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Do supercharger users not care about price?

bradtem

Robocar consultant
Dec 18, 2018
932
1,064
Sunnyvale, CA
I care about price but I also have to consider that getting to a destination is more important than price at an individual supercharger. Rates vary widely by region & time of day so there is little that one person can do to control cost of charging while traveling to a destination.
That's changing as now there are CCS chargers you can use, often a choice of several, with different prices. However, I started this thread because of a location where there are two sets of superchargers, quite close to one another, with quite different prices. But the more expensive one (with better food) is often full, and the faster, cheaper, larger one (with better shopping) is not.
 

Earl

Member
Jan 22, 2014
802
1,155
USA
It's not like Tesla Superchargers give you premium electricity.
Spoken like a newcomer who has never waited for 6 hours at an RV park to charge. I would definitely say that 150+ KW is quite a premium over 3 - 10 kW at an RV park.
Basically, if you're looking to charge in a place with many Superchargers or DCFC options, or near your home where you might be able to charge on your residential electricity price; price probably matters.
If you're in a place with no or only Level 2 infrastructure, you're happy to have a Supercharger where you need to charge and ok with paying well more than the commodity price of electricity.
 

bradtem

Robocar consultant
Dec 18, 2018
932
1,064
Sunnyvale, CA
Spoken like a newcomer who has never waited for 6 hours at an RV park to charge. I would definitely say that 150+ KW is quite a premium over 3 - 10 kW at an RV park.
Basically, if you're looking to charge in a place with many Superchargers or DCFC options, or near your home where you might be able to charge on your residential electricity price; price probably matters.
If you're in a place with no or only Level 2 infrastructure, you're happy to have a Supercharger where you need to charge and ok with paying well more than the commodity price of electricity.
Because we grew up with gasoline, it's hard to wrap our heads around a strange truth.
Charging is a service, not a product. It's definitely not the commodity product of kWh put in your battery. That's a result of charging, but the reality is that kWh, as a commodity, cost around 3 cents wholesale. Charging is billed anywhere from free (surprisingly common) to 60 cents. The commodity kWh is a tiny part of it -- so small that the free chargers exist.

It's a service, and the price depends on the quality of the service and the time it is done. (Transporting electricity at 6pm when the grid is at high usage is more expensive than at 2am when it has capacity to spare too, it's not just the charging device and the thickness of the wires.)

Yeah, when you are done, all you have left is kWh in your battery, just as you had gallons in your tank before. But rid yourself of gasoline thinking. You drive an EV now.
 
Because we grew up with gasoline, it's hard to wrap our heads around a strange truth.
Charging is a service, not a product. It's definitely not the commodity product of kWh put in your battery. That's a result of charging, but the reality is that kWh, as a commodity, cost around 3 cents wholesale. Charging is billed anywhere from free (surprisingly common) to 60 cents. The commodity kWh is a tiny part of it -- so small that the free chargers exist.

It's a service, and the price depends on the quality of the service and the time it is done. (Transporting electricity at 6pm when the grid is at high usage is more expensive than at 2am when it has capacity to spare too, it's not just the charging device and the thickness of the wires.)

Yeah, when you are done, all you have left is kWh in your battery, just as you had gallons in your tank before. But rid yourself of gasoline thinking. You drive an EV now.
Is that supposed to get me to accept higher pricing? (often as much as 2x as even a year prior)
 

bradtem

Robocar consultant
Dec 18, 2018
932
1,064
Sunnyvale, CA
Is that supposed to get me to accept higher pricing? (often as much as 2x as even a year prior)
No. It's just to have you understand what you are paying for. Which is the service, and just a tiny bit the kWh. You can decide if you like the price or not. Thanks to the CCS adapter, there is even competition now, though it's not as good, but it can be compared.
 
No. It's just to have you understand what you are paying for. Which is the service, and just a tiny bit the kWh. You can decide if you like the price or not. Thanks to the CCS adapter, there is even competition now, though it's not as good, but it can be compared.
I can support a higher price if it leads to aggressive proliferation with pricing stabilizing as you fill in the gaps.
 
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bradtem

Robocar consultant
Dec 18, 2018
932
1,064
Sunnyvale, CA
I can support a higher price if it leads to aggressive proliferation with pricing stabilizing as you fill in the gaps.
The price of the kWh will never stabilize because that is not what you are paying for. Faster delivery will always cost more. Delivery at peak times will often cost more (though sometimes it doesn't due to subsidy decision.) DC Fast charging will cost more than AC even at the same wattage. Free charging will exist because something else is driving it (government subsidy, perk to get you to stay at hotel, perk to get you to buy a particular car, etc.)

The price of identical service should stabilize as long as there is a competitive market. The problem though is that selling charging is not really a business right now. It's always done for some other motive. Hell, even gasoline sales are largely to get you to buy stuff at the convenience store, but they are much closer to a business.
 
Charging is billed ... to 60 cents.

I saw worse than 60 cents/kWh (energy basis).

Last week I encountered multiple Superchargers in Georgia with tiered rates, certain cost PER MINUTE DEPENDING ON CHARGING RATE (duration and power level basis). I think 250 kW rate was $1.00/minute. I saw no ref. to time-of-day or peak times. The tiers increased something like 25 cents/min with each level. Made it hard to plan which to use over a long drive.

I was happy to get to TN and FL with all per kWh pricing. Yes, some in GA were also cost per kWh. But those other cost per minute per power level ones were strange.

I also slept mid-way on my long trips, at KOA sites with 50A 240VAC, 14-50 charging while I slept. That worked great. Instead of about 60% charge at a Supercharger, I charged to 92%.

Cheaper than a motel room, and the electricity was included, just like it is for all the campers
 

bradtem

Robocar consultant
Dec 18, 2018
932
1,064
Sunnyvale, CA
I saw worse than 60 cents/kWh (energy basis).
Last week I encountered multiple Superchargers in Georgia with tiered rates, certain cost PER MINUTE DEPENDING ON CHARGING RATE (duration and power level basis). I think 250 kW rate was $1.00/minute. I saw no ref. to time-of-day or peak times. The tiers increased something like 25 cents/min with each level. Made it hard to plan which to use over a long drive. I was happy to get to TN and FL with per kWh pricing. Yes, some in GA were also cost per kWh too. But those other ones were strange.
I also slept mid-way on my long trips, at KOA sites with 50A 240VAC, 14-50 charging while I slept. That worked great. Instead of about 60% charge at a Supercharger, I charged to 92%. Cheaper than a motel room, and the electricity was included, just like it is for all the campers
The real cost is actually more per minute than per kWh actually, but customers revolt at this, so almost everybody chargers per kWh and changes that price to match the service level.

We revolt because sometimes the charging rate can be low and it's the station's fault and we don't want to pay for that. Often it's our car that refuses the power though.

Anyway, the reality is some states have laws that forbid charging by the kWh. So the stations do it by the minute. And yes, that can make it higher than 60 cents if the charge rate gets low.
There are also stations that have flat fees or per session fees that can jack up the charging.

Yeah, places that will let you plug in while you sleep are often some of the best deals now. And with good reason. Slow charging is much cheaper to provide. They do it "free" to sell you a hotel room or Kamping Kabin.
 
The real cost is actually more per minute than per kWh actually, but customers revolt at this, so almost everybody chargers per kWh and changes that price to match the service level.
The trouble with per minute, is that you don't really know what you're paying and what the final bill will be. Some of the chargers in my area are per kwh while others are per minute. Tesla even changed their charging structure at Lima, MT to per minute. I think it was due to an Electrify America charger a couple of miles down the road that is based on per minute. And to 'whine' a little further, even EA raised the charging fee average near Butte, MT over the last week from the average cost of 20 cents to 29 cents. And to top it off, EA has ONLY 3 chargers in the whole state of Montana. Talk about no control over the market - charge what you may . . .
 
That's changing as now there are CCS chargers you can use, often a choice of several, with different prices. However, I started this thread because of a location where there are two sets of superchargers, quite close to one another, with quite different prices. But the more expensive one (with better food) is often full, and the faster, cheaper, larger one (with better shopping) is not.
I wish I was able to use CCS. We bought our 2020 M3 in late December 2019 so unable to use the new CCS adapter. But I understand your original point. In Salem OR Tesla is building a second supercharger less than five miles from the current one that is located in a Target parking lot with numerous food choices & other shopping. However it isn’t as close to freeway access as the second supercharger will be. The newer one isn’t close to food/shopping but will have easier access to I-5 & is in a soon to be opened Tesla service center parking lot. The pricing for the newest supercharger won’t be known until it goes live but the trade off will be similar. Travelers using the navigation system will be routed by how busy each site is unless they know that there is a choice. Could that be what is happening where you live? Is
the in car navigation system prioritizing one over the other?
 

bradtem

Robocar consultant
Dec 18, 2018
932
1,064
Sunnyvale, CA
The trouble with per minute, is that you don't really know what you're paying and what the final bill will be. Some of the chargers in my area are per kwh while others are per minute. Tesla even changed their charging structure at Lima, MT to per minute. I think it was due to an Electrify America charger a couple of miles down the road that is based on per minute. And to 'whine' a little further, even EA raised the charging fee average near Butte, MT over the last week from the average cost of 20 cents to 29 cents. And to top it off, EA has ONLY 3 chargers in the whole state of Montana. Talk about no control over the market - charge what you may . . .
Yes, it is harder to predict the bill. And because the final result is kWh in the battery, we very much don't like that the price of that can vary based on the circumstances of the charging and worse, as you say, be hard to predict.

But for the owner of the charger, while they do have a cost for the kWh (which varies and can be quite high in California, higher in the day than night, but has a national average around 13 cents) the bulk of the cost is time on their expensive station. Their profit will depend on how many cars they can put through that station in a day. You are paying for the service more than for the kWh.

That means if you are sitting there with your car at 80% only taking power at 30kW, the owner of the station would like to charge you more because there could be somebody with a Taycan who could be on the station taking 300kW. The owner needs you to cover the cost of the kWH but otherwise if I owned the station I would want you paying for every minute you take it up, including if you sit parked at it after taking nothing.

Right now though, when the charge rate is low, sometimes it's the fault of the station, not the car. And so we get angry if we have to pay by the minute for their station that refuses to provide the service I came to it for. But the owner of the station has reason to charge you more per kWh if it's your car's problem -- because your car is at a high SoC, because your car can only take so many kWh ever, because you didn't precondition your battery, etc.
 
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From what I have discovered Electrify America has a two tier system one for lower kilowatts and one for higher kilowatts. But from what I gathered in my last charge they charge by the kilowatts when you first plug-in. So I was charged the higher rate, Because I started out at 182 kW which put me in a higher tier. And that charge remained throughout my entire charge.

However, the last time I charged at a Tesla station that charged by the minute, it put me in two separate tiers And charged me a certain amount for the lower tier and another amount from higher tier.
 
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bradtem

Robocar consultant
Dec 18, 2018
932
1,064
Sunnyvale, CA
From what I have discovered Electrify America has a two tier system one for lower kilowatts and one for higher kilowatts. But from what I gathered in my last charge they charge by the kilowatts when you first plug-in. So I was charged the higher rate, Because I started out at 182 kW which put me in a higher tier. And that charge remained throughout my entire charge.

However, the last time I charged at a Tesla station that charged by the minute, it put me in two separate tiers And charged me a certain amount for the lower tier and another amount from higher tier.
Just to be clear: We drivers want to be charged by the kWh because that's what we get in the end.
Charger owners largely are OK with that, because frankly they don't quite yet know how to make a business out of charging. But when you look at it as a business, their biggest costs are that expensive charging stall, which in many cases costs $200,000 to put in, though that's inflated because government grants pay for a lot of that in many cases.

Owners want happy customers, and they also don't want customers to be confused, so they, like customers, prefer simplicity of pricing.

Some states allow charging by the kWh. Some forbid it, and the charger starts billing by time. Sometimes to reduce the unfairness that customers see to billing by time they do tiers, to make billing by time a little closer to billing by kWh.

Curiously, in some places the rule that forbids charging by the kWh comes from regulations that say only electric utilities may bill by the kWh. However, in Canada, the rule is that if you want to bill by the kWh, you must have a government certified measurement device that assures the billing is accurate to a small margin. The accurate measurement isn't that hard, it's the government inspection and certification that's hard. Most of us drivers would not care if the bill were of by 1%. Gas stations have to have this, you've seen the seal on them for their inspections. Gas stations make a lot more money per hour than EV chargers.

For a station operator, their costs are the source electricity from their utility (or alternately, they may have put in solar panels and batteries and may mix them with the utility) but mostly time on that expensive station, and parking space that they own or lease (or sometimes get free.) A large part of the cost was just installing a megawatt power service from the grid and trenching etc.

So if a station were billing "cost plus" that cost would be a mix of the actual electricity bill and a portion of all those capital costs, plus financing over the life of the station. But that's too complex for customers to really understand, so they just come up with a price. If the charging is fast, they make it a high price, and when it's slow they make it a low price -- for the same result -- or they find something else to pay for it (like getting you to stay at their hotel.)

And it's all complicated by the government subsidies, or the VW dieselgate penalties, or by Tesla just wanting to sell cars by making their cars the best car to have if you road trip.
 
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Just to be clear: We drivers want to be charged by the kWh because that's what we get in the end.
Charger owners largely are OK with that, because frankly they don't quite yet know how to make a business out of charging. But when you look at it as a business, their biggest costs are that expensive charging stall, which in many cases costs $200,000 to put in, though that's inflated because government grants pay for a lot of that in many cases.

Owners want happy customers, and they also don't want customers to be confused, so they, like customers, prefer simplicity of pricing.

Some states allow charging by the kWh. Some forbid it, and the charger starts billing by time. Sometimes to reduce the unfairness that customers see to billing by time they do tiers, to make billing by time a little closer to billing by kWh.

Curiously, in some places the rule that forbids charging by the kWh comes from regulations that say only electric utilities may bill by the kWh. However, in Canada, the rule is that if you want to bill by the kWh, you must have a government certified measurement device that assures the billing is accurate to a small margin. The accurate measurement isn't that hard, it's the government inspection and certification that's hard. Most of us drivers would not care if the bill were of by 1%. Gas stations have to have this, you've seen the seal on them for their inspections. Gas stations make a lot more money per hour than EV chargers.

For a station operator, their costs are the source electricity from their utility (or alternately, they may have put in solar panels and batteries and may mix them with the utility) but mostly time on that expensive station, and parking space that they own or lease (or sometimes get free.) A large part of the cost was just installing a megawatt power service from the grid and trenching etc.

So if a station were billing "cost plus" that cost would be a mix of the actual electricity bill and a portion of all those capital costs, plus financing over the life of the station. But that's too complex for customers to really understand, so they just come up with a price. If the charging is fast, they make it a high price, and when it's slow they make it a low price -- for the same result -- or they find something else to pay for it (like getting you to stay at their hotel.)

And it's all complicated by the government subsidies, or the VW dieselgate penalties, or by Tesla just wanting to sell cars by making their cars the best car to have if you road trip.
I’m okay with by the kWh as long as it’s only what enters the battery.
 

bradtem

Robocar consultant
Dec 18, 2018
932
1,064
Sunnyvale, CA
I’m okay with by the kWh as long as it’s only what enters the battery.
The point may not be clear. Of course all drivers are OK with -- in fact want -- to pay for the kWh that get into their battery. Or even a bit more than that (because the machine delivers more kWh than end in the battery and that's your car's property.

The problem is that this is not the primary cost to the station owner, and it confuses what the station owner is selling -- a service -- with what you imagine you're buying -- a charged battery. The whole point is it's hard to reconcile those two, though most station owners want happy, non-confused customers, and so set prices to pretty much match kWh delivered. Except not really, because they set prices higher for fast charging than for slow, even though the delivered product is the same.
 
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Is that supposed to get me to accept higher pricing? (often as much as 2x as even a year prior)

I pushed back on @bradtem 's previous claim that this is a service precisely because I fear that it will be used to convince me that accept higher pricing. But I think he's right. I also think that competition will eventually bring the pricing down for all the service overhead: competition is competition regardless of whether we label it a product or a service.

The way I'm thinking of it now, because I like analogies, is mail-ordering a product: I can have it shipped cheap and slow, or pay extra to have it overnighted to my house. Sometimes I don't care and a week is fine, but if I need it faster then I'll pay more (otherwise I didn't really need it, did I?) Not really much different from using L1/L2 at home vs L3 when on a road trip. The same amount of work is being done either way, but we pay extra to decrease the denominator in work/time.
 

bradtem

Robocar consultant
Dec 18, 2018
932
1,064
Sunnyvale, CA
The station operator pays for what leaves the charger. If your car is inefficient and some of that energy never enters the battery, that's your problem, not the operator's problem.
I have noticed when I charge at CCS or CHAdeMO that the wattage output on the station is always a few kW higher than what the Tesla reports it is getting. I wonder what each party is measuring. With superchargers though, there is no display on the charger, just in your car (and the app) so I imagine Tesla is actually billing for energy stored rather than delivered? That's nice of them. (I have yet to pay a supercharger bill. I got a lot of referrals and in fact I am going to have 1,000 miles expire unused in 2 weeks, sigh. Covid.)
 

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