Best Time to Charge Your Electric Vehicle: Day vs. Night Explained

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Best Time to Charge Your Electric Vehicle: Day vs. Night Explained

Transitioning to an electric vehicle (EV) brings new considerations, notably regarding charging times. Unlike refueling a traditional gas vehicle, charging an EV involves a more time-consuming process, albeit cheaper and cleaner. With a basic Level 1 charger, using a standard 120-volt outlet at home, expect a full charge to take several hours. Most public charging stations are equipped with Level 2 chargers, which significantly reduce charging time to just a few hours through a standard 240-volt circuit found in homes and businesses. For a rapid boost, Direct Current Fast Chargers (DCFC) can top up an EV in under an hour, though plug-in hybrid EVs can’t utilize this option due to their high electricity demand and the need for a 480-volt circuit.

The charging duration varies based on the battery’s capacity, its current level of charge, and the charger type. An important consideration for EV owners is the timing of charging sessions, as this can affect electricity costs and availability.

Why Charging Your EV at Certain Times Matters

The timing of your EV charging is crucial because, contrary to what it might seem, electricity is not an unlimited resource. Your local utility has a fixed amount of power it can supply at any given time. When demand exceeds this capacity, the utility must source additional power, which, if not possible, could result in brownouts or even blackouts—situations everyone wants to avoid. To prevent overburdening your electricity provider, it’s wise to charge your EV during off-peak hours, typically at night, using a Level 2 charger. This approach not only supports the stability of the local power grid but can also offer the benefit of lower electricity rates during these times.

Understanding On-Peak and Off-Peak Hours

On-peak hours are the periods when demand on the electrical grid is highest, with numerous devices and systems all drawing power simultaneously. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) defines on-peak hours as running from 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. on weekdays. Conversely, off-peak hours, when the grid experiences the least demand, are from 11:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. on weekdays, including all hours on Saturdays, Sundays, and public holidays.

Electricity consumption follows a daily cycle, dipping to its lowest around 5:00 a.m. and reaching its peak at varying times during the day, influenced by seasonal changes and then decreasing again in the late evening. This fluctuation is closely linked to the daily activities of households and businesses and is significantly affected by the weather. The intensity and pattern of electricity demand can change annually, with distinct regional variations due to differences in climate and the types of electrical equipment used. Generally, the quietest times on the grid are late evenings, overnight, and during weekends and holidays.

Charging Your EV in Off-Peak Times: Is It Beneficial?

There are several benefits to powering up your electric vehicle during off-peak hours, including:

Cost Savings on Electricity

Utility companies often offer lower electricity rates during off-peak hours to encourage people to shift their energy use. For instance, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power provides a discount of $0.025 per kilowatt-hour for EV charging in these times. This practice is becoming more common among power providers, offering an economical benefit to off-peak charging.

Contributing to Energy Demand Management

Just like recycling requires the intentional act of placing a bottle in the right bin, choosing to charge your EV during off-peak hours plays a part in managing local energy demand. By aligning your charging habits with times of lower grid demand, you’re helping prevent system overloads, similar to how recycling aids in resource conservation.

Ensuring You Charge During Off-Peak Hours

To align your EV charging with off-peak hours, if you’re using a basic charger that operates simply by plugging in and unplugging, you can adopt a straightforward routine. Plug in your vehicle each evening and disconnect it the following morning. This practice generally ensures your charging occurs during the night, typically off-peak.

For a more automated approach, consider investing in a programmable “smart” charger, like the HQ 200 model. These chargers offer the convenience of setting specific start and end times for charging, eliminating the need for manual plugging and unplugging. By programming your charger according to off-peak hours, you can optimize charging times without extra effort, ensuring efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

Charging During On-Peak Hours: When Is It Necessary?

Primarily, you should aim to charge your electric vehicle (EV) during off-peak hours. However, certain situations may necessitate charging during on-peak times. If your EV’s battery is critically low and you need to use the vehicle immediately, charging right away becomes essential, regardless of the time. Additionally, if your workplace provides EV charging facilities and you’re there during on-peak hours, it makes sense to utilize this service. The same applies when visiting businesses like cinemas that offer EV charging for customers; if you’re going to be there for a while, charging your car during your stay is a practical option.

Using a programmable smart charger, such as the Blink IQ 200 series, allows you to schedule your charging sessions to coincide with off-peak hours whenever possible, benefiting from lower electricity rates. This approach also supports the electrical grid by avoiding additional strain during peak demand periods.

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