A final look at SCE’s study
The majority of first-time visitors to Southern California Edison’s (SCE) electric car site want to know how much it will cost to charge their cars if they buy an electric vehicle (EV). Because most people have no idea how an electric car will impact their utility rates, and as importantly how this cost will compare to their current gasoline powered vehicle, we have provided a reference to an article using Department of Energy numbers for comparison (found here). We also have a page that shows the relationship between the change in gasoline prices over ten years compared to the change in electricity costs (found here). If you don’t wish to read those articles, the core takeaway is that energy costs will be reduced to roughly one-third or one-fourth of what you are used to paying currently. In other words, what you are paying every week for gas may get you through the month for electricity to fuel your EV. In addition, history shows that electricity rates are more stable than the price of gasoline and increase less over time.
Charging location information is also useful. Most plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) owners charge at home at night. SCE estimates that fifty percent of owners take care of their needs using Level 1 (120-volt) charging overnight saving the expense of installing a Level 2 charging station in their home.
If Level 2 (240-volt) charging is available at work, this is typically the only away-from-home charging that is done. For these owners this is because the workplace offers Level 2 charging as a free perk to employees – not a common occurence. Less than forty percent took advantage of Level 2 charging away from home but not at the workplace. Interestingly, they also reported rarely using free Level 2. The study found that most EV drivers had consistent and predictable driving patterns. This was very likely the case prior to purchasing the EV and one of the factors in its purchase.
Multi-unit residences pose a challenge to the development of a suitable EV infrastructure for residents. Fewer than five percent of building owners or condominium associations are considering EV infrastructure installation. In SCE’s market roughly half of their customers live in such structures. Apartment and condo dwellers have shown an interest in EVs so these challenges must be overcome.
Cooperation among equipment providers, developers and associations will be the only way to resolve the obstacles facing these potential EV owners.
For those fortunate enough to own their homes, the experience has improved over time. Very early adopters had to wait sometimes several weeks for permits, inspections and installations. As cities and utilities got familiar with the requirements, the process has now been improved to several days, with some cities getting down to a single day process for permits and inspections.
Recapping two topics from our first article, the SCE study shows that most EV drivers cover about 35 miles each day. Understanding this, it is easier to understand how 120-volt Level 1 can satisfy charging requirements for many EV drivers. Eight hours charging on 120-volts will easily replenish the energy used.
Another consideration highlighted in our first article was using end-time charging. By staggering the start times using the end timer, grid use is optimized with a reduced necessity to upgrade the grid specifically for EV owners.
This Southern California Edison study goes a long way toward looking at the real-world implications of owning, driving and charging an electric vehicle. We feel that this information will be useful to anyone considering the purchase of an EV – whether fully electric or of the plug-in hybrid variety. As has been said in many situations – knowledge is power. In this case, electric power.