Electric Vehicles...Just the Facts

There are several kinds of electric vehicles.  There are vehicles that use only electricity and have a battery for stored power.  Others have batteries and use gasoline as a back-up or to charge the batteries.  Let’s break them down so you know the differences.

Hybrids – These are the electric and gasoline vehicles that you have been seeing for years.  They are the Toyota Prius type vehicle where the engine runs mostly on gasoline, but uses an electric motor to subsidize the gasoline motor.

Electric Vehicles – Electric Vehicles (EVs) run on electricity; there is no gasoline involved.  The drawback of an EV is if the battery runs down, you are out of fuel.

Plug-in Hybrids -  Plug-in Hybrid-Electric Vehicles (PHEVs), are powered by a combination of gasoline and electricity. The electricity is stored and delivered via high-capacity batteries. PHEVs can be charged by plugging them into 120V or 240V outlets or at an electric vehicle charging station.  They can store enough electricity to significantly reduce the need for gasoline!

Different Kinds of Plug-in Hybrids

  • Series plug-in hybrids or Extended Range Electric Vehicles (EREVs).  Only the electric motor turns the wheels on an EREV.  The gasoline engine is used to generate more electricity to the batteries when they drain.  These vehicles may not use any gasoline during shorter trips. 
  • Parallel or Blended Plug-in hybrids.  Both the engine and the electric motor are connected to the wheels and propel the vehicle on a constant basis.  The electric motor will operate on its own at low speeds.

     

Benefits and Challenges

Less Gasoline Use – Plug-in Hybrids use roughly 30%-60% less petroleum than conventional vehicles. 

Less Greenhouse Gas Emissions – Plug-in hybrids will emit fewer greenhouse gases than conventional vehicles.  The emissions can be traced back to the electrical generation fuel.  Natural gas will be less than coal-generated electricity. 

Higher Vehicle Costs, Lower Fuel Costs – A plug-in hybrid can cost roughly $4000 to $8000 more than a comparable non-plug-in hybrid.  As of right now, electricity is cheaper than gasoline.  Although, fuel savings may or may not offset the higher vehicle cost.  Federal Tax incentives can help.  There are up to $7,500 in tax incentives currently available for qualifying plug-ins. 

Recharging takes time – Recharging using a 120-volt conventional outlet can take several days to recharge an electric vehicle.  Recharging using a 240-volt home or public charging station can take anywhere from 1 to 4 hours depending on how low the battery is or how much charge you are willing to wait for.  There are “fast charges” that will charge your battery up to 80% capacity in as little as 30 minutes.  However, the cost may be higher to speed-charge your vehicle. 

Estimating Fuel Economy – Being there are different combinations of gas with electric and electric only, the EPA provides a Fuel Economy Estimate for gasoline-only vehicles and an estimate for electric-only vehicles on both for a combined city-highway driving standard.

 


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