Charging costs for electric cars penalize city drivers

Homes in cities are less likely to park on the street than those in rural or suburban areas, and 78 percent of U.S. residents-owned homes have a garage or carport, versus just 37 percent for those rented. according to US census data† “This burden is certainly felt more heavily by those living in urban areas, as in the US private garages with access to electricity are almost universal outside of densely populated city centers,” Hall says. “Even in cities in the US, street parking is relatively common, but it often happens in shared garages where there may be no access to electricity.”

In short, cities with the greatest need for EVs are the most hostile to them, and low-income residents who would benefit most financially from dumping gas may end up paying a premium. Installing a plethora of charging points in cities — on streets, in residential parking garages, retail locations and offices — can be the first challenge, but making sure EV charging is fair is a more difficult problem to solve.

In the meantime, lower-income city dwellers will either pay more for an EV or not drive it at all. “Each of these options amplifies economic inequality and may also contribute to a popular perception of electric vehicles as a technology for wealthy people and not for the wider society, hindering efforts to accelerate adoption,” Hall says.

To close the gap, EV electricity rates could be lowered through regulations or incentives to utility companies. The UK needs to reconsider value added tax (VAT) as electricity for home use has a VAT rate of 5 per cent, while electricity sold at charging stations has a VAT rate of 20 per cent.

There are other solutions. Bonsu is calling for faster chargers in communities, rather than just gas stations, while Hall suggests EV points are needed in all new buildings or buildings undergoing major renovations, be it shops, homes or office buildings. Hall warns against assuming that only white-collar workers want chargers, which should be installed in industrial estates, retail locations and wherever people work. “While it will take some time to take effect, once electric vehicles make up the bulk of the fleet, many more drivers will have access to affordable, convenient charging,” Hall says.

But there’s more to it than just infrastructure availability: Charging networks are too complicated, creating additional burdens beyond the financial ones. There are dozens of vendors, each with their own payment app, subscription systems, and prices, not to mention connection fees and other add-on fees and different chargers. “The user experience associated with using public chargers versus a home charger is night and day,” said Patrick Reich, the CEO and co-founder of the charging aggregation and payment app Bonnet.

Another complaint is reliability: drivers come to charge points only to find they are in use, out of service, or incompatible with their car. “People don’t worry so much about range anymore, but they do fear the charger. When they show up to charge, they want to be confident that it’s working and available for use,” says Melanie Shufflebotham , COO and co-founder of Zap-Map.

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