You know that charging your electric vehicle takes planning, but did you also know that there can be a strategy to scheduling your charging? If you’re interested in saving money on utilities and using more clean energy for your vehicle, follow our guide for finding the best time to charge your electric vehicle.
Take Advantage of Off-Peak Rates When Charging Your Electric Vehicle
With the market for electric cars on the rise, utility companies run the risk of being overwhelmed with a new demand for electricity. For example, a Nissan LEAF needs roughly 3,200 kilowatt-hours of electric power to cover the 11,300 miles of driving the average American does each year. That translates to a 30 percent increase in an average EV driver’s household electricity consumption!
To manage the increased demand for electricity and avoid a power grid shut down, many utility companies are trying to incentivize electric vehicle owners to charge their cars during off-peak hours.
Related Article: HEV vs BEV vs PHEV: Which Electric Vehicle Type Is Better?
Peak vs. Off-Peak Utility Hours
Surely you’ve noticed that some months you consistently use more electricity than others, like during winter and summer. That’s due to the increased heating and cooling needed to stay cozy and comfortable. These seasons are an example of peak utility times. Peak hours are simply times when demand and consumption of electricity are at their highest.
Winter and summer are peak seasons, but there are also peak days of the week and hours of the day! Peak hours can vary slightly depending on where you live, a rural area may differ from an urban one, for example. But here is a general rule of thumb for peak utility times:
- Early morning, from about 7-11 a.m.
- Evenings, from 5-8 p.m.
- Mondays through Fridays are peak days of the week
In contrast, off-peak hours are when the demand and consumption of electricity are the lowest. Surprisingly, weekends and holidays fall into this category, and midnight through 5 a.m. is consistently off-peak across the board.
Fixed-Rate vs. Variable-Rate Plan
When you first sign up or enroll in a utility plan, you are typically placed on a fixed-rate plan unless you go out of your way to ask for a variable plan. On a fixed-rate plan, your price charged per kilowatt-hour remains the same throughout your entire contract period. This keeps things steady and helps you with budgeting. However, if you’d like to take more control and possibly save a significant amount on your electricity bill then a variable-rate plan is advantageous. On a variable-rate plan, your charging rate can change on a monthly basis based on market costs.
Commonly called Time-of-Use plans or Smart Hours, these off-peak rate programs encourage EV users to shift away from using energy during prime hours, which span from roughly mid-afternoon to late evening. Instead, they support overnight charging. In some instances, because demand for utilities is lowest, charging in the middle of the night can be quite affordable!
How Much Can I Save By Charging My Electric Vehicle During Off-Peak Hours?
To take advantage of off-peak hours, you’ll switch to a time-of-use plan and this bill is a bit more complex to calculate than your standard-rate bill but follows a similar process:
- Instead of multiplying your total monthly usage by your single electricity rate, you now must multiply the amount of electricity consumed during certain hours of the day by the rate specific to those hours.
- Each utility company sets its own rates for peak/off-peak hours, but the difference easily can be $0.05/kWh.
- In reality, these differences mean that consumers may see immediate savings on their monthly electric bills without changing their behavior, while others will see increased bills without adjusting their electricity usage habits.
So, when is the best time to charge an electric vehicle? That’s a no-brainer for electric vehicle drivers who charge an electric car at home- the answer is definitely overnight during off-peak hours! Have an electric vehicle charging station at your workplace? Consider plugging in during the early afternoon hours that are also often categorized as off-peak in many regions.
Unfortunately, not all utility companies offer off-peak rates. However, San Francisco, Atlanta, Los Angeles, San Diego, Seattle, and Portland are some of the top-ranked cities in terms of electric vehicle use and they all offer some sort of Time-of-Use plan. To get a snapshot of possible savings, let’s look at some examples from these cities:
- In San Francisco (PG&E), an average EV driver charging exclusively during peak times would pay about $330 in utilities annually. Whereas, charging only during off-peak hours would cost roughly $100.
- PG&E’s Time-of-Use rate is known as the “E-9 rate” and is mandatory for those customers that are currently on a 120 volts residential electric rate and who plan on refueling an EV at home. The rate is as low as 5 cents/kWh and as high as 28 cents/kWh depending on the time of day, day of the week, and time of year.
- In Atlanta (Georgia Power), an average EV driver charging exclusively during peak times would pay about $300 in utilities annually. In contrast, charging only during off-peak hours would cost roughly $130.
- In L.A. (SCE), an average EV driver charging exclusively during peak times would pay about $240 in utilities annually. Whereas, charging only during off-peak hours would cost about $115.
Some utility companies offer better rates for EV charging, it varies depending on location. Rates are not dependent on your charge speed or car battery. Whether you own a Tesla model or Mitsubishi, taking advantage of off-peak hours can save you a significant amount annually, so that is absolutely the best time to charge your electric vehicle if you want to save money.
There are several ways to charge your EV during off-peak hours, but you need to know what type of charger may be the best option for your situation. To learn more, check out What Are the Different Types of Charging Stations for Electric Vehicles?
How to Schedule Your EV Charge Time
So, you want to start a new routine and begin charging at home during off-peak hours only. But old habits die hard and life is hectic! How will you ever remember or stay consistent? You know it’s important, now that your utility bill is variable and will completely depend on your time of use.
Luckily, most electric vehicles have scheduled charge time. This means the vehicle won’t turn on the charger until the scheduled time, making it easier for you to build a new routine and take advantage of off-peak rates.
How Does Scheduling Charge Time For Your EV Work?
Electric Vehicles nowadays are smart! EV charging applications most commonly let EV owners set a certain number of hours to charge, and when they want to start and stop charging every day. In addition, there are available APIs and EV charging apps that can:
- Allow the vehicle owners to select the latest time by which their vehicle must reach a full battery.
- Based on the car owner’s selection, monitor electricity rates and/or renewable energy supply.
- Check the vehicle’s current State of Charge (SOC) and how long it will take to charge fully
- Automatically start and stop charging at the most convenient times.
In addition, electric vehicles all have a checklist that checks the state of the battery (ensure it’s within specs) and gives the green light between the vehicle and the charging station to turn on the charger.
Scheduling Charging for Commercial Use
If you are a forward-thinking business owner or manager of a large corporation that wants to install a fleet of charging stations, you’ll definitely want to control how that affects your utility bills moving forward. Providing the convenience of EV charging at work for your employees is a valuable perk, but it shouldn’t bury you in new utility fees.
The solution? Access control features using software and/or an RFID key fob/card fob. RFID card/fob access or access through a phone app can be distributed to whoever is authorized to use the charging station and can allow or restrict access to the charging station. You could allow access for 30 minutes or provide enough charge for 100 miles, it’s all up to you. The software gives you more control over how often or what times of day people can use the charging stations.
Related Article: How Long Does It Take to Charge an Electric Vehicle Battery?
The Best Time to Charge to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions
So far, we’ve primarily focused on the best time to charge your EV to save money. But most EV drivers are also concerned about reducing their carbon footprint. As it turns out, the best time to charge and save money is not always the same as the best time to charge utilizing the cleanest energy and reducing the use of greenhouse gases.
Charging EVs at off-peak times can be worse from a GHG point of view because there is likely to be more coal-fired power at off-peak times. In terms of clean energy, the best time to charge your EV is typically midday for sunny climates and overnight in the Midwest.
In places like California, charging overnight can be much worse for the climate than charging midday because solar energy powers the electric grid throughout the day. However, for New York, charging your EV overnight reduces emissions by 20% compared to charging during daytime hours. Why? Because nuclear and hydropower make up the majority of power on the grid overnight.
If your aim is to do your part to end climate change and use the cleanest energy possible, try doing some research about what energy sources your utility runs on and when. Sending a quick email inquiry can be an easy way to get answers. Then you might try to strike a balance between maximizing clean energy use and saving money when you schedule charging for your electric vehicle.
Want to learn more about the best EV charging stations and accessories? Contact our team to start a conversation today! We work with companies that are ready to take the next step into better business with climate-conscious, energy-efficient solutions.