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The best time to charge your EV in NCW

I'm thrilled to finally be in the EV club after buying a used Nissan Leaf last summer. I knew I immediately wanted to join the efforts of PlugIn NCW, a local group who works to promote electrification of transportation in our area. I've learned so much already, as there are a lot of veteran EV drivers whose experience is really helpful when it comes to transitioning from gas to electric. Recently, Jim White, senior energy efficiency engineer at the Chelan County PUD, and past SW board member, shared some great info with the group about the best time to charge your EV. If you currently own an electric car or are thinking about making the change, be sure to check out his recommendations below. Now I want a bumper sticker that says, "Runs on raindrops and snowflakes." - Jana


These are some suggestions from Jim about EV charging:

  1. Even though Chelan PUD is nearly 100% renewable hydro, any hydro that is not consumed in the county is exported to the Western power grid. Although it seems counterintuitive, the electricity we consume in our electric vehicles does not affect the output or how we operate our hydroelectric dams. In general, whenever you charge your car, some coal (baseload at night) or natural gas (peaking during the day) power plant somewhere on the grid has to ramp up to meet the additional load. The exceptions to this are during the spring when there is high runoff down the Columbia River and/or lots of wind generation in the region. The spring is also a time when heating and air conditioning loads throughout the west coast are down, and there is more generation than the transmission lines can send to California. [Note: If you are planning a long-distance trip, consider going during the spring. It was quite satisfying driving to Texas last spring as we drove past countless wind turbines powering the grid.]

  2. Wholesale power prices are generally lower at night, so from a financial perspective to keep local rates low, you should charge at night. Unfortunately, this is also when most coal plants are running. This is why I encourage EV owners to include solar generation on their home or support solar on other parts of the grid. 3.5 kW (about 250 square feet) of solar in Chelan county can generate as much energy as a typical electric car uses.

  3. If you have solar PV on your home, try to charge during the middle of the day when the sun is shining. If you have grid-connected solar on your roof, you can also utilize those electrons virtually to charge your car at work or charging somewhere else on the grid.

  4. To minimize your impact on our local distribution system, DO NOT charge during peak hours of the summer and winter. On cold days, avoid charging from 6 AM to 10 AM and from 4 PM to 10 PM. On hot days avoid charging from 4 PM to 10 PM. Best times would be between 11 PM and 5 AM, except as noted below.

  5. Eventually, the goal is to green the grid and get rid of coal and natural gas generation. As that happens, electric vehicles can help by charging when there is an excess of wind, solar and hydro, and avoid charging when renewable energy is in short supply. The biggest complaint about wind and solar is, “What do you do when the sun doesn’t shine or the wind doesn’t blow?” The answer is, “Try not to charge your electric vehicle during those times.” Electric vehicles can help green the grid by striving to charge when the sun is shining or the wind is blowing. This is not always possible, but electric vehicles, especially those with longer range, can be tremendously helpful in greening the grid by choosing to charge during those times.

Jim with his award-winning solar invention and Tesla, which he bought with his prize money

Jim also adds, that "Even if some EV’s are powered by coal, the emissions are far less than burning gasoline. In the Pacific Northwest our gasoline comes from the tar sands in Canada or the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota. If you want proof, look at the oil trains passing through Wenatchee every day from Cherry Point refinery in Anacortes on their way back to the oil fields in North Dakota."

"We are not there yet, but I love the satisfaction of running on raindrops, snowflakes, sunshine and distant winds."

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