Many EV drivers go electric because it’s good for the environment – and it is! Driving an EV creates fewer greenhouse gases than a conventional vehicle, even when they are charged with electricity that is mostly generated from coal-fired power plants.
When you consider the entire life of the vehicle, from manufacture all the way through to recycling, EVs have about half the climate change impact of an ICE vehicle.
That’s pretty good, right? It’s an environmental win! We can just stop there and look back on a job well done.
Well, you could. But if you went electric because you care about the environment, there are a bunch of other things you could do to make your carbon footprint even lighter.
Avoid peak charging times
In the early hours of the evening, a typical scene plays out in homes across North America. Work and school are out, and most families are heading home. The A/C goes on and folks start cooking dinner and put a load of washing on.
This part of the day is when electricity demand is at its highest, known as a peak period. And, while utility companies are generally increasing the amount of renewable energy they use to power the grid, many need to fire up “peaker plants” to cover the extra demand during these peak periods. The problem is, peaker plants are mostly fueled by coal or natural gas.
By scheduling your EV to charge overnight, or at other times when energy use is low, you can help to balance out this demand. This helps to increase the amount of clean energy that utilities can build into their systems.
Say goodbye to your second ICE vehicle
Over half of all households in the U.S. have two or more cars, and most EV owners still own another conventional vehicle. When it comes to the time to replace your other vehicle, what’s stopping you from going fully electric?
Most people in North America drive less than 60 miles on weekdays, and the new breed of EVs can easily do twice that. Meanwhile, the long-range models can comfortably get over 200 miles from a single charge. So, maybe now’s the time to go all in for electric!
Think energy efficient appliances
Now that you’ve got the wheels covered, you could start thinking how to reduce energy usage in your home. Energy efficient appliances are a great place to start. They don’t just reduce your carbon footprint, they pay for themselves in just a few years thanks to the energy they save.
ENERGY STAR rated appliances have passed EPA energy efficiency standards, and offer the best environmental savings. Some of the greatest energy savings will come from upgrading your air conditioner, furnace and dishwasher.
Make your appliances smarter
“Smart” technology gives you much greater control of your appliances – while helping you reduce energy usage.
With a smart thermostat, you can schedule your HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) so you only use energy to cool or heat your home when you’re in it. You can program your thermostat to turn on right before the family comes home, so that it’s at the perfect temperature when you walk through the door. And if plans change, you can control it remotely from your smartphone.
A smart water heater tracks water temperature along with your water use patterns or preset schedules. It uses that data to provide you with hot water only when you need it. And, like the thermostat, you can control the heater with your smartphone, if you need hot water at a different time than normal.
Look to the sun
Depending on where you live, investing in a solar power system for your house can be a great way to shift your energy use further away from the grid. In some cases, you can even sell back the energy that you don’t use to your utility company.
Otherwise, you might consider looking into purchasing a home battery system to store any solar energy that you’re not using immediately. This is particularly useful if you want to use it to charge your EV when you get home at night, when there’s no sun to generate free electricity.
Seek out rebates and incentives
If you hunt around, you’ll find a range of financial incentives to help cover the cost of making your life greener. These can be found at all levels of government, from municipal all the way up to federal. You might also find that your utility provider has some incentive programs that you can tap into.
For example, for help installing solar panels, you can look to the federal solar tax credit or state tax credits. It can even sometimes be possible to get a cash rebate from your utility company, state or municipality, knocking up to 20% off your solar system costs.
You can check out a current database of state and federal incentives for energy efficiency and renewables at DSIRE from N.C State University.
The road to sustainable living (is a little longer than you might have thought)
Like many EV owners, you may have made the choice to drive an electric vehicle because of your concern for the environment. But as you can see, purchasing an EV is just the start of your sustainability journey and there are lots of things you can do to further green your life. It doesn’t have to be the final destination!