There’s been a lot of fuss lately over the structure of California’s electricity rates, and how they’ll affect EV drivers. The LA Times has specifically taken issue with the fact that we have a “tiered rate” structure, meaning the more electricity one consumes, the more expensive each kilowatt-hour becomes. Adding a vehicle into the mix would push the rest of the house into a higher rate tier. And that’s definitely a concern for some- it certainly was when I installed the charger for the Chevy Volt I’m currently driving. But like so many issues around electric vehicles, this reporter takes a fair question, overly simplifies it, and writes it up as if the sky is falling on EV drivers and we should all stick to the same gasoline cars that have gotten us where we are. Worse, she failed to do some basic homework. For years, every major utility in CA has at least one rate option for EV drivers, to encourage and reward nighttime charging (at which time we have enough excess capacity to charge millions of EVs with no new power plants of any kind needed.) Further, most EV drivers already can and do have separate meters for their vehicles, to exclude the car’s use from the tiered rate issue.
But let’s take the worst case scenario- that would be me. I live in a townhouse, and a separate meter turned out not to be feasible- which means I also can’t get the cheapest of the three rate options that Ed Kjaer of SCE mentioned in the article.
Month 1, I was on the most expensive rate (standard “residential plan”- tiered, but no time-of-use): my house and car usage together cost $83, with the car accounting for about $50 of that (1350 miles driven). My normal household consumption is low enough to normally keep us in tier 1. Adding the car pushed us into tier 3, but the result was hardly catastrophic.
Still, we knew we could lower that cost by switching to the middle rate (“home and EV plan”- whole-house TOU, still tiered): month 2 bill for house and car? $56.17, of which about $20 was the car. Bout the same mileage, including a trip to Vegas- so a higher percentage of gasoline miles than I’d normally have driven. It’s also worth noting that I work from home when I’m in town, so we have more on-peak usage- the most expensive type- than others typically do, especially in the afternoon when the boy gets home from school.
In each month I’ve also used eight or nine gallons of gas, so my total monthly fuel cost is currently about $50 on the newer rate- even with premium gas. In the little Saturn I’d otherwise have been driving, I’d have paid 3x that. And I’ve made no special effort with respect to how and when I charge my car- when I switched to the TOU rate, I took two minutes and programmed my car to charge between midnight and 6:00am (though it never needs that long). Otherwise, I simply plug in every night and it’s full in the morning.
It’s true that charging an EV in CA- or anywhere- can be expensive if you want it to be. I know of people who are paying 53 cents/kWh to charge their vehicles, because their residential consumption is high enough to put them in the highest tier to start with, and they don’t bother signing up for an EV rate or separate meter. And there is still work to be done with respect to refining rates and charger installation processes. But even today, with less effort than it takes to choose which EV to buy in the first place, charging a plug-in car is cheaper than buying gas, period.
PS- SCE customers who want to know exactly what a plug-in car will do to their electric bill can find out ahead of time with this handy-dandy rate calculator.