Electric Vehicle FAQ

Basics

It is a vehicle that can drive on electricity drawn from a power plug. An all-electric or battery electric vehicle (BEV) drives solely from power from a plug. There are many ways to charge the battery in a BEV.

A PHEV is a vehicle that can run on both electricity from a plug and gasoline. Usually the electricity is used up first. So driving around town is mostly electric with gasoline used mostly in long drives.

Purely hybrid electric vehicles that cannot be plugged in get all their energy from gasoline. They have a small battery and motor to make the car more fuel efficient. As such they are just efficient gasoline cars. Now there is a plug-in version of the Prius (Prius Prime) but the original Prius is a pure gasoline vehicle.

There are a host of BEVs in the market with ranges varying from 85-370 miles. At the lower end they serve as local city cars. At the higher end they can practically go anywhere. PHEVs have gasoline back up for longer drives and so range is never an issues.

Economics

When you consider the total cost of ownership, including purchase, rebates, fuel costs, and maintenance, plug-in cars can be cheaper than similar gas cars. You can use YellowTin’s calculator to check the costs for buying and maintaining a particular car.

Much less than it costs to buy gasoline. Exactly how much depends on the vehicle and electricity rates. On average, it costs less than $1 to charge a plug-in hybrid and $2-$4 for an all-electric car. Your overall energy bill will be lowered by driving with electricity.

Maintenance

Yes. Plug-in cars are the most dependable vehicles on the market. They will last as long or longer than gasoline automobiles, with less maintenance required. Since there are significantly fewer moving parts in an EV compared to a traditional vehicle, less ongoing preventative maintenance is needed. They require no oil changes, tune-ups, or new spark plugs. Brake life is extended on EVs since the motor is used to slow the car, recapturing the kinetic energy and storing it back in the battery. Electric motors will also outlast the body of the vehicle. Many automakers also offer warranties on the batteries. In some states like California the battery is mandated to last for 8 years or 100,000 miles under warranty.

Most manufacturers guarantee their batteries for upto 8 years or 100,000 miles. There are many Tesla cars that have now reached 200,000 miles on their original battery. There maybe some battery degradation with time but it only translates to reduced range. An EV with 300 mile original range and 10% battery degradation after 10 years which is typical, is still a 270 mile range EV and perfectly usable.

Environment

Vehicle batteries have an excellent recycling record that will get even better with plug-in vehicles. Every car in the world has a lead-acid battery. Even with its low value as scrap, the national recycling rate for lead-acid batteries is about 98 percent. Plug-in vehicles mostly use lithium ion, which is much more valuable than lead. It’s illegal to dispose of these batteries in a landfill, and their inherent value will ensure that they are recycled. Some car makers are exploring “second-life” applications for used EV batteries as well where degraded batteries are used in stationary applications like grid energy storage.

The existing electric grid’s off-peak capacity for power generation is sufficient to power 73 percent of commutes to and from work by cars, light trucks, SUVs and vans without building a single new power plant, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. The existing nighttime electricity could also be stored in plug-in vehicles and retrieved during peak-demand hours through vehicle-to-grid technology for use by the grid, helping to meet society’s daytime power needs. The U.S. power grid is also getting cleaner every year as affordable renewable energy continues to replace coal and nuclear plants.

Today less than 25% of US electricity comes from dirty coal plants and it is diminishing rapidly. Even when using that electricity mix plug-in cars reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and most other pollutants compared with other vehicle types. EVs also allow you to use 100 percent clean, renewable electricity from sources such as the sun or wind, eliminating greenhouse gas emissions entirely. EVs get cleaner as the electric grid gets cleaner – gas cars only get dirtier.

Steps to use

Think of it like charging your cellphone. Most people charge their cars at home or work, just like a cell phone. Plug it in when you arrive and it will be ready for you in the morning, or the end of the work day. The actual charging time varies based on battery size, number of miles driven in between charges, and the power of the charger. The lowest power chargers are called Level 1. They can trickle charge from a standard 110 V plug at 3 to 4 miles an hour. From a 240 volt high power plug, Level 2 charging can can reach 20 to 60 miles per hour. On the road there are high power Level 3 chargers or Superchargers than can charge up to 200 miles in 15 mins.

99% of the charging happens at home or work. However there are now many public chargers of varying power ranges. There are smartphone apps to help drivers locate a nearby charger.

No. Typically takes 5 secs to plug in before starting at work or at home after coming back.

Most EVs now come with a Level 1 and Level 2 charger. The Level 1 charger can be used immediately with any 110 volt outlet for slow charging. To use the level 2 charger, a 240 V outlet needs to be installed in the garage or driveway. YellowTin provides pointers and cost estimates for such a step. On the car side all connectors use the standard J connector and so there is no compatibility issue. 

Rebates

The federal Internal Revenue Service (IRS) tax credit is for $2,500 to $7,500 per new EV purchased. The size of the tax credit depends on the size of the vehicle and its battery capacity.  You can find the specific tax credit amounts for the individual vehicle chosen on the EV Learn more page of your dashboard. This tax credit will be available until 200,000 qualified EVs have been sold in the United States by each manufacturer, at which point the credit begins to phase out for that manufacturer. Currently, no manufacturers have been phased out yet.

To claim the credit, fill out IRS Form 8936, Qualified Plug-in Electric Drive Motor Vehicle Credit. For vehicles acquired for personal use, report the credit from Form 8936 on the appropriate line of your Form 1040, U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. For vehicles purchased in 2010 or later, this credit can be used toward the alternative minimum tax (AMT).  To learn more about the law, visit the IRS’s Plug-in Electric Drive Vehicle Credit webpage.

Pacific Gas & Electric offers an $800 rebate to its customers that have recently purchased a plug-in electric vehicle. You can claim the rebate by submitting this form

Nissan North America is offering eligible PG&E customers an incentive of $2,500 to $3,500 off the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) on the purchase of a new Nissan LEAF or Nissan LEAF Plus.