State looks for way to mediate costs of electric cars

January 14, 2011 7:54:54 PM PST
The push to get more electric cars out on the road comes with a wrinkle. Will the money you save on gas be spent instead on paying for more electricity to charge your car? After all, the more electricity we use, the more it costs. But, there is an effort to make an exception.

California's tiered rate system was put in place to discourage high energy use and make the state more green. The more electricity you use, the higher the rate.

A new Purdue University study says that means Californians will end up paying the highest costs for charging electric cars. The Purdue study shows a plug-in hybrid Chevy Volt for example, would increase a household's electrical usage by 60 percent.

Even accounting for charging at night at off-peak rates, the Purdue study says costs in California will still be higher than elsewhere because the state's rates are 35 percent higher than the national average.

UC Berkeley renewable energy expert Dan Kammen is currently writing the World Bank's energy strategy. He says the Purdue study is premature.

"California has been working through the governor's office and California Energy Commission, the PUC and Air Resources Board on a system to make the state ready for electric vehicles and that would involve special charging rates, special times, charging centers where you can bring in fleet vehicles or private vehicles to charge," Kammen said.

PG&E says it wants to promote electric car use and is already offering a discounted rate for charging a car.

"It is, I would say, about 20 percent or so less than the normal residential customer's rate, but it depends on how much you use, how often you plug in," PG&E spokesperson Christine Cordner said.

"California is working through important and innovative plans to make these vehicles the first choice for motorists whether private or fleets and take advantage of the fact that electricity is so low carbon," Kammen said.

Consumers will soon weigh-in as more all-electric and plug-in hybrids hit the market.


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