Car charging network companies pay for public car charging stations, but they can also receive rebates/incentives from the local authorities, utility providers and governments to help with the cost of installation. Some companies also manufacture charging stations and allow them to be sold to investors, local businesses and private citizens. These companies then maintain and upkeep the charging stations for a fee.
Do car chargers work when a car is off?
Cars are generally turned off during charging this allows your car to charge in the most efficient and quickest way, instead of consuming larger amounts of electricity whilst turned on. However, sometimes the weather conditions can affect this, we all want the heater on in freezing cold conditions. No one wants to sit inside a freezing cold car waiting for your battery to fill up enough to get to your destination. Most people who home charge, charge their cars overnight whilst their car is turned off. This can be done by setting specific charging times in your car settings and the car will automatically charge during this period. This takes advantage of cheaper electricity rates, which generally occur overnight when everybody is sleeping and there is no peak demand (check with your utility provider).
Who makes electric car charging stations?
Most of the companies which produce electric car charging stations, also operate charging networks. The reason for this is that the car charging industry is a fast paced technology driven sector. Each public charging network wants to differentiate themselves from the competition, they do this by designing the chargers from the ground up. For example, some companies have designed their chargers for customer ease of use and others have tried to create a membership ethos. Lots of companies that offer public charging also offer home chargers too.
Electric Vehicle charging companies
Tesla Superchargers are the high-speed charging stations for Tesla Vehicles. Tesla currently has a vast network of over 1300 Supercharger stations worldwide, which means they have over 11,500 Superchargers worldwide. Tesla superchargers charge up to a maximum speed of 135kW, this means charging an 85kWh battery from 0 to 50% would take approximately 20 minutes.
Tesla superchargers are free to those Tesla owners who bought their Model S & Model X with free supercharging for life. Typically Model 3 owners have to pay to use the superchargers unless they have 6 months free supercharging from when they bought the car.
In North America, pricing is fixed within each state or province. Internationally, pricing is fixed within each country (All prices they give on their website include taxes and fees). As an example, the cost per kWh in California is $0.20 and cost per kWh in the UK is £0.20. Tesla charges idle fees, which is when your car is still plugged into a charger but the battery is full. However, they give you a 10 minute grace period to move your car, anything longer than that and you will be charged a fee per minute (see the tesla idle fee table).
Tesla Destination Chargers are located in convenient locations such as shopping malls, hotels, restaurants or other businesses etc. Destination chargers do not charge as quickly as Superchargers, but it is still possible to add 58 miles (93 kilometers) of range in one hour. Destination charger locations are shown on the Tesla website as well as on the navigation system within the car. Destination chargers are seen as a win-win scenario, as they promote and increase business for companies and also improve the options of vehicle charging for owners.
Destination chargers are free to use for Tesla owners but it is expected that they are a customer of that business, either going into the shopping mall, staying at the hotel for the night or eating at the restaurant. I could not find the exact number of Destination Chargers that exist currently, but Tesla aimed to have 15,000 installed by the end of 2017.
Chargepoint manufactures chargers which can be independently bought for businesses or for people to charge at home, they maintain the charging infrastructure. Part of this maintenance is not just the physical chargers, but also maintaining a global app where people can search for their nearest charger. Chargepoint maintains over 57,000 charging locations worldwide. Prices vary widely for charging as Chargepoint does not own all these charging stations, it just maintains them.
Electrify America was started by Volkswagen as part of its $2 billion settlement with the California Air Resources Board and Environmental Protection Agency over the Dieselgate Scandal. Electrify America has over 30 different charging stations at the moment. They are aiming to achieve approximately 500 charging stations by June 2019. Cost of charging is $1 per session and has a price that varies from $0.30 to $0.35 per minute. Idle fees have been implemented to allow a grace period of 10 minutes to move your vehicle once charging is completed. The idle fee is $0.40 per minute.
EVgo provides fast chargers to commercial, retail, state, local government, and other businesses. EVgo has over 1050 DC fast chargers which charge at 50 kW maximum. It’s not clear the total number of charging locations they have, but their chargers are based across 66 different metropolitan markets. The price of pay as you go charging varies on which state you are in, but it costs between $0.20 and $0.35 per minute of charging for the DC fast charging. Level 2 charging (7 kWh) is also offered and this costs $1.50 per hour. Be warned the maximum length of charging sessions are 45 minutes with the pay as you go method.
Circuit Electrique is a public charging network, chargers are located in the provinces of Ontario and Quebec. Unfortunately, you need a membership card to be able to use the chargers, this costs $10 plus taxes. Their Fast chargers can charge at 50 kW maximum, the cost of this is $10 per hour in Quebec and $17 per hour in Ontario.
Flo is a public charging network, that also produces home charging stations. The home charging stations are provided both for houses and multi-unit residential buildings. They provide both level 2 and level 3 fast chargers. The price for charging in Quebec, British Columbia, Maritimes of is approximately $15.00 per hour for fast charging. The price for charging in Ontario, prairies, and territories is $20.00 per hour for fast charging.
Sun Country’s charging network is mostly located in Canada but has some charging stations dotted around the USA. Sun Country has various charging solutions including home charging, fleet charging and charging for businesses. The public charging network seems to be Level 2 chargers with the best one they have giving 19.2kW. The interesting thing for me is that some of the level 2 charging appears to be free, how this is covered be sun country isn’t exactly clear to me. Hey ho, a free charge is nothing to turn your nose up at.
IONITY is a joint venture group containing: the Ford Motor Company, the Volkswagen Group with Audi & Porsche, the BMW Group and Daimler (who own Mercedes Benz). Apparently, all vehicles using a CCS charger can charge at the charging stations. Currently, it costs €8 Euros per session to charge your car, however, 3rd party payments may have different rates.
IONITY have a target of reaching 400 completed charging stations in Europe by 2020, with an average of 6 charging points per station. They plan to install these charging stations along major European Highways and will use the European CCS port for charging. Currently, as of writing this article, they have over 35 stations currently built and are now building a further 45 plus stations. The interesting thing for me is that the chargers will have high speed charging up to a capacity 350KW which will be a record-setting charge speed. Currently, no cars built can be charged up to these maximum speeds, but the Porsche Taycan which is due to be released in 2020 and is rumored to be able to take advantage of these maximum charging speeds
Polar boasts an impressive 6500+ charging locations across the UK which is the largest of any network in the UK. Membership is required to use the polar charging network, it costs £7.85 per month and as of writing this, the first 3 months are free. Of these 6500 charging locations about 70% are free due to purchasing the membership, the remaining 30% cost an additional 10.8 pence per kWh. You need to use a card or a fob which will be sent to you, which means if you leave it in your other car, you are up the creek without a paddle! Why something was not developed through an app I am not sure!?
Geniepoint falls under ownership of the more well-known name of Chargepoint. Geniepoint has over 120 charging locations installed or under construction. Geniepoint’s pricing is based on 2 factors, charging speed and the location of chargers. There are 2 speeds: rapid and fast, rapid is classed as 43kW and above. Whilst fast is classed at anything between 7kW to 22kW. The locations priced differently are based on inside the M25 motorway and outside of the M25 motorway. An overstay fee is applied if you have used the rapid charger for more than 1 hour. They say this has been implemented to ensure that more chargers are available to other customers. You can use an RFID card to pay for the chargers, but the good news is you can just log on the website and start using the chargers. I have put the current pricing in the table below:
Prices Inside M25
| ||Rapid charging||Fast charging|
|Cost per kWh||£0.30||£0.30|
Prices outside M25
| ||Rapid charging||Fast charging|
|Cost per kWh||£0.30||£0.30|
Instavolt has a network of over 100 chargers and brands itself as the simple to use alternative. All of the chargers are available on a pay as you go basis, so no subscription needed. Also, there is no connection charge cost, which makes the short charges much better value for money.All the DC chargers installed are 50kWh or more and use a CHAdeMo or CCS2 connector.The cost of charging is £0.35kWh, no membership fee is required and no there is no maximum charging time.
Podpoint supply a variety of charging options, for homeowners, business owners, and commercial use. Podpoint has over 1500 public chargers on their network, no membership is required and you can pay through their app.
Ecotricity is a company that offers energy for your home, as well as providing a public charging network. They have more than 300 charging points in the UK and you get a discount on using the public charging network if they are your energy supplier. If you are an Ecotricity green energy customer it costs £0.15 per kWh and if you are not it costs £0.30 per kWh. You can pay for the charging session by using the app.
EV charging levels
There are generally three different charging levels. The first is level one, level one charging can add 2 miles of range for 30 minutes’ worth of charging. Level two charging can add up to 10 miles of range in 30 minutes. DC-fast-charging can add up to 75 miles of range in 30 minutes. As you can guess, DC-fast-charging costs more because of the amount of electricity that will be used in a short space of time. Fast charging is getting more popular over time as people don’t want to wait around to charge the vehicles. Technology is also rapidly improving which enables higher kW chargers to be installed more frequently. The interesting thing with the new higher speed charging systems is that the quicker you charge your car, the more your battery will degrade. Companies and car manufacturers have to be very wary of this, IONITY as mentioned before will be installing 350 KW chargers. This could cause a huge strain on the battery packs if not but managed properly by the car manufacturers, who will have to tweak their battery management system (BMS). The BMS will need to find a middle ground between the longevity of the batteries and the maximum charging speed possible.
Why do these companies install chargers?
Ultimately these companies install chargers to make a profit and increase the number of electric vehicles on the road. Some of the car manufacturers who install charging stations are doing this to increase the sales and competitiveness of their cars. Some car manufacturing companies have invested in existing public charging networks through some of the companies listed earlier in this article. The main criticism of most electric vehicle manufacturers is that there is nowhere to charge their cars. Increasing charging locations is an effective way to increase the sales of cars, as some people have long distance journeys or enjoy road trips. In some scenarios, it is not a charging network who is installing a charger, but a local business or restaurant etc. They may have invested in one to attract new customers, increase revenue or increase the value of their property. Normally when people are charging they will be stopping for a reasonable amount of time. If someone is charging for 30 minutes or more this allows the local business to capitalize on selling goods or food to the people who are charging outside of the property.