who want to make a quick trip to the store. DC charging is often used by people who have been in the car for hours and need to stretch their legs anyway, though not always. As a driver, I absolutely dread DC charges near the shopping center entrance. I prefer to not be noticed by antagonists, of which there are many in my area.

“It would be great to have the option to donate points for installation and maintenance of charging station. Perhaps approximately 10k pts per charging station.”

United Kingdom

“This is something that irks me too. Some ICEV folk are quite outspoken about the ‘free’ charging that some supermarkets have offered. These were 7kW chargers, so over a whole hour, at the old electricity  price before it went nuts, would be about 7x15p = £1.05. But Supermarkets have been giving petrol discounts of 5p to 10p off a litre for years, which at 50litres, is £2.50–£5 of savings.

“What of the walkers, can they get a discount on something? It appears they can.

“Some UK supermarkets subsidise free bus rides for those travelling between home and the shop.”

Canada

“Where I live in Canada it wasn’t possible to do a round trip in winter to the nearest shopping mall in a Model 3 ‘Long Range’ without charging. But with a 48 amp x 240 volt AC plug at our destination, we could make it home even if we used the heater.

“More for the walkers and riders: in some parts of Canada.

“Public transit in Vancouver, BC, Canada is subsidized by a special fuel tax.

“And transit is also subsidized by city property tax, which everyone is paying directly or indirectly unless they are homeless. And so are roads and sidewalks.

Canadian parking lots have dozens of 1.5 KW plugins intended for keeping ICE vehicles from getting too cold to start. They’ll add 7 km per hour to an EV in summer if the breaker is still on, and in winter they’ll keep an EV battery from freezing. But you have to bring your own EVSE, and run the risk of copper taking your only charger.

“It is important to remember that stores operate all sorts of incentives to encourage customers (of all types) into their premises. Shopper dockets, green stamps and fuel discounts are just some examples. At the moment, some businesses can’t see a profit in it and some can.

“Those that can realise that a level 2 charge station can be installed at very low Capex, and can be a way of attracting customers to a business or groups of businesses within walking distance. Fast chargers along highways are also a way of attracting customers. In this case the installation cost is significantly greater but the user will be willing to pay more $/kWh and more likely to spend money on food and beverages. Smart businessmen will see the opportunity to make money because the number of customers stopping to recharge their vehicles will continue to increase.”


Thank you to all those who shared great ideas. If you can encourage the businesses where you spend time to install L2 chargers and those who offer fuel discounts to find a way to use those points for something worthwhile, please do so. Happy to hear of your progress!


 


 


 

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