Got An Energy-Efficient Household? Drive Electric For Free!

2012 Zero S electric motorcycle and 2012 Mitsubishi i-MiEV electric car [photo: Ben Rich]

2012 Zero S electric motorcycle and 2012 Mitsubishi i-MiEV electric car [photo: Ben Rich]

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Among the first questions any electric car owner hears are (1) What is the range? (2) How long does it take to charge and (3) What does it cost to operate?

Many drops of ink (and millions of pixels) have been dedicated to the first two questions, so here's some insight on the third. 

As a science teacher, I'm interested in measuring things and drawing conclusions from actual data.

So last summer I bought a CurrentCost EnviR energy monitoring system and started watching my electricity use online.

This may not sound like fun to everyone, but I was fascinated by the treasure of information waiting to be uncovered.

I live in the top floor of a multi-family home with three roommates; downstairs are three other people, for a total of seven inhabitants. I've outfitted our upstairs apartment with energy-saving lights, an Energy Star TV, and an efficient refrigerator. I also make sure anything that plugs in is turned off whenever possible. 

With this setup, I figured we would use slightly less electricity than our downstairs neighbors. Boy, was I in for a surprise!

Driving all-electric

But before you get to the surprise, also note that much of my travel is via electric vehicle.  I've had a 2012 Zero-S electric motorcycle for more than a year, and now I also drive a 2012 Mitsubishi i-MiEV electric car.

Between the two, I've put on 4,321 miles of all electric driving--which is about one-third of the annual miles covered by an average driver in the U.S.

Now the fun part.  Most months the electric bill for the four people in my apartment (three roommates and me) is exactly half of the electric bill of our downstairs neighbors.

That's right, the four of us--including an electric vehicle driver who charges his vehicles at home much of the time--use half the electricity of three fairly average electricity users.

We also use 13 percent less energy than the average household in New Jersey, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

2012 Mitsubishi i-MiEV electric car [photo: Ben Rich]

2012 Mitsubishi i-MiEV electric car [photo: Ben Rich]

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What does this mean?

An energy efficient household with an electric vehicle can use less electricity than an average household.

Changing your lights to compact fluorescents and using EnergyStar appliances can save you more electricity than your electric car will consume. My electric-vehicle charging accounts for less than 9 percent of the total energy used by all four people in my apartment. 

Living in a multi-family house means I have a landlord, and since he picks up the utility bill he is getting concerned that paying for my electricity is akin to paying for my gas.

The additional cost of charging has been an average of $6.51 per month--less than what it would cost to leave a 60-Watt light bulb on for 24 hours a day for the whole month.

In this case, the benefits of living in an energy-efficient home far outweigh the cost of driving an electric vehicle.

It's like driving for free!

Ben Rich is a teacher in New Jersey who owns a 2012 Zero S electric motorcycle. This is his second article for High Gear Media.


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Comments (17)
  1. Well, done. I absolutely believe that saving energy in the home is a great way to "fuel" an EV. I have reduced my consumption by 75% and look forward to getting an EV.

    Now as for the numbers, I think they are a bit optimistic.
    A 60W bulb on for a month is 43KWH/month.

    The i-Miev uses 30KWH/100miles so, travel is limited to only 143 miles per month. That is not very much.

    Also, the 143 miles per month is only 1716 miles per year, or far less than the 4321 miles per year quoted in the story.

  2. Didn't that also include the use of an electric bike. I bet that is an efficient way to get around.

  3. Most of the miles were on an electric motorcycle and some were via car. They will vary depending on driving habits and commuting patterns. The motorcycle travels much farther per kWh than the car. Thanks for the thoughtful response.

  4. Thanks for the reply.
    That would explain it.

    Yes, if you can drive about one third of the number of miles as most people and do it on a motorcycle, then perhaps home energy efficiency could equal free electric driving.

    For me, the household is two vehicles driving each 15,000 miles/year or 6x the number of miles listed in the article. This makes it very challenging.

    Of course, perhaps that is the point, start with less driving and a more efficient mode of transport.

  5. One of the main points I think this information shows is how inefficient homes are in the US (in general), and you can save a lot of energy. So much energy, that the saved energy can propel you quite a distance in the right vehicle.

    Of course, individual results will vary, but seeing my electric bill while using EVs equal half the electric bill of my neighbors without EVs was quite an eye opener.

  6. Did you purchase the Zero motorcycle in NJ? which dealer?

  7. Got the Zero Motorcycle at Carbon Negative in Brooklyn. ( They have been very helpful and are great to work with.

    I'd like to see a motorcycle dealer in NJ and have written to one that is near me. Planning to go to some events and show off the bike in person this spring.

  8. Got the Zero from Carbon Negative ( in Brooklyn. They have been very helpful.

    I'm hoping to see some dealers in NJ pick them up and have written a letter to one. My plan is to bring the motorcycle to some dealerships nearby and give them a chance to check it out.

  9. My house averages 600 kWh per month, as does my car which my wife and I drive 20k miles per year. I've added a 6kW solar system which exactly covered our cost last year. I've left room for more solar on the roof, but I've challenged myself to follow the point of this article and improve our household efficiency further before I add more solar (to cover future additional cars and switching from natural gas appliances to electric).

  10. "We also use 13 percent less energy than the average household in New Jersey, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration."

    How much is that? According to the Link that is about 940KWh per house per month.

    That is AWEFULLY a lot. Way higher than the typical California homes.

    That is more than what I use in my 2,400sq ft house with the Volt...

    Many of the high use households are located in the South where the summer is hot and long. A/C usage makes up more than half of the total household usage.

  11. The norms of electricity usage are different in California which is a lesson not learned by much of the rest of the USA.

  12. @John: That's correct. California public policy for many years now has been to "decouple" utility profits from electric consumption--meaning that the utilities are encouraged NOT to sell as much electricity as possible but to keep consumption steady despite increasing population and more electric consumer goods that plug in.

    As a result, California is the only state whose electric consumption per capita has remained essentially steady for decades. That's an impressive accomplishment. Now, other states are starting to look seriously at decoupling.

    Yet another case where California leads and the rest of the nation follows. Eventually.

  13. We have a 6.88KW solar array, two EVs that are driven 28K miles a year and haven't paid an electric bill since 2009. Not difficult, just takes a large enough array and add EVs onto that.

  14. As I have noted on this site and others, we have a 5.5 kW solar PV system and a solar hot water system and a 3000 square foot house in California, we have not paid any electric use fees since that install in 2008.....and we are also charging both a Volt and a Leaf and staying quite cool during those warm California summers.

    We will be building a new home in Vacaville (which had the very first L3 public charger) later this year, and we are even looking at a light colored roof to further reduce AC needs. We will have garage chargers for both the J1772 and the Tesla Model S which is scheduled to arrive next month.

  15. Lucky you guys!

    I agree that solar is the best way to go. However, keep in mind that NOT all houses are created equal. Some roofs have very limited solar exposure, especially those with a lot of trees or bad shapes towards sunny side. Many of my co-workers live in the area with lots of Redwood trees and they can't get any significant solar productions.

  16. I found this article helpful as I live in collective housing and am working to justify my purchase of an ev to the collective.

    I know in my previous dwelling, we switched to LED's in 75% of the home, used a single induction hob for most of the inside cooking, [solar oven also for a large amount ((98% of of April's)) cooking] purchased ultra efficient dishwasher and front load washer and saw the bill drop significantly (how much --numbers 2 hours away.) I consider, a person could have left that same money in stocks for years and get a payback. We put it directly in personal infrastructure we own, use daily AND we got a payback.

  17. Your upgrades sound great! Interestingly, this is exactly what sparked the research for this article. My landlord wants to start charging me money to charge up my vehicle. This makes sense and I was agreeable to it until I discovered how little electricity we use in my apartment compared to the downstairs apartment. Now he is starting to agree with me that I have saved him far more on electrical bills than my vehicles are costing him.

    Good luck!

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