Electric Vehicles – Frequently Asked Questions

When Will I Be Able To Buy An Electric Vehicle (EV) Or A Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV)?

A number of EVs and PHEVs are available in U.S. markets now, and many more are expected to arrive over the next several years.  The prices below are vehicle list price and don’t take into account the federal tax credit of $7,500.

PHEVs

  • General Motors introduced the Chevy Volt in December 2010 in CA, CT, MI, NJ, NY, TX, and DC, and plans to make them available nationwide by the end of 2011.  This four-seater PHEV offers 35 miles of all electric range (up to 340 additional miles on gas generator thereafter) and costs roughly $40,000.
  • Fisker Automotive began a small quantity production of the 2011 Fisker Karma in mid-2010 and will expand to mass production in February 2011.  This four-seater luxury PHEV offers 50 miles of all electric range (up to 250 additional miles on gas generator thereafter) and costs $80,000.
  • In 2012, Toyota will offer its Prius line of vehicles as a plug-in hybrid.  The all-electric range for Prius PHEVs will likely be limited to about 13 miles but the vehicle will have an overall fuel economy of 134 miles per gallon.  The cost of the PHEV Prius is expected to be roughly $28,000.
  • In 2012, Ford plans to introduce the Ford Escape plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.  The five-seater Ford Escape PHEV will offer 30 miles of all-electric range, and the price has not yet been determined.

EVs

  • The Nissan Leaf is currently available in AZ, CA, HA, TX, TN, WA, and OR.  Nationwide ordering will being in 2012.  The EV will seat five, have a range of 100 miles, and cost $32,780.
  • The Ford Focus EV will be available in late 2011 in nineteen markets.  This car will seat four people and have a range of about 100 miles.  The base price will be $30,000.
  • The Coda Automotive Coda is now available by reservation in California.  Starting at $44,900, the Coda is a functional, family-style sedan with a range of 90-120 miles per charge.
  • Mitsubishi began delivering the all-electric iMiev to Japanese customers in 2009 and has begun testing the vehicle in the United States. This four-seater EV has a range of 80-100 miles and is expected to cost around $30,000 when released in the US in early 2012.
  • Norwegian company Think City is building two- and four-seater urban commuter cars at a plant in Indiana – expected availability late 2011.  It has a range of 100 miles per charge.
  • Over 1,000 Tesla Roadsters are already in the hands of American drivers.  The two-seater EV has a 245-mile range and costs upward of $100,000. The Tesla Model S, a five-seater EV currently in development, will have a range of 300 miles. At a base price is $56,500, it will be released in 2012.
  • The Renault Fluence ZE will have a battery that can be exchanged at a public battery switching station if the user cannot recharge at home.  This EV is a family sized sedan that will offer a range of about 100 miles.  It will sell in Europe beginning in mid-2011 at a base price of €21,300.

To make these cars more affordable, a US federal tax credit of up to $7,500 is available to consumers who purchase plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles.

For more information about these and other cars under development, read Wired Magazine’s EV Road Test article at http://www.wired.com/magazine/2010/09/ff_electriccars/ or check out www.plugincars.com.

What Is The Difference Between A Conventional Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV), An Electric Vehicle (EV) And A Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV)?

 

Conventional Hybrid Electric Vehicles combine a conventional gasoline-powered internal combustion engine with an electric propulsion system.  When you apply brakes while driving, the friction is converted into electricity that can power the car’s battery or electric drive motor.  Conventional hybrids substantially improve the fuel economy of regular gasoline-powered vehicles.

Plug-In Hybrid Vehicles are similar to a conventional hybrid vehicle—both use a gasoline engine as well as an electric motor.  However, PHEVs use larger battery packs that can also be recharged by plugging into common household electric outlets.  The first commercially-available PHEVs will be able to drive up to 50 miles without using any gasoline.

Electric Vehicles are powered exclusively by electric motors and do not have gasoline engines.  Motors are powered by energy stored in rechargeable batteries, which are recharged by common household electric outlets or at public charging stations.  Some models involve switching the car battery with a charged one, just as batteries are replaced in conventional appliances.

Will I Be Able To Charge An EV Or PHEV At Home In My Garage?  How Long Will It Take To Charge My Car?

Yes!  EVs and PHEVs can generally be plugged into typical 110 volt (110V) household plugs to recharge their batteries.  For example, it will take the Chevy Volt (a PHEV) about eight hours to charge from an empty battery to a full battery with a 110V outlet, or about three hours using a 220V outlet.  A 220V outlet requires a dedicated electric circuit, similar to what is required for a clothes dryer or refrigerator.  The Prius PHEV has a much smaller battery capacity than other PHEVs and is expected to charge in about 100 minutes.

EVs will require somewhat longer charging times to go from an empty battery to a full battery — the Ford Focus will need to charge for ten hours on an ordinary 110V outlet or six hours on a standard 220V outlet.  The Mitsubishi iMiEV will require approximately fourteen hours on a regular 110V outlet or about 7 hours on a 220V outlet.  Actual charging times may be quite a bit shorter, because most drivers are unlikely to run their batteries down to zero on a regular basis.

 

Do EVs And PHEVs Result In Less Pollution?

 

It depends, as outlined by ELPC Executive Director in this Huffington Post article. In EVs and PHEVs, tailpipe pollution is reduced in proportion to the amount of time the vehicle is powered by the electric battery.  However, the electricity used to charge vehicle batteries has its own pollution profile.  Electricity generated by coal plants is much more polluting than electricity generated by no/low-carbon energy sources like wind power or nuclear power.

Multiple studies have shown that EVs and PHEVs reduce total pollution compared with conventional gasoline or diesel-fueled vehicles, even when batteries are charged with electricity from coal plants.  The electricity generation mix is more important when you compare EVs and PHEVs with HEVs.  When coal plants supply more than 50% of the power mix, the equation is not favorable for PHEVs compared to HEVs when it comes to the CO2 pollution (global warming) and SO2 (acid rain-causing) pollution. For other pollutants, the data varies.  See studies by the National Research Council of the National Academies and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency for more information.

There are two lessons here:  1) the overall pollution profile of EVs depends on what electricity generating source is on the margin while the battery is being charged; and 2) the electricity generating source on the margin varies by LOCATION and TIME.  For example, in Indiana, about 95% of the electricity is supplied by coal plants.  It’s not a good place to look for EVs as a pollution solution.  However, in Northern Illinois, most of the power supplied at the margin at night is from low/no-CO2 wind power and nuclear power plants, so PHEVs could help reduce pollution in Northern Illinois.

In sum, EVs and PHEVs are cleanest in places, and at times, that wind power, solar power, hydro power and nuclear power supply more than half of the power mix.  Favorable policies, like discounted off-peak electric rates for vehicle charging, can encourage consumers to charge at night when the electric generation mix is better for the environment.

 

Is Driving An EV Or PHEV Like Driving A Regular Car?

Most PHEVs and EVs will drive very similarly to conventional vehicles, although they will generally create less noise when operating on their electric batteries.  Because of pedestrian and biker safety concerns, PHEVs and EVs may contain artificial noisemakers to alert others to their presence.  EVs and PHEVs should handle and accelerate like regular cars, and some can reach speeds of over 100 mph.

How Will I Charge My EV Or PHEV When I’m Away From Home?

A charging station locator offered by the Department of Energy identifies more than 948 public charging stations found nationwide, although over half are located in California.  Many cities are actively working to create more public charging infrastructure.  Last year, the City of Chicago was awarded $15 million in stimulus funding for its proposal to deploy alternative fuel and electric vehicle charging stations throughout the Chicago region.  The City awarded the contract to 350Green, but has yet to determine exactly where the charging stations will be located.

Different charging station providers may adopt varied business models and offer diverse charging services.  For example Coulomb Technologies is offering a subscription-based charging service that will allow subscribers to charge at a network of stations, which will offer consumers a place to plug-in their vehicles and advanced technology to control how the vehicle is charged.  Some charging station service providers, such as Better Place, plan to regularly swap out customer depleted batteries for fully-charged batteries to facilitate faster “refueling.” According to Better Place, battery switching takes only a few minutes and the driver and passengers may remain in the car throughout the process.

In an example of early cooperation between an auto manufacturer and charging stations, the batteries for the Renault Fluence ZE are specifically designed to quickly drop out of the bottom of the vehicle for replacement in an automated process that is expected to take about three minutes.  Better Place is creating networks of switch stations in Israel and Denmark in preparation for Renault’s vehicle launch in 2011.  Northern California will be the first U.S. market for swappable battery EV’s.

Will Vehicle Driving Ranges Limit My Ability to Travel?

Source: EPRI

The all-electric vehicles (EVs) soon-to-be commercially available will be able to go roughly 100 miles on one charge, though range performance may vary based on climate and driving patterns.  These vehicles will easily meet the daily driving needs of most American motorists.  More than half of American drivers travel less than 30 miles in a typical day, and more than 75 percent travel less than 60 miles (see chart above).  When rapid charging stations and battery swap stations are widely available, longer distance trips will also be possible with EVs.  Plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) are designed so that once the vehicle has reached the end of its all-electric range and vehicle batteries are depleted, the engine will run on gasoline or diesel fuel like a conventional hybrid vehicle.  Like all vehicles, driving range will be limited only by the driver’s ability to find the nearest gas station.

We will update this page regularly with new information.

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