California regulations are no cause for panic but they show "gasoline thinking"


If you read stories that California just put in new regulations that will change all the per-minute chargers and Tesla superchargers, don't worry, the changes are not that big and don't apply to chargers for some time. But it is worth examining how the regulations, such as they are, exhibit 20th century "gasoline thinking" by imagining that the same rules that apply to gas pumps should apply to electric charging stations. See about it in my Forbes site article:

California EV regs don't forbid per minute, but are still dumb gasoline thinking


The author and this article fails to mention or realize that a major point of the regulations is consumer protection with respect to the accuracy of metering and billing per unit of energy. In order for the state to test stations to confirm that drivers are receiving the kWhs paid for, just as you want to receive the gallons of gas paid for, there needs to be a way for inspectors to test and measure the system, which includes a display/meter of some sort onsite so the testing can happen. That's the reason/source of the "anachronism" this article belabors, and the reasons for the parallels in the regulations with the similar regulations for the testing and sealing of gas pumps.

Actually, it is fairly easy to make a device which will measure the energy delivered, and it can then be compared to what an app or in-car display shows. The thing that is not needed is a required display on the outside of the station. That is nice to have and many stations have it, but it serves no purpose in assisting the law to have it.

With Tesla, of course, Tesla makes both the car/app and the supercharger, so it could cheat you in what it displays. However, if the car is independent of the charging station, it can (and does) measure the energy it gets, and is a more reliable way of measuring that than any display on the station.

What is true is that if the formula is simple, then it's easy to see if the price charged matches what was delivered. These rules require the formula to be more complex.

Per minute billing should be allowed. In fact, it's probably the better way to bill in most instances. It sounds like California is leading the way in screwing things up on this one, as they all too often do. Giving stations less flexibility over pricing is just going to reduce competition and drive up prices. Doing so at the time when unsubsidized EV stations are just starting to become economically viable may prove to be particularly disastrous.

I doubt they'll let stations continue to charge by the minute by charging a parking fee and giving away electricity for free. In fact, I think an article I read when these stories first came out specifically said that doing that wasn't allowed.

The per minute billing regulations go into effect on January 1, according to other stories.

Well, the regulations come into effect tomorrow, but what comes into effect are rules that apply to stations built after 2021 or 2023. There are a variety of other rules.

I am fairly confident of my reading because, for example, there have been no notices from the per-minute companies about how their bills are changing tomorrow.

While it is less certain what they would do with giving the electricity free and charging to park at the station, it seems very clear that they allow you to sell the electricity at a low price (such as at-cost, for example) and then have a per minute charge on top of that. Which is actually, I am sure, quite fine by the operators. They have two costs -- the actual electricity they deliver, and the cost of having the space and expensive gear. (Though their electrical costs may vary based on their peak load as is common in industrial multi-megawatt installations too.)

They will now be forced to bill for both. Which may be slightly confusing to customers. Paying 30 cents/minute is simple, but also annoying.

But at the same time, I do think if you have a popular station, which gets people waiting for it, it makes a lot of sense to discourage people from charging from 80% up to 100% at it, when the charging is slow. Per minute pushes them to not do that. As would 10 cents/kwh plus 20 cents/minute.

Looks like you were right about when the per-minute billing rules go into effect:

Hopefully they'll reconsider the rule before that. Per-minute billing makes more sense than per kilowatt-hour billing in many cases. I suppose some mixture of the two would also make sense, but that unnecessarily complicates things, I think. Furthermore, it's not clear that they will be allowed to charge a per-minute fee except when the car is not charging. (I suppose one option is to refuse to charge more slowly than a certain rate, but that's an option that might not be popular.)

PlugShare does a good job comparing EV Charging Costs across networks here -

Another great and unbiased article from you Brad. The only missing piece to me was not mentioning that Level 1 charging is always at a constant rate which makes time-based payment plans fair for consumers.

We have data to prove this, I have shown some of those data in this article:

Actually level 2 is almost always a constant rate until you're nearly full. However, there is the question of what happens when you are full, do you still pay for taking up the plug?

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