By on March 24, 2012

A strange deal is in the works in California. Between 2000 and 2001, utility companies in California overcharged nearly $9 billion, withheld energy, dove up rates and caused rolling blackouts, California officials claim. The utility company will get away with a $120 million slap on the wrist. What’s more, the money will be invested into selling more electric power.

NRG Energy Inc. agreed to pay a $120 million settlement that will fund electric car charging stations across California, Associated Press reports. The money will be used to build at least 200 public fast-charging stations, and another 10,000 plug-in units at 1,000 locations in the San Francisco Bay Area, the San Joaquin Valley, the Los Angeles basin and San Diego County, Gov. Jerry Brown said yesterday.

Use of the fast-charging stations will not be free. Consumers will be able to pay for monthly subscriptions or pay as they go. The price of the monthly subscriptions has not yet been set. The pay-as-you-go price will be between $10 and $15 per use, an NRG spokesman said. Overcharging customers seems to be alive and well.

Only $20 million will go toward reducing rates for utility customers, says the San Francisco Chronicle.

Nissan likes the agreement, what with 40 percent of the 11,000 Leafs sold in the U.S. having California tags. John O’Dell, senior green car editor at, is one of the California Leaf owners, but he doesn’t get around much. “I liken the home charger to kind of a tether,” O’Dell. “Without public charging, I’ve basically got a 35-mile leash on my car.”

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14 Comments on “Green Dreams Come True In California...”

  • avatar

    “The pay-as-you-go price will be between $10 and $15 per use…”. Didn’t that defeat the purpose of owning an EV?

  • avatar
    doctor olds

    A charge of $10-$15 is ridiculously higher than the cost to plug in at home, about a $1.50 for a Volt, say twice that for a Leaf.
    It may be necessary for a Leaf, but it sure diminishes the value in terms of operating costs.
    With such low cost power, free-of-charge outlets ought to be provided as cheap PR. Something like provisions for engine block heaters in the great white north.

    • 0 avatar

      Well, this is depressing. My car gets a touch over 20mpg. A Leaf appears to have a battery lasting about 75mi on the average in real world use. I use 3.75 gallons to get 75 miles. 3.75 gallons at $4 per gallon costs $15. Sounds like that’s how they set the rate.

      Of course if I had a car similar to the Leaf, it would be even worse since it would get, say, 35mpg in real world driving and therefore use almost exactly two gallons or $8.

      If it costs $3 to charge a Leaf and you are charged $10, this is an absurd 300% markup.

      This makes the chargers actually more expensive than gas and guarantees that if they are installed, they will be a commercial failure.

      If these are being financed through penalties for overcharging, why not just give the penalties back to the long-suffering ratepayers who actually suffered the damage?


      • 0 avatar

        I agree it is overcharging but in a free market they can set what they like. Leaf drivers have set themselves up to be taken hostage because unless they recharge at home they are literally forced to pay anything the supplier wants for electricity, whether that is at a public station, at work or elsewhere. At least plug-in hybrids eliminate this issue with the option to use gas if recharging with electricity is either too time consuming or too expensive. This is the primary reason the Leaf is a niche vehicle for those who travel short distances and have a very predictable route.

    • 0 avatar

      The $10-$15 is for the 30 minute fast charger.. not all electric cars will have a suitable plug and the demand will be very low.. most people prefer to charge at home. The chargers are very expensive so they want to recoup some of the expenses.. I dont believe fast charging will ever be economically feasible, yet it is an important insurance blanket for people to range out in their electrics. I think it is an appropriate government expense since its the only way to do long distance trips.

      We could put a tax of 5 cents a gallon on gasoline to pay for it :)
      You too can do your part to save the planet by subsidizing these chargers.

  • avatar

    I lived in SoCal at the time of the rolling blackouts. It was surreal how it could have happened (poor/shady government planning was heavily to blame). They are a lot more power providers involved, in a state that is in perpetual budgeting crisis, this settlement doesn’t serve the people well.

    • 0 avatar

      I remember the sequence of the lights going out, the UPS beeping as it kicked in, then the tire screech and crashing sounds as nobody realized the lights at the nearby major junction had suddenly quit. The utility companies should be on the hook for all the damage caused there as well.

  • avatar

    Is there a standardized plug for EVs? I sure hope so

    • 0 avatar

      The Level 2 plug is standard, that one uses 240V AC and will recharge a Leaf in 5 hours I think.. the fast charger plug uses 480V DC at 125A will recharge a Leaf to 80% in about 30 minutes, the last 20% will take another 30 minutes or so. The fast charge plug is a Japanese standard called Chademo and is used by Leaf and the Mitsubishi iMiev.. Tesla will offer an adapter to use that plug.

      Other manufacturers are in a fight to get another plug adopted, the not released yet SAE plug.

  • avatar

    Sounds to me like they have about $8,880,000,000 in free electric charges to give out before they should be charging jack squat diddly to anyone in CA.

  • avatar

    It might be conducive to actually try to understand what happened here twelve years ago instead of authoring typical internet style one liners. It was complicated and consisted of layers of complex issues going on all at the same time, including the Enron debacle.

    You can start here for a general synopsis:

    TTAC is becoming more and more like the ‘Mike Daisey of automotive journalism.’

  • avatar

    “Between 2000 and 2001, utility companies in California overcharged nearly $9 billion, withheld energy, dove up rates and caused rolling blackouts, California officials claim.

    “California officials claim. ” ? ? ? ? ? That is a nice weasel wording there at the end of that statement.
    I read somewhere that Enron was in on the rip off, attempting to avoid its inevitable collapse.

    I want to hear some right wingers defend that situation. Seems the energy industry barons got away with some cool billions and got a token 120 million dollar slap on the wrist.

    This is corporate syndicate criminal theft and extortion. How does this differ from “organized crime” like the Mafia ???

    • 0 avatar

      I agree. The California government does work like an unaccountable criminal organization. Using the rip off of customers to funnel money to their corrupt pet projects like EV charging stations is justification for revolt.

  • avatar

    Dear Herm,
    An “appropriate government expense”, you say. That means MY expense. Ugh, just ugh. If I could, I would murder the taxpayer subsidized electric car in the drawing room with the candlestick holder.

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