How owning an electric car changed our life – in an important way we never expected.
Besides never buying gasoline again, we were looking forward to many years of giant-sized savings on car repairs.
- No oil changes, oil filter, oil leaks – not even a crankcase to put oil in.
- No gas tank, fuel pump, fuel filter, gas lines, gas leaks, or fuel injectors.
- No spark plugs or spark plug wires.
- No crankshaft, cam shaft, lifters, valves, or pistons.
- Not even a starter – just an on-off button.
- And the accelerator is actually a rheostat.
- And best of all, no exhaust emissions! No exhaust manifold, exhaust pipe, EGR valve, catalytic converter, muffler, or tailpipe.
But how much would it cost to keep our car charged? Paying for all the extra electricity we’d be using would surely cancel out a lot of what we planned to save at the gas pump and the repair shop. Right?
WRONG! Our electric bill for June, our first full month with the Leaf, was about half of last June’s bill.
Yes, we switched to an electric car and lowered our electric bill. Really!
Consumers Energy wants EV owners to charge their cars when electric demand is low, like the middle of the night, instead of during a ninety-degree weekday afternoon when businesses, factories, and homes crank up the air. This puts less stress on the electrical grid – an enormous efficiency benefit for Consumers.
Owning an EV made us eligible for Consumers’ special Plug-in Electric Vehicle (PEV) rates. We now get charged for electricity based on when we use it. June through September, we pay three different rates; the rest of the year, two.
Monday through Friday in the summer, our middle-of-the-night (11:00 PM to 7:00 AM) off-peak rate is a little more than half our mid-afternoon (2:00 PM to 6:00 PM) peak rate. The catch is, our four-hour-per-weekday peak rate is quite a bit higher than the normal 24-hour, seven-day flat rate.
Between the peak and off-peak periods, our morning and evening mid-peak rate is a little less than the normal 24-hour, seven-day flat rate.
Weekends and holidays, when business and factory demand falls off, we get the off-peak rate all day long.
Charging our Leaf only at the off-peak rate makes our electricity used per mile driven cost about a fifth of what we used to pay for gasoline per mile in the Buick we used to drive.
But that’s just the beginning!
NOTE: ANY CONSUMERS CUSTOMER CAN SWITCH TO TIME-OF-DAY RATES.
Although you won’t get as good a discount as Rebecca and I get as EV owners and senior citizens, you too can save on your electric bill by switching to the time-of-day plan and finagling your electric usage the way we do. Check with Consumers.
If you’re not a Consumers customer, it’s worth your while to find out if your electric utility has a similar plan – especially if you own a plug-in car.
You’ll need a smart meter, but you probably have one already.
If you’re wondering why EV owners get a slightly better price break, it’s because electric companies don’t sell gasoline. They want to encouraging everyone to run their cars on electricity!
All this has made us more conscious of our electricity use in general.
Some week-nights, we start the dishwasher at 11:00 and let it run while we sleep. That’s also when we start charging our battery-powered gadgets. And we don’t turn on our electric stove to start cooking dinner until 6:00 PM, when peak ends and mid-peak begins. All our yard equipment is electric – mower, string trimmer, hedge trimmer, leaf blower. Rebecca does all the yard work, and she’s almost always able to get it all done at the off-peak weekend rate. If laundry can’t wait until the weekend, we put our clothes in the washer at 11:00 at night and dry them the next morning.
We’ve stopped automatically flipping a light switch when we walk into a room. If we don’t need a light, we (usually) leave it off. (We still catch ourselves, and each other. “Do you need this light?” really means “Turn this light off!”) When our TV is off, it’s all the way off – the “instant-on” is off, and the cable and Roku boxes are off.
But… Has owning an electric car changed our life permanently? Yes. Was June just a fluke? It doesn’t look like it. Our July and August electric bills were about 25-30% lower than last year – not as dramatic as the 50% difference in June, but way better than the increase we expected. Still, it’s hard to say how much difference the winter rates will make.