Why use electricity to fuel our cars?
Fueling our cars with electricity costs less, leaves the atmosphere cleaner and helps makes us energy independent – without compromising on the comfort, safety or performance we’ve come to expect from our automobiles.
A plug-in car running on battery power has no tailpipe emissions. No matter what the source of electricity, re-charging the battery of an electric vehicle from a 120 or 240-volt outlet produces less than half the greenhouse gases of the most efficient gasoline or diesel-powered engine – at 20-25% of the cost-per-mile. Renewable electricity from hydro-power, nuclear, solar, wind or bio-fuels further reduces carbon emissions.
Electric cars powered by the North American grid will reverse dependence on oil from unreliable sources, and its ever-increasing cost.
Electricity is everywhere – and, soon, electric vehicles will be, too.
What is a plug-in electric vehicle (PEV)?
A plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) has a battery that stores energy from a 120 or 240-volt outlet, to provide power to an electric engine.
There are three basic types of plug-in electric vehicles:
• Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV)
• Extended-Range Electric Vehicles (EREV); and
• All-Battery Electric Vehicles (BEV)
A Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle is similar to conventional hybrids, but they have a larger battery that can be charged by plugging into an electric outlet. PHEVs are usually designed with an electric-only range of 10 to 40 miles, blended with a gasoline engine to achieve higher speeds and loads. After the electric-only range is exceeded, the vehicle continues to operate as a hybrid vehicle using a gasoline engine or generator.
A typical Extended Range Electric Vehicle has an all-electric range of about 40 miles. After the battery has been discharged, a gasoline generator powers the vehicle for 300-plus miles of ‘extended-range’ driving.
A typical Battery Electric Vehicle is powered entirely by electricity from the utility grid. Current Battery Electric Vehicles have a range of 80 to120 miles or more.
What are some of the advantages of plug-in electric vehicles?
A plug-in electric vehicle uses no gasoline, or much less than a conventional car. This greatly reduces or eliminates tailpipe emissions.
Electric cars are remarkably quiet, but can achieve high speeds – with exhilarating acceleration.
In general, they require less maintenance than gas- or diesel-powered cars.
Finally, electricity is one-fourth to one-fifth the cost of gasoline per mile driven, so the overall cost of operating an electric vehicle is significantly lower – plus the convenience of driving past the gas station.
Are there incentives for purchasing a plug-in vehicle?
Government at all levels and the private sector are taking steps to encourage you to purchase a plug-in car.
In the U.S., federal tax credits are available, up to $7,500, depending on the size of the battery in the electric vehicle you might choose to drive. An additional credit, up to $2,000, is available for the purchase of home charging equipment.
Some states, provinces and local governments are also offering tax and other incentives for plug-in electric cars. On major highways, electric cars are often given access to High-Occupancy Vehicle (or ‘HOV’) lanes, reducing commuting time for drivers of these fuel-efficient automobiles. Leading cities will provide preferred parking and charging access at public buildings, garages and parking meters.
Many utilities have created electricity rates that will allow plug-in car owners to re-charge their batteries efficiently, at the lowest possible rates – usually, at night.
Employers and retailers are getting into the act, providing close-in parking and re-charging for their employees who drive plug-in cars.
More incentives for electric vehicles are added somewhere in North America, almost every day.
To keep current on what’s available where you live, and how to apply, go to our ‘Resource Locator’.
What do I need to know/do before I buy a plug-in electric vehicle?
First, take a look at your actual driving patterns and determine how much pure electrical driving range you need. This will help you determine which plug-in electric vehicle is right for you.
Then, explore your options for recharging your vehicle at home, at work and public locations. Will charging from the 120-volt outlet already in your garage or driveway meet your needs (usually, overnight)? Or are there times you will want to re-charge in less time? If so, you should look into a 240-volt charging station, using the same type of circuit that powers your electric dryer.
If you want faster charge, which 240-volt charging station should you choose? Your automaker, dealer or utility can help you decide, and refer you to a licensed electrician. See ‘Charging’.
Finally, there may be substantial financial and non-financial incentives available from government at all levels (from tax credits to HOV lanes), utilities (lower rates for charging overnight), employers and retailers (preferred parking or free charging), with the goal of making it easy and affordable for you to own and operate an electric car.
Is driving an electric car like driving a regular car?
Plug-in cars are like other cars in many ways. They meet the same safety standards. They have plenty of room for passengers and cargo. They’re practical for everyday use, with options for fast-charging and long-distance driving.
But that’s where the similarities end.
Driving a plug-in car is exciting. Electric drive trains accelerate quickly – but very quietly. Some electric cars can reach speeds over 100 mph – with a low center-of-gravity and excellent handling – resulting in a new, exhilarating driving experience.
They’re highly efficient – and very smart. Sophisticated screen displays give drivers more information – and control. Some electric vehicles have a ‘regenerative’ braking system that captures and restores energy to the battery when the car comes to a stop. With fewer moving parts, plug-in cars require less maintenance.
Owners of plug-in cars soon get used to driving past the gas station – and feeling very good about saving money and the environment.
How far can I drive a plug-in electric vehicle?
That depends on the type of car you choose, the climate where you live, how you drive and opportunities to re-charge.
The typical commuter drives about 40 miles a day. All-electric or battery electric vehicles (BEVs) usually have a range of about 80 to 120 miles before re-charging is required. A plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) or an extended-range electric vehicle (EREV) will typically have an electric range of 10 to 40 miles, and an overall driving range of 300-400 miles.
For most electric car owners, a total re-charge will not be necessary for daily driving. But, increasingly, charging opportunities will be provided at work or while you shop – so you can ‘top-off’ your battery whenever you stop.
As with gas-powered cars, climate affects efficiency and performance. Conditions outside determine the use of accessories (heating, air conditioning, defogging) that will affect the electric range of your vehicle. The lithium-ion batteries that power most electric cars perform very well in most climates, but can be affected by extreme temperatures. And, as with all cars, your driving style will impact efficiency and range.
There are many manufacturers that offer or will offer plug-in electric vehicles for consumers in North America.
See the Virtual Showroom to learn about the range and performance characteristics of different types of electric vehicles.