Plug-In Electric Car Study: Access To Home Charging More Important Than Public Charging

APR 7 2015 BY MARK KANE 44

2015 Nissan LEAF

Nissan LEAF charging

Earlier this year, Cornell University researchers released an article argueing that the best way to increase electric car sales is to build more public charging stations.

Now, we got something that seems the complete opposite. A study conducted by Simon Fraser University states that the most important thing is to provide non-public charging stations for home use.

Seems fairly obvious to be fair.

Authors – Jonn Axsen, an SFU School of Resource and Environmental Management professor, with graduate students Joseph Bailey and Amy Miele – analyzed the situation in Canada, finding that awareness of public chargers has little impact on consumers’ interest in electrical vehicles.

“The study collected information from a representative sample of 1,739 new vehicle buying households in Canada, with 536 from British Columbia. Respondents were asked about awareness of public charging in their region, and about their overall interest in purchasing a plug-in electric vehicle, such as a Chevrolet Volt or Nissan Leaf.

The data showed that British Columbia’s Clean Energy Vehicle program—which installed almost 500 public chargers when the survey was conducted in 2013—was largely successful in increasing charger awareness. Almost one-third of British Columbian respondents had seen at least one public charger, compared to only 13 per cent of respondents in the rest of Canada.

However, that awareness didn’t necessarily translate into increased plug-in electric vehicle interest.”

Jonn Axsen said:

“When we account for the relevant factors, our analysis suggests that the relationship between public charger awareness and plug-in electric vehicle demand is weak or non-existent. In other words, the installation of public chargers might not be the best way to encourage growth in the electric vehicle market.”

“This finding is particularly relevant for British Columbia, which recently announced that it will revive the Clean Energy Vehicle Program, a program that supports the adoption of vehicles powered by electricity and other alternative fuels. The provincial government has yet to announce how renewal funds will be spent.”

“Given what we’ve seen here, it seems wise for governments to focus their money on incentives other than public electric vehicle chargers. We know that purchase rebates can spark consumer interest, and we’ve shown that home charging is important. In combination with the implementation of a Zero Emissions Vehicle mandate like California’s, these measures could be the biggest boosters of electric vehicle sales.”

How that could be? Maybe customers interested in EVs typically assume that they will charge at home and are buying EVs with range appropriate to their needs regardless of public infrastructure?

On the other hand, those who don’t have their own parking space for home charging (or at work) will probably not buy an EV even if there areplenty public charging stations installed.

The answer then would be switching public charging infrastructure subsidies to home/apartment charging stations and to put in place regulations that require or facilitate charger installation.

Sounds reasonable to us..

However, we do believe that the public fast charging infrastructure is very important, but still second to home charging.

Source: Simon Fraser University via Green Car Congress

Categories: Charging

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44 Comments on "Plug-In Electric Car Study: Access To Home Charging More Important Than Public Charging"

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Indeed. This has been obvious to me for some time. However, it isn’t as straight forward as it seems.. at least, today. Most EVs are fairly pricey. So generally the same people that can afford an EV can also probably afford their own home. However, now that used Volts and Leafs are showing up on the used market for as little as $10,000 sometimes, I can see apartment dwellers now considering buying an EV but having no place to charge it.

Exactly. I bought a condo on spec, so the first thing I did was ask to be assigned one of the spots with a plug. The second thing I did was pay extra to upgrade the outlet to 240V. Then I bought a Leaf. I wouldn’t have even considered it without access to home charging.

I live in an older condo where only a quarter of the garage spots have a plug nearby. The condo board decided that they would pay to install the plugs after the engineer basically stated that he had all the material needed to put a plug in for me and that it would take less than an hour. So the board said, “Pay us an additional $25 a month for the electricity and you have a deal.” I jumped at it even though I don’t use that much electricity.
If the associations are approached proactively they tend to be more receptive.

Great job, Ziv. That is the way to do community outreach. Everyone benefits in that situation. You get a plug, other people can get EVs, and the condo place collects more than enough money to cover the costs. Win-win-win.

Home charging comes first for obvious reasons, second place is probably access to fast DC charging.

Very true:
Public Network will be an incentive only if:
1- it allows fast charging (= Tesla way)
2- it is a perk at your office (= chargepoint way)

In the middle, the attractiveness vanishes pretty fast.

The future is home smart-charging + V2X (or B2X for Battery).
= Tesla way ?

I can’t imagine many buying an EV expecting to use public charging as their prime method. It is just too inconvenient.

Depends. This is the intended use case for CHAdeMO, and why “CHAdeMO” was chosen to sound like “have a cup of tea.” The average Japanese car owner has an apartment or condo, but plenty of malls or other retail establishments with at least some parking. Oh, and the average Japanese driver drives very low distances, at relatively low speeds.

Agree that home charging is most important and DC public charging is next. Work charging could also be important.

240v charging at public places doesn’t work. The charge rate is too slow given where these chargers are and how long most people would be willing to be parked. Maybe it would reassure people they wouldn’t be stranded before they bought an EV, but once they figured out the range and how to manage that it’s hard to see 240v public charging being important.

My Take on EV Charging Priority: 1) Home Charging; 2) Work/Office Charging; 3) Public Charging! Point 3 could be split – based on the next point: Charging Rate: A) – Ideal For User: Charge at the Max Rate of the car [Tesla = 80 Amps @ 240 VAC, Focus EV = 32 Amps @ 240 VAC, iMiEV/Smart ED/Volt etc = 16 Amps at 240 VAC]; B) – Charge at a Reasonable rate to maximize Infrastructure expansion – based on the typical stay at the work/public place [visits @ work = 8 hours, so Charge at a suitable rate most EV’s could be full after 7-8 hrs =~ 20 Amps @ 240 VAC]; C) Charge at Long stay Places like Airports at just 120 VAC/15 Amps – 20 Amps. Malls – or places where people typically spend 45 – 90 minutes, are great Candidates for the 20 – 25 kW DC Quick Chargers, and the Freeway Service Centres are best suited with installation of 50 – 100 kW DC QC’s (Hence – Tesla Started out at 90 kW – and them moved the design up to 120 kW (with a future target of 135 kW!) – so that users are only… Read more »

While I agree that home and workplace charging is most important(even L1 works for most people) I think public L2 is important even if it is rarely used, it gives people confidence that they will always be able to charge. I show people the Plugshare map of Metro Atlanta and I can see that it changes their perspective.

EXACTLY. A car is not a gadget; an MP3 player or a camera or a phone that runs out of juice is merely annoying. An EV, on the other hand, can strand you, and is thus a safety issue. The availability of at least some form of public charging is a psychological appeal, even if it’s just Level 1. Even if you never actually use it.

If L1 has a problem, it’s that it’s too inconspicuous. Prospective EV customers don’t know they have all these emergency L1s to keep from getting stranded, even if they never actually need them.

Frasier seems to have it right this time, but it makes me wonder who is paying for all these “studies”, instead of actual EV Infrastructure. 😛

Studies are usually the political method for how you purposely delay or kill something. 😛

It would be nice to see this Federal money spent on EV infrastructure (public chargers, etc.), Buyer and Rebate Education, Federal Vehicles converted to EVs, larger incentives (state and federal) for EV and EVSE purchase.

#1 is home charging. #2 is probably workplace charging. Workplace charging might actually work for apartment dwellers as well.

I think a lot of people are unaware you can charge an EV at home on 120V. In fact that is what 50% of Volt owners do, including yours truly.

Every time I explain that to someone, they say “Oh, I thought you had to have some special home charger wired in.” I tell them, it’s just like plugging in a TV or anything else. Any outlet will work as long as it can provide 8 amps, but 12 amps is preferable.

This works for most PHEVs and most regular commutes. But for battery only EVs, better a 240V outlet if you want the opportunity to go as far as the car can. Alternatively you could top up at a public DC fast charger if you have one near by. Plugshare is the best smart phone app to find out where.

It works for my BEV. But then again, my BEV is a Zero, and gets 10+ miles per kWh in good conditions.

This is evident in rl by Tesla’s misapprehension in China in this regard.
It’s not like the U.S. with ticky tacky houses everywhere.

This is obvious, charging with chargepoint or Blink is more expensive than gasoline, theiir fees $0.45 to $0.79 cents per Kw/h. no option to charge with public stations at this point.

There certainly are low or no fee Chargepoint locations. However, very few Blink are low-prices. I have used a couple free Chargepoints in the past year. But I would guess some of them will convert to payment versus free as time goes by.

I have never charged my Kia Soul EV outside the home in almost 5,000 miles. The key to EV sales is a 240V charger at home, which many people do not have due to not owning, condo situations, or cost. As ranges increase, the whole public 240V charging thing will be largely unnecessary. All that matters will be home 240V, and long distance high speed chargers.

What is strange is that in my immediate area of larger, suburban homes, I am the only one with a plug-in vehicle. Across the nearby cul-de-sacs, I see a good number of trucks, fans, SUVs, CUVs and sedans. My Volt stands out. Few Priuses, but not that many. It seems that with all these homes, there is no problem stopping these suburbanites from buying an EV.

I contend that there are indeed millions of homeowners out there. Why haven’t millions of EVs been sold?

It’s because people buy cars for emotional reasons, “It’s cool” or “It’s tough”, my wife wants a car that’s “Cute”. If they bought for logical reasons your neighborhood would be full of EVs And Hybrids.

The most powerful thing Governments can do to stimulate electric car uptake is to modify building codes to mandate an extra 30A dryer outlet in every garage parking spot for new construction, single or multi-family.

The added construction cost would be less than $100 per dwelling with no cost to the taxpayer. The impact would be huge, possibly more than rebates at this point.

I had a 50A stove plug added in my garage so I’d have as much power available as I would likely ever need when I buy an EV. Total cost was less than $100.00. Friend of a friend thing. Many will cost much more than mine to rough in, but if you want it, it’s available.

My brother-in-laws Volt is driven ~ 50 miiles per day and he uses a 120v outlet exclusively.

I have stated this over and over. BEVs are simply not viable if you can’t charge at home, which is the entire reason why some automakers are promoting FCVs.

Wrong. I know a person getting by on public charging, and arguably I don’t have a garage or driveway. I run a cord down my lawn, and no one complains.

Some automakers are promoting FCVs because then they get the money, not the battery/utility/EVSE companies.


Seriously . . . I can’t overemphasize the “Duh!” to this study. It is like saying water is wet. Well, perhaps some people still needed to learn this.

And this is why we need building codes and laws to start installing charging infrastructure in all apartments and condos. It is very basic electrician work that will create jobs and expand the reach of EVs.

Not one person mentioned “price” as the #1 reason the masses are not buying EVs. When the price of an EV is competitive with a comparable ICE, only then will the average comsumer even begin to consider all these other issues. I’m looking forward to that day. Hope it happens before I’m too old to drive.

An EV will never be as cheap as a similar ICE. A big empty steel container (a gas tank) will always be cheaper than a big battery.

What is needed is that the overall value proposition of the EV is better than the overall value proposition of the ICE car. And this fact must become common knowledge.

This can ultimately be achieved due to the various advantages of EVs: charge up at home, extremely cheap to fuel, can grow fuel on your own roof, quiet, less maintenance, more reliable, no exhaust, no oil changes, no smog checks, no oil drips, no lurching transmission, etc.

A simple and smaller electric motor with an inverter will soon be much cheaper than a big complex ICE with all it’s mandatory satellite systems.

Yeah, I’ve wondered about that. The low volume of electric motors, controllers, and chargers probably raises the price of an EV drivetrain. But due to their simplicity, I would think that an EV drivetrain (without the battery) costs no more than the complex ICE drivetrain despite the low volume of EV components.

Hence my rule of thumb is generally that an EV costs the same as the same ICE car plus the cost of a battery. But if EV components hit mass manufacturing scales, the price of the EV drivetrain (minus the battery) should be less than the messy ICE drivetrain (with fuel system, ignition, exhaust, timing, cooling, etc.)

Thus, EV prices may drop a due to cheaper EV drivetrains instead of just cheaper batteries.

…aaand this is why you are “speculawyer,” not “successful vehicle manufacturer.” Cost of high-volume production is largely touch labor and process time.

“A big empty steel container (a gas tank) will always be cheaper than a big battery.”

Pffft. A solid-state assembly will always be cheaper than intake, exhaust, fuel (in and out), AND coolant routings. And then you add PCV, EGR, vacuum assist, and EVAP lines. And sometimes you add oil and transmission fluid coolers. Meanwhile, electric drive is slowly consolidating boxes.

I’m starting a study on the ability to make money by getting useless studies funded…. looking for a backer….

The assumption is that is one is “more important” than the other, then you only build one.

We need both at home AND public charging.

Home Charging encourages one to buy an EV.

Public Charging encourages using the EV as the primary or sole vehicle.

Certainly both are needed. But if they want more bang for their buck, I think it would be wiser for them to pass some laws that help apartments and condos get chargers than installing public chargers.

Without a home charging station, public chargers are pretty useless except to the brave soul who is going to try to get by on public charging alone.

Could not agree more. One of the reasons I switched form an IMiEV to a Chevy Volt was that I did not have the wiring infrastructure of a 240V set up in my garage, and that my employer decided not to install them at the workplace, nor would they permit use of 120V outlets. If I’d been able to charge at work(on 120V)and then charge at home on a 240V line, I’d not have bought the Volt. Now, though, I am very glad that I made the switch to the Volt.

Before electric cars have a decent range there isn’t really much need for public charging.

With the next gen BEVs public charging will get more important since then it will be possible to use them (for other people than EV-masochists) for other purposes than just as your daily commuter.

Nothing will beat home charging though… it’s the basic criteria.

“Before electric cars have a decent range there isn’t really much need for public charging.”

Well . . . no. There isn’t much need for DC-fast charging on freeways perhaps but having L2 public chargers at various destinations like malls, downtowns, parks, stadiums, parking garages, Zoos, theme parks, beaches, etc. is very much needed for people that want to go to destinations that are outside of their round-trip range.

It is fairly obvious to me that you need both.

Home charging infrastructure is not a problem for home owners with a garage with power already in it but a massive problem for a person in an apartment with shared parking.

In the same vain a person who lives out of town and uses 60% of their range to get to and from town, public charging is a must as there will be times when they need to charge whilst they are out.

DC fast chargers are a key enabler for the driver who takes the occasional long trip.

everything will increase adoption, which works better depends on which market you are looking at. Sinking millions into home charging in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne is a waste of time and money as almost every property has a garage with a 240V plug in it. Central Melbourne with mainly on street or shared parking totally different.

In about 9,500 miles in a Leaf and an e-Golf, my spouse and I have used public charging 5 or 6 times, including a CHAdeMO only once.

We share a single Level 2 EVSE at home.

Home charging is used at least 99% of the time. Survey is correct, and hardly surprising.


It seems the whole obsession with public charging is based on new commuter EV owners stuck in a gas station mentality.

Similar to early email adopters sending multiple copies of an attachment, slow to adjust to the fact that the recipient can just print as may as they like. Stuck in a habit.

Owning and driving an EV = Freedom from the public gas/charging station. Charging happens at home while you sleep, and the vehicle is fully charged when you are ready to go every day. No lines, No waiting, and electricity/fuel at the cheapest prices.

I charge a Volt at home primarily at 900 watts, and a Tesla using the cheapest 30 amp 220 volt charger docking station I could find 4 years ago.

But apartment and condo dwellers would need to make arrangements with their landlords/hoa’s PRIOR to purchase an electric car to see if arrangements can be made for them.

I believe they usually could be made, although it will require extra legwork for both the prospective ev owner and the landlord.

I wouldn’t expect too much action, until gas prices skyrocket and more car drivers demand it. With low gas prices, I would suspect many apartment dwellers would just say its not worth the bother worrying about.