Friday, April 17, 2009

Plug-in hybrid cars, and the retail market for electricity

The news is full of plug-in hybrid cars, i.e. cars with both an electric and a gasoline powered motor, which can be recharged overnight from your household electric outlet. See e.g.MIT's Technology Review on First Plug-in Hybrid to Be Sold in the United States or the AP onAuto industry on plug-in hybrids and electric cars, which begins

"Several automakers are developing plug-in hybrid vehicles and electric cars that could help meet President Barack Obama's goal of putting 1 million plug-in hybrids on the road by 2015. Many industry officials say the goal is a worthy one but will be difficult to meet. "

One difficulty not discussed in these articles is how retail electricity is sold. If your electricity bill is like mine, it consists of charges for power consumed, and charges for delivery and maintainence of the network. That is, you are charged both for the variable cost of the electricity you use, and a share of the fixed cost of the infrastructure. However, and strangely, you are charged for both by the kilowatt hour of electricity you use. That is, for each kilowatt hour, you pay an electricity part and an infrastructure part (and you can see this because your electricity utility is now required to offer its delivery service to multiple providers...)

This has some strange consequences, not least of which is that it makes additional electricity usage much more expensive than it would be if you instead were charged an access fee to cover your share of the infrastructure (including the peak load generating capacity), and a separate energy usage fee. Then the marginal additional kilowatt would be cheaper. In that case it might be economical for you to buy an electric car that would charge itself by being plugged in overnight, or even heat your home with electricity.

1 comment:

Farshad F said...

UK government announced initiatives for buying electric cars: