What is an Electric Vehicle? Electric vehicles (EVs) are passenger vehicles designed for safe transportation at highway speeds using electricity to power the vehicle.
What are the different types of Electric Vehicles? A Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) uses only an electric motor to power the car. BEVs are fueled exclusively from grid electricity and have no tailpipe or gas tank. Examples: Nissan LEAF and Mitsubishi i. A Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) has a larger battery and can be plugged into an electrical outlet. This enables a PHEV to drive true electric miles with power from the grid for a limited distance at limited speeds. Examples: Chevy Volt, Fisker Karma.
What is the difference between an EV and a Hybrid? No tailpipe! An EV runs on 100% electricity, but a hybrid uses a combination of electricity and gasoline. In a traditional hybrid, the electricity is generated either by the gasoline engine or by regenerative braking – there is no way to plug into the wall.
Are fully electric cars practical? Electric vehicles (EVs) can meet the driving needs of many people, as proven by a decade of experience in driving EVs by the founders of Plug In America and other EV drivers. In the United States, well over 90% of drivers average less than 100 miles, the range of most vehicles in both the previous and current generations of EVs. Data from the U.S. Department of Transportation shows that most Americans average less than 30 miles per day. (See graph, below.) The occasional long-distance drive can be done with a second car that is a plug-in hybrid (PHEV), by access to vehicles in car-share services, or by renting or borrowing another vehicle.
What will it cost to charge my EV? The electricity cost alone can vary from $20-50 per month depending on the electric rates in your area, the miles you drive and the time you charge. In addition, if you decide to use a home charging dock, there will be an upfront expense of approximately $1,500-2,500, depending on your specific installation and the features of your charger. NRG eVgo has convenient charging plans to satisfy your charging needs at home and away from home that help you avoid much of the up front expense of charging dock installation.
Where do spent EV batteries end up? 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, the most toxic metal used for batteries. Even with its low value as scrap, the recycling rate for lead-acid batteries is about 98% in the U.S. Plug-in vehicles use newer battery chemistries such as NiMH and Li-Ion. Their metals are inherently more valuable than lead. It is illegal to dispose of these batteries in a landfill and their value will ensure that they are recycled.
Can EV batteries be recycled? EV batteries can be used afterward for various storage applications and can also be recycled.
How often do you have to replace EV batteries? Not for many years. GM and Nissan offer warranties covering 8 years or 100,000 miles of driving on the lithium-ion batteries in the Volt or the Leaf. Nickel-metal hydride batteries (NiMH) in the previous generation of EVs are proving to have very long lives. Several electric cars with over 100,000 miles have been reported with virtually no range degradation.
Aren't we just substituting battery dependence for oil dependence? No. Electric vehicle battery manufacturing occurs throughout the world, including the U.S. itself. Additionally, the core natural resources used in the production (e.g. lithium) are dispersed throughout the world and are reusable.
Can you charge an EV battery even before it's not empty? Certainly. That’s kind of like asking if you can put gas in your tank even if it’s not empty. An EV’s battery management system actively manages the delivery of charge to ensure maximum lifetime of the battery. You just plug in and let the car do the rest.
Can I charge an EV with solar or wind generated power? Yes. The cleaner the power, the cleaner the car. Using solar photovolteics (PV) or wind power at your home or business makes even more sense with a plug-in car. The investment in solar panels pays off faster when the solar power is not only replacing grid electricity but replacing much more expensive gasoline. EVs typically can travel 3-4 miles (or more) per kWh of electricity. If you drive 12,000 miles per year, you will need 3,000-4,000 kWh. Depending on where you live, you will need a 1.5kW-3kW PV system to generate that much power using about 150-300 square feet of space on your roof. Utility credits for the daytime solar power can offset the cost of charging the car at night. If solar PV isn't feasible at your home, find out if your utility offers a green energy option.
Isn't 'plugging in' a hassle? Not at all. Plugging in literally takes less than 5 seconds of your time. There is no going out of your way to a gas station and jockeying for a pump. You can charge anywhere there is an electric outlet. Most EV drivers plug in when they get home and forget about the car until the next morning, when the fully charged car is waiting for them. The car's timer allows the car to recharge the battery overnight while the driver sleeps, at times of low electricity rates. Plus, thousands of public charging stations will be installed over the next few years to make it easy to add charge on trips away from home, too.
Why would I want to drive an EV? Three words: Cheaper. Cleaner. Domestic.
Cheaper: Electricity is much cheaper than gasoline (about a third of the current cost of
gas) and electric cars require next to no maintenance. (No oil changes, no muffler, no catalytic converter, etc. etc.)
Cleaner: Even on today's mainly coal-fired electrical grid, driving on electricity is cleaner than driving on gasoline. Read more in our FAQ asking, "What about overall emissions, including the car and the power plant?" Plus, plug-in vehicles give you the option of driving on renewable electricity sources such as solar, wind, or geothermal energy. Driving on electricity produces less of the pollution that sickens and kills hundreds of thousands of Americans each year.
Domestic: Electricity is made in the U.S.A. By driving an EV, you don't have to give your money to oil companies,
the politicians they support, and the foreign tyrants who control the oil supply.
Bonus: Plug-in cars are quiet, convenient, and fun to drive!
What is a Neighborhood EV? Neighborhood Electric Vehicles (NEVs) are a category of smaller, non-highway vehicles designed for use within a neighborhood setting. They have top speeds limited to 35 mph and limited safety features. The NEV is not designed for safe on-road highway driving like the EV.
Are EVs limited in size or features? Absolutely not. EVs have the standard features of any modern gasoline vehicle. Many also have the full creature comforts of luxury automobiles.
What should I consider before purchasing an EV? Similar to selecting a gasoline-powered car, choosing the electric vehicle that’s best for you depends on a number of different factors including your driving habits and personal preference. Here are some factors to consider:
Total Range: How far will you travel? The total range of current electric vehicles vary greatly—anywhere from 40-350 miles.
Gasoline Use: How much gasoline do you want to use? The battery capacity of an electric vehicle determines how far you can go without using a drop of gasoline.
Charging: Where will you charge? Where you drive and how you'll charge your vehicle can help you decide which electric vehicle will meet your needs.
If your daily commute is less than 40 miles, many electric vehicles—hybrid or battery electric—will be able to handle your daily driving without the need for gas. If you want the ability to drive much farther, several battery electric vehicles, such as the Nissan LEAF, can travel up to 84 miles on a charge. If you need to drive farther without charging, consider an extended-range hybrid like the Chevy Volt.
Are EVs really better for the environment? Yes. In the U.S, even when your car is 100% fueled by electricity generated by coal, EVs have a better emissions profile (in terms of both CO2 and traditional pollutants like nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, particulate matter, and volatile organic compounds.) Not only is the overall emissions content lower, but the location and timing of the emissions is better. While your gasoline vehicle emits pollution in the middle of the city and when people are out and about, the emissions from fueling your EV typically happens at off-peak driving hours at plant locations away from the city center. Furthermore, your EV gets cleaner every day as the emissions from electricity generation portfolios improve through the addition of more renewable generation and improved technology to generate cleaner fossil-fueled power.
Won't plug-in cars lead to the building of more coal-fired or nuclear power plants? We won't need additional generating capacity in the U.S. electrical grid for plug-in cars for decades to come. During that time we can shift to cleaner, renewable power options that cause less environmental harm than fossil fuels and nuclear plants.
The existing electrical grid's off-peak capacity for power generation is sufficient to power 73% of commutes to and from work by cars, light trucks, SUVs, and vans without building a single new power plant if people drive plug-in hybrids, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. In addition, the existing nighttime electricity could 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.
New power generation facilities should focus on clean, renewable sources such as wind, solar, biomass, and geothermal power. Combine these with the institution of energy efficiency measures throughout society, and we can meet the targets needed to avoid the worst effects of global warming without resorting to more coal or nuclear plants, according to the 2007 report Tackling Climate Change.
Is it true that EVs have no 'fluids', per se? Most fluids associated with engines – motor oil, transmission fluid, etc — are not needed in an EV. EVs will have brake fluid, coolant and washer fluid, though. Vehicles such as the Chevrolet Volt that contain an onboard gasoline generator will still require engine lubricants.
Do EVs have a transmission? Can I get one in Automatic or Manual? This answer surprises a lot of people. There’s no transmission in an electric car, so the experience is even smoother than an automatic.
What generates cabin heat without engine coolant? Ahhh, good question. EVs typically use an enclosed electric heater and electric heated surfaces (e.g. seats, steering wheel) to generate cabin heat. Admittedly, the heavy use of cabin heat can have an impact on the range of an EV.
Will EVs plug into a 'standard' household outlet? Yes. EVs will charge on a regular 110/120V, 20-Amp dedicated outlet. This is considered a “trickle charge,” which means it will take longer to achieve a full charge.
Are EVs the same as Hydrogen cars? No, but they are similar in some ways. Hydrogen vehicles can use hydrogen in one of two ways – combustion or electricity generation. If the vehicle uses hydrogen combustion, it is more similar to a gasoline engine car than an EV. If the vehicle uses hydrogen for electricity generation, there are many similarities to EVs. In this case, the hydrogen feeds a fuel cell that produces electricity. The electricity can then fuel a battery and/or an electric drive motor.
Isn't Hydrogen really the solution? No. Hydrogen fuel cell cars are 4X less efficient than battery EVs if the hydrogen is produced from electricity. It's 1.4X less efficient if made from natural gas. Where and how will the hydrogen be stored? Who will pay the billions required for this new infrastructure? (Hint - us taxpayers.) With plug-in cars, the infrastructure is already in place - the electric grid.
Can I use the HOV/Diamond Lane with an EV? Depends on the city. Many metropolitan areas offer additional convenience benefits to EV drivers, including preferred parking, toll road access and single-rider HOV/Diamond access. Check with your locality for programs in your area.
What affects the 'range' of an EV? Your actual range will vary based on the type of driving you do, your driving habits and the weather conditions. Long-distance driving at high speeds will tend to decrease range. Aggressive driving with fast starts and stops will tend to decrease range. Using the air conditioner and the heater (especially the heater) tends to decrease range. Terrain also affects EV range - driving up hills and mountain passes, for example. But you will then 'gain' some lost range due to regenerative braking on the trip downhill. Most EVs are equipped with real-time information about the efficiency of your driving and the remaining range so you can fully understand the impact and figure out how to extend the range.
How do I 'charge' an Electric Car? EVs charge through two different types of charging ports. The first type of port (called “J1772”), which is standard on virtually all EVs, will accept a charge from either an ordinary home outlet (110/120V) or through an industry-standard Level 2 (240V) charging dock. A standard home outlet delivers a very slow rate of charge (only about 6 miles of range per hour of charging). Charging through a Level 2 charging station dock delivers power much more quickly (up to 25 miles of range per charging hour). The second type of port is a DC Fast Charging port, but be aware that a DC port may be optional on some cars and not even available on others. This port provides the ability to accept DC Fast Charging (480V), which gives you up to 200 miles per charging hour. New plug-in vehicles come with chargers located inside the cars, plus cords and other equipment to plug into convention 120-volt electrical outlets. For faster charging, though, many drivers will want to buy Electric Vehicle Service Equipment (EVSE), known informally as a charging station, in order to plug into a 240-volt outlet. See our Accessory Tracker to compare charging station options. All come with the same "J connector" that should allow any plug-in vehicle to connect to any charging station.
How long will the EV battery hold a charge when parked? Generally, an EV’s batteries will last for months if left unused. However, it really depends on the make and model of your EV plus a wide variety of additional factors. For EVs, a minimal amount of battery drain will occur if you are using lights, stereo and other accessories. When you are not moving, no power is used to “idle.”
Are EVs safer to drive? To date, findings have shown that several electric vehicle features maximize safety. For example, electric vehicles tend to have a lower center of gravity that makes them less likely to roll over, electric vehicles have less potential for major fires or explosions and the body construction and durability of electric vehicles enhance vehicle safety in a collision.
Aren't electric cars inherently dangerous? The risk of being shocked by touching your car or truck is also low in electric cars, because the electrical system “floats” in isolation from the chassis. Many electrical subsystems are designed to shut off if they detect a current path to the car’s chassis. Electric cars also have safety disconnects designed to cut power in the event of a collision, short circuit or other danger. Safety devices such as these are one reason both the Volt and the all-electric Nissan Leaf received top ratings from NHTSA and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). There has been some concern recently that Emergency Responders could be shocked by the EV components after a crash. The National Fire Protection Association and EV manufacturers are supplying standards that will keep both the EV occupants and First Responders safe.
Can I take my EV to my 'regular' mechanic? Probably not. An EV has an electric motor rather than a gasoline engine, which will require service from qualified, trained EV technicians. Keep in mind, however, that electric motors don’t require regular maintenance (oil changes, transmission fluid changes, air filter changes, etc.) that gasoline engines do.
How do maintenance costs of an EV compare to a regular car? Maintenance costs are projected to be at least two thirds lower than comparably equipped gas-powered cars. How cool is that? Plug-in electric vehicles typically have lower total cost of ownership and, in particular, lower maintenance costs. This is because they have fewer moving parts, reduced oil changes (or none for a full electric) and fewer brake jobs—battery regeneration absorbs most of the energy. Most Volts, which are extended-range hybrids, only need an oil change every two years. Hybrids and plug-in electric vehicles can go 100,000 miles before receiving a brake job.
Shouldn't I be concerned about using 'dirty' energy from a coal-fired power plant in my 'clean' EV? Even in its dirtiest form (coal), electric power generation is much cleaner and more efficient than the combined emissions generated from oil production, refining and then burning gasoline in a traditional car.
How does cold weather affect EV battery life? Your driving habits and patterns, use of accessories (including heat and air conditioning) and outside ambient temperature all play a role in driving range.
How long will it take to charge my EV? With a Level 2 (240V) charging dock, an EV can be refueled in 2-8 hours, depending on the vehicle battery size and charging capability. If you’re using a standard 110V outlet, the refueling time could be as long as 8-16 hours. Some cars are able to use a rapid charger that charges the battery with high-power DC current (480V). A 480-volt quick-charge station can deliver range at a rate of up to 150 miles per hour. But considering their cost and power requirements, these DC fast chargers aren’t appropriate for residential applications.
Do EVs emit electro-magnetic radiation? Data suggest there are no harmful electromagnetic emissions from plug-in cars. There is no broad agreement in the United States over what level of exposure to electromagnetic fields may constitute a health hazard, and there are no federal standards for allowable exposure levels. A National Institutes of Health reportshows (on page 41) that electric cars and buses have lower electromagnetic fields than conventional gasoline cars, similar to findings reported in a 1999 study by the U.S. Department of Energy.
Is the 'quiet' nature of EVs a safety hazard? Electric vehicles are most certainly not silent. At parking-lot speeds they make as much noise via various fans, pumps and tire noise as most modern internal-combustion engine vehicles. At high speeds the wind and tire noise is comparable to any car. And like so many other issues surrounding the EV, this "problem" was addressed years ago. The EV1 had a back-up warning, as well as a pedestrian alert that could be activated by the driver when needed.
Adding a constant noise to the cars would only serve to increase ambient noise levels, subsequently lowering individual awareness and increasing noise pollution in our environment. By making all cars quiet, we would be safer than by making quiet cars louder. Ultimately, it's the driver's responsibility to operate any vehicle safely.