Are you considering the purchase of an electric car or plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV)? If so, you might be able to save more money on the electricity you use to charge your car than you think. It all depends on where you live and how your electric utility company bills its customers for power – flat rate or tiered rates.
Unfortunately for many U.S. consumers, there isn’t an option to save because their electric utility only offers flat-rate billing. This means that no matter how much electricity you use, you pay a set price per Kilowatt-hour. But electric vehicle owners living in urban areas often are served by utilities that have tiered pricing. With tiered pricing, the pricing of the electricity depends on the time of day you use it. Also, some utility companies offer additional discount rate plans for the owners of electric vehicles or plug-in hybrid vehicles.
In Search of the Cheapest Charge
Finding the cheapest power for your plug-in car isn’t like shopping around for cheap gas. You’re stuck with the utility that serves your home or workplace and the rates it charges. But if there is a choice of tiered plan, knowing which to pick can mean hundreds of dollars a year in electricity bill savings. The right plan in some areas can mean the difference between paying 10 cents and paying 35 cents per kilowatt-hour of electricity.
Call the Utility First
If you are considering a plug-in vehicle, like the Chevrolet Volt, the sales staff at Hoffman, a Hagerstown, MD – based Chevrolet and Cadillac dealer, suggest the best way to find out whether your electric provider has any special rate plans is simply to make a phone call. The utilities that have electric vehicle rates usually have trained personnel to explain them. However, amazingly, a sizable number of plug-in car owners haven’t made that call. A recent California survey by the California Center for Sustainable Energy found that about a third of that state’s owners of plug-in vehicles aren’t using the electricity rate plan that could save them the most money!
First of all, it really doesn’t matter to the utility whether you are charging at 120 volts or on a faster 240-volt charging station (also known as Level 2 charging). The cost of power is the same at whichever level you choose to charge. The issue is how your utility bills. If your utility has tiered pricing, the difference is usually in the time of day the vehicle is charging.
Charge at the best time
Your utility will explain that they typically divide the day into various “peak,” “mid-peak” and “off-peak” blocks of time, charging more for power that’s used when demand is high and less for low-demand periods. Off-peak blocks are typically very late at night, such as the midnight to 6 a.m. bargain-charging period. Mid-peak periods are typically early morning and late evening hours. You want to set your car charger to kick on when the rates are the cheapest. It’s actually pretty simple and it’s amazing more people don’t take advantage of this tiered pricing discount
Don’t be in the third of the population that charges their electric vehicle at the wrong time. It’s just too easy to set the charger to charge at night. Over the period of a year, you may save over $100 or more.