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 will be available in U.S. markets by the end of 2010, with many more expected to arrive over the next several years. For example:


* General Motors will introduce the Chevy Volt in November 2010 in CA, CT, MI, NJ, NY, TX, and DC (nationwide in 2012). This four-seater PHEV will offer 40 miles of all electric range and will cost $41,000.
* Fisker Automotive will begin a small quantity production of the 2011 Fisker Karma in mid-2010. This four-seater luxury PHEV will offer 50 miles of all electric range and is expected to cost $87,000.
* In 2011, 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 14.5 miles but will have a fuel economy of 134 miles per gallon. The price has yet to be determined.
* 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, the price has not yet been determined.

Electric vehicles

* The Nissan Leaf will roll out in select markets in December 2010. Mass production expected by the end of 2011. The EV will seat five, have a range of 100 miles, and cost $32,780.
* The Ford Focus EV will roll off assembly lines in late 2011. This car will seat four people and have a range of about 100 miles. While the price has not yet been announced Ford hopes to keep costs low by using the existing Focus design platform.
* The Coda Automotive Coda will be available in California by the end of 2010. It’s expected to be an affordable and functional, family-style sedan.
* 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 will have a range of 75 – 100 miles and is expected to cost around $30,000.
* Norwegian company Think City is building a two-seater urban commuter car at a plant in Indiana – expected availability late 2011. It will have a range of 100 miles per charge.
* Nearly 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 Renault Fluence ZE will have a swappable battery that can be exchanged at a public battery switching station. This EV is a family sized sedan that will offer a range of about 100 miles. Its price has yet to be announced.

To make these electric cars more affordable, a 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 www.wired.com/magazine/2010/09/ff_electriccars/

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 is 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 40 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, the Chevy Volt (a PHEV) will charge using any ordinary household outlet in about eight hours, or in 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 that other PHEVs and is expected to charge in about 100 minutes.

EVs will require somewhat longer charging times — 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.

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 solar 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.

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 regularly, 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 535 public charging stations found nationwide, although the vast majority are located in California. Many cities are actively working to create more public charging infrastructure. The City of Chicago was recently awarded $15 million in stimulus funding for its proposal to deploy alternative fuel and electric vehicle charging stations throughout the Chicago region, though charging station locations have not been determined yet.

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?

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.