Tesla's, Chevy Volt, Bolt and BMW i3. A few of the models we’ve seen multiplying on our streets and highways.
Electric Vehicles (EVs) are becoming increasingly popular in the United States and ownership is expected to exponentially rise due to several factors.
First, EV ranges have dramatically increased while charging networks have proliferated. This has mitigated the dreaded ‘range anxiety’ early adopters often experienced.
Second, conscientious drivers concerned about global warming can participate in the energy transition from fossil fuels to clean electric energy powered by solar, wind, hydro and geo-thermal.
Finally, EV’s are substantially less expensive to operate than internal combustion cars since they require low-to-no maintenance and electricity is cheaper than petrol.
But how much less?
If you’re interested in purchasing an EV, you’ll need to test drive the latest models to experience their physical attributes, but a critical question in your decision will be how much do I actually save driving an EV?
And since EV ownership and solar go often go hand in hand, if you have or are interested in going solar, how any additional kWh will you need to generate to offset charging an EV at home?
Charging at Home
Rates vary depending on your utility and particular plan, but let’s use the average Southern California household rate of 25 cents/kWh. EVs on average get 3 miles per kWh. Therefore, if you drive 12,000 miles per year, you would pay $1000 per year or $83 per month.
12,000 miles / 3 kWh = 4,000 kWh per year x $.25 = $1000 per year
$1000 / 12 months = $83 per month
Those extra annual kWh needed to power your EV will show up on your utility bill.
In comparison, the cost of fueling a gas car -- even, one that gets 20 miles per gallon -- annually is approximately $2100 annually or about $175 per month.
Charging at Home with Solar
To be safe, you will need approximately 4,000-5,000 additional kWh to cover driving an EV 10,000-12,000 miles per year. If you are in the planning stage of going solar, then you can simply increase the size of the system to cover the additional energy expenditure of charging your EV. If you already have solar, it might make sense to add the appropriate number of panels to cover the extra energy.
Either way, solar will drastically lower the cost of EV charging, eventually to zero as you don’t pay for charging month after month after month.
One note: It may seem counterintuitive, but due to Time Of Use (TOU) rates that are increasingly used now by utilities, it probably still makes sense to charge at night when rates are the lowest.
It’s hard to estimate how much charging an EV away from home will cost. The rates vary across utilities, charging networks and types of chargers. Safe to say that it is less expensive to charge at home and that the faster the charge the more expensive the electricity is due to the demand costs. However, it seems that even if you only charged away from your home, it would still be significantly less than fueling a combustion car with gas.
More and more companies are offering free or low-cost charging stations to their employees. And the major charging networks like EVgo and ChargePoint offer discounted membership plans and rates.
Maintenance Costs or Lack Thereof
Since EVs are powered by batteries rather than combustion engines, there are far less maintenance costs. Combustion requires many more moving parts and it’s violent nature of thrust (explosion) leads to more corrosion of those parts. EVs only have 10% of the moving parts than that of a combustion engine. They don’t use spark plugs, fan belts, motor oil, etc and therefore don’t need their maintenance. Brakes, tires and windshield wipers are the only things that owners need to check and maintain. Depending on how much one drives, this only requires 1-2 services per year and those appointments tend to be much shorter.
Interestingly, it is one of the main reasons car manufacturers have been reluctant to transition to electric vehicle production as the car service industry represents an enormous revenue stream for them.
Bottomline: EV owners can expect $800 savings per year and far less time spent in the Service department lounge.
Your EV as Battery Back-up in the Near Future
In the not too distant future, EVs can and will be used as battery back-up and storage for your home. Many of the car companies are currently working on the technology that will allow this and they are predicting that a vehicle like the Audi E-Tron will power a single family home for about a week with a fully charged battery.
This will not only allow homeowners to power their home during an outage, but it will also store electricity generated inexpensively (by solar or the grid) during the day and then supply the house with electricity during peak hours at night when the cost is high.