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Charging your electric car can be costly

January 14, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
2011 is shaping up to be the year of the electric car: Two are already in show rooms and a few more will debut by year's end. But just plugging one into your home's electric circuit for recharging could produce a big bill at the end of the month."Well a customer that just goes home and plugs in right away, they're typically going to be on their standard rate for their home and so that's a tiered structure where the more you use the more you pay," said Steve Powell, Southern California Edison's manager of Plug-in Electric Vehicle Readiness.

SCE and other utilities have been preparing for the arrival of electric vehicles for a while. Anyone thinking of buying one should also prepare.

"Your utility can tell you about the electric rates, they can tell you about some of the considerations you'll need to consider when you're picking a vehicle and when you're getting the installation done for your charging equipment," said Powell.

What the power industry doesn't want is cars being charged during peak hours when the grid is under heavy load. Charging at night will solve that problem.

Just as technology has brought us electric cars, it's also brought us something called a smart meter that knows when you're plugging in. In other words, if you do it late at night, you'll pay less.

So there's a monetary incentive to charge an electric car at night, but it's not the only one.

"The additional benefits of charging during the off-peak are that there's more renewables at night, there's a lot more excess capacity in the system so it's easy for us to service load at night, which obviously allows us to give them that low rate at night," said Powell.

Edison also has a special electric vehicle plan, where a separate meter is used for just the EV. Other utilities have similar plans.

"In reality, California is going to be a great place to charge electric vehicles," said Powell. "We have some of the largest amounts of renewables in the nation so some of the vehicles charged are going to be the cleanest in the nation. And we are offering electric vehicle rates that will help customers save money at night."