Electric Vehicle FAQ

Basics

While most vehicles are fueled solely by gasoline, an EV is powered by electricity. There are two main types of EVs.  An all-electric vehicle (also known as a battery electric vehicle, or BEV) is powered solely by electricity.  Another type of EV, the plug-in hybrid EV (PHEV), can run on both electricity and on gasoline. PHEVs normally have smaller batteries and shorter electric ranges (such as 15 – 55 miles) than BEVs.  When they run out of electricity, they switch to gasoline for their energy source. This means that a PHEV will often operate on its electric motor while driving around town and on its gasoline engine for longer trips.

Pure hybrid electric vehicles get all their energy from gasoline — they cannot be manually recharged like a battery electric vehicle or a plug-in hybrid EV. Pure hybrids use a small battery and a combustion engine in combination to make the vehicle more fuel efficient than possible with a conventional internal combustion engine. As such, they are just efficient gasoline vehicles.  The combustion engine can generate electricity to charge the battery when the car operates at slower speeds or in stop-and-go traffic. And for longer distances, the combustion engine powers the vehicle in the traditional manner.

There are a host of battery electric vehicles (BEVs) on the market with ranges varying from 85-400 miles. Lower ranges are ideal for local and city driving. At the higher end, they can often be used for long trips, especially given the increasing availability of fast-charging stations in many areas. Plug-in hybrid EVs (PHEVs) have smaller battery packs than BEVs and can normally travel between 15 – 55 miles on a full charge. However, they have gasoline backup for longer drives, so the range is less of an issue.

Economics

When you consider the total cost of ownership, including purchase/lease, incentives, fuel costs, and maintenance, EVs can be cheaper than gasoline-powered vehicles without the hassle of going to the gas station and without generating local air emissions.

Operating an EV costs much less than it costs to buy gasoline. Exactly how much depends on the vehicle, your electricity rates, and your local gasoline costs. In general, your overall energy expenses will be reduced by driving with electricity.

Maintenance

Yes. Battery electric vehicles (BEVs) are the most dependable vehicles on the market. They will last as long as or longer than gasoline automobiles. Also, less maintenance is required because there are significantly fewer moving parts compared to a traditional vehicle. They require no oil changes, tune-ups, or spark plug replacement. 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. 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 EV manufacturers guarantee their batteries for up to 8 years or 100,000 miles.  Many Teslas have now reached 200,000 miles on their original batteries. With any EV, there will be some battery degradation with time, and this translates into reduced range. For example, an EV with a 300 mile original range and 20% battery degradation after 10 years (which is typical), is still a 240 mile range EV and perfectly usable.

Environment

Lithium-ion is the predominant battery type used in EVs.  They contain materials that can be hazardous if released into the environment, so as with all types of batteries, proper recycling is required at the end of life.  Recycling is now becoming more available for lithium-ion batteries.  Additionally, once aging batteries are no longer suited for EVs, they can often be repurposed in  “second-life” stationary storage applications.

The existing electric grid’s off-peak capacity for power generation is sufficient to power 73% of commutes to and from work by cars, light trucks, and vans without building a single new power plant, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. In addition, available nighttime electricity from reduced usage and wind generation could eventually be stored in vehicle batteries to be retrieved during peak-demand hours. This could help move the U.S. toward the ability to meet our daytime power needs with 100% renewable energy. The U.S. power grid is also getting cleaner every year as affordable renewable energy continues to replace fossil-fueled power plants.

Today less than 20% of U.S. electricity comes from dirty coal plants, and it continues to diminish. Also, with the increasing use of 100% clean, renewable electricity from sources such as the sun and wind (which have no greenhouse gas emissions from operations), the grid-supplied electricity used to power most EVs is getting cleaner all the time.

Steps to use

Most people charge their cars at home or work. The 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 trickle charge from a standard 120V plug at 3 to 5 miles of charging per hour. From a 240V high power plug, a Level 2 charger can typically reach 20 to 50 miles of charging per hour.  Even higher power, Level 3 chargers, or Superchargers, can be found along highways and in communities. These can charge certain types of vehicles up to 200 miles in 15 mins.

Over 95% of EV charging happens at home or work. However, there are now many public Level 2 chargers of varying power ranges.  Smartphone apps are available to help drivers locate nearby chargers.

No. It typically only takes seconds to plug in, and it becomes a habit, like charging your cell phone.

EVs typically come with a portable Level 1 charger, and some come with a portable Level 2 charger as well. The Level 1 charger can be used immediately with any 120V outlet for slow charging. To use the Level 2 charger, a 240V outlet needs to be available in or near the garage or driveway.  Wall-mounted charging stations are sometimes installed at homes, but these are not required.  On the car side, all connectors use the standard J connector and so there are no compatibility issues. (Teslas have an adaptor that allows for the use of a J connector.)

Incentives

Utilities, counties, Community Choice Aggregators, etc. sometimes offer rebates of various types on induction cooktops.