State regulators this morning gave Duke Energy the go-ahead to offer customers free home charging stations for plug-in electric cars.
Charlotte-based Duke plans to distribute about 150 of the pods to customers who buy or the Chevy Volt, Nissan Leaf and other electric cars soon to be released to the mass market. The charging stations have a retail value of $1,500 to $2,000.
The electric company told the N.C. Utilities Commission it needs to analyze the demands the 240-volt chargers put on the electric grid to determine what upgrades will be required to prevent system overload in Charlotte and other areas where electric car owners tend to concentrate.
Progress Energy plans to offer a similar program but details have not been finalized. Raleigh-based Progress projects that electric car buyers in the company's service territory will be concentrated in Raleigh, Cary and Asheville.
Both utilities will offer the free charging stations through the auto dealers that sell or lease electric cars. To participate customers have to buy or lease the cars for 2 years and agree to share their recharging usage data with the utility.
Recharing a plug-in electric car from a wall outlet can drain as much power as a central air conditioning system.
As part of the $1.2 million program to assess rechargers, Duke will pay up to $1,000 toward having the devices installed at customers' homes.
Duke has also asked the IRS whether the free equipment will be counted as taxable income for the customers. If the IRS says it's a tax liability, Duke will pay the participating customers a gross-up to cover their tax bill.
Consistent with all utility strategies to meet electricity demand -- whether building new power plants or devising energy-conservation programs -- the cost of the EV charging study will ultimately be paid by all customers through their monthly bills.