Managing Costs and Rates at Fast-Charging Stations for Electric Vehicles

Jigar Shah, the director of energy services at Electrify America, faces the challenge of navigating the rates charged by over 200 electric utilities across the U.S. and Canada. Electrify America, a subsidiary of Volkswagen, has the second-highest number of fast-charging electric vehicle plugs, with over 3,600 stations. Shah explains how they manage costs and regulate rates in different locations.

One aspect Shah considers is the line-extension process and the infrastructure required for fast-charging stations. They work closely with utilities to assess the difficulty and cost of installing the necessary infrastructure. If the infrastructure in a certain area is not feasible, they may choose to pivot to another location that is more grid-friendly and cost-effective.

Shah also mentions the concept of utility demand charges, which are based on the peak kilowatts drawn during a specific period. This is different from regular residential electricity bills, which typically only include kilowatt-hour charges. The demand charges can be significant, especially if multiple vehicles are charging simultaneously. Electrify America takes on this financial risk to provide fast-charging availability essential for electric vehicle adoption.

In terms of negotiating better rates, Shah explains how they have been successful in testifying in front of public utility commissions to advocate for rate reforms that support fast-charging. They also utilize behind-the-meter energy storage to offset the demand charges and reduce costs. By storing energy during off-peak times, they can avoid the peak-demand charges.

Regarding pricing for EV owners, Electrify America has recently announced site-specific pricing. This is due to varying utility rates that may not be designed to support fast-charging. In some cases, prices are increased to accommodate the actual economics, while in other cases, prices are substantially reduced to support policy movements.

Ultimately, Shah emphasizes the importance of transparency in pricing and ensuring that there are no surprise bills for customers. Electrify America provides pricing information through their mobile app, allowing customers to know the cost in advance. They also address concerns about the impact of energy storage on expansion, noting that the majority of charging still occurs at home. The investments in energy storage are balanced with the expansion of fast-charging stations.

Electrify America is also involved in solar energy generation, with solar canopies installed in certain locations. They have even entered into a financial arrangement to build a 75-megawatt solar plant, which generates electricity sent back into the grid.

Overall, managing costs and rates at fast-charging stations is a complex process, involving negotiations with utilities, rate reforms, and the use of energy storage. Electrify America aims to provide transparent pricing and expand their network to support the growing adoption of electric vehicles.

Sources: The Associated Press