Electric vehicles (EVs) have become increasingly popular as they’ve grown more affordable and available in the United States. EV owners enjoy reduced maintenance and fuel costs, as well as a reduced impact on the environment compared to a typical gasoline-fueled vehicle.
There are three types of EVs: hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and all-electric vehicles.
Hybrid Electric Vehicles
Hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) have an internal combustion engine (ICE) that runs on a petroleum-based fuel and an electric motor that is powered by a battery. Regenerative braking is used to charge the battery, so the car does not have to be plugged in or charged. The power that is usually lost during breaking is harnessed and stored in the battery. Hybrids generally have higher fuel economy than conventional ICE vehicles. The battery can reduce engine idling and power amenities like head lights or a sound system. Learn more at afdc.energy.gov.
Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles
Plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) also have an ICE and an electric motor. PHEVs must be plugged in to use power from the grid to charge the battery but can also be charged through regenerative braking. In general, the battery pack in a PHEV is larger than an HEV, which allows the car to drive short distances solely on electricity. When the battery becomes depleted, the car can operate using the ICE. Learn more at www.afdc.energy.gov.
All-electric or battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) use an electric motor to power the vehicle at all times. The battery must be charged by plugging the vehicle into an electric power source. BEVs produce zero tailpipe emissions because they do not have an ICE. On average, BEVs have a range of about 100 miles. This range can fluctuate depending on road conditions and driving habits. According to the US Department of Energy, it only costs $1.10 per eGallon to charge an electric car as opposed to the national gasoline average of $2.50 per gallon in the United States. Learn more at afdc.energy.gov.
Charging an Electric Vehicle
Charging equipment for EVs can be found all over the United States. While many drivers start by charging at their home or fleet facilities, they can also charge at public stations. There are three levels of charging stations that are rated by how fast batteries can be charged with the equipment. EV charging stations can be located by using the US Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels Data Center.
Level 1 chargers provide power to the battery through a 120-volt AC plug, an ordinary household outlet. Level 1 chargers are the slowest and are typically used overnight or when the vehicle is not needed for a long amount of time. Typically, level 1 chargers provide 2 to 5 miles of range per hour of charging.
Level 2 chargers provide power to the battery through a 240-volt AC plug. Typically, a level 2 charger can fully charge an EV overnight by providing 10 to 20 miles of range per hour of charging.
DC fast chargers provide rapid charging through a 208 or 480-volt charger. For DC fast chargers, there are three common connectors. The J1772 combo is compatible with Chevrolet and BMW models and can also be used for level 1 and level 2 charging. The CHAdeMO connector is the most common and is compatible with Nissan, Mitsubishi, and Toyota EVs. Lastly, the Tesla combo port is unique for Tesla models. DC fast chargers can provide 60 to 80 miles of range per 20 minutes of charging and allow drivers to charge their EVs quickly.
Charging stations for the entire country can be located through www.afdc.energy.gov/fuels/electricity_locations.html.
While the point-of-sale costs are usually higher, lifetime costs for EVs are generally lower than ICE vehicles. A federal tax credit offers EV buyers between $2,500 to $7,500. The tax credit, coupled with decreased fuel costs and low or no emissions while driving, have caused EV sales to steadily increase over the past decade. Increased infrastructure availability and technology improvements also led to record high sales in 2016. As battery costs decrease, EVs’ point-of-sale costs will decrease. Many predictions have shown that as these battery costs decrease, EVs will become cost-competitive with ICE cars. EV sales are expected to overcome ICE cars before 2040. In addition, the cost to maintain an all-electric vehicle can be much cheaper than their ICE counterparts due to fewer moving parts.