February 7, 2014
You'd think that your electric bill would go up after buying a car that charges using electricity, right? However, that's not always the case. One new Chevy Volt owner recently expressed great surprise over on a Chevy Volt forum after getting his Volt and then receiving an electric bill that was considerably lower than his normal bill. In this case, there seems to be one key reason why this happened, but there are several key changes that could result in essentially the same thing.
First, here's this new Volt owner's comment:
I purchased my Volt with the expectation that my gas savings would more than offset any increase in my electric bill. Weird thing is my electric bill has gone down and not up.
I never quantified how much changing all my lights to CFL would save, but apparently my lighting upgrades have more than offset charging the Volt every night. I’ve never gotten a good feeling from an electric bill before.
Chevy Volt; the gift that keeps on giving.
So, in this case, simply installing CFLs (which aren't even as efficient as LEDs) in place of all of the owner's outdated incandescents more than offset the electricity he was using to charge his Volt. That offers a bit of perspective about the electricity use of lights (probably greater than many of us think) and also about the electricity use of electric cars (probably less than many of us think). For some perspective, one forum member noted that his Volt consumes electricity "like a small bar fridge."
However, changing out your light bulbs isn't the only way to end up with a lower electricity bill after purchasing an electric car, as several other GM-Volt.com forum members commented.
For one, there's also often the option to switch to a "Time of Use" (ToU) electricity pricing plan that offers you cheaper electricity off peak (primarily at night) but more expensive electricity during times of peak demand (primarily in the middle of the day and early evening). This is easy for electric vehicle owners to take advantage of, since the middle of the night is a convenient time to charge and they can schedule their charging. It also helps utilities and the environment, as there's often electricity being produced at night that can't be used because demand is so low, whereas increasing electricity demand during the day generally means having to burn more natural gas and can put a lot of pressure on the grid.
In California, about 80% of EV drivers are on a ToU pricing plan [large PDF]. Indeed, respondents in the GM-Volt.com forum mentioned their ToU pricing plans as other ways they or their friends ended up with lower electricity bills after buying their Volts and Leafs.
Here's one comment from the forum:
I really didn’t notice any change when I first got my Volt. Then we went to a whole house TOU rate for EV owners. The drop was about 25% on average, adding to the savings I was seeing by not going to the gas station every week or two. Adding a second Volt didn’t even cause a ripple. All charging is done off-peak to maximize the savings.
A third major way in which EV owners can end up with lower (much lower) electric bills, as several forum members also noted, is by going solar. Driving on sunshine has many benefits of course, but a lower (or no) electric bill and great net financial savings is a key impetus that drives many to go solar. Here's a comment from another forum member about this, as well as the fact that there are many easy ways to conserve electricity once you start thinking about it:
Not really surprising. The Volt makes you think about kwh as a resource. Once you do that, you start seeing all the ways resources can be conserved. We were well down this path before we got the Volt. I have written a bunch of articles on such items. (ie, http://gm-volt.com/2013/04/16/new-le…evse-possible/) We now get paid by the utility for the annual excess of kwh that our solar produces. Unfortunately, they pay you at wholesale rates, so I now have very little incentive to see where any more kwh can be saved- at either home or office.
One of the great benefits of electric cars is actually that they turn people on to energy conservation, energy-efficient products, and solar power. Approximately 40% of California EV owners actually have solar power. (Of course, going solar also turns people on to buying electric cars. One recent survey I conducted indicated that about 86% of solar panel and electric car owners went solar first.)
Aside from the above, other suggestions for considerably reducing your electricity use include downsizing or buying a more efficient fridge; bundling up or taking off clothes in order to cut your use of electric heating (if you have that) or, conversely, air conditioning; using fans instead of air conditioning; line drying your clothes; sealing your home better; and painting your roof white. Of course, as TreeHugger readers, you've already done all of those things, right?