Print 60 comment(s) - last by Cypherdude1.. on Aug 14 at 11:02 PM

EV charging remains a great question for the burgeoning industry. Michigan's DTE Energy is the first to tackle developing a specialized bill scheme for EVs (Chevy Volt charger is pictured).  (Source: Car Fanatic Forum)
Customers can also opt for cheaper off-peak charging; may have to pay up to $2,500 for high-tech meter

The Tesla Roadster is already prowling the streets while the 2011 Chevy Volt and 2011 Nissan LEAF EV are preparing to launch later this year.  That's familiar news to most, but what might be a little more hazy is how the growing ranks of EVs are getting their power.

Amid all the EV excitement, charging has been one topic that has been decidedly undercovered -- largely due to lack of available information.  However, the Michigan Public Service Commission this week announced that it had approved the state's first experimental rate for residential customers to recharge their EVs.  

Utility DTE Energy Co.'s Detroit Edison unit filed the application.  By having a regimented payment infrastructure and usage monitoring, the utility will be able to better cope with demand and presumably provide customers with more competitive rates than if it left them on their own to install home charging stations and charge off their current connections.

DTE Energy is offering EV customers two options -- either pay a flat rate of $40 per vehicle per month, or sign up for a lower, variable off-peak rate.  The big expense will be the installation of a specialized meter circuit and charging station -- DTE Energy says that customers may be charged up to $2,500 for that.  It's unclear whether automaker-provided chargers will be compatible with DTE's system.

The trial program will run through December 31, 2012 and can cover up to 2,500 consumers.

For moderately heavy drivers (40-100 miles per day), assuming $40/week in gas expenses and the full charging station cost, it looks like customers will start to see savings in about 2 years.  While those savings have a long way to go towards justifying the large cost premiums on the Volt and Leaf, they're a start, at least.

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By Wolfgangap on 8/11/2010 10:35:55 AM , Rating: 2
How big is the Volt? Does it compare to the Civic or the Accord? I would rather buy the Accord than a $42,000 car + $2,500 charger + $40 increase in my electric bill.

By theArchMichael on 8/11/2010 10:44:53 AM , Rating: 2
Yeah but even on a civic your gas bill would probably be around $120 to $150, so your paying a third of that with electric and I think you don't necessarily need that charging station that edison is pushing.

I was under the assumption you can just plug it in.

By vapore0n on 8/11/2010 11:06:04 AM , Rating: 2
And even then, it would take like 5 years just to break even from buying a Volt vs an Accord. Most Americans swap their cars after 5 years. Not to mention the leased cars which are swapped every 3 years.

Gas is still too cheap. Electric cars are still too expensive.

By Gungel on 8/11/2010 12:49:00 PM , Rating: 3
You can't compare the Volt and Leave. The Nissan Leave is really just for short trips around town. It also uses 'primitive' battery tech which works more like a golf cart. Heat and cold can greatly reduce the range of the Leave whereas the Volt has a range extender and thermal battery management.

By Gungel on 8/11/2010 12:52:21 PM , Rating: 2
Oops, Leaf not Leave

By Spuke on 8/11/2010 2:53:56 PM , Rating: 3
Volt is inferior not only in price. It's a tiny niche vehicle for single.
The Volt is a niche vehicle and the Leaf is not? Can I get a puff of what you're smoking?

By rvd2008 on 8/11/2010 3:50:52 PM , Rating: 2
Volt, as I explained earlier, is only suitable as a single car for a single owner (no kids). It is 4 seater. So it is its niche.

Now, Leaf is a different thing. It is 5 passenger car, good for a family, especially as a 2nd car. You can call it a niche too, but Leaf niche size is way bigger than Volt.

And GM agrees, just look how many they intend to manufacture and sell, compare that to Nissan estimates. They both have done market research.

By Gungel on 8/11/2010 4:22:46 PM , Rating: 3
There is millions of families with one or two kids. The Volt also offers a larger trunk, but the biggest advantage is its range extender which is a great security feature. Imagine getting stuck with empty batteries in a bad neighborhood or you're caught in a snow storm at 10F and your batteries have to run your heater and traffic is moving at 1-2mph.

By namechamps on 8/11/2010 4:23:05 PM , Rating: 2
Volt seats 5 just as the Lead does.

Of course I wouldn't want to be the 5th person in either vehicle.

Even if Volt only seated 4 what makes you think it couldn't be used by a family. Most households are less than 5 persons. Actually 80% of households are less than 5 persons.

By afkrotch on 8/11/2010 9:06:19 PM , Rating: 2
Volt is inferior not only in price. It's a tiny niche vehicle for single

The Volt is larger than the Leaf. Just cause one's a 4 door and one's a 5 door doesn't mean the 5 door is automatically larger.

Course when your Leaf dies on the highway, good luck. At least with a hybrid, you have some kind of backup.

By Iaiken on 8/11/2010 11:43:25 AM , Rating: 1
Based on my last personal CVA of the Volt (at the $42,000 MSRP), it would take me 178,000 all-electric miles to break even vs a 40mpg class-equivalent.

Due to flying all over the place for business and pleasure, I only put about 9,000 miles on my personal car per year so the Volt would pay for itself in 19 years and 10 months.


Add in the $20,000 markup and the Volt only makes sense for people with money to burn.

By Gungel on 8/11/2010 4:24:01 PM , Rating: 2
That's why GM is leasing it for $350 a month.

By afkrotch on 8/11/2010 9:22:29 PM , Rating: 2
I've put about 3k miles on my car the past 11 years. Wonder how long the volt would pay for itself in my circumstances.

By PlasmaBomb on 8/12/2010 9:06:14 AM , Rating: 2
654 years 6 months?

By marvdmartian on 8/11/2010 2:52:02 PM , Rating: 1
Likely longer than that.

I drive a Hyundai Sonata, and figured out that I would have to drive over 600,000 miles in a Volt, just to break even. I posted those numbers in an earlier thread about the Volt, after I was marked down in rep, because people thought I was simply being negative about the car, just for the sake of being negative.

And that wasn't even figuring in the cost of the electricity that it would take to re-charge the battery every night, if needed.

Electric charges like this just put another nail (or so) into the coffin of why these electric/hybrid cars are not worth the money, if you're only doing it for the gas savings.

By Spuke on 8/11/2010 2:57:55 PM , Rating: 4
Electric charges like this just put another nail (or so) into the coffin of why these electric/hybrid cars are not worth the money, if you're only doing it for the gas savings.
Why would anyone volunteer their EV ownership to the electric company so they can charge you these higher rates? Just plug it in and go.

By namechamps on 8/11/2010 4:17:20 PM , Rating: 2
You made an error in calculations or are comparing apples to oranges (like comparing a paid of Sonata to brand new Volt).

Volt is roughly $20,000 more than the Sonata. Sonata gets 29 mpg combined. Volt gets about 4.5 miles per kWh

Say over next decade gasoline averages $4. (you didn't use current gasoline prices and assume they will never go up over next decade right?)

At $4 gasoline the Sonata costs 13.7 cents per mile.
At $0.10 per kWh the Volt (on electric) costs about 2.2 cents per mile. Net-net you save about 12.5 cents per mile drive.

$20,0000 premium / $0.125 = 160,000 miles.

Break even if 160,000 electric miles. Still I agree the volt is not economical but it is a first gen. Check back in a decade.

Maybe you got rated down both times because your math skills suck?

By Solandri on 8/12/2010 1:59:50 AM , Rating: 2
At $0.10 per kWh the Volt (on electric) costs about 2.2 cents per mile.

I see a lot of people making the error you just did. Charging a battery is not a 100% efficient process. In fact, the faster you want to charge a battery, the less efficient it is.

According to this site, the 240 V charger will send 32 Amps to the battery for 3 hours to charge it from a depleted state.

240 V * 32 A * 3 h = 23 kWh. The Volt's battery pack is only supposed to have 8.8 kWh usable capacity, so this is a charging efficiency of 38%. In other words, your electricity price is going to be about 5.8 cents per mile, not 2.2. That puts the break-even mileage at 250,000 miles.

The 120 V charger is supposed to operate at 12 Amps, and take 8 hours. That's 11.5 kWh, for a much better 77% charging efficiency. See? Slower charging = better efficiency. That yields 2.9 cents per mile, and a break-even mileage of 185,000 miles.

The LEAF and probably the Tesla vehicles suffer from this deficiency in particular. Due to their longer range, they have larger capacity batteries. That means to get charging efficiencies >70%, they need charging times on the order of 20+ hours. Not practical for a vehicle driven daily. To get around this problem, someone needs to design a switching unit in these battery packs to let you draw power from the individual cells in series, but charge them in parallel. Unfortunately, charging in parallel means duplicating the charging circuitry for each individual cell, increasing the cost of the charger.

By namechamps on 8/12/2010 8:36:56 AM , Rating: 2

While charging a battery isn't 100% efficient it is closer to 95%-98% efficient. Sometimes what is quoted is charge/discharge efficiency however we are only interested in charge efficiency because discharge efficiency is already included in miles per kwh rating.

Just because the charger is 32A peak doesn't mean it pulls 32 AMPS continually.

I mean come on man. Battery charge non-linearly. They have a high current flow when at a low charge. As charge builds the current flow slows. Near the end of the charge the output of the charger is a tiny fraction of peak power.

32% efficient batteries? If the battery is 32% efficient that means roughly 70% is converted into heat. 15 kWh of heat (50,000 BTU). Really? Thats more than the peak output of furnances in many smaller homes.

Maybe the reason you keep seeing people make the "error" of not including a 32% battery efficiency is because no such battery that crappy exists.

By othercents on 8/12/2010 4:20:06 PM , Rating: 2
The LEAF and probably the Tesla vehicles suffer from this deficiency in particular. Due to their longer range, they have larger capacity batteries. That means to get charging efficiencies >70%, they need charging times on the order of 20+ hours.

Buy two. Problem solved.

By 91TTZ on 8/11/2010 5:06:29 PM , Rating: 2
How is gas "too cheap"? It's going for the market rate.

By namechamps on 8/12/2010 8:38:11 AM , Rating: 2
Hardly. Gasoline is heavily subsidized.

By Spuke on 8/12/2010 11:15:26 PM , Rating: 2
Hardly. Gasoline is heavily subsidized.
Oil is a commodity. Where's the subsidy?

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