25k miles, $0 fuel cost. How?
Updated: Oct 25, 2020
We bought a Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus (SR+) in May 2019. Earlier this month, our car hit 25,000 miles on the odometer. We've paid $0 for electricity.
When we bought our Tesla, we received 5,000 free Supercharger miles. Meaning we could plug into any of Tesla's super fast charge stations anywhere in the nation and get free power - Tesla picked up the tab. We drove the car everywhere, including a 2,500 mile road trip to Chicago.
But what about the other 20,000 miles?
In much of America, you're stuck with whatever electric company has been granted a monopoly in your town. But, in most of Texas, folks can pick and choose their electricity provider. Here in Texas, electric companies sell a wide variety of electricity plans: 100% solar, 100% wind, a mix of solar/wind, this rate, that rate, short term, long term, you get the idea. They even advertise power plans like cellphone companies sold long distance minutes twenty years ago: Free nights, or free weekends.
We're on a free nights power plan with Direct Energy where electricity prices are $0/kWh from 9PM-9AM. Yup. Free. We just set our Tesla to charge during that free time. Below is a chart of our power usage over the past few days - you can see it drop off at 9AM and pick back up at 9PM (with some additional A/C running in the afternoon).
Over the past year, we've paid $606.45 for all our electric bills combined. That's an average of $50.54 per month. Our house is fully electric and we use about 1,000 kWh per month. We've done a fair amount of energy efficiency upgrades around the house; but being able to control power usage from our air conditioning unit (with a Nest thermostat), our hot water tank (with an Aquanta wifi controller), and our Tesla allows us to shift nearly 80-90% of our power usage to those free 12 hours.
Why would an electric company give away electricity, for free?
Texas has a lot of wind power and wind power generates best at night. Some nights, electric power prices actually become negative - so electric utilities are eager to find power users during nighttime. This also means that when I'm charging my car, it's getting more renewable energy than the grid average. Also, power prices during peak times (especially summertime afternoons) can be astronomically high, so utilities are trying to encourage their customers to cut back on power usage during those times. Time of use electric rates (TOU), like a free nights electric plan, fit those power profiles, perfectly. By encouraging me to use power at night, and avoid power usage during the day, my electric provider is trying to get my power usage to reverse-mirror the grid. And it's succeeding. We were able to calculate our savings before choosing our electric plan by downloading our smart meter data, for free, and see what we could do to maximize our savings.
On top of the time of use rates, electric companies offer incentives with electric plans, and loyalty. You can get an Amazon Alexa Echo, or a Google Nest, or some other smart device. If you refer a friend, you can both get a bill credit. Earlier this year, our electric bill for one month was $9.51 - we shifted our power usage to night, and had a $50 refer a friend credit. Our effective electric rate for that month was a penny per kilowatt hour ($0.01/kWh). Why do the companies provide these credits, discounts, incentives, and freebies? Simple. If they don't, you'll change your electric provider to someone that will. Texans use PowerToChoose.com to compare and select different electric plans - if you'd like to check it out, feel free to use 76006 as a zipcode.
So if you're in Texas and you're looking for a power provider, you can use my referral code and receive $50 off: 3Q1LQ6
And if you're in the market for a Tesla, use my referral code: