Will public electric vehicle charging become more expensive than gas as electric vehicles begin to become a larger percentage of the car population in America? In some cases, like in the image above we took at a public charger this week, electricity is already more expensive than gas, and not by a little.
During our testing of the new 2018 Hyundai Ioniq Electric in Massachusetts this week, we used the infotainment system to find a nearby charging station. The vehicle directed us to a new outdoor mall area in Burlington, Mass. and we made a dinner reservation for a restaurant in the plaza. When we arrived, the single charging spot, among hundreds of public spots, was occupied by a Toyota Prius Prime. When we left over two hours later, it was still in the spot charging, even though it must have been full, given its small battery capacity. That was an interesting real-world observation for our review notes, but what struck us was the cost displayed on the charger. Fifty cents per kWh.
We've pointed out in prior stories that here in Massachusetts where electricity can be as high as twenty-three cents per kWh at home, an EV has about the same cost per mile as a Prius, or Camry Hybrid when gasoline is under $2.50 per gallon. When electricity is twice that rate, an EV costs more per mile to operate than a typical car like a Civic or crossover like a CR-V.
In many locations, public charging costs are covered by a local municipality, business, or private group and are offered for "free." The cost to charge is still there, but someone besides the car owner is paying the tab. With single chargers or a pair of chargers being used sporadically, this is an easy expense for a group with good intentions to absorb. The real question is, as EVs become more and more mainstream, will this continue, or will public EV chargers shift to a break-even price structure, and eventually, like most things, a profit center? With big oil buying up public charging companies the answer is easy to guess.