One of the first questions many people ask themselves when they get an electric vehicle (EV) is: When should I charge it?
Unlike internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, where you can just drive to the nearest gas station and pump a bunch of (super expensive and super stinky) liquid into the tank, with an EV, the inexpensive and odorless refueling process takes longer.
With a Level 1 charger, which you can just plug into a regular 120 volt electrical outlet in your home, it will likely take you several hours to fully charge your vehicle.
A Level 2 charger – which makes up the majority of public chargers – will probably take just a few hours to charge your battery. Level 2 chargers plug into the standard 240 volt circuit at homes and businesses.
Meanwhile, a Direct Current Fast Charger (DCFC) will take less than an hour to fully charge your vehicle. However, plug-in hybrid EVs are not able to use a DCFC. DC fast chargers use much more electricity than Level 1 and Level 2 chargers and require a 480 volt circuit.
The time it takes to completely charge your battery depends on factors such as the capacity of the battery, how full/empty it is when you plug it in, and the type of charger you are using.
But, there is one other variable to think about: the time of day you are charging.
Why does the time of day matter?
While electricity may seem infinite when you are just plugging in your various small appliances at home, it’s actually not.
Electricity is finite.
Your local utility provider will have a certain electrical capacity and when that capacity is reached, it will have to draw more power from somewhere to accommodate all the electrical appliances and equipment that need power. If more power is unavailable, this can lead to brownouts and/or blackouts.
Nobody wants that.
To help avoid overloading your local electricity provider, consider charging your vehicle during off-peak hours at a Level 2 charger.
On-Peak & Off-Peak Hours
When we talk about on-peak hours, that is the time of day when the electrical grid is at its busiest. There are more appliances and equipment vying for electricity than at any other point during the day.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), on-peak hours generally refer to the hours beginning at 7:00 a.m. until 11:00 p.m. on weekdays, while off-peak hours are between 11:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. on weekdays and all day on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays.
“Electricity consumption typically cycles each day with the lowest demand occurring around 5:00 a.m. and the highest demand occurring at some point during the day (depending on the season), before falling back down during late evening hours,” the EIA’s website says. “This variation in electricity demand follows the daily patterns of energy use by households and businesses, but it is especially dependent on weather-related factors. The overall level and shape of total U.S. electricity load varies from year to year, and typical load shapes vary across regions because of differences in weather patterns and the types of electrical equipment in use.”
So, in general, off-peak hours are late evenings, throughout the night, on weekends and holidays.
Should you charge your EV during off-peak hours?
There are advantages to charging your vehicle during off-peak hours, such as:
It may be cheaper
In order to convince more people to charge during off-peak hours, many electrical utilities are providing discounted rates for electricity during this time.
For example, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power offers a $0.025 per kilowatt-hour discount for electricity used to charge EVs during off-peak times.
Many other power companies have followed suit to incentivize off-peak charging.
You’re doing your part to help manage electricity demand
Recycling doesn’t happen automatically. A person has to choose to put a glass bottle into the recycling container instead of the garbage. When you toss your bottle into the recycling container, you are doing your part to help recycle.
The same goes for charging an EV during off-peak hours. When you choose to do your charging during off-peak hours, you are helping to manage the electricity demand in your local area and not overload the system.
How do you make sure you are charging during off-peak hours?
If you have a charger that can only be turned off and on by plugging or unplugging it – then you can simply plug in your car each night and unplug it in the morning. If you do this consistently, you will be charging your EV during off-peak hours at night.
The alternative is to use a “smart” charger like our HQ 200.
These chargers are programmable so you can set them to start and end charging at specific times. That way, you don’t have to manually plug in and unplug your charger when you want to charge your vehicle. You just tell your smart charger when you want to charge and it turns itself on and off accordingly.
When should I charge during on-peak hours?
While your normal charging should be done during off-peak hours as much as possible, there may be times when it makes sense to charge your vehicle during on-peak hours.
If your battery is at or near dead, and you absolutely need your vehicle to go somewhere, then you should go ahead and charge it regardless of the time of day.
If your workplace has an EV charger employees can use and you work during the day, you might as well take advantage of the charger and top up while you’re at work.
Similarly, when you are a customer at a place of business that you are planning to stay at for a few hours – a cinema, for example – and they have an EV charger for customers, you may as well charge your car while you are in that business if you are planning to be there for an extended period of time.
By using a smart charger, like Blink’s IQ 200 series, you can program your charging sessions to take advantage of off-peak hours and the often discounted electricity rates that come with it. Plus, you will be doing your part to make sure the electrical grid doesn’t get overloaded.