Renewables and EV charging at home vs charging station issue

Posted By on July 3, 2021

As we transition to renewable energy and electric vehicles, the discussion I had with a German tourist on our cruise to Alaska continuesSolar-wind-power to replay in my head. I am an advocate of free-market capitalism and smaller, less intrusive government … but have been known to stumble a bit and have supported government using incentives … and it is far better than penalties. In the case of Germany (more central control and bureaucrats regulating) and their need to import most of their energy in the form of oil and gas, has caused them to more rapidly embrace renewables and solar panels to supply renewable forms of power to the electrical grid. I personally have always thought this was a smart approach as it incentivized homeowners to be clean energy power providers – electricity generators – as well as consumers.

To make it even more worthwhile, low cost financing was made available and tiered pricing for both buying and selling to the grid help the conservation e-pit-fast-charging-station-in-south-koreaminded citizen end up without and electric bill for much of the year (especially in sunny, moderate climate areas). The homeowner who financed their solar roof for 20+ years could sell power to the grid at daytime rates when electricity was in the highest demand and purchase it at night when rates are lower. It worked well as more affordable, longer lasting solar panels improved on their efficiency … that is until the higher demand for nighttime EV charging increases nighttime power demand (actually I’m fast forwarding and surmising what might change as the United States move towards renewables and charging more and more EVs at night).

An article in Forbes written by Brad Templeton highlighted a few of the pros and cons; it is actually a very interesting article and helped me understand why “charging stations as a business” is not as attractive as running traditional gasoline and diesel fuel stations as a private business.


Can Electric Car Charging Be A Business?

Gas stations are a business. They sell gasoline to drivers and make a profit, just like any commodity vendor. But charging for electric cars is very different. Even though it was estimated in 2020 that there are 26,000 EV charging stations with over 86,000 plugs, and a much larger number of home charging points, they are generally not a business … with a few exceptions.

EV buyers tend to be homeowners. That means they install some sort of charging at home. There they buy electricity at the consumer price, but usually arrange for “time of day” pricing where the electricity is cheap at night, and that’s when they charge. That costs from 8 to 16 cents/kwh, or roughly 2 to 4 cents per mile of driving. The power company sells electricity but is not even aware they are in the EV charging business.


The great solar flip

Today, the cheapest power is at night. The most expensive power is from 3pm to 9pm. As more and more solar power is put on the grid, however, this will change. 3pm to 9pm will continue to be expensive, but there will eventually be a surplus of solar power from 8am to 3pm. Indeed, those imagining future grids wonder what to do with all that extra solar power, since it has to be stored to be useful, since the demand to use it is not present.

When this happens, the power prices will flip, and the 8am-3pm period may become the cheap power while night becomes more expensive, since it can’t come from solar and must come from storage, nuclear, hydro, wind or fossil.

The best place to put that extra power is into cars. Unlike almost all other loads on the power grid, cars can be very flexible about when they take the power.



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