EVs: Houston, We've Solved The Problem

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt

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.

There are three plans.

  • 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.

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3 of 40 comments
  • Jacob Jacob on Nov 21, 2010

    This doesn't make much sense to me. I drive about 180miles a week, and I consider that to be a lot. So let's say 750 miles a month. A hybrid vehicle should return about 40mpg, if not better. So I need to buy about 19 gallons of fuel a month. That's about 57 dollars a month. To get the equivalent service out of my EV, I'd probably have to buy the $89 a month plan, and a ridiculously expensive EV. I hope that this stuff gets cheaper as time goes by, but right now there is no economic sense for doing this at all.

    • Protomech Protomech on Nov 22, 2010

      Americans average about 1200 miles a month. 750 electric miles would use around 250 kwh, which is about $20 for me (8c/kwh), or around $25-30 at the national average.

  • R H R H on Nov 22, 2010

    How long before a third party "device+battery" comes out to hook up to this $89 unlimited @ home connection? Then use said 3rd party battery+device for all of your home needs by getting it wired into your house electrical as either 120/240...Or at least power fridge/washer/dryer off of it. I see this not lasting long.

  • Gemcitytm Why does it seem every EV seems to have ridiculous amounts of power? Yes, I know they're heavier than ICE models but who on earth needs 708 HP? How about a nice, compact EV with, say, 250 HP and 350-400 mile range? Is that impossible with today's tech? (I currently drive a 148 HP Mazda 3 ICE and it has all the get-up-and-go I need.)
  • CEastwood I could have bought one of these if I had the cash in 76 for $1000 white , red interior , 3 speed stick with whitewalls/ wire hubcaps - it was mint and gone a day after I saw it . But the real catch that got away was an all original 69 green Camaro RS convertible 327 4 speed with 46K on the clock for 1800 that I saw a few months earlier . Young and poor was not a fun place to be !
  • KOKing I'm in an emissions check only state, and I'd trade that away for a safety check all day.
  • Bd2 The hybrid powertrain in the Sportage and Tucson are the ones to get.H/K should discontinue the base NA 2.5L powertrain and just build more of the hybrid.In the future, maybe offer a 2nd, more powerful hybrid (the hybrid 2.5) which will first arrive with the next Telluride/Palisade.Kia also needs to redo the front fascia for the Sportage's refresh.
  • The Oracle I say let the clunkers stay on the roads.