If you have an electric vehicle, plan charging sessions for more savings

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The big picture sold to many people who buy electric vehicles involves lower expenses over time. If you’re one of the 1.4 million Americans who bought electric vehicles, you may have experienced sticker shock after the first month of EV charging. This has likely led to a higher energy bill than expected.

According to Mark Rawson, senior vice president of strategy and partnerships at Rhythmos.io (an EV charging optimization platform for utilities and fleets), adding an EV to your electric load and driving an average of 40 miles per day can increase energy bills in California by anywhere from 30% to 65%, depending on whether you charge your vehicles during off-peak or peak hours.

This extra cost on your electric bill offsets your weekly trips to the gas station, but you’re potentially losing savings if you don’t shop around for energy plans. Here’s what EV owners and those interested in EVs need to know about shopping for an electric plan that works best for them.

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We will help you find the best electricity rates in your area

How owning an electric vehicle changes your electricity consumption

Charging your vehicle at home can significantly increase your energy bill: Rawson said charging your vehicle at home with a typical Level 2 EV charger during peak rate times is “equivalent to adding a new home” to your energy bill.

To minimize these costs, it’s important to figure out how much time you need to charge your vehicle, how often you’ll plug in, and when you’ll charge. Moving your charging schedule to off-peak hours, ideally at night when power demand is lower, will reduce the impact of adding an EV to your power load. There’s also the matter of choosing an energy plan that works in your favor.

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We will help you find the best electricity rates in your area

How to know if you have a choice in energy plans

Depending on where you live, you can choose who will power your home (including renewable options), though your utility will still be capped in most states. This is called energy regulation, and these options are only available in some form in 18 states and the District of Columbia. For a full list of which states currently offer energy options to consumers, see this CNET guide.

Rawson said that even if you don’t live in a deregulated state, it’s still a good idea to go to your energy utility’s website and see if it offers any options or plans to EV owners. Since EVs put a heavy burden on the grid, state governments and electric utilities may offer incentives to encourage you to charge your EV during off-peak hours.

What type of power plan should you consider if you have an electric vehicle?

For those who live in a deregulation state, it’s time to shop around. Depending on your state, comparing plans from different energy suppliers may be as simple as opening a website. In other places, you may need to collect quotes or rely on a third-party aggregator to comparison shop.

In any case, electric plans mostly fall into two types: fixed or variable. With the former, you’ll be locked into one price per kilowatt-hour for a certain number of kilowatt-hours. If you need to charge your EV frequently, at all hours of the day, you may be better off with a fixed-rate plan that won’t give you much in the way of potential savings but will be predictable.

Most EV owners will probably want to consider a variable-rate plan, which charges different rates for electricity based on the time of day, which affects how much demand is being placed on the grid. For example, prices will typically be highest during the after-work rush (say, from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m.), and cheapest during the night when most people are sleeping. If you can stretch your charging to those times, you could save money on your energy bill.

Dynamic rate plans turn energy shopping into a kind of live market, but these plans are usually reserved for commercial consumers such as factories.

What to know before choosing an energy plan

Consumers should be careful when buying an energy plan. Some bad guys offer great rates at first, but raise prices after the promotional period ends. All of this should be spelled out in the fine print of the plan, so review any contract carefully before signing. You should also stay away from plans that charge a lot beyond the price of the kilowatt-hour. As a general rule, if a plan sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

For EV owners, Rawson suggests considering a few questions to get the best deal: How much will you drive each day? Will you need to recharge daily? How much do you need to charge? What does this mean in terms of kilowatt-hours? These things can be hard to determine at first, but you can make an estimate based on your current driving and the average energy needs of the EV you’re eyeing.

“Once they know their energy needs, they can start to look at what’s being offered by the utility to see what the implications are, when they should be charging, and what the cost impact will be of charging during those periods,” Rawson said.

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