Today’s round of questions, my smart-aleck replies and the real answers:
Question: As I drive around the greater Asheville area, I’m seeing a lot more all electric-vehicles. I know they tend to be fairly costly. I’m curious about some of the other issues that are involved in owning one of these vehicles. What does it cost on average to have a level two charger put into your garage? If you live in an apartment complex, what accommodations are made so that renters can charge their EVs? In apartment complexes, what is the charge for kilowatt hours if management owns the charging units? I have heard from a couple of people who have EVs that when they charge on the level three chargers when they’re on the road, the cost per kilowatt hour is all over the place and often quite high. Apparently, you can be charged anywhere from 40 to 60 cents a kilowatt hour, and sometimes there is a charge for plugging in, or after your vehicle is filled, if it stays connected to the unit, there is a parking fee. I think Duke Energy is charging most of us about 14 cents a kilowatt hour. Could the Answer Man check out what the commercial fast charger rates schedule is in the greater Asheville area, and if in fact that might be prohibitive for some people to purchase an EV?
My answer: You know, it’s like I’m the only person in town who realizes all my neighbors have outdoor electrical sockets, and extension cords can make the reach pretty easily. Been driving for free for 10 years!
Real answer: I reached out to the Blue Ridge EV Club, and President Rudy Beharrysingh really knocked this one out of the park. Let’s run through that list of questions, starting with potentially putting a level II charger in your house.
Beharrysingh first pointed out that level II chargers need 240 volts and probably a minimum 30 amps, but they do better with a 50 amp circuit.
“I had a welding 60 amp circuit already in my garage, and so the cost of installing a level II in my garage was the cost of the charger, which can range from $300 to $600, depending on amperage,” Beharrysingh said.
Beharrysing said some apartment complexes are installing a few level II chargers in their parking lots.
“It would be nice to see an ordinance requiring builders to install level II chargers in their complexes,” Beharrysingh said. “An alternative is to provide a level I outlet for each parking space. This way EVs could top off overnight.”
As an example of level I outlets, he mentioned how people in Northern climates use engine block heaters for their cars overnight.
The charging units Beharrysingh has seen in apartment complexes are third-party owned, he said. That means you pay per charge.
“The cost depends on the company,” he said. “Sometimes the cost is per kilowatt hour (20, 30, 40 cents per kWh), or sometimes by the hour.”
That may come to about $1.50 an hour.
On the level III chargers, Beharrysingh noted these are technically called DC fast chargers, and they push direct current into the vehicle’s battery pack. He’s had varying experiences with them in several states.
“I have charged on these for free (Utah utilities) or as little as 10 cents per kWh (through Colorado), or 25 cents per kWh on an off-peak normal Tesla Supercharger, to as high as 49 cents per kWh on EVGo or Tesla network at peak time,” Beharrysingh said. “But, I most often fast charge at a network called Electrify America when traveling. With a $7 per month membership the fast charge cost is 36 cent per kWh.”
Beharrysingh said Duke Energy’s residential rates locally are about 12 cents per kilowatt hour in this area.
“The majority of folks who charge at home most of the time will pay this amount,” he said.
I should also note that Duke Energy put out a news elease in August about a new EV charging subscription service in North Carolina. It’s a collaboration with General Motors, Ford Motor Company, and BMW of North America “aimed at bringing certainty to the cost of EV charging.”
In part, the release states:
“Duke Energy’s 12-month EV Complete Home Charging Plan pilot will allow residential customers in North Carolina to use up to 800 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per month to charge an EV at home for a fixed monthly fee of $19.99 in its Duke Energy Carolinas service area and $24.99 in its Duke Energy Progress service area, which includes Buncombe County. The average EV driver uses less than 15 kWh on a given day, meaning the pilot will offer peace of mind for participants with nearly twice the amount per month needed by the average driver.”
The release said Duke customers with a qualifying EV will get an invitation to participate from their EV manufacturer. Enrollment was set to start in September 2023, with the program launch slated for Nov. 1. Find out more here.
Beharrysingh, who is also director of the Parsons Math Lab at UNC Asheville, ran some numbers on EV operational costs.
“Just for comparison, the average EV (non-truck) gets 3 to 4 miles per kWh,” Beharrysingh said, settling on 3.5 as a good average. “Thus, for every hundred miles it would use 28.6 kWh, and at 12 cents per kWh this would cost $3.42 to drive the 100 miles. If the electric cost is 36 cents per kWh, the cost of the 100-mile trip is $10.29, etc.”
The charge for hanging out too long at a charging station is a real thing — and it makes sense.
“There is a charge (no pun intended) if you overstay your charge at many chargers now,” Beharrysingh said. “Think of it like blocking the gas pump so others can’t use it — sort of inconsiderate, right?”
To summarize, Beharrysingh said, “Electric cars range in price, ability, and range. It is more difficult for apartment dwellers but not impossible.
“An apartment dweller could have a long-range EV and only fast charge it once per week, as people do with their gas cars. On the other hand, some local stores like Ingles (thanks Ingles), offer free level II charging.”
You could buy a lower-cost EV, like an older Nissan Leaf, for somewhere between $3,000 and $7,000, he said, but keep in mind it’s designed for local and city travel.
“Longer range EVs like the Chevy Bolt can be acquired for $13,000–$15,000 and up, and they have the ability to travel across this nation, even though the rate of charge for the car is slower than others,” Beharrysingh said, referring to a used Bolt. “On the other hand, you can splurge for a super luxurious $40,000-$60,000 EV with unparalleled speed and comfort.”
He acknowledged that EVs come with some inconveniences, and the upfront cost might be daunting to some.
Paul McCartney in a song, ‘After driving an EV, they said they could never drive another gas car.’ Is that what they said? Yes, they said it, you keep dreaming…”
At the very least here, let’s give Beharrysingh props for making me look up the lyrics to “The Girl is Mine,” a collaboration between the aforementioned pop stars.
Asheville Watchdog is a nonprofit news team producing stories that matter to Asheville and Buncombe County. Got a question? Send it to John Boyle at email@example.com or 828-337-0941. To show your support for this vital public service go to avlwatchdog.org/donate.