Green Car Reports looked into it, and the numbers aren’t pretty. From a recent study of charging station hosts in North Carolina:
Host sites were responsible for both installation and operating costs, and electric-car drivers could charge for free.
The charging stations themselves were also provided free, but applicants still had to pay $20,000 to $60,000 to install them. That was cited as one of the reasons why–out of a pool of 16 applicants–only five sites ended up installing the fast-charging sites.
One factor that boosts costs for DC fast charging–as well as 240-Volt AC Level 2 charging–is digging a trench or otherwise connecting stations to a power source. In addition, DC fast charging comes with far higher power requirements–sometimes enough to trigger demand fees from utility companies.
Meanwhile, the revenue from these sites is typically not sufficient to cover costs. For example, the ideally located San Juan Capistrano fast-charging station between Los Angeles and San Diego only netted $10,000 in revenue over 18 months, with a $10-15 fee per hour of charging. That amount is not enough to cover operating costs, let alone pay back the cost of installation.
Perhaps site hosts with a retail shop can make up for it, as customers waiting to charge buy coffee or snacks like at a gas station convenience store. But you’d have to sell a lot of big gulps to break even.
To me, all of this adds up to the need for a serious look at having utilities enter the charging market, as California regulators are considering. Because otherwise, the numbers just aren’t there to encourage charging infrastructure at the scale we need.