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Electric-Car Charging: Why Some Households Are Paying Too Much

Nissan Leaf Charging Port Cover

Nissan Leaf Charging Port Cover

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Owners of plug-in vehicles like the Nissan Leaf, Chevrolet Volt, and even the new Tesla Model S may be paying too much when they charge their car.

Why? Because they haven’t signed up with the right utility plan.

According to a recent survey from the California Center for Sustainable Energy (CCSE)—reported by the Union of Concerned Scientists—nearly one third of plug-in vehicle owners remain on their utility’s standard plan instead of a TOU (time of use) rate.

The idea of TOU billing options is nothing new, and it’s been tested for decades, but only in recent years has it become a widespread billing option for households, thanks to networked (and relatively inexpensive) ‘smart’ meters. In short, you pay only slightly more, typically, for electricity use during peak hours (typically afternoon into early evening) yet pay a deep-discounted rate for off-peak (overnight) use.

According to the CCSE survey (of those who’ve owned plug-in vehicles for six months or longer), most do already charge up at night, when the electricity supply is most abundant (and generation is most efficient). Meanwhile, 71 percent report access to public or workplace charging (or both), while 91 percent say that they’ve installed some kind of home charger and 56 percent received a free or subsidized Level 2 charger.
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