If You Own an Electric Vehicle, Plan Your Charging Session to Save More

The big picture sold to many with an electric vehicle purchase includes reduced expenses over some time. If you’re part of the American population that bought 1.4 million electric vehicles, you may have experienced sticker shock after the first month of EV charging. It likely brought a higher energy bill than expected.

Adding an EV to your electricity load and driving an average of 40 miles a day could increase energy bills by 30% to 65% in California, depending on whether you charge your vehicles during off-peak or peak hours, according to Mark Rawson, senior vice president of strategy and partnerships at (an EV charging optimization platform for utilities and fleets). 

This added expense on your electricity bill replaces your weekly trips to the gas station, but you’re potentially losing out on savings if you don’t shop around for energy plans. Here’s what EV owners and those interested in EVs should know about shopping for an electric plan that works best for them.

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How owning an EV changes your power consumption

Charging your vehicle at home could increase your electric bill significantly: Charging your vehicle at home during peak rate times with a typical Level 2 EV charger is “the equivalent of adding a whole new home” to your energy bill, Rawson said.

To reduce these costs, it’s essential to figure out how much you’ll need to charge your vehicle, how often you’ll plug in and when you’ll charge. Pushing your charging schedule to off-peak hours, ideally overnight when demand for electricity falls, will lessen the impact of adding an EV to your power load. There’s also the matter of choosing an energy plan that works in your favor.

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How to know if you have a choice in energy plans

Depending on where you live, you may be able to choose who supplies the electricity that powers your home (including renewable options), although your utility will still be locked in across most states. This is called energy deregulation, and these options are only available in some form in 18 states and the District of Columbia. For a full list of what states currently offer energy choices to consumers, check out this CNET guide.

Even if you don’t live in a deregulated state, Rawson said it’s still a good idea to visit your energy utility’s website and see if it offers any options or plans to EV owners. Since EVs place a heavy burden on the grid, state governments and electric utilities may offer incentives to encourage you to charge your EV during off-peak hours.

What kind of electricity plan should you consider if you have an EV?

For those who do live in a deregulated state, it may be time to go shopping. Depending on your state, comparing plans from different energy suppliers could be as simple as pulling up a website. In other places, you may have to gather quotes or rely on third-party aggregators to comparison shop.

In either case, electric plans mostly come in two flavors: fixed or variable. With the former, you’ll be locked into one price per kilowatt-hour up to a certain number of kilowatt-hours. If you need to charge your EV frequently, at all hours of the day, you may be better served with a fixed-rate plan that won’t offer you much in terms of potential savings but will be predictable.

Most EV owners will likely want to consider a variable-rate plan, which charges different rates for electricity based on what time of day it is, affecting how much demand is being placed on the grid. For example, prices will typically be highest during the after-work rush (Say, 3 p.m. to 8 p.m.), and cheapest during the night when most people are asleep. If you could push your charging to that time, you can save money on your energy bill.

Dynamic rate plans turn energy shopping into a sort of live market, but these plans are typically reserved for commercial consumers such as factories.

What to know before choosing an energy plan

Consumers should exercise caution when shopping for an energy plan. Some bad actors offer what seem like great rates at first, only to jack up prices after the end of a promotional period. This should all be laid out in the plan’s fine print, so review any contract carefully before signing. You’ll also want to steer clear of plans that charge egregious fees on top of the kilowatt-hour price. As a general rule, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. 

For EV owners, Rawson offers some questions to consider to get the best deal: How much will you drive every day? Will you need to recharge daily? How much do you need to charge? What does that translate to in terms of kilowatt-hours? These things can be hard to nail down at the onset, but you can make estimates based on your current driving and the average energy requirements of the EV you have your eye on.

“Once they get their hands around what their energy needs are,” Rawson said, “they can start to look at what’s offered by the utility to know what the implications are, and when they should be charging, and what the cost impact will be to charging in those periods.”

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