DCFC Cost Components: Much More than Electricity!
EVgo is rolling out its new pricing plans this month and, to help customers understand this change and the elements that EVgo considers as it develops its pricing, EVgo has posted a variety of resources including a web page explaining Time of Use pricing, and now this: an abridged version of an EVgo whitepaper that explains the cost components that go into pricing for DCFC stations.
Coffee drinkers and EV drivers have something in common: a range of options for ‘fueling up’. Coffee can be made at home or provided at work, or it can be bought at a local café where the price of a cappuccino helps cover the cost of equipment, rent, furniture, utilities, and staffing.
Fast charging is comparable to the café experience for a coffee drinker: the speed and convenience of a premium product. But that speed comes with expenses like sophisticated, high-powered electrical equipment, rent paid to site hosts, large power flows that incur special utility demand charges, and field, call center, and billing staff to maintain the equipment and stay connected with customers. Just like brewing coffee at home will almost certainly be cheaper than purchasing a latte from a café, public charging has additional costs that need to be recovered in the price.
How the economics of fast charging differs from L1 and L2 chargers
L1 charging takes up to 20 hours for a full charge and only require some safety circuitry to provide protection. A full L2 charge can take 4-8 hours and requires a home charger and a connection to a 240V outlet (same as for a household clothes dryer) that can be installed in a garage by an electrician. Accordingly, the economics of cost recovery are fairly straightforward.
In contrast, a DC fast charger can fully charge a passenger vehicle in 15-45 minutes by providing up to 1,000 Volts and 500 or more Amps (current). But this requires a complex process of converting grid AC electricity to DC electricity and converting the electricity to the voltages and current required by the EV to charge its battery.
To safely complete this process, one 50kW DCFC unit contains 2,000-2,500 individual components – an L2 charger has less than 200. The development of a fast charger prototype typically represents 2 to 3 years of complex design and engineering and an additional year of certification to all the applicable standards. In addition to construction timelines, navigating the permitting and approvals from utilities, local government, and building jurisdictions is accompanied by incremental time and cost.
Figure 1: Summary of Charging Costs highlighting the difference in cost of L2 vs. DCFC - especially if the DCFC project requires a transformer. Pulled from Rocky Mountain Institute’s Reducing EV Charging Infrastructure Costs report.
The costs involved in DCFC stations
The cost components of DCFC stations fall into three major categories summarized in Table 1 below: equipment, development, and operations. Equipment comprises not just the machinery of the charger itself, but includes equipment to make the charger functional and safe for public use. The development costs are primarily the labor hours required by a variety of professionals to get a site from concept to commissioning. Once a site is commissioned, the costs to operate it includes ongoing work to ensure the charger remains ready to do its job fast-charging EVs.
Table 1: Breakdown of Public Fast Charging Cost Components by Category
The pie charts below illustrate the approximate breakdown of the major cost items for a typical station with 2 x 150kW fast chargers. On equipment, charger hardware is the vast majority (84%) with the interconnection switchgear and conduit making up the rest. With respect to development, just over 80% is usually the construction itself, with the remainder associated with planning and design in advance of the actual ‘build’ activities. Around 50% of the costs of operating a fast charger are utility bills. The remainder is evenly distributed between other elements critical to ensuring high performance of this sophisticated infrastructure.
Figure 2: Visual Summary of DCFC Costs
1. Equipment Costs
As the ability of EVs to charge more quickly improves, the charger vendors are developing equipment that can better meet those needs. Increased power needs sometimes necessitate enhancements that increase equipment costs. For example, higher power chargers spurred the deployment of cables with liquid cooling to manage the heat generated by the high power levels which generates higher costs.
Figure 3: Visual Summary of DCFC Equipment Costs
2. Development Costs
Because labor = time, embedded in development costs is how long a project takes. Current practice requires charging companies to secure permits, reviews, and approvals from utilities, local authorities, and state governments. Delays can add significant costs to project development. In fact, these ‘soft costs’ can amount to up to 60% of the hours during a station’s development process. Learn more about how we try to simplify the site development process in our recent blog.
Figure 4: Visual Summary of DCFC Development Costs
3. Operation Costs
The single biggest ongoing cost for fast charging is electricity. Because fast charging equipment can draw peak demand for portions of an hour, for lower utilization chargers demand charges can significantly skew the nominal rate to an exorbitant effective rate.
For example in Figure 5, despite an “energy charge” of 11 cents per kWh, the effective charge to EVgo at this Long Island location was $2.90 per kWh. Utilities, regulators, and the charging industry can work together to design either low load factor rates or commercial EV rates that encourage rather than inhibit deployment of public charging infrastructure to enable EV adoption.
Figure 5: Site-specific EVgo electricity bill
But electricity is far from the only operational cost incurred by charging infrastructure operators. Other costs – such as operations & maintenance – ensures that EVgo can maintain its 98% standard for uptime and reliability. Similarly, EVgo must cover other costs, including its 24/7 call center to ensure a seamless customer experience.
Figure 6: Visual Summary of Operational Costs
As a business principle, charging companies must set prices so that the cost they incur for developing, owning, and operating the infrastructure are covered by revenue received. With L1 and L2 charging equipment, development and operations costs are a fraction of those for DCFC stations, hence the prices to consumers for charging on L1 and L2 can be materially lower and still allow for cost recovery.
With all public fast chargers, consumers are paying for the speed and convenience of a premium product. And with EVgo, customers receive more – including reliable service with 98% uptime, and ideal locations in retail areas that allow customers to shop and charge simultaneously. Sign up on EVgo’s website to join the network or download EVgo’s app.
If you’re interested in learning more about the economics of fast charging, continue on to read the full whitepaper on The Costs of EV Fast Charging Infrastructure and Economic Benefits to Rapid Scale-Up.