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US Utilities Have Finally Realized Electric Cars May Save Them ( 297

Pity the utility company. For decades, electricity demand just went up and up, as surely as the sun rose in the east. Power companies could plan ahead with confidence. No longer. From a report: This year, the Tennessee Valley Authority scrapped its 20-year projections through 2035, since it was clear they had drastically underestimated the extent to which renewable energy would depress demand for electricity from the grid. But there is a bright spot for utilities: electric vehicles (EV), which make up 1% of the US car market.

For years, that market barely registered on utilities' radar. As EVs find growing success, utilities are building charging infrastructure and arranging generous rebates. Pacific Gas and Electric, Southern California Edison, San Diego Gas & Electric, and New Jersey's PSE&G have partnered with carmakers to offer thousands of dollars in rebates for BMW, Nissan, and other brands. Now utilities are asking Congress for help as they attempt to keep tapping into EV demand. A collection of 36 of the nation's largest utilities wrote a letter (PDF) to congressional leadership on March 13, asking for a lift on the cap on EV tax credits. The signatories' include California's Pacific Gas & Electric, New York's Consolidated Edison, the southeast's Duke Energy Company, and others covering almost every state. At the moment, Americans who buy electric vehicles receive a $7,500 federal tax credit (along with some state incentives) for each vehicle.

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US Utilities Have Finally Realized Electric Cars May Save Them

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  • by Oswald McWeany ( 2428506 ) on Friday March 16, 2018 @10:09AM (#56269211)

    Most of us around the world pay taxes on every liter or gallon of petroleum our cars consume. In some countries it's a pretty high tax. If electric vehicles start making up a larger and larger % of vehicles on the road will there come an end where to be fair you need to drop the tax on fuel and instead tax electricity- take a certain % of your electricity usage and put it towards maintaining roads and public transportation?

    We all benefit from roads and bridges, even those that don't drive.

    Obviously we're still at the stage where most governments are still trying to encourage more electric vehicles, but eventually if electric takes off like planned, it's going to become unfair to place all the burden of taxes to maintain roads on drivers of ICE vehicles. Especially since it will most likely be the poor and impoverished who will be the last to adapt to the new electric-vehicle age.

    • by hipp5 ( 1635263 ) on Friday March 16, 2018 @10:20AM (#56269263)
      While fuel is taxed, it doesn't come close to covering all road costs (at least in the jurisdictions where I know the details). Most road construction and maintenance funds come out of general funds raised by property and income taxes. So while the EV driver (an the cyclist) do pay less in taxes towards the road, it's certainly not accurate to say they don't share at least some of the burden.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 16, 2018 @10:43AM (#56269419)

        While fuel is taxed, it doesn't come close to covering all road costs (at least in the jurisdictions where I know the details). Most road construction and maintenance funds come out of general funds raised by property and income taxes. So while the EV driver (an the cyclist) do pay less in taxes towards the road, it's certainly not accurate to say they don't share at least some of the burden.

        Given that an 18-wheeler requires about 1,500 times the road maintenance one car does [], the amount of maintenance required to maintain a road for a year if it were used only by cyclists could probably be paid for by the sales tax you paid on your donut this morning.

        Because from eyeballing the charts in that document, it looks like the damage a vehicle does to a road is proportional to about the third or fourth power of the weight of the vehicle - which means the damage a cyclist does to a road is literally negligible.

        Cyclists are paying a lot MORE than their share of road maintenance.

        Road damage is pretty much entirely caused by trucks, unless there are lots and lots of cars and almost no trucks.

        • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Friday March 16, 2018 @11:02AM (#56269545) Homepage

          Almost makes me wonder if the taxes should be on tires, relative to their expected lifespan and predicted road damage. Then you're taxing the object that directly does the damage. If someone does something that will increase the road damage - driving aggressively, carrying large loads, etc - they'll correspondingly burn out their tires faster. Kind of silly that a person can drive around on studded tires (which are very popular here) but pay the same road taxes per unit distance as someone driving around in the same vehicle on soft tires.

          • Mod up ^^^ but maybe too sensible for Slashdot. More for bigger vehicles that do all the real road damage (abrasion isn't the worst - load flexure is). Which is why diesel is higher taxed now.
          • If the goal is to account for road damage then you assess fees based on weight and mileage. Light vehicles do virtually no damage, it's all done by trucks and buses. Of course, some damage is simply weather-related, but heavy trucks would still wind up paying the bulk of the fees in a fair system. These fees would be passed on to the consumer, and then the people who actually buy the goods would wind up paying for the road maintenance indirectly. There is already some of this baked into the system, with reg

          • by houghi ( 78078 )

            You think taxes on fuel OR tires. The people that decide hear taxes on fuel AND tires.

          • Great thought. But I do worry about unintended consequences. In this case, would we end up with a lot more vehicles pushing their luck on their tires, resulting in a more dangerous road fleet, more fuel consumption, and more pollution? That would have to be part of the calculation.
          • by eth1 ( 94901 )

            What matters for road wear is weight.

            When you register your vehicle, just tax based on miles driven the previous year times the third or fourth power of vehicle mass (can't find the actual reference right now, but I'm pretty sure road damage is proportional to the third or fourth power of vehicle mass). Motorcycles would be almost free, and the commercial trucks that causes most of the damage would actually pay for it.

          • On the first glance, that obviously looks like a good idea.

            The drawback would be that e.g. in my case my tires hold like 4 - 5 years, because I don't drive much.
            A new set of tires is like 600EUR ...

            If I have to pay an extra 1000EUR or 2000EUR tax on that, people would consider to postpone buying new tires.

            That is not what we want ...

            Actually the insurance costs are tied to the amount of km you drive per year, or you could have a mandatory 2 year check (we have it anyway for car safety/damage) and settle tax

        • by reg ( 5428 )

          While it is true that trucks do significantly more structural damage than cars and bikes, this point is generally both misunderstood and overstated. Firstly, the damage is done by the load on the vehicle. This is generally accounted for in what are known as Equivalent Single Axle Loads, where a single axle is defined as a full dual wheel axle (four tires) loaded to the traditional legal maximum axle load of 80kN/18kips. The 1,500 times more damage comes from using an exponent of 4 on the load, which is g

    • Most of us around the world pay taxes on every liter or gallon of petroleum our cars consume. In some countries it's a pretty high tax. If electric vehicles start making up a larger and larger % of vehicles on the road will there come an end where to be fair you need to drop the tax on fuel and instead tax electricity

      It is an interesting situation. You have home electricity, vehicular electricity, and there is always the wild card - self produced electricity. My guess is that there will eventually be a fee in their somewhere for car owners. And that's okay, we do need the road upkeep, and toll roads aren't the answer.

    • by b0bby ( 201198 )

      A number of states simply add a fee to the registration of EVs to cover the loss of the gas tax. The problem is, they usually seem to set this at a punitive rate which equals 30k miles per year in a 20mpg truck or something. Despite this, it is an easy solution so will probably spread.

      Logically, however, more tax should be paid by the trucking industry since road damage is related to the 4th power of the relative loads; a single loaded truck will cause more damage than 9000 passenger cars. Politically this

    • If we are lucky enough to get enough electric vehicles on the road where tax policy becomes more than an interesting speculative topic, well that would be a huge win.

      I can think of many ways to tax electric cars: raise registration fees, base registration fees on mileage, install toll booths or license plate readers, tax tires, install express lanes with a toll that varies by traffic conditions and use that to finance the "free" side of the road as well, etc.

      Right now the best-selling electric cars cost abo

    • by rossdee ( 243626 )

      To replace motor fuel taxes the governents will have ti tax the vehicles on miles driven and the weight class of the vehicle.
      Some countries already do this for heavy commencial vehicles.

      Of course electricity generating companies shoulg be taxed on CO2 emissions - that will be passed on to the consumer - that should put coal out6 of business

    • by dargaud ( 518470 )
      Well, here fuel is taxed at 75%, so I fill my tank for 100€ and 75€ go straight into the state coffers. Now a similar electric car will fill up for 1€. To make up for the difference they should tax it at something like 7500% which would be insane. Something's gonna have to change. Tax on tires maybe ? But in a similar way they'll have to become hugely expensive.
    • " you need to drop the tax on fuel and instead tax electricity-"

      Hardly. We'll get a gizmo to pay by the mile, no matter what vehicle you use.

      Even those who run on canola oil with their Diesels.

    • In the US at least, the per-gallon gas tax doesn't cover the cost of the roads. Not even close. So we're already paying for them out of general revenue. I don't see why just fully paying for them out of general revenue would be any more problematic. We all benefit from roads, and they are essential to our economic strength.
    • About a year or so ago California ran a largeish pilot program testing various ways of addressing this coming change to cars that don't use gas and thus don't pay gas taxes.

      I participated in this pilot, and just had to report my mileage periodically by taking a photo of my odometer with a smartphone app. and then pretend to pay a fake bill. They had several other reporting and payment methods available, including GPS devices, bringing your car in to have the odometer read, etc. It's definitely a workable pr

  • I pay $0.0725/kWh for 100% solar-hydro-geothermal-wind. BGE wants to give me a coal-oil-nuclear supply deal: $0.215/kWh during the day, $0.0955/kWh during the evening and night when I'm charging my EV. That doesn't include the transmission costs and customer fees.

  • but its hard to see electric cars and trucks saving the industry in fifty years for a number of reasons:
    Contraction: Many american corporate towns and boomtime cities like Detroit are not only wastelands, but effectively unsustainable in the face of a government that reviles domestic policy. Many places in the rust belt such as Flynt, Michigan are not only a loss-leader, but literally and metaphorically toxic. As time marches on these cities will either continue to draw disproportionate and unjustifiable
    • by b0bby ( 201198 )

      Solar is a game changer in that it places the means of production squarely in the hands of the consumer.

      Yeah, to a certain extent. But for me, and lots of others, home solar isn't a great option due to space and tree cover. Even if there were no costs associated with installation and maintenance, I would have a hard time finding room to get enough solar to cover my use. I'm going to be grid connected (even if it's just to a local solar farm in a former cornfield) for quite some time.

    • There will still be a role for a power grid to redistribute power over space and time to match supply and demand even if a significant amount is produced, stored and consumed locally. It will need a much more sophisticated pricing, quality of service and regulatory model, but it will still be very much essential infrastructure.

  • So, when the State and Fed offer a tax-credit of thousands, you don't get it so much as the auto-mfg and dealer get it. They know about tax credits and the price (higher price) of the vehicle reflects the credit "you get". Look how much "you" save with the tax-credit.

    People then say, we have to buy this, we're going to get paid $7500 (or more) to buy this car. And that's money that goes right back to us. (ignoring that the price of the car is $7500 more than it should be).

  • I never understand why we let electric companies be private corps. It's not like I have a choice of companies. There's always only been one where I live. And it's not like we don't all need electricity. As near as I can tell the only reason for them to be private is so somebody's uncle or brother in law can skim 10%-20% off the top.
  • Demand has been flattening off, despite what many tell me. In my area, wind turbines are handling it, and you can now even see them starting and stopping as they adjust the peak load.

    So at some point, will they even slow the rate of new installs? I suspect that will be exactly the case.

    So the wild card here is indeed electric transportation. Will it save the utilities? I dunno. I've thought about an EV with a home solar charging station, and I bet a lot of others have as well. Then again, I'm still toyi

  • Suddenly some rental car company is going to have the epiphany! "If we created a Netflix model of renting IC engine cars, lots of people will move to electric cars for their regular use. We will have a steady stream of revenue. We might even sell this as a package through the manufacturers, dealers .... We can say you accumulate your one day a month or two days a month subscription up to 14 days.. We can let them rent pickups or sedans or moving vans! WE can let them rent in their vacation destination!".


  • Not as flexible as gas or diesel.

    Shorter Range.

    Tied to a credit card.

    And they sound like vacuum cleaners.

    • by hipp5 ( 1635263 )
      Okay? But I do.
    • So the article doesn't apply to you. It's for people who haven't been saturated with 50+ years of propaganda that having a car that loudly burns fossil fuels somehow makes you more manly.
      • Easier to tell when something goes wrong if you can hear it...

        I could get by with an electric car, not that it would help the environment much my power is provided by coal. I would need to buy solar panels or a wind turbine (if they weren't illegal).

    • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Friday March 16, 2018 @11:21AM (#56269645) Homepage

      Not as flexible as gas or diesel.

      I have no clue what you mean from that. You can charge an EV from any source of power, delivered from any socket, anywhere. The comfort of your own home. A campsite. A farmhouse in the middle of nowhere. You name it.

      Shorter Range.

      Model 3 LR goes further in city driving than its performance and size equivalent from BMW, the 340i. Furthermore, unlike gasoline vehicles, EVs start every day "filled up". A gasoline vehicle at any point in time will average only slightly more than half a "charge", and some days you'll start out with very little "charge" remaining at all.

      Tied to a credit card

      Huh? One, every charging network has its own payment method, and two, how do you pay for gasoline? Are you still one of those cash people who walks into the station every time?

      And they sound like vacuum cleaners.

      Now I have to doubt that you've ever even been in an electric vehicle.

    • by gmack ( 197796 )

      Not as flexible as gas or diesel.

      They are different from gas or diesel but that does not make them less flexible. With a gasoline powered car, you must stand next to the thing for your entire fill time. On the other hand, with electric it takes longer but you don't have to stand there waiting for it. You can charge overnight and if you are on the go you can do something else while you charge. Here in Montreal, we are starting to see malls and restaurants add charging stations so you can shop / eat while your car charges. In many ways t

  • The feedback loops of all these subsidies are long, unwieldy, wasteful and prone to abuse. I don't think the government should be in the business of encouraging anything - let the markets decide what are the best ways. No doubt, things like electric cars will find their niche on their own.

    As an aside, I think ALL larger roads should be toll roads, where the users are the ones who pay. Again, it (the market) would resolve everything on its own versus people paying for bridges they'll never see. It's ac
    • by dargaud ( 518470 )
      In medieval europe there were tolls everywhere on roads, bridges, gates, etc... And there was hardly any commerce because it was too expensive. The economy started to pick up once those tolls (many of which were senseless, i.e. not used for repairs or maintenance) were banned.
    • As an aside, I think ALL larger roads should be toll roads, where the users are the ones who pay.

      Yeah, but this would be terrible without some sort of standardized fast-pay system. And with a fast-pay system, there will be a lot of people hacking it to evade payment. Secondly, roads are geographic monopolies. If someone decides to overcharge you, you are shit out of luck. Sure, you can go around, but that would suck.

      Charging for what people use makes sense when the cost of compliance is relatively small. Otherwise, you are better off with a socialized cost.

  • I know a few EV owners who use solar power exclusively. They don't commute, but are basically off-grid and off the utility radar...I'm one of them.
  • Why the snark? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cascadingstylesheet ( 140919 ) on Friday March 16, 2018 @11:59AM (#56269897)

    Pity the utility company.

    Why the snark?

    Humans work for utility companies, and humans own stock in them.

    Why shouldn't those humans be concerned about making enough money?

    • by amiga3D ( 567632 )

      My local Energy co-op buys power from the grid. The last few years though they've been installing solar panels by the thousands. Hundreds of acres of land that once grew cotton now have solar panels on them. In South Georgia it gets hot and humid for most of the year and peak power demands used to strain the system. Now when it's at it's hottest the solar panels deliver the maximum electricity so they don't have to buy more power to cover the peak season. My price per Kwh hasn't gone up in a decade.

  • My experience with EV Vehicles and Local Utilities in San Diego:
    - State EV Vehicle rebate -- State controller says he is out of $ and won't pay out the rebate to any taxpayer making a decent income.
    - Federal EV Vehicle rebate -- fine, fair enough and I'm happy to hear that it will be winding down over the next few years.
    - Utility Rates and Discounts -- Pricing has gone up from 18 cents/KWH to 24.5 cents/KWH on average for my home. Time of use plans are estimated to cost me more, even with the EV vehicle.

Did you hear that two rabbits escaped from the zoo and so far they have only recaptured 116 of them?