Hooniverse Asks: Do You Know Someone With an Electric Car? Is Their Electric Bill Through the Roof?

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Some people say that it’s money that makes the world go around, but I think we can all agree that it’s really energy that’s keeping the planet humming. After all, you usually need to spend money to procure energy, and for most of us at least it takes energy to make money.
It takes energy to move around too, and we are in a unique time in history when one energy source is fading from favor while another is rising to replace it. For the longest time there was no better energy storage medium for personal transportation than a gallon of gasoline. It is compact, relatively lightweight, offers satisfactorily low levels of volatility while still providing about the biggest bang for your buck, and has an entire infrastructure supporting it. The downside is that, seeing it’s made out of million year old plants and animals, there’s only so much of it around, and getting to the dregs will become increasingly more expensive.
An alternative is electricity, but until recently storage mediums for electrons haven’t been able to match their gasoline, diesel, or even CNG counterparts for BTU per pound. That’s changing, and it’s driving more and more people away from traditional internal combustion engine-powered cars to plug-in hybrids and full electric cars. Those who have made the switch can cut up their gas company credit cards as they will no longer need them. They will however, need to adopt a closer relationship with their home electricity service provider as they now have an electrical appliance that uses a lot of juice. The money previously spent on gas will now be spent on kilowatts. That’s just what we’re interested in today: have you or anyone you know rocked down to electric avenue? Has it taken your electric bill higher?
Image: jclao.com

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  1. Sjalabais Avatar
    Sjalabais

    A friend of mine is raving on about the low cost of operating his Tesla: Average price per kWh in Norway this year is 10.3 US cent. The P85 has 85 kWh, with 10% charger losses and about half the battery used in everyday driving that would work out to about 5$ per night or 25$ per work week. Unless I’m doing the math wrong, that’s really negligible. Even less of a financial issue is the strategy of my co-workers with Leaf’s who charge their cars for free at the municipal charging stations just outside our offices.

    1. dukeisduke Avatar
      dukeisduke

      10.3 cents isn’t so bad, but I’m paying 6.7 on my latest contract (Amigo Energy).

      1. Sjalabais Avatar
        Sjalabais

        That’s a good price – is that with everything included? There is variation in the national average though. The actual price for electricity is only about a third of the final number, but they have .287 NOK in the 2016 average while I pay .125 NOK, about .15$; I live in a hydropower region and with all the rain we’ve had energy is super cheap right now.

        1. dukeisduke Avatar
          dukeisduke

          The 6.7 cents is the total kWh price. Electricity was deregulated here in Texas years ago, so providers compete for business, usually on six-, 12- or 24-month contracts.

    2. nanoop Avatar
      nanoop

      Road tolls are waived here for electric cars, this alone more than compensates the electricity bills.

      1. Sjalabais Avatar
        Sjalabais

        There are so many benefits…in island communities like Austevoll, more than half the cars are now battery powered: They travel on ferries for free, guaranteeing sizable deficits for the ferry operators. Free parking, VAT and tax freedom upon purchase, allowance to use bus and 2+ lanes…etc.

  2. Krautwursten Avatar
    Krautwursten

    The German energy transition has turned into a complete failure and electricity is now so expensive that charging an electric car at home comes out at a energy source price per distance that’s roughly equal to an Autogas (LPG) conversion and only slightly below a fuel saving diesel.

    1. Dabidoh_Sambone Avatar
      Dabidoh_Sambone

      I want to see where you obtained this data – not that I don’t believe you, but that I feel invested in Germany’s success with solar energy. It’s really compelling as one flies into Munich and views the sea of azure blue panels blanketing roofs as far as the eye can see. Germany’s push into solar happened when it the cost per KwH was quite high. If they hadn’t taken that bullet for the rest of the world, I don’t think we’d be where we are today.

      1. nanoop Avatar
        nanoop

        It’s well perceivable as a failure when subsidized solar energy and subsizied electric cars still don’t make it beyond a peculiarity in a country that takes pride in its automotive engineering and eco technology. The discipline among car manufacturers (working politicians since eight or nine decades) and large scale energy providers (the German network is owned by basically four companies, with regional defacto monopoly, with comparable leverage on politicians) is a good demonstration of working lobbyism.
        /tinfoil hat off and out

        1. Sjalabais Avatar
          Sjalabais

          A couple of years ago, an acquaintance was in on a group who bought and set up a wind mill for 2 mill €uro, 90+% debt financed, with a business plan that was firm on black numbers from month 24. That is madness. I have no idea how it went though, and how pilicy has developed. All wind farms in Norway seem to run a deficit.

    2. Van_Sarockin Avatar
      Van_Sarockin

      That hasn’t been my observation, on the multiple occasions I’ve been in Germany. And every German I’ve spoken to about the energy transition has been highly supportive of it. I have seen a number of critical Spiegel articles, much of which is based on highly selective choice and framing of tightly cropped data. And the worst reading of your post is that electricity for autos is no more expensive than other fueling options. And folks who did the propane conversion think they’re making out like bandits, compared to gasoline.

    3. crank_case Avatar
      crank_case

      It’s great that Germany is adopting more renewables, and I think if any country can figure it out, it’s Germany, but the closure of nuclear plants did seem like a knee-jerk reaction to Fukishima.

      1. Kelly Avatar
        Kelly

        I felt the same. “The Japanese made a big mistake, and something awful happened. We are not smart enough to learn from their mistake, and we are not capable of becoming smart enough to handle the challenges that come with the advantages. Guess we’ll just have to give up.”

  3. Van_Sarockin Avatar
    Van_Sarockin

    I can’t recall any of my friends who have electric cars complaining, or even mentioning, their electric bills. So, I’d say it’s essentially a trivial issue, and not more expensive than buying gas would be. At least one of those folks has solar panels on their house, which they mention being thrilled with (and saving them a bunch of money) fairly often.

    1. neight428 Avatar
      neight428

      They may be in a net metering jurisdiction where the utility is required to buy back the solar generated kWh’s. It can be a decent deal for the end consumer, but only through mandated subsidies and programs. The utilities have a heck of a time designing the grids for peak needs that vary with the distributed generation that happens where you have roof top solar. The actual fuel (coal, gas, nuke, whatever) burned by the utility is a relatively minor part of the cost of the bill these days, the cost of the distribution network and generation equipment is what drives your bill, and those have to be in place and ready to run if the utility’s customers need max power when the sun isn’t shining. There are many billions of dollars out there chasing a solution to all of this, though the cynic in me thinks that as long as the billions keep chasing, the solution will remain, just out of reach given that the constraints are entirely optional.

      1. Van_Sarockin Avatar
        Van_Sarockin

        We have a lot of dinosaur utilities and captive regulators. Sorry if that covers your utility. It is not that hard for utilities to cope with additional power inputs. Feed in subsidies and other supports are on a declining track, which will nicely match the scaling up of the renewables industry, and the current rapid drop in installed prices. Wind tends to be stronger at night. And photovoltaics peak when daytime demand tends to be highest – this is eating the lunch of the utilities, who make most of their profits with their peaking, gas powered plants. Wind and solar are already cheaper than coal or gas in many markets now. In my experience, the costs of power and transmission are approximately equal. You’re right that there are billions of dollars being invested in new renewables every year.

        1. neight428 Avatar
          neight428

          Renewables have some promise, but the reliability and cost are not close to what we already have in existing technology. At the current relatively small scale, the distributed generation is a minor headache, but if it represented enough of a slice of the generation to take out a traditional plant, it would not be so simple a puzzle to solve, especially if a grid is supposed to remain intact for reliability when that “tend to” doesn’t happen. A reliable battery backup system would seem to be the bridge, but that is the innovation that always seems to be 5 years away. The peaking plants are by their nature more inefficient, but the profits are capped. The “deregulation” in the industry is a half baked, byzantine bag of bad incentives a times, but those same descriptors apply to policy on renewables in equal measure. Read up on the “California duck curve” as far as when loads are needed and what sources are available when; the renewables in their generation fleet make the mismatch between supply and demand worse, there’s no sun shine/wind blows trading off for one another when demand is the highest there, though that could be the case elsewhere. Read up on Germany’s renewable mandates and what their rates are. SolarCity’s issues in Nevada after their subsidies were yanked makes me doubt that rooftop solar is an economical choice at the moment. Mandates in some Canadian provinces require that they pay quadruple for solar power. Given the amount of cash flowing and the ease of developing renewal projects, I’d say it is not just the dinosaurs holding captives these days. But at any currently occurring residential price, the math of charging an electric versus paying for gas/diesel is a no-brainer, the sparks are just cheaper.

    2. Dabidoh_Sambone Avatar
      Dabidoh_Sambone

      One huge benefit to Tesla’s home chargers, and that of other EV companies making inroads into the industry is this: peak KW usage happens mid-day. Those with Tesla cars or Tesla home energy systems can sell electricity back to the grid during peak hours which greatly offsets the overall cost of their consumption. Power companies like this too as it saves them expense of building expensive new infrastructure just to cover the 5% of the day when it might be needed. Win – win.

      1. Van_Sarockin Avatar
        Van_Sarockin

        When the systems get a little bit smarter, you’ll be able to arbitrage the storage of your home and/or car batteries – possibly collecting energy while it’s cheap, and then feeding it into the grid when it’s in high demand and expensive – while retaining enough charge for your next set of trips. This sort of peak and trough shaving will make it possible for fewer GW to power a grid through all eventualities.

        1. crank_case Avatar
          crank_case

          Not to mention grabbing energy off grid from solar or wind if you have the option. It’s a lot easier to make your own electricity than it is to make your own Ethanol or Biodiesel, though both those options should be encouraged too.

        2. Dabidoh_Sambone Avatar
          Dabidoh_Sambone

          Erm … isn’t that exactly my point, but with the words shuffled around?

  4. SlowJoeCrow Avatar
    SlowJoeCrow

    I have a friend with 2 electric cars, his rates were dirt cheap. Initially he ran his charger at night to get off hour rates, then he got solar panels for his house. Currently he gets the electricity for his charging station for free so he is making out like a bandit with one Nissan Leaf on a cheap lease, and a second Leaf bought used.

  5. Owl Avatar
    Owl

    I do. I have a BMW i3 and I do about 40000 miles a year half of which is now in the Beemer. I used to spend about £6-700 a month on petrol and its now down to about £250. The car charges at home overnight on night rate, at work during the day or if I’m at home in the day, off my solar panels. The change in electricity bill upwards is less than the drop when my son left home to go to University. In other words hardly noticeable albeit I do get a fair amount of ‘free’ electricity out on the road – or I did until they started charging for it.
    Overall though I’m saving at least £200 a month : so there is a huge margin in electricity prices before it becomes more expensive to use an electric car

  6. P161911 Avatar
    P161911

    I have a Leaf and honestly I don’t pay that close of attention to the electric bill, but I ran the numbers and it might add between $20-$40 month to the electric bill vs. $125+/month for gas. I just use the 110v charger. With the $5000 Georgia tax credit my all in cost for leasing the Leaf (including insurance for a 3rd car) is somewhere around $60/month if gas is $2/gallon to about -$20/month if gas is $3/gallon. (assuming 1,000 miles/month vs. driving 16mpg SUV 1,000miles/month)

  7. XRSevin Avatar
    XRSevin

    I have a Volt that charges on 220 between 1 and 4:30 am. The cost is less than a buck a day even with the rates in Southern California, and I get over 46 miles on a charge. I fill the gas tank with 8 gallons every two months. The difference between this and the cost of gas for my last car makes the payment on the Volt.

  8. Tiberiuswise Avatar

    I had a Fusion Energi as a company car for a year. It cost about $1.00 to charge the supplemental battery and I usually got about 20 miles on electric only. Most of my co-workers didn’t bother plugging theirs in at all. I think it averaged around 42 MPG in hybrid mode.
    I’m rotating out of a Fusion 1.5 Ecoboost that averaged 33 MPG over 30,000 miles according to the car’s trip odometer and MPG computer. I’ll be going into a C-Max Energi and expect an essentially similar experience to the Fusion Energi.
    I hear that people who have their own solar panels have good experience. Since I charge the car at night, that might be problematic for me.

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