One of the benefits of being an early adopter (or first follower) of clean energy solutions is the incentives available to help lessen our dependence on fossil fuels. Many national, state, and local governments offer some forms of incentives for consumers to make the switch from fossil fuels to electricity; to upgrade from gasoline or diesel vehicles to electric vehicles (EVs). In some locations, you can even get some financial help when you install an EV charging station at your home or business.
Also, many local utilities offer “time of use” (TOU) electricity rates which charge you less for electricity used during off-peak hours, and more for power consumed during times of peak demand. For those who own or lease a PV solar energy system, these TOU plans make a lot of sense. During peak daylight hours your panels power your home, and at night you can draw electricity from the grid at lower rates. If you own an EV, you can usually schedule your car to charge at night, when rates are lower, minimizing the cost of ownership. On the Model 3, you can currently schedule your charge to begin at a set time. (Though, I wish you could also set the STOP time, but perhaps we’ll get that in a future update?)
In New York, there’s a program called SmartCharge NY that rewards EV owners for charging their cars during off-peak hours. The program is sponsored by ConEd (our local electric utility in New York City) and FleetCarma. The program currently supports a number of pure EVs and plug-in hybrids, including the Tesla Model S and Model X. When I first took delivery of my Model 3, I looked into this option, but at the time, the Model 3 was not yet supported. That changes this week, as FleetCarma just sent out notifications to those on the waiting list that the Model 3 is now supported.
The “rewards” of the SmartCharge NY program come in the form of cash back — up to $500 per year — for charging your car during off-peak hours. The program also offers lower electricity rates, below ConEd’s standard TOU off-peak rates. The program is currently available in any area served by Consolidated Edison (aka, ConEd), so this includes New York City and parts of Westchester county. The program is also available in certain parts of Canada (“ChargeTheNorth”), Florida (“Duke Energy Charge FL”), and Nashville, TN (“Smart Charge Nashville”).
So, How Does It Work?
Unlike some traditional EV charging incentive programs, SmartCharge doesn’t require that a dedicated sub-meter be installed in your home just to monitor EV charging. Instead, the SmartCharge program monitors your car’s electricity use and charging on the car itself. There’s a little dongle called a C2 device that plugs into your car’s OBD-II service port. The device draws a small amount of power, taps into the car’s computer, and uses cellular data to report back driving and charging data to the SmartCharge network. By charging during off-peak times, you can earn points which translate to cash-back rewards. The rewards can be cashed in for gift cards from places like Amazon or The Home Depot.
The SmartCharge program is attractive for utilities, as it incentivizes customers to shift their electricity consumption away from times of peak demand. This can help to minimize power outages by normalizing demand on the grid. It can also help prevent the utility from having to fire up additional power plants during peak hours.
The SmartCharge dashboard displays the following information as reported from your car’s computer (some of which, like “fuel consumption,” is only relevant on hybrids):
- Charging Energy Consumption — Kilowatt-hours consumed by time of day
- Driving Efficiency — Accumulative and per-trip MPGe and watt hours per mile
- Outside Temperature and Auxiliary Loads — Measured impact of temperature and AC/heating on your electric range (downloadable in trip logs)
- Battery Health — A quantifiable score indicating your electric vehicle’s battery degradation with respect to storage and power capacity.
- Greenhouse Gas Emissions — Per-mile greenhouse gas emissions from driving as well as emissions savings compared to a gasoline vehicle
- Electric Fraction — Percentage of miles driven on electric power from your plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (downloadable in trip logs)
- Fuel Consumption — Total liquid fuel usage for plug-in hybrid electric vehicle owners (downloadable in trip logs)
- Battery State of Charge (SOC) — Starting and ending SOC % each trip
- SmartCharge Rewards — Total SmartCharge Rewards earned each month
To participate in the program, you need only to own or lease a supported electric vehicle or plug-in hybrid and then apply online. Normally, the car owner can install the C2 adapter himself (or herself), but since the Model 3 is new to the program, the company is scheduling professional installations. I’m planning to have the device installed within the next couple of weeks in my Model 3, so stay tuned for an update once I’ve had some time to live with it. In the mean time, you can read more about it or sign-up here: