New Hampshire continues to lag neighboring states in support for the growing tide of electric vehicles and the variety of bills before the legislature on the topic, not to mention the regulatory reason that the town of Derry removed its EV chargers, shows that improving the situation won’t be straightforward.

Several bills being considered by the legislature support electric vehicles, including one that would establish a pilot program for increasing the number of electric school buses (SB417)  and a couple that would push the state to assist in adopting electric vehicles (SB448), perhaps via funding (SB447) . These come after New Hampshire has repeatedly been singled out as a “missing link” in New England’s electric vehicle charging systems.

At least one proposed bill would be an obstacle, however, by charging electric vehicles an extra 50 cents every time they went through an E-ZPass toll and giving the money to the state highway fund as an alternative to gasoline tax revenue (HB1675).

All these bills are in committee and it’s not clear whether they might be amended over time or if any will make it to a full vote.

At the same time, the state Public Utilities Commission is considering whether and how to institute time-of-use rates for electric vehicle charging so that it would be cheaper to charge the cars or buses or trucks and vans  at night. The goal is to give owners of these vehicles an incentive to avoid charging in mid-day or evenings, when electricity demand is highest and they would add to the strain on the regional power grid.

This effort is an example of the many changes being sought in the complex system of electricity rates and regulations, which have been built up over decades to serve a power grid that is evolving at breakneck speed.

One piece of testimony on the PUC proposal was filed by Jeff Moulton, chairman of the Net Zero Task Force for the town of Derry, explaining  why that community installed four car chargers in its downtown area in 2018 but removed them last year.

The Level 2 chargers, at 40 and 50 amps to provide a faster charge that plugging into a regular socket, were installed in the municipal parking lot “to attract tourists to its downtown area from I-93,” Moulton said in written comments. Three were for Tesla vehicles and one for other models.

They were free for users, with the electricity bill paid by the town.

Before 2020, Moulton wrote, the average electricity charge was 16 cents per kilowatt-hour. (A Tesla 3 can travel around 4 to 5 miles on a single kilowatt-hour of charge, depending on conditions, so that cost is equivalent to a 35 mpg car buying gasoline at less than $1.50 a gallon.)

But in 2020 Eversource, the town’s electric utility, instituted demand charges, which are extra rates placed on usage during peak times of day. Most use of the town chargers happened between 5 and 11 p.m., which includes the evening peak demand period.

The demand charges raised the average cost to 70 cents per kilowatt-hour, increasing the town’s monthly bill from under $200 to almost $600. The town council voted to unplug them because of this cost. “Users are better off charging at their homes or other sources,” Moulton wrote.

Further, Moulton wrote, because of the way electric rates work, if the vehicle chargers had been hooked into the main meter at the town’s municipal buildings then no demand charges would have been placed on them and the system would still be in operation.

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