Save Money While You Sleep: The Surprising Best Time to Charge Your Electric Vehicle

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Electric vehicles (EVs) are becoming increasingly popular as an eco-friendly and cost-effective transportation option. Most EV owners charge their vehicles at home, which provides convenience and savings compared to public charging stations. Home charging gives EV owners more control over when and how much to charge based on their driving needs, electricity rates, and lifestyle. There are several factors to consider to optimize home charging and get the most out of an EV.[1]

The most common home EV chargers are Level 1 and Level 2, which use alternating current (AC) to charge the battery. Level 1 provides about 2-5 miles of range per hour using a standard 120V outlet, while Level 2 can add 10-20 miles per hour through a 240V outlet. [2] Faster DC fast charging is available at public stations. Home charging speed depends on the EV model and charger type.

Electricity Rates

Electricity rates often vary based on the time of day and your utility provider. Many utility companies offer special time-of-use rates for EV owners to incentivize charging during off-peak hours when electricity demand is lower.

Off-peak rates are significantly cheaper than peak rates. For example, DTE Energy offers an off-peak rate of $0.05/kWh from 11pm-7am compared to a peak rate of $0.17/kWh from 2pm-7pm [1]. Charging during off-peak hours can save EV owners 50-70% on electricity costs compared to peak rates.

Some utilities have specific EV time-of-use rates with cheaper overnight charging. Unitil’s EV rate is just $0.099/kWh from 9pm-9am [2]. Charging overnight on this plan costs about 75% less than charging mid-day.

Shifting charging to off-peak hours when rates are lowest is the best way for EV owners to save money on electricity. Monitoring time-of-use rates and adjusting charge times accordingly is key.

Charging Speed

When it comes to charging an electric vehicle, there are a few key differences between Level 1 and Level 2 chargers that impact charging speed and times [1].

Level 1 chargers operate on 120 volts and deliver around 1.4 to 1.9 kilowatts of power. This allows them to add about 2 to 5 miles of range per hour of charging [2]. For a fully depleted battery, a Level 1 charger could take over 24 hours to fully recharge.

Level 2 chargers operate on 240 volts and deliver much more power, typically between 6 to 19 kilowatts. This enables them to add about 10 to 20 miles of range per hour of charging. For a fully depleted battery, a Level 2 charger can often fully recharge in under 8 hours [3].

The increased charging speed of a Level 2 charger makes it preferable for daily charging for most EV owners. However, Level 1 can still be useful as an overnight charging option when charging time is less critical. Overall, Level 2 offers 3-10x faster charging speeds compared to Level 1.

Battery Health

Keeping your EV battery healthy for the long term is important to maximize range and longevity. The ideal charge level for battery health is to maintain the state of charge between 20% and 80% as much as possible, according to Kia [1]. This avoids keeping the battery at a fully charged state for extended periods, which can degrade the electrodes over time. Frequent fast charging and discharging to very low states of charge below 10% can also accelerate capacity loss [2]. The lithium-ion batteries in most EVs today can last over a decade if properly maintained in the 20-80% daily charge range. Limiting full charges to when needed before long trips and avoiding deep discharge cycles preserves battery health over the vehicle lifetime.

Solar Power

Charging your EV with solar power can be a great way to utilize renewable energy and potentially save money on electricity costs (Offgrid Installer). The best times to charge with solar align with when your solar panels are producing the most energy. This is typically midday when the sun is highest in the sky. Specifically, solar production peaks between 10 am and 4 pm in most regions (Go-e). Charging during these solar peak hours allows you to maximize the use of sunlight and avoid drawing as much from the grid.

If your solar system lacks battery storage, you’ll need to charge while the sun is actively shining on your panels. With batteries, you can store solar energy during the day to use for charging later at night (Reddit). Orienting your panels to directly face the midday sun can further optimize production. Overall, aligning your charging with peak sunlight hours is ideal for solar EV charging.

Charging Etiquette

As electric vehicles become more popular, it’s important for EV owners to be considerate when using public charging stations. With more EVs on the road, charging spots can fill up quickly. Practicing proper etiquette helps ensure everyone can charge their vehicles efficiently [1].

Here are some tips for EV charging etiquette:

  • Only park in a charging spot if you are actively charging. Don’t take up a spot to run errands or eat at a nearby restaurant. These spots are meant for charging, not parking [2].
  • Monitor your charge progress. Once your battery reaches 80%, consider moving your vehicle to open up the spot. This allows others to start charging sooner [1].
  • Unplug and wrap up cords neatly when finished charging. Don’t just leave cords laying around, as this can pose a tripping hazard [2].
  • Avoid “topping off” your battery if there’s a wait for chargers. Get what you need to reach your destination and open up the spot for the next person.
  • Be patient and respectful if you have to wait your turn at a busy station. We’re all in this together.
  • Report inoperable chargers or issues to station owners. This helps improve the charging experience for everyone.

Following basic etiquette makes public charging easier for all EV drivers. Being considerate can go a long way toward making this a smooth transition for everyone on the road.

Lifestyle Factors

When choosing the best time to charge your EV, it’s important to consider your lifestyle and daily schedule (Source). For many EV owners, the most convenient time to charge is overnight while sleeping, as this allows you to wake up to a fully charged vehicle each morning (Source). However, if your schedule requires leaving early in the morning or arriving home late at night, you may prefer charging at different times.

Ultimately, the optimal charging time depends on factors like when you typically drive, when you are home, and when charging fits most seamlessly into your routine. Consider when you have at least a few hours at home with your vehicle parked and pick times that align with your daily habits. Charging your EV when it’s most convenient for your lifestyle will make the process easy and sustainable.

Charging Apps

Charging apps can be incredibly useful for EV owners looking to optimize their charging schedule and costs. These apps allow you to control when your EV charges based on time-of-use electricity rates, track charging sessions and costs, and even pre-heat or cool your vehicle before driving.

Some key features of charging apps include:

  • Charge scheduling – Most charging apps allow you to set a schedule for when your EV should start and stop charging. This allows you to take advantage of lower electricity rates by charging when demand is lower, such as overnight.
  • Real-time tracking – Apps provide data on your current charging session like power draw and estimated time to full charge. Some also estimate charging costs based on your electricity rate.
  • Vehicle preconditioning – Many apps can pre-heat or pre-cool your EV before your departure time to reduce battery drain from climate control. This maximizes your driving range.
  • Charging station locators – Find nearby public charging stations and get useful details like types of chargers, real-time availability, and pricing information.
  • Smart home integration – Control EV charging right from your smart home hub. Voice assistants like Alexa can start and stop charging on command.

The right charging app can optimize an EV owner’s charging schedule for lower electricity bills. Key things to look for are charge scheduling based on time-of-use rates, real-time tracking, preconditioning, and smart home integration. Taking advantage of these features will lead to more affordable and efficient home charging.

Vehicle-to-Grid

Electric vehicles can not only take power from the grid to charge their batteries, but also send power back to the grid through a capability known as vehicle-to-grid (V2G) EV Charging: How V2G Benefits Drivers and Electricity Suppliers. This allows EVs to help stabilize the electrical grid by recharging during off-peak hours when electricity demand is low and sending electricity back to the grid during peak hours when electricity demand is high BMW, Ford, Honda partner on vehicle-to-grid technology.

V2G technology enables EVs to act as mobile energy storage units and can provide services to the grid operator. For example, V2G can help balance supply and demand, regulate frequency, and provide backup power during outages Vehicle-to-Grid EV charging: what is it and how does it work?. This has benefits for both EV owners and the electrical grid as a whole.

Conclusion

When determining the best time to charge your EV at home, there are several key factors to consider:

  • Electricity rates – Avoid peak hours between 4-9pm when rates are highest. The lowest rates are often overnight and on weekends (1).
  • Charging speed – Charging is fastest when battery is below 80%. Slows down considerably above 80% to protect battery (2).
  • Battery health – Frequent full charges above 80% can degrade battery over time. Best to charge 30-80% for daily use (2).
  • Solar power – If you have solar panels, best to charge mid-day when sun is strongest. Avoid drawing from grid in evening (1).
  • Lifestyle factors – Charge when most convenient for your schedule to ensure reliability. Apps can help schedule charging (2).

In summary, the best times tend to be overnight, during solar peak hours, and on weekends when electricity rates are lowest. Target 30-80% charge for daily use, and minimize full charges for optimal battery health.

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