Increased Efficiency: 3 Tips To Lower Electric Vehicle Charging Costs

electric vehicle chargingWhen pitted against each other in the arena of powering costs, the battery power of a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle demolishes the fuel life of a gas-powered vehicle, hands down. If we compare the cost of a battery charge to the cost of a gallon of gasoline, powering a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle equates to about 75 cents per gallon of petroleum-based gasoline. But as electric vehicle owners know, the name of the electric vehicle game is not price per gallon, but rather kilowatts per hour — and electricity costs vary greater than that of gasoline.

Yes, electricity is cheaper than gas in general. But just like a fuel-powered vehicle, you have to work at maintaining — and even try to lower — costs to get the most out of it. How do you do this with an electric vehicle? Here are three methods of lowering your electric vehicle charging costs even further.

Increase Efficiency

One method to lowering charging costs in an electric vehicle is by increasing its fuel efficiency, which can be done in several ways. The first recommendation is to check your tires. Maintaining proper inflation and alignment reduces the level of drag your engine must combat against, therefore boosting your vehicle’s efficiency. But choosing tires with reduced rolling resistance is a smart place to start. These types of tires cut back on rolling resistance, or the energy lost during engine drag, and reduce this phenomenon by an average of 10 percent.

Understand Utility Rate Options

While utility companies help set the cost of electricity, the costs you see on your monthly utility bill are ultimately determined by your level and time of use. In essence, if you use more, you pay more. In addition, these rates can vary greatly from state to state, while peak-hour use changes based on location and seasons. Since peak-hour energy use can be exponentially more expensive than off-peak hours, electric vehicle owners must be aware of their utility rate plan and anticipate changes. With the national average being about 12 cents per kWh, naive electric car owners may find themselves paying double if they’re not well-informed.

Some utility companies are sensitive to the needs of electric vehicle owners and may offer special plans, like Southern California Edison. The California utility provider offers residential users four different rate tiers based on usage, though rates can range between 9 cents up to 31 cents per kWh. Southern California Edison’s optimal utility plan for owners of electric vehicles allows for the lowest costs between midnight and 6 a.m., at a rate of 9 cents per kWh. But consumers have to request this plan. In this case, knowing really is half the battle.

Get Your Perks

As Americans continually warm to the idea of electric cars and the benefits they bring to society, more and more incentives will become available to electric vehicle owners. For those current owners looking to charge in public rather than at home, there are a few networks that offer access to electric charging stations while you’re on the go. Though each network is designed slightly different, they can be broken down into three subscription categories: monthly, pay-as-you-go and free. Though free is always a bonus, some of the subscription networks are worth checking out.

Electric and gasoline vehicles may be in two different classes, but they share the same road — and all drivers should be able to save a little dough.

Energy-Saving Purchases To Slash Your Power Bill

Phone charging with energy bank and using smartphone in handsNobody enjoys paying for utilities, but they are an inevitable burden. Fortunately, there are ways to slash these charges by upgrading parts of your home and lifestyle that may be wasting electricity. By switching to energy-efficient electronics, you can cut your bills in half. Here are some options to start saving energy and money.

Smartphone

While charging your phone does not use a lot of electricity, if you have an older phone that consistently needs to be charged, you are using more than you should be. Older smartphones lose battery power quicker, and you may find that you need to charge it more often than you used to. If this is the case, look into buying a new phone that will keep its charge. Check out a phone with a long-lasting battery life, like the Samsung Galaxy S7, and make the switch. Don’t waste your time and energy constantly having to plug in a cellphone that is past its prime when there are newer and more efficient models available.

Car

Vehicles are a huge expense. Routine maintenance, special repairs and keeping the gas tank full, are just some of the charges that add up. One way to offset these costs is to upgrade to an energy-efficient car, so you do not have to buy as much gas. This may mean trading in your pickup truck for a small sedan or switching to a hybrid or electric vehicle. Figure out how much money you can spend on gas, and then research cars that enable you to spend that amount or less. Buying some gas is inevitable, but reducing the amount can save you a large chunk of change.

Windows

Are your windows doing their job? They are supposed to let in light, protect you from rain and give you a view of the outside world, but they should do even more. They also should be holding in your heating and air conditioning. You may not notice small cracks that allow air to escape, but they may be costing you hundreds in heating and cooling costs.

If you cannot afford new windows, weather-proof them instead. You can use caulk and weatherstrips to reduce air leakage. There are also window treatments and coverings that block out heat during the warmer months, lowering your need for air conditioning. If you want to take the full plunge, talk to a professional about energy-efficient windows and getting them installed in your home.

Smart Thermostat

If used correctly, smart thermostats can save you money and energy. Before investing in one, you have to consider that the thermostat can costs up to $300 and it will take time to recoup your investment. However, many landlords will reimburse you for installing one, so you may want to mention it before purchasing.

Smart thermostats learn your behaviors and react. They know when you get home from work, when you routinely leave your home and other factors that affect your home’s temperature. This allows them to cool down or warm up your space before you get home, while saving energy the rest of the day. You also can control them remotely, so you can make adjustments at any time using a smartphone app. In the long run, they are great tools to streamline your energy usage and save money.

6 Of The Greenest Electric Cars of 2016

Electric Car FobVehicle-related air pollutants have decreased by 98 percent since the 1960s in Los Angeles, despite its residents burning three times as much gasoline and diesel fuel, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The study credits greener cars as the catalyst behind improved air quality. This goes to show that going green can absolutely make a positive impact on the environment. Furthermore, the U.S. Department of Energy says that, on average, it costs about half as much to drive an electric vehicle as it does its gasoline-fueled counterpart.

Fortunately, there are plenty of green vehicle options on the market, ranging from hybrid to full-electric options. Here’s the scoop on some of the greenest cars of 2016 and their environmentally friendly features.

A3 Sportback e-tron

This sporty plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) is part of Audi’s energy program. Its features include a carbon offset program, residential solar panel installation availability and a home charger. After running out of electric power, drivers can use auto mode to recapture energy and help recharge it while relying on its hybrid gas function.

Fiat 500e

With a single-speed transmission and 83-kilowatt electric motor, the Fiat 500e gets an impressive 87-mile range and 4-hour recharge time. The downside is that the vehicle is currently only sold in California. However, green enthusiasts can check out a site like DriveTime to find a used vehicle dealership in their area to find the model they’re looking for.

Chevrolet Volt

The Chevrolet Volt has made the cut for one of the greenest vehicles since its debut in 2010. It was one of the first modern hybrid vehicles and has helped usher in the mainstream eco-friendly car options. The earliest Volts had a 35-mile electric range with today’s model boasting 50 miles. Consumer Reports tested the latest Volt and found it made a smooth transition from electric to gas mode with an increased battery capacity compared to previous versions.

Toyota Prius

The Toyota Prius made an appearance in this year’s Super Bowl lineup of commercials. Like Chevrolet’s Volt, the Toyota Prius was a founder in the modern hybrid vehicle movement. The Prius gets an average of 50 mpg and reports indicate a smooth ride with solid acceleration.

Nissan Leaf

The Nissan Leaf debuted its 2016 model with a stronger battery that increased from 24 kWh to 30 kWh of capacity. This year’s model also comes with NissanConnect, which has Bluetooth phone and text messaging capabilities. For drivers who are going to be away from their cars for a while or are eager to check in on its charging status, the Leaf also comes with a remote monitoring capability to check its charging status.

Hyundai Sonata

This hybrid plug-in comes in at 50 mpg and can run 24 miles on its electric battery before needing a charge and switching over to its fuel engine. Its combined hybrid battery and fuel tank get about 40 mpg on the road. The Hyundai Sonata also has a reputation for its quiet ride and improved fuel efficiency.

Cars are becoming greener and more affordable than ever. Drivers should check the U.S. Department of Energy website to learn more about tax credits of up to $7,500 for all-electric and plug-in hybrid car purchases in or after 2010. Credit amounts vary on the battery capacity required to power the vehicle. Green drivers may also qualify for state or local incentives just for driving eco-friendly vehicles that are sporty, fun to drive and less damaging to the environment.

EV Sales Up In 2014, But Electric Cars Face Two Major Challenges

electric vehicleIt’s heartening news for the green crowd: Sales of electric vehicles were up another 23% in 2014, selling almost 120,000 units. The Nissan Leaf led the pack, followed by the Chevy Volt, the Tesla model S, the Toyota Prius PHV, and the Ford Fusion Energi. Plug-in electric vehicles ended the year with a 0.39% share of annual U.S. sales, which may sound piddling, but overall the trend is upward. However, before sales can significantly increase, EVs have to overcome a couple of serious obstacles.

Although sales in 2014 increased over the prior year, they did not continue the incredible trajectory represented by the 85% jump between 2012 and 2013 sales, which was spurred on in part by high gas prices. In 2014, gas prices began to plummet, and although sales of EVs haven’t declined, the lower prices could prove to be a major stumbling block. It has already affected hybrid models, whose market share dropped to 2.2% in December, the lowest since October of 2011. Electric models were at .5% in December–well in the throes of the oil-price slump–which was higher than their average annual share.

What makes cheap gas attractive isn’t necessarily inertia or an anti-green sentiment on the part of potential buyers: it’s the difference in the price of the cars themselves. Because batteries are extremely expensive, electric models, like hybrids, are priced significantly higher than their run-of-the-mill, gas-guzzling cousins.

Traditionally, there have been two main selling points for these cars: The environmentally friendly, helping-the-planet factor, which is a good feeling but rather intangible financially; and the money-saving angle: Spend a little more money on the green model, the thinking goes, and you can laugh all the way past the pump, where the poor slobs fill up their tanks yet again at usurious prices while you charge up your EV in the comfort of your own garage, for pennies. However, the extra several thousand dollars on the sticker becomes harder to justify when gas prices are so cheap that making back your investment might take a couple of decades, which is a bit past a typical car’s average lifespan. There are gas models out there now that get high mileage already, so it’s even harder to justify the extra expense.

The other major hurdle is infrastructure. While there are 125,000 gas stations in the United States, there are only 151 Tesla Superchargers. EV buyers are understandably bothered by “range anxiety”, the fear that they may get stuck somewhere if they run out of battery power. There are some very useful websites and apps like Plugshare, which maps the closest plug-in stations, including private chargers that can be shared by members, public chargers, and even superchargers. In some areas, this can still be a concern, though: According to Plugshare.com, the city of Greensboro, North Carolina, for example, with a population of 277,000, has only four public charging stations. One is at the airport, and the other three are at car dealerships. How confident would you feel driving your Prius into the BMW or Nissan dealership for a charge?

Fortunately, strides are constantly being made to improve infrastructure and battery technology, as well. Tesla, one manufacturer who has enjoyed a consistent sales boom (its high-end models are purchased by people who are less concerned about price and can afford to go for a vehicle based solely on its environmental friendliness, or simply for the fact the Tesla makes snazzy, high-performance cars that are fun to drive), is building its Gigafactory plant in Nevada to improve battery efficiency and to reduce production costs. And engineers continue to pursue the ultracapacitor, a lightweight power storage and discharge unit that would alleviate the need for a cumbersome, expensive battery. The technology is out there, and it’s coming soon. And with no guarantee that gas prices will continue to fall, especially since oil rigs are liberally shutting down, reducing supply to get more balanced with demand, electric vehicles are still a good bet for the future.

Texas Offers Incentive For Electric Vehicles – Excluding Tesla

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has announced details of the state’s new alternative fuel vehicle rebate program.  The state will offer $2,500 for the purchase of light duty vehicles powered by electricity, compressed natural gas (CNG), or propane.  Consumers can also receive up to $2,500 for leasing these vehicles.  In order to get the full rebate, however, the lease must be at least 4 years.  Shorter leases are eligible for lesser rebates.

Authorized by the Texas State Legislature last year, the program is relatively modest.  The program will last until June 2015 or until the $7.7 million in funding is exhausted; whichever comes first. The maximum number of vehicles allowed in the program is 2,000 electric vehicles and 2,000 propane or CNG vehicles.

The rebates could be combined with other incentive programs including federal electric vehicle incentive programs.  In order to be eligible, the vehicle must be purchased through a franchised dealer in the state of Texas.  If the vehicle is purchased from an out-of-state dealer or directly from the manufacturer it will not be eligible for the rebate program.  That means would-be Tesla owners will not be eligible for rebates since the Tesla sales model doesn’t include franchised dealers.

To Apply for the Rebate Call 1-800-919-TERP.

See Also: Far From A Burdon, Electric Vehicles Will Assist The Grid

 

 

Far From A Burdon, Electric Vehicles Will Assist The Grid

As electric vehicles have slowly began to transition to the mainstream, some have worried about their impact on the electric grid.  As more real world use data becomes available, it’s looking more and more like those concerns were over blown.  This leads to the next question, since EV’s are not quite the power grid burden we expected, can we somehow create a system that allows electric cars to benefit the larger power structure? This has become the next big endeavor for EV proponents, and up to this point, we are seeing a great deal of promise from emerging technologies.

The most promising of these is certainly vehicle to grid technology. Otherwise known as V2G, vehicle to grid presents a mechanism to meet key requirements of the electric power system by designating the EV’s to act as a form of demand response. When communicating with the power grid as an ancillary service, EV’s can provide frequency regulation by selling electricity through either delivering this power into the grid or throttling their charging rate. This can be looked at as a version of battery to grid power, but applied to vehicles.

In essence, when the grid requires more power to withstand a surge, that power will be tapped from EV’s, rather than traditional power plants. Considering that a car is parked, on average, 95% of the time, the flow of electricity to power lines could bring considerable value per car to utilities over the course of a year.

The key to realizing economic value from V2G is creating a symbiotic relationship with the larger power structure. Once the future smart grids are sophisticated enough to do this on a large scale basis, electric vehicles could help make the system even more reliable. Beyond ancillary services, the future of V2G also includes using the vehicles as a dispersed energy storage for intermittent, but renewable resources, such as wind and solar.

For this to happen though, EV batteries must improve, along with our centralized grid structure. V2G presents complications for the individual batteries, including degradation due to constant cycling, costs related to implementing bidirectional power flow capability (energy storage that can both feed and take power from the grid), metering issues, and complication related to energy guarantees The service life and reliability of batteries could be reduced under such strain, so drivers need an incentive to provide supplementary power to the grid.

Because of the cost premiums related to electric vehicle ownership and power systems interaction, lower EV operational expenses will be a major market driver for innovation and growth. Fortunately, with the gains we are making in energy storage tech, this will likely become less of an issue when V2G reaches the point where it becomes a viable, widescale option.

Electric vehicles are expected to make up close to 7% of all global automobile sales by 2020 (an estimated 6.6 million units sold in that year alone), so the future of EV is bright. Vehicle-to-grid is not only an important supplement to this growth, it is essential.

Along with the ability for technology to provide very fast regulation, it also contributes to environmental protection, system reliability, and oil independence. EV, combined with V2G technology, can provide a more seamless transition to the emerging sustainable energy economy, and by doing so, greatly increasing energy security benefits for the entire population.

See Also: Texas Clean Energy Coalition Report Provides Incentive For Renewable Energy
See Also: Texas Tops States in Grid Modernization

The Best Smartphone Apps For Electric Vehicle Driving

Despite all their environmental benefits, 87 percent of consumers are still skeptical about electric vehicles, Consumer Reports found. People cite several reasons for their reluctance when it comes to electric vehicles, including price, reported safety concerns and range limitations. If you want to drive an electric vehicle, we’ve got the best apps to enhance your driving experience:

GreenCharge

GreenCharge enables you to check the range of the current battery before a charge is required. In addition, the app offers insightful metrics and battery data. Since this information can be accessed daily, weekly and monthly, you can effectively monitor your driving habits to further bolster your cost-saving efforts.

PlugShare

Like Facebook, PlugShare operates through a social network of electric-vehicle driving individuals. Through this network, drivers exchange information regarding the 18,000 electric charging stations that are stationed around the United States and listed in the PlugShare network.

EV Ping

EV Ping employs QR codes to enable you to contact other drivers while they are recharging their vehicle. By doing so, drivers can access real-time information and conditions regarding a particular charging station. This information can be vital in determining whether you should find another charging port, start charging or continue to wait.

Better Place Oscar

The Better Place Oscar app is a component of a bigger, fully connected platform. The app offers members of Better Place the ability to be in touch with the battery’s charge levels or contact customer service at any time. In lieu of the other services provided by the app, smart navigation, range forecasts and personalized energy management are provided.

DriveTime Chose the SmartWay

While ditching your gas hog for an efficient electric vehicle offers several benefits, everyone doesn’t have the resources to buy a new electric vehicle. Unlike other national dealers, car loans by Drivetime help drivers with poor credit. The loans feature several money-saving and credit-building facets designed to help you re-establish your credit. Check out the free Car Loan Calculator app for insight about amoritzation schedules and interest. When you are considering loans, remember to look for the “leaf,” which represents the government-sponsored fuel-efficiency rating program, SmartWay. The SmartWay sticker ensures car loans will be on vehicles with low greenhouse gas emissions, more fuel-efficient choices with the EPA’s air pollution standards.

Entune Entertainment System

Toyota’s Entune system is the first infotainment center to integrate apps into the vehicle’s touch-screen display. Entune offers on-screen apps such as Panadora, Bing, iHeartRadio, Open Table, MovieTickets.com and several other types of information, which is featured in Toyota’s Prius. Entune reduces the need to be concerned with your mobile phone because it is offered on the vehicle’s interface.

Luxury Electric Car Confrontation: BMW i3 Challenges Tesla

Tesla motors has company in the luxury electric vehicle market. BMW recently revealed its first mass-produced electric vehicle, dubbed the BMW i3. According to Business Insider, this futuristic-looking two-door coup will hit the U.S. market in 2014 and retail for $41,000. That’s significantly cheaper than the Tesla Model S electric car, which starts at a base price of $69,900. Electric car shoppers could be eligible for federal tax credits on both vehicles, but the BMW i3’s lower price tag will appeal to a broader range of shoppers.

With a unique design, an impressive engine the features immediate full torque and an available home charger that operates 80 percent faster than normal outlets, the BMW i3 is a welcome addition to the electric car market. With EV sales on the rise, expect to see plenty of i3s on the road come 2014.

The Specs

Most EV shoppers start their investigation of a new vehicle with the same question: How far can it go? Using its electrical engine, the BMW i3 can travel between 80 and 100 miles in between charges. That’s slightly more than most EVs, which typically have a 70 to 80 mile range. Unlike many EVs, which need speed to build torque, full torque is available immediately on the BMW i3. An intelligent heating and cooling system keeps the lithium-ion high-voltage battery at the prime temperature for peak performance. BMW includes an 8-year, 100,000 mile warranty for the battery. Shoppers who are on the fence about the range may opt for the optional two-cylinder, 34-horsepower gas engine that doubles the range. It may increase your carbon footprint, but the $4,000 option also makes the car much more convenient. Drivers looking to offset this small gasoline engine may consider eco-friendly TireBuyer Kumho tires, which cut rubber dust emissions by 10 percent.

i3 Vs. Tesla Model S

It’s natural to compare the BMW i3 to Tesla’s Model S, the polarizing EV that earned scathing reviews from the New York Times and the title of Motor Trend’s 2013 Car of the Year. But as their price tags indicate, the i3 and Model S aren’t exactly direct competitors. Tesla offers three different batteries in the Model S, all of which outperform the BMW i3’s lithium-ion battery. The Tesla Model S features a classic, sporty design, while the i3 is more likely to turn heads because of its unusual look.

Electric Car Sales Grow

Both BMW and Tesla will be encouraged by 2013’s EV sales numbers. Electric Vehicle sales more than doubled in the first half of 2013 compared to the same period of time in 2012, according to Autos.aol.com. Nearly 42,000 EVs have hit the road since January, and 36 percent of all EVs on the right were purchased in the last six months. We may not see 1 million electric cars on the road by 2015 like President Obama suggested, but the news is encouraging for an industry that hasn’t been putting its foot on the gas (or electric battery). The BMW i3 is one of the most anticipated vehicles of 2014, and could boost this EV surge even more.

Hoodwinked by Hybrids? A Resale Comparison of Gas and Hybrid Vehicles

Hybrid vehicles are touted by many to save you money at the pump and earn you money on resale, but you may be throwing money away. We compared four of the best-selling hybrid automobiles with their gasoline-powered counterparts and found that the resale value on the hybrids is similar or much lower than the gas models. For the purposes of these comparisons, we used the value calculator for used cars at kbb.com. Each car that we compared for this hypothetical was a fully loaded 2011 model with an automatic transmission and 30,000 miles on the odometer, so the estimates are as comparable as possible. We estimated each car to be in excellent condition, to level the playing field. We also used the private party values, as opposed to the dealer trade-in numbers.

Toyota Prius

First, take the Toyota Prius. The Prius is the best-selling hybrid on the market, and it has held that distinction since it was first released in 2000 to the United States market. The Prius started the hybrid craze, and Toyota keeps improving the vehicle so that it stays at the top of the game. We compared the Prius to its gasoline counterpart, the Toyota Yaris. Toyotas consistently hold their value, so when these two were compared, the Prius came out close to the Yaris in resale value. When purchased brand new, the Prius would cost you around $27,000, while the Yaris could be had for a little less than $15,000. For current value, the Prius came in at just under $25,000, while the Yaris sedan was estimated to be worth $12,000.

2010-2011 Toyota Prius -- 12-21-2011

Photo of 2010-2011 Toyota Prius via Wikimedia Commons. All Rights Released.

Honda Civic

Next up is the Honda Civic, which could be purchased in hybrid form or a gasoline model. The Civic retailed for about $23,000 for the hybrid, and about $22,000 for the gas model when brand-new. The current Civic hybrid retails for $17,000 and the gas model comes in around $18,000. This is much different from our Toyota comparison. The Honda Civic hybrid depreciated much more than the regular Civic.

2011 Honda Civic coupe -- 09-28-2011

Photo of Honda Civic via Wikimedia Commons. All Rights Released.

Ford Escape

For the SUV fans in the crowd, Ford makes a great hybrid in the form of the Escape. A brand-new Escape hybrid cost buyers about $33,000 in 2011, while the gasoline counterpart could be had for about $31,000. Current values on the Escape are $25,000 for the hybrid and $23,000 for the gasoline model. This amount of depreciation is very similar, and doesn’t lend credence to the idea that hybrids maintain their value.

2011 Ford Escape Hybrid -- 2011 DC

Photo of 2011 Ford Escape Hybrid via Wikimedia Commons. All Rights Released.

Volkswagen Touareg

For the higher-end buyers, Volkswagen has come up with a hybrid Touareg SUV. This is the top of the line model in the VW lineup. The 2011 Touareg hybrid cost buyers a little over $61,000 for the hybrid model, as opposed to just over $56,000 for the gas model. Volkswagen, like Toyota, consistently retains a high resale value. When comparing values on this car today, both Touareg models come in at just over $40,000 for the resale value. This is a much higher depreciation rate on the hybrid.

Volkswagen Touareg hybrid -- 2011 DC

Photo of Volkswagen Touareg hybrid via Wikimedia Commons. All Rights Released.

As evidenced by the above figures, hybrids don’t do as well on resale as many claim. The hybrids we compared were similar or lower in resale value than their gasoline counterparts. While these vehicles can save you thousands at the pump, our research and a similar study from the New York Times shows that you will need to own them for many years to recoup what you paid at the dealer. Whether this cost is worth it or not is up to the individual buyer, but the benefits of going green are worth the added cost for some buyers.