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EV Owner Concerns: Commercial Charging Cost and Time

Electric vehicle (EV) ownership is expanding, and is likely to continue to grow over the next decade. EV owners face several concerns when charging their vehicles on the go. Whether commuting for work, traveling for essential items, or taking a family road trip, EV owners are concerned with the price of commercial charging and the time it takes to recharge their batteries.

To provide a small peak at the cost and availability of EV chargers, this article investigates commercial EV charging station stats for Hillsboro, Oregon, Prescient's hometown. Though Hillsboro is rapidly expanding, adding over 3,000 new residences in 2023, it has only 150 commercial EV charging stations within the city limits. Compared to other cities across the US, this may seem like an impressive number of stations. However, the details of these charging stations prove that more can be done to prepare Hillsboro for an influx of EVs from both residents and travelers.

By increasing access to Level 3 chargers throughout the city, Hillsboro will become an EV charging hub that provides energy quickly, at a reasonable cost, to all EV owners. Plus, these recommended changes for Hillsboro can be applied to cities across the country. Let’s take a closer look.

Cost and Availability of Utility Owned EV Charging

Out of the 150 charging stations in Hillsboro, 133 are Level 2 (J1772) chargers, which deliver 20 to 40 travel miles for each hour on charge. Seventeen chargers are Level 3, which deliver 50 to 70 travel miles for each half hour on charge. Of these 17, eight fast chargers in Hillsboro are owned by the local electric utility, PGE (Portland General Electric): four CHAdeMO, 50 kW (“charge for moving” fast chargers) and four are CCS 50 kW (combined charging system fast chargers).

EV chargers owned by the local electric utility have their pros and cons. On the positive side, PGE charges a $5.00 flat fee per 2-hour DC fast charging session and a $3.00 flat fee per 2-hour Level 2 charging session. Their unlimited monthly membership of $25.00/month includes two hours of parking per session and allows members to use both Level 2 and Level 3 chargers.

On the downside, PGE adds a peak charging fee of $0.19 per kWh on weekdays from 3 PM to 8 PM. This increases the bill by $19 per charge if an EV battery draws 100 kWh during these hours. Even so, PGE is often selling energy to EV owners at below market cost.

It’s also important to note that all 8 of these Hillsboro-based fast chargers are at the same location. PGE offers six fast charging locations across the Portland Metro Area, with multiple EV fast chargers per location. This is a positive for EV owners who live near one of the six fast charging locations, but not the most convenient for anyone else.

Comparing Independently Owned EV Charging

In comparison, 142 charging stations in Hillsboro are owned by independent companies, including ChargePoint, Tesla, and Blink. This leads to a much greater availability of these charging stations, with more convenient locations available.

Independently owned EV charging stations such as ChargePoint often sell energy at higher prices than utility owned charging stations. ChargePoint fees are determined by station owners, who vary by location, and may be charged in kilowatt hours, or as an hourly fee, a flat fee, or minimum/maximum fee.

Utility Owned Charging is Least Expensive

Even when PGE’s peak fees are included, EV owners may find that charging at a PGE-owned charging station is less expensive than charging at an independently owned EV charging station, or even at home. Charging with PGE can result in a monthly savings of $50 if EV batteries are charged just once a week, or $100 per month if EV batteries are charged twice a week with a monthly membership.

However, EV charging time and charger availability remain concerns. EV owners are not exclusively thinking about the cost to charge their vehicle. The convenience of charging at home plays a huge part in why most EV owners prefer charging at home.

Concerns About EV Charge Time

EV battery charging can take several hours, especially when only Level 2 chargers are available. This is a major concern for travelers. Some potential purchasers are hesitant to purchase an EV due to the concern that on-the-go charging takes too long, cutting into precious time.

Suppose a family from Tillamook, Oregon, takes a day trip to Costco in Hillsboro. They may be able to drive the approximately 60 miles to Hillsboro and return home without spending an hour or two charging the batteries in their EV. However, a family from Bend that’s spending the holidays in Hillsboro will need to recharge their EV battery before returning the approximately 190 miles home. With current charging station availability, Bend EV owners visiting Hillsboro will most likely need to park their EV at a Level 2 charging station for several hours at some point during their trip.

Level 3 Chargers Reduce Charge Time

To address concerns about EV charging time, electric utilities and independent charging station owners should install more Level 3 fast chargers, which can deliver a full battery charge in about an hour, depending on battery capacity. An individual charging station could easily support four CHAdeMO chargers and four CCS chargers. By locating twenty such stations throughout Hillsboro, up to 160 EVs could be charged per hour. That’s over 3,500 EVs per day!

If PGE could sponsor most of these charging stations at their current prices, even local EV owners in Hillsboro may be encouraged to charge their batteries at a commercial charging station rather than at home. The charge would take less time, and the cost savings would be significant. These changes could be applied in cities across the country.

To continue to support widespread integration of electric vehicles, EV charging station owners should always ensure that EV charging prices are less expensive than gasoline prices. Many EV owners purchase these vehicles with the intention of cutting costs related to transportation over the lifetime of their vehicles. Commercial EV charging should continue to support this goal so that EV ownership continues to be incentivized.

To learn more about Prescient’s ideas for a smooth integration of electric vehicles into the existing power grid, check out our EV blog collection. If you are an electric utility that’s interested in assessing your system’s preparedness for widespread EV usage, contact us for a free consultation today.

This article was written in collaboration with Prescient's Lead Editor Alyssa Sleva-Horine.

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