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Driving an Electric Vehicle: The Electric Bill, By The Numbers

February 1, 2014

It was 13 months ago that my husband first talked me into adding an all-electric Nissan Leaf to our household and so I thought it would be a good time to discuss one of the most frequent questions I receive: What about your electric bill?  People want to know how much our home electrical use has increased, and perhaps more importantly, how much our electric bill has gone up since we started driving an electric vehicle.

The bottom line answer is that in comparing our November 2012 bill (pre-Leaf) to the November 2013 bill (after Leaf), the monthly total has increased by $36.58 from $61.78 to $96.36. The increase in the bill has varied from a whopping $96 during our first month of electric car ownership when we did not yet have a proper charging station (we used our household outlets to charge) nor had we signed up for electricity rates specifically intended for EV owners. The answer to how much our bill and usage has increased overall  is not simple since the rate structure at our utility, Pacific Gas & Electric changed  again (for the better) in August 2013.

We seem to have reached a better balance now, and the 59 percent increase from year to year in November seems to be what we can expect going forward.  This is because the rate structure helps keep our bills relatively low if we pay attention to the peak and non-peak hours not only for when we charge the car, but when we do other household chores. During the last month, only 20 percent of our electric use for our entire household was during peak use hours which are from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays, and from  3 p.m. to 7 p.m. on weekends and holidays. That means we do plenty of laundry in the morning on weekends. And, of course, we charge the electric car overnight. The price of electricity ranges from about 10 cents per kilowatt hour during off-peak times to about 27 cents per kilowatt hour during peak.

It also means that my husband has posted a piece of paper on the refrigerator reminding his forgetful wife of the peak and non-peak times.

The plan we adopted with PG& E is for those of us who have a home EV charger which is connected to the meter for the entire house. There is another plan for those who have a home EV charger which is linked to a separate meter. These two plans were greatly simplified over the summer when PG&E changed the structure. However, it’s important to go onto the PG&E website-or to contact your particular utility- to run the numbers because the EV plans are not the best deal for everyone, especially if you use alot of power during peak hours.  For us, our main heating system is gas as is our stove and oven so we can keep our evening usage on weekdays at a minimum.

In comparing the cost of driving an EV to a gas-powered vehicle, consider that my husband drove the 2012 Leaf 1,178 miles from Nov. 5 to Dec. 9, 2013.   We paid approximately $36.58 more for electricity in the month of November 2013, and my husband paid $27.93 in fees for charging at public charging stations during that time.  This brings the cost to $64.51 to drive about 1,178 miles.

In America, the average gas-fueled vehicle (2014 model) gets 23 miles per gallon. The average gas price in the San Francisco Bay Area in October (the most recent I could find) was $3.88  per gallon. Therefore, if my husband was driving a car with an Internal Combustion Engine, he would have spent about $199 on gasoline alone, compared to the estimated $64.51 he spent on charging the Leaf.

That’s a pretty decent savings, and it almost makes up for times like last night when I had to follow my husband home in my gas vehicle on the backroads after a dinner out. He was driving the Leaf and its dashboard indicated there was 16 miles of charge remaining. Google maps said home was, you guessed it, 16 miles away.

Luckily,  after the EV climbed the road through the Santa Cruz mountains, it reached a nice downhill cruise, and my husband made it with five miles of range to spare.

  1. Sadly, Nissan doesn’t ship Leaf worlwide as we in South East Asian countries not able to test drive the car Debora. Greeting’s to you and your fams

    Jakarta, Indonesia

    • Dear Rieka I wonder when that will change. We actually have been to Indonesia. It is a beautiful country but I was never brave enough to drive the roads there. Best of luck and thank you for reading.

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