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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