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Electric Vehicle Owners Could Have Charged Up at Half the Cost in 2013 with Smart Rate Options

Marcella Bondie Keenan and Katrina Lewis contributed to this blog post. Marcella is the policy fellow at Elevate Energy and Katrina was a 2014 policy intern.

Own an electric vehicle? You could have saved up to 45 percent on the cost of charging your vehicle last year, all by simply changing your electricity rate option. In some instances, you could have even been paid to charge your car.

Electricity Rate Options

How exactly does an electricity rate option help electric vehicle (EV) owners save on fuel? EV owners, like all electricity consumers, have the option to choose between a fixed rate,  an hourly rate, or a time of use rate. On a standard fixed rate option, the cost of power never changes throughout the day. However, electricity actually costs different prices at different times.

Two other rate options take advantage of this variability, meaning that when consumers use electricity is just as important as how much they use. The hourly rate option lets consumers pay the variable wholesale market rate for power, meaning that electricity could cost less than the fixed rate at off-peak times. Typically, hourly prices dip at night, when owners often plug in and charge their electric vehicles. The time of use (TOU) rate option offers different prices during specific blocks of time when demand is typically lowest and highest.

Elevate Energy administers the state’s two hourly pricing programs, ComEd Residential Real-Time Pricing (RRTP) and Ameren Illinois Power Smart Pricing. The two programs serve over 23,000 homes, and have saved customers more than $22 million since 2007. Using actual 2013 data and prices, we’ve calculated how much EV owners would have saved last year if they had used time of use or hourly pricing rate options to charge their car instead of the standard fixed rate option.

EV Owners Could Get Paid to Charge Their Vehicles

Our analysis found that EV owners could have saved 45 percent by switching from ComEd’s fixed rate option to the RRTP hourly pricing rate option. Switching from the same ComEd fixed rate option to a TOU rate option would have saved EV owners 38 percent. Likewise, EV owners could have saved 29 percent switching from Ameren’s fixed rate option to the Power Smart Pricing hourly rate option.

Why the large savings potential for EV owners? Typically, hourly prices dip at night, when an EV is often in the garage being charged. Wholesale electricity prices sometimes even fall below zero – so EV owners could actually get paid to charge their vehicles. The extra electricity used in fueling an electric vehicle won’t make hourly pricing a bad option. In fact, our analysis shows that larger residential users are actually more likely to save by using hourly pricing. This is because larger users are less impacted by fixed charges, and also use more electricity during the off-peak months of the year.

To learn more about saving on an hourly pricing program, check out ComEd’s EV Cost Calculator and Ameren Illinois’s Charging Time & Fuel Cost Comparison.

Image from Flickr user Kārlis Dambrāns.

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