Your EV Electric Bill May Vary
The most popular questions around buying an electric vehicle center on the upfront cost of the vehicle, the adequacy of the driving range, and the effective miles-per-gallon rating. But an equally important question has yet to be fully answered: How will plugging in every day impact your electric bill?
As with many questions, there isn't a simple answer.
Nissan Leaf owners, for example, will pay different amounts depending on their utilities, even if they consume the same amount of power as other drivers. The price of electricity varies widely from state to state, but that aside, the rate programs offered by utilities can have a significant impact on the cost of electricity.
Time-of-use rates, which charge consumers significantly more (as high as 10x) per kWh during peak times for any household energy use, are available in some areas of the country. Many utilities are also developing EV specific rates to encourage plugging in overnight. One utility is Southern California Edison, which recently added videos and the Plug-in Car Rate Assistant, a useful tool on its website explaining its EV rate options.
Consumers can select options such as their type of vehicle (EV or plug-in); average amount of energy consumed when charging; and peak versus off peak charging. The tool then selects the most appropriate of SCE's three rate options. Switching to the EV rate can save consumers as much as $500 or more, but also requires the installation (at a cost) of a second meter.
Some utilities such as Pacific Gas and Electric offer tiered rates where customers who use more energy in a month pay higher rates per kWh, so there's the possibility that plugging in could bump customers into the next tier for all of their household electricity use. EV owners in these service territories have a strong incentive to sign up for EV-specific programs.
Avoiding peak times when charging will save money for consumers, but even paying the highest rates is still much cheaper than lining up at the pump. Will consumers who are cutting their "fuel" costs by up to 75 percent put off charging until late evenings to save a dollar or two? The utilities sure hope so.
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