Sunday 24 September 2023

ICE to start charging at fast-charging stations for electric cars

The state utility assures that it is working hand in hand with electricity distributors to develop the same application for electronic payment at charging stations

Paying the bills


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QCOSTARICA – The honeymoon of free charges at Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad (ICE) fast-charging stations is over for owners of electric car, as they will start paying to recharge their vehicles’ batteries.

The rate defined for the use of fast chargers is ¢182.72 per kilowatt hour (kWh). An average new car has a battery of about 40 kWh, that is, they would pay around ¢ 7,300 to recharge them to 100%.

So far, ICE has provided the charging service for free.

However, starting in June, users will begin to pay for the energy consumed, as customers of the fast-charging stations of the Compañía Nacional de Fuerza y Luz (CNFL) – National Power and Light Company, an ICE subsidiary, already do.

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Despite the cost, the savings compared to the purchase of gasoline for combustion vehicles would be up to 75%, according to Roberto Quirós, coordinator of the ICE Electromobility Program.

According to Quirós, this charge will not generate a great impact among users, as many were already used to paying for the service at other stations.

“Until now, users have been used to not being charged in any of the semi-fast chargers. In the case of fast chargers, the CNFL had implemented it since the end of 2019, so for the vast majority of users it should not be anything new,” said Quirós.

Semi-fast chargers will continue to be free until an official rate is established by the regulatory body, the Autoridad Reguladora de los Servicios Públicos (Aresep), the same agency that regulates our electricity, gasoline, phone, and water rates, among public services.

In the case of fast-charging stations, the cost per kilowatt hour (kWh) is ¢182.72 colones.

The battery of a new electric car in Costa Rica can be around 40 kWh. In other words, to recharge those vehicles 100% at these stations, the cost would be ¢7,300 colones for a range of about 300 kilometers.

ICE installed 28 new fast-charging stations in the last year. Currently, charging is free, but users will have to start paying starting in June
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However, the rate to be implemented could undergo changes.

“Aresep has a rate per kilowatt hour, which was the one that began to run in 2019. Now it is also proposing one per time, which has not yet begun to be applied. That is precisely the work we have to do now as Grupo ICE, to be able to analyze which of the two we are going to use.

“The time rate rather seeks to encourage owners of electric vehicles to use chargers in the range of up to 80% of their load, where the power of a fast charger is maximized because after that the charge begins to be much slower.

“The idea is that the user does not charge up to 100% because it saturates the use of the chargers at very very low speeds. For that there are other types of chargers,” Quirós explained.

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Electric car owners typically charge their vehicles at home overnight, at a much lower fee. In the case of fast-charging stations, part of the rate is aimed at paying for the investment in that infrastructure.

In the last year alone, ICE installed 28 new fast-charging stations throughout the country, with the purpose of promoting electromobility and allowing the owners of these vehicles to circulate throughout the national territory without fear of running out of charge.

Payment method

ICE will enable a mobile application to pay the cost of recharges at its fast-charging stations. The app will accept debit or credit cards as a payment method.

Through their mobile phone, users will also be able to geolocate each of the electricity stations in the country, as well as see if they are available or occupied.

The idea, according to Quirós, is that the other distributors also join the application to establish a universal payment mechanism at any charging station in the national territory.

“Clients will have an app where they will be able to see if a charger is available or not, where they will be able to make the payment through that same application.

“For the user, it will be very easy to be in front of the charger, start the charging process and once it is finished, the same system will charge the user’s registered card and finally send the corresponding invoice to the account that the user determines on the app.

“That is the part that we are finishing, we are making the last computer adjustments. We are working with all the other distributors in the country so that we can all offer the same charge and collection management platform,” explained Quirós.

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