The first time I came to Houston, TX, was in 1986. The “reverse oil crisis” had brought the price of crude below $10, and Houston was a ghost town. In nearby Port Arthur, unused oil rigs piled up at the shore, and grass grew on downtown Procter Street. Now, Houston, home of the Petroleum Club (and some clubs the greater Baruth family would fancy), could become the model city for electric vehicles. According to plan, nobody will be farther away from a charging station than five miles, and you can charge up as much as your EV can eat for a flat monthly fee.
The system is called evGo. It’s a subscription. A flat fee between $49 to $89 a month will be added to your utility bill. It includes a 220-volt “Level 2″ home-charging station , which can charge a typical EV in six to eight hours. In shopping centers, supermarkets and business districts throughout Houston will be between 50 and 150 public charging stations. Some will be hefty Level 3 DC quick-chargers, which can fill your battery in 25 minutes. For subscribers with the right plan, unlimited fill-ups at home and at the public charging stations are included in the flat fee subscription.
- The $49 plan gets you an installed charger at home. You pay for the electricity.
- The $79 plan gets you the charger and unlimited fill-ups at public stations. Charging at home will raise your electric bill.
- The $89 plan adds unlimited charging at home to all of the above.
(Guess which plan most will take ..) Oh, there is a three year service commitment. Still, at $3,204 spread over three years, it’s not a bad deal. A home charger alone would set you back $1,500 – uninstalled. Unless you are fast and get the free DOE chargers.
Behind the system is NRG, the second-largest utility in Texas, joined by startups such as Coulomb Technologies and Ecotality.
Some people are already against the concept. None of them oilmen. Paul Scott, of the advocacy group Plug In America, likes the basic idea, but is against the flat fee. He’s worried that people charge up whenever they want, instead of waiting until it’s dark, when utilities have excess capacity. They should not worry. Flat fee pricing has a tendency towards getting throttled once enough subscribers are on board.
The system, basically a cellphone flat fee plan on wheels, will take the bite out of high charger costs, range anxiety, and worries about a high electric bill. It is the first system that may pave a way to an electric future. In Houston. Home of the Petroleum Club.