Texas Energy Provider Gives Free Power at Night to Electric Car Owners

By · July 31, 2013

TXU Free Nights EV

TXU's Free Nights plan allows some plug-in owners to drive almost entirely for free.

A Dallas-based energy provider, TXU Energy, is giving away power to electric car drivers. In its Free Nights promotion program, quietly started last year, EV owners receive all their electricity absolutely free, if plugged in between the hours of 10 pm and 6 am. That’s right, folks: free fuel for an electric car.

Under the program, TXU Energy gives consumers the option to sign up for a cost structure similar to many early cell phone plans: households pay more for daytime power than they would under some other plans offered by TXU and its competitors, but charging after 10 pm means free electrons.

Wind energy is the key. The state of Texas has more than twice the wind energy generation capacity of any other state. But at night, a time when consumers in Texas consume just 25 percent of their total electrical demand for the day, wind production is at its peak. So what to do with all of that excess production? For TXU Energy, a seller that claims to serve more customers in more Texas cities than any other retailer, the answer is to give it away.

No Cost Per Mile

The Texas energy market differs from many other markets because it's set up to allow consumers to choose from a variety of retailers that act as middlemen—between the utilities that generate the state’s electricity and the businesses and households that use it.

There is much debate over whether or not these kinds of policies save consumers money. Nonetheless, they certainly lead to plans tailored specifically for certain consumption patterns. TXU’s Free Nights program is one such plan, and though it wasn’t necessarily created with electric car drivers in mind, it offers this potential boon: zero cost to power an electric car.

According to most estimates, 80 percent or more of EV charging happens at home, and the vast majority of that charging takes place at night. Many utilities in states like California, Oregon and Hawaii offer special time-of-use rates catering specifically to plug-in owners, but TXU is the only provider currently offering free power.

While this wouldn’t necessarily be the cheapest option for the average Texan, for plug-in owners, the plan represents the ideal scenario in a cost-of-fuel analysis: free. (It’s a satisfaction otherwise experienced only by EV drivers with home renewable energy generation.)

Wind-Powered Cars

“I don’t know that I’m saving overall on my monthly bill since I switched over, but I just couldn’t resist the idea of driving my LEAF for free,” said Jason Meador, an Arlington-based EV owner who uses his car to commute to his job at Trend Offset Printing in Carrollton, Tex. Meador told Plugincars.com that he switched over last year after purchasing his Nissan LEAF in 2011, allured by the prospect of being able to say that he drives his car for free. “I think the savings in charge costs comes to about $40 to 60 per month,” Meador said. Those savings are made more impressive when tacked onto the hundreds of dollars in gasoline costs that plug-in owners dodge each month.

Juan Elizondo, a TXU spokesperson, told PluginCars.com that Free Nights is just one of many options that TXU gives customers based on their needs, including plans offering as much as 100-percent wind-generated electricity. TXU said that potential customers are walked through the process of calculating which plan is best for them by phone operators based on past energy use. The company gets hundreds of calls per day from people asking about Free Nights.

Elizondo said he regularly uses plug-in vehicles from TXU’s corporate fleet to travel to events in the area, and that TXU is looking for more ways to participate in the plug-in market. The energy retailer donated a total of 11 plug-ins, and installed 10 free charging stations at public facilities in the city of Dallas, and is working to install further infrastructure in Fort Worth.

While TXU wasn’t able to say how much wind energy actually goes into the Free Nights program—it varies depending upon each customer’s location—any area with a surplus of cheap nighttime energy makes for an attractive market for EV drivers. With wind levels often hitting their peak during overnight hours in Texas, the case for more plug-ins (and more wind generation) is strong in the state—and anywhere else in the country where the wind blows.

Comments

· · 1 year ago

The is great!

I would like to go on a small tangent though with this question: Why is TXU not investing in energy storage? As the US moves to more renewable energy like wind and solar, power companies will need to focus less on power production and more on power storage.

· · 1 year ago

/sigh

^This is great!

· · 1 year ago

This of course, depends on how much they've raised their daytime rates over the past 5 years, to see how much of a bargain this really is.

· · 1 year ago

No wonder there is a shortage of Leaf in the Dallas area.

If the Leaf doesn't sell with all those discount, then nothing will....

· · 1 year ago

Actually, this should attract any BEV with large batteries such as Tesla.

@ 10KW, between 10pm and 6am, that is a good 8 hours of charging for at least 65KWh into the battery for free!

· · 1 year ago

Since they're giving all electricity free during those hours, and not just for car charging, I wonder if the power company gets suspicious when they see 20 extension cords going to the house from any of the neighbors reasonably close by?

· · 1 year ago

That is awesome. A great way to get some attention and get some people interested in getting EVs. I'm surprised more utilities don't do promotions like this. EVs that charge up at night can eventually be big profit-centers for them because they have excess capacity at night that they could really use EV customers for.

· · 1 year ago

As a Texas resident who is interested in buying a Chevy Volt, I have been looking into these programs. Yes, the nights are free but the daytime rate is 18.9¢/kWh in Houston and 18.5¢/kWh in Dallas. Even though I average 50 miles a day, my office is at home and I run the air conditioning all day. Compared to a flat 12¢/kWh plan, the amount I would save at night would be half the extra it would cost me during the day. These types of plans will not be worth it until they can bring the daytime rates closer to the flat rates.

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