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Electric Vehicles

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What Are Electric Vehicles?

Electric vehicles, also known as EVs, are vehicles that are powered by electricity instead of gasoline. The term most commonly refers to cars, but also encompasses other vehicles like vans, trucks, bicycles, boats, trains, and airplanes

Hybrid Vehicles vs. Electric Vehicles

There are two types of EVs, according to the U.S. Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy

There are all-electric vehicles (AEVs), which have electric motors instead of internal combustion engines, and are completely powered by electricity. 

There are also plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), which have internal combustion engines as well as electric motors. PHEVs need to be both filled up with gasoline and charged via electricity. That means they get some of their power from gasoline, and some from the electric motor.

Then as a bonus item No. 3, there are hybrid cars. Hybrids need to be filled with gas just like conventional cars, but they cannot be plugged in to be charged. They generate some electric power via regenerative braking, meaning they need to get gas less often than gas-powered cars.

How Are Electric Vehicles Charged?

There are various ways to power electric vehicles. All-electric vehicles have batteries that need to be charged by plugging them into a charging station, which car owners do most frequently at home, as well as at public charging stations while on-the-go.

AEVs, PHEVs, and hybrid cars can also charge via regenerative braking, which happens when a driver brakes, either to stop, slow down, or while driving downhill. Braking stores kinetic energy in a car’s battery, and then uses that stored energy to send power back to the car’s wheels, as explained by Explain That Stuff.

How Often Do You Have to Charge Electric Vehicles?

Each EV is different, meaning the amount of driving time one charge will give you varies greatly from car to car. According to the Plug-In Hybrid & Electric Vehicle Research Center at UC Davis cars can take anywhere from 20 minutes to 20 hours to get a charge of 80 percent to 100 percent, depending on the type of battery in the car, and what type of charger is used. A full charge will give most EV drivers about 100 miles of driving, except for certain models, like the Tesla Model S, can drive 350 miles on a full charge, as per the research center.

For most EV drivers, charging overnight at home or while parked at work is enough to sustain their commute and day-to-day activities. But EV drivers going on road trips or driving more than a few hours at a time will need to find charging stations along their route.

How to Find Electric Vehicle Charging Stations 

As EVs become widespread, more and more EV charging stations are popping up. You can find public chargers at places like gas stations, parking garages, highway pit stops, car repair shops, car dealerships, and restaurant and store parking lots. Target is currently expanding its EV charging range, as is Walmart. To locate charging stations, check out the websites ChargeHub, PlugShare, ans EVgo.

Are EV Charging Stations Free?

According to Statista, there are more than public 20,000 EV charging stations in the U.S., specifically designed to charge EVs; there are also more than 57,000 public charging outlets in the country, which are simply power outlets that have been designed to charge such large batteries for hours at a time.

Some of these charging stations are free, but some require payment. As explained by PluginCars.com, stations either charge a session flat fee, by the hour, by the kilowatt-hour, or via a subscription. According to the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, the price of fueling an EV with electricity is usually less than half the price of fueling a car with gas. (More on that below.)

How Do You Charge an EV at Home?

For charging when you’re home, there are numerous home-charging stations on the market that you can install in your garage. All EVs come with charging cables that can be used with any charging station or outlet, and some EVs come with charging stations specifically designed to be installed in home garages, which charge batteries at higher speeds. 

Do Electric Vehicles Save You Money?

Buying an electric car means you’ll never have to fill up your car with gas again — which means you’ll save money on gas. According to a 2018 University of Michigan study, the average price to power an EV each year is $485, while the average for a conventional, gasoline-powered car is $1,117.

Additionally, as EnergySage noted, all-electric vehicles and hybrid cars almost always have lower maintenance costs than gas-powered cars. That’s because internal combustion engines come with a slew of equipment that tends to need repairs, such as transmissions, exhausts, and spark plugs; additionally, EVs have regenerative brakes which are powered by electric motors, which means brake pads and rotors do not need maintenance as often, according to EnergySage.

Plus, you can also save money thanks to various EV incentives.

Electric Vehicle Tax Credits and Incentives

In the U.S., the federal government will give EV drivers a tax credit for between $2,500 and $7,500 for each new EV purchased, with the exact amount depending on the vehicle’s size, battery, etc, according to the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy. Additionally, some states and cities provide EV owners with other incentives, such as: additional tax credits, rebates, loans, discounted charging rates, and permission to drive in the carpool lane (aka the high-occupancy vehicle lane) even if there aren’t any additional passengers. 

Are Electric Vehicles Worth It?

In terms of finances, if you can afford the upfront investment of an EV, you will most likely save money in the long run, since charging an EV is cheaper than gasoline. According to Business Insider, once an EV driver hits about 50,000 miles driven in their car, they will start to see a significant savings.

In terms of time on the road, if you don’t do a lot of long-distance driving, an EV could be a great option. You will rarely have to worry about finding a charging station, and can rely on plugging your car in at home. That said, as the EV market grows, more and more charging stations are popping up all over the country, making driving EVs more and more convenient.

Do Electric Vehicles Produce Emissions?

EVs are much more environmentally friendly than gas-powered cars, but they do still produce emissions. According to the Alternative Fuels Data Center, annual average emissions for each kind of car in the U.S. is as follows:

  • All electric: 4,352 pounds of CO2 equivalent 
  • Plug-in hybrid: 6,044 pounds of CO2 equivalent 
  • Hybrid: 6,258 pounds of CO2 equivalent 
  • Gasoline: 11,435 pounds of CO2 equivalent 

So not only is the price of powering an EV less than half powering a gas-powered car, but it also usually produces less than half the emissions.

Are Electric Vehicles Good for the Environment?

Wait, but doesn’t all that electric energy being used to power electric vehicles come from fossil fuels?! At the moment, most of it does. However, the U.S. electricity grid is constantly shifting towards renewable energy (including solar power, wind power, and hydropower). The more that renewable energy powers the U.S. grid, the more environmentally friendly EVs become.

Best Electric Vehicles

Car information resource Edmunds ran a variety of tests to determine the best 2019 EVs on the market. In terms of affordability, Edmunds’ favorites are the Hyundai Kona Electric, the Chevrolet Bolt EV, the Nissan Leaf, and the Hyundai Ioniq Electric. In terms of luxury EVs, Edmunds favors the Tesla Model S, the BMW i3, and the Tesla Model X. 

In terms of having the longest range, Edmunds recommends the Tesla Model S Long Range (370 miles), the Tesla Model 3 Long Range (310 miles), the Tesla Model X Long Range (325 miles), and the Hyundai Kona Electric (258 miles).

There are so many EVs on the market, so make sure to do your research before investing in one that works for you.

Photo source: Sean Gallup/Getty Images