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Cars Image Credit: Chevy Volt via Wikimedia Commons

Published on January 30th, 2014 | by Zachary Shahan

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Buy Electric Car, Watch Your Electric Bill Go Down?



Some of the more interesting stories I run across these days come from the GM-Volt.com forum. There’s quite an active community over there, and a great mix of EV experts and EV newcomers (note that, as always, EV is a term that I consider to be inclusive of PHEV). In a post just added 12 hours ago, a Volt newbie shared an interesting and exciting personal finding: his electric bill has gone down since he got his Volt.

Confused? Here’s his full post from wmwest74:

I purchased my Volt with the expectation that my gas savings would more than offset any increase in my electric bill. Weird thing is my electric bill has gone down and not up.

I never quantified how much changing all my lights to CFL would save, but apparently my lighting upgrades have more than offset charging the Volt every night. I’ve never gotten a good feeling from an electric bill before.

Chevy Volt; the gift that keeps on giving.

Makes more sense now, eh? But still, it highlights a couple of key points:

  1. If you’re still using incandescent light bulbs, you’re throwing your money away! (Also note that there are several affordable LEDs on the market now that are even better than CFLs for reducing your energy costs.)
  2. Charging an electric vehicle doesn’t actually require as much electricity as you might have thought.

There are already plenty of useful and interesting replies in the GM-Volt.com forum. I’ll share a few more below in case you don’t want to click over.

First of all, also note that time of use (TOU) pricing can also help you to lower your electric bill. From VikAiRious:

My overall yearly pre-Volt charging electric bill went down when I got my Volt and moved to the Time of Use plan

Funny thing is – PG&E offers a new EV car electric plan – and it’s higher than all the other plans listed on their plan comparison page on their website.

The TOU plan I currently have is $300 a year less than all other plans. I’m sticking with this plan, I’m doing OK!

Replying to that comment, rduniii concurs:

Ditto. EVA is quite the deal isn’t it. I’ll stick with E9A as long as they will let me. My electric bill hasn’t changed up or down. If you are already in tier 3 or 4 then EVA can save you some big bucks. I’ve got a friend with a Leaf whose electric bill went down $250/month with EVA.

Yet another forum member, Phronesis, echoes the electricity savings he/she saw after getting a Volt and switching to a TOU electricity rate (something ~80% of California EV owners do):

I really didn’t notice any change when I first got my Volt. Then we went to a whole house TOU rate for EV owners. The drop was about 25% on average, adding to the savings I was seeing by not going to the gas station every week or two. Adding a second Volt didn’t even cause a ripple. All charging is done off-peak to maximize the savings.

blackmamba notes that his/her electricity bill didn’t go down after getting a Volt, but it did remain stable. This Volt owner also tags on the big question:

Can’t say our electric bill has decreased post-Volt, but has remained stable and we still come out using “less than your average neighbor” for a Good Rating from our electric company. We have also replaced some but not yet all lights with leds. Oh, but how much less expense at the gas pump altar!

And a senior forum member with a license plate spelling out “SUN FUEL,” flmark, adds a note regarding how you can go even further (something CleanTechnica readers would certainly consider):

Not really surprising. The Volt makes you think about kwh as a resource. Once you do that, you start seeing all the ways resources can be conserved. We were well down this path before we got the Volt. I have written a bunch of articles on such items. (ie, http://gm-volt.com/2013/04/16/new-le…evse-possible/) We now get paid by the utility for the annual excess of kwh that our solar produces. Unfortunately, they pay you at wholesale rates, so I now have very little incentive to see where any more kwh can be saved- at either home or office.

And in one final comment (so far), Aus1 chimes in with a key place you can save even more electricity:

The usual biggest consumer all year round is a fridge.
Down size and buy the most energy efficient fridge…….
In my case New Fridge payed for itself in less than 5 years, less cleaning – now I’m enjoying the savings.

When ever I buy a new appliance energy efficiency is the most highest requirement and that usually allows a good selection and not necessarily the most expensive either.
It’s WIN WIN

ps. I too have not noticed any Volt electricity expense (Must be offset with my on grid solar array and savings made in the house)
Even I hadn’t it would consume like a small bar fridge and that’s NOTHING considering how far you can drive on that!

So, next time I run cost comparisons between an EV and a gas drinker, maybe I should actually make the EV’s “fuel” costs negative. :)

Here’s some more recommended EV reading:

1. Chevy Spark EV vs Chevy Spark Gas Drinker — Which Is Cheaper? (Oregon & California)

2. Owners Of Solar Panels & EVs Get Solar 1st, 85.5% Buy Their Solar Panels (CT Survey Results)

3. Understanding Electric Car Owners & Potential Electric Car Owners (14 Charts & Tables)

4. 39% Of California EV Owners Have Solar Panels (Infographic)

5. 13 New Electric Vehicles For Sale In 2014

6. 11 Electric Cars That Cost Less Than The Average New Car In The US

7. Electric Cars For Sale In US In 2014

8. 8 Reasons Electric Cars Kick Your Car’s Boot

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About the Author

is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy for the past four years or so. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he's the Network Manager for their parent organization – Important Media – and he's the Owner/Founder of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to ZacharyShahan.com and click on the relevant buttons.



  • Wallace

    Just go with LED lights. Saves even more than CFL, plus CFL’s are hazmat toxic. If one breaks in your house you risk exposing it to your kids. No need to worry with LED’s.

    • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

      I’d definitely recommend LEDs now, but you know, not many people are up to date with the lighting market.

  • http://electrobatics.wordpress.com/ arne-nl

    In my case, I already had been using cfl’s and led’s for 20 years (among other things) when I got my Zoe. My electricity consumption will go up from 1800 kWh to 7000 kWh per year. But I drive a lot (~30,000 km/year)

    • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

      Yeah, that makes more sense. :D Wonder how many current EV owners had CFLs/LEDs and implemented easy energy-saving measures before they were turned on to EVs.

  • jdeely

    Funny the way things work out….

    Also, interesting to hear of people moving to TOU based pricing. SMUD in CA goes live with TOU for all customers in 2018. I think this will be critical in helping to solve the peak demand issue which occurs between 5-8 in CA during summer.

  • PaulScott58

    These savings echo what I’ve been saying for years. Before I started selling the LEAF for an LA Nissan dealer, I sold solar for SolarCity. When I’d prepare bids for customers, I got to see their past 12 months electricity use. It became apparent over time that most Americans waste more kWh in their homes than they’d need to commute in an EV.

    Waste in the U.S. is a huge problem, but it’s also a silver lining in that we can easily become more efficient and use the saved kWh to displace oil in our cars. It’s the consummate low hanging fruit.

    • jstack6

      Making homes more efficient is good for all areas, cold, hot or in between. We just have to educate people how easy it can be. A plugin car and Solar go together perfectly. I always charge Off Peak and I’m not even on Time Of Day pricing. I like my Solar to help the GRID during peaks and I take their excess at 1 am when they can’t ramp it down or store it.

    • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

      You don’t have much contact with Leaf buyers after the sale, right? Imagine a lot of them follow the same path as the people above.

      The waste is crazy. Sometimes irritates me when people complain about how hard things are in the US now (economically) — still so much waste there that could easily be cut if people cared about saving money.

      But yeah, think solar & EVs will do wonders in educating people about their energy use and stimulating energy efficiency & conservation!

      Thanks for helping with that! :D

      • PaulScott58

        I do have contact with many of my customers after the sale since I have them all on an email list that I send info to about new charging installations, etc. I still sell solar, too. I always look at my customer’s roofs and if the roof is viable, I pitch them on solar. If they are interested, and many are, I hand them off to my contact at SolarCity and they close the deal.

        I almost always talk about efficiency with my customers, mostly driving efficiency, but often I’ll delve into efficiency at home to save money. That light on in the bedroom when no one is in the room is like having a leak in your gas tank. You’d get the leak fixed, right? So turn off the lights when you aren’t using them and use that energy to propel your car. People just haven’t thought if it before, but when you mention these things, they readily get it.

        • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

          Awesome. Good examples of why they call you the best :D

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