Eight Ways to Save Money With an Electric Car

By · March 18, 2014

Electric cars are high-tech driving machines. As such, they often carry a higher upfront cost compared to similar gas-powered cars. But putting one in your driveway gives you a powerful economic tool to lower daily operating expenses, and thereby recoup that initial investment. In fact, driving electric is about three times cheaper per mile than gas. Here are eight ways for you to save money with an EV.

1Avoid the Pumps

The cost of a gallon of gas, over the past five years, has hovered between $3.50 and $4.00 a gallon. Compare how far that gallon will take you with the efficient mileage from a kilowatt-hour of electric juice—which commonly costs about $0.12 a kWh. The electric car is the clear economic winner. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that owners of the Nissan LEAF and Chevy Volt, for example, will respectively save $550 and $950 a year in fuel costs—when compared to a 23-mpg gas car driven 15,000 miles.

2Switch to Time-of-Use Utility Rates

If you could reduce the cost of home electricity even further, then your annual electric bill for your electric car will logically also drop. This is not a pipe dream. Many utilities offer special time-of-use rate plans for EV owners, to encourage charging in the middle of the night when the grid has a surplus of energy. Pricing varies across the country but a quick rule-of-thumb is that signing up for one of these EV TOU plans—and making sure to only charge when the rates are cheapest—can slice your electric car fueling prices at least in half. Call your local utility to inquire about time-of-use plans.

3Buy Home Solar

Installation of home solar power, in recent years, has gone from a niche west coast phenomenon to a mainstream trend. What held back many homeowners was the long payback period to recoup the upfront cost of buying solar panels. Consumers didn’t want to wait decades before the investment was covered, and the solar panels could start generating home power—free and clear.

Creative financing packages, with little or no money down on solar panels, were a big help. And now homeowners with home solar can see an even faster return if they drive an electric car. Here’s why: with the combo of EV and PV (photovoltaics), the ROI calculation is not about comparing grid-electricity versus solar-electricity. It’s about replacing $4 gas with much cheaper power for your car provided by your solar panels—even when the cost includes your investment in solar panels. And when the panels are paid for, your vehicle fuel will be generated on your roof at no additional cost, courtesy of the sun.

4Charge for Free, in Public

In this early phase of the public charging industry, many EV fueling spots are absolutely free. While some of those locations are shifting to a fee basis, other spots will continue to remain free—as an incentive offered by car dealerships or local retailers. Tesla has a long-term commitment to offering free charging at its highway-based Supercharger locations. Considering the low cost of electricity—and the desirability of attracting EV owners as customers—free charging is unlikely to go away anytime soon. Most electric car charging takes place at home, but free power for your car at a public stations (as long as it lasts) is a nice added perk.

5Charge for Free, at Work

For the same reason that some carmakers and retailers are offering free public charging, progressive employers and home property owners are setting up low-cost and no-cost charging stations. Happy employees reduce costly worker turnover. Grateful renters help maintain occupancy rates. And the installation of EV chargers for zero-emission cars helps establish green cred for all kinds of businesses. If you’re lucky enough to benefit from this kind of enlightened patronage, you are saving even more money in EV operating costs.

6Pay Flat Monthly Fee for Charging

The vast majority of EV owners want to pay for electric fuel by the kilowatt-hour—rather than by a per-charge or per-hour basis. After all, it’s only fair that you pay for the usable amount of energy you receive, just like you pay a set price for a gallon of gasoline. However, the eVgo charging network and a few utility companies offer a flat monthly fee for charging. For example, in Texas, for $29.95 a month, eVgo will install and maintain your home charging equipment and provide “all you can eat” charging. An additional $20 a month grants unlimited access to public Level 2 and DC Fast Charging stations.

At first blush, that doesn’t sound like a great deal—but when you deduct the cost of the charging station, and if you are a long-distance commuter that puts 1,500 or miles per month on your car, a flat fee can save you money. It also takes the guesswork out of monthly fuel costs. Based on our back-of-envelope calculations, $50 a month for 1,500 miles of fuel pencils out to a little more than three cents a mile. The cost to fuel a 30-mpg car for that same distance, at $3.50 a gallon, is $175. That leaves $125 in your pocket every month.

7Lower Your Maintenance Costs

EVs benefit from not requiring oil changes or other maintenance costs for exhaust systems. Studies have shown that this represents a 35 percent decrease in cost over time. Some calculations peg this to about 3 or 4 cents per mile of maintenance cost in an EV versus closer to 6 cents in an internal combustion car.

8Ditch Internal Combustion Entirely

Given all these economic advantages of an EV over an internal combustion car, why would you want one of those gas-thirsty money-draining monstrosities around? Some EV owners keep one, just in case you need to go on a road trip, requiring long distances and quick fill-ups.

On the other hand, the growth of car sharing and ride sharing services makes it easy to augment the EV in your driveway with the occasional gas-powered road trip. A number of car companies, like BMW and Fiat, are offer car rental vouchers for its EV owners. And the emergence of robust, extensive fast charging networks—like Tesla’s Superchargers—makes it possible to go petroleum-free.

What Are You Waiting For?

You know that liberating feeling when you unsubscribe to the cable television, land line or home security service that costs money every month, but you almost never use? That’s what you’ll feel when finally ditch your gas car.

New to EVs? Start here

  1. Seven Things To Know About Buying a Plug-In Car
    A few simple tips before you visit the dealership.
  2. Incentives for Plug-in Hybrids and Electric Cars
    Take advantage of credits and rebates to reduce EV costs.
  3. Buying Your First Home EV Charger
    You'll want a home charger. Here's how to buy the right one.