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Utilities offer ways to save on EV charging costs

The home electricity bill can surge with residential chargers. Some plans feature 'time of use' rates, when prices are low. A dedicated meter can cut costs but require thousands of dollars to install.

August 28, 2011|By Tiffany Hsu, Los Angeles Times

The electric vehicle's been bought and the charger's been installed. Keep the wallet out, though, because juicing up can get pricey — and complicated.

Take an average summer day, when air conditioners and refrigerators are sucking energy in full force and seasonal electricity rates are high. If you're charging an EV using the same meter as the rest of the home, prepare for potential sticker shock — an extra $100 a month in some cases — if your utility bill surges into a higher price tier.

Each electric utility — including Southern California Edison, Pacific Gas & Electric and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power — offers a different suite of rate options for residential EV owners based on when they're charging the cars and how the chargers are set up.

But all of them offer certain features that could help you save on your electricity bill.

Residential customers who aren't heavy energy users can charge their EVs on the same electricity meter used by the rest of the house and save on the cost of installing a second meter. But beware of the tiered rate system, which increases the price of electricity depending on how much is used and sometimes seasonally as well.

Others can add a dedicated second meter that can help reduce monthly utility bills. But it may involve a small upfront utility fee and potentially thousands of dollars in installation costs.

Instead of a flat rate, in which the price of energy stays constant, EV owners might consider going with a "time-of-use" rate, which sets aside blocks of time when the cost of charging is discounted.

Those so-called off-peak hours tend to be late at night or on weekends and can be applied to plans involving the whole home or just the dedicated EV meter.

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