Find answers to Frequently Asked Questions below.
An electric vehicle is any vehicle that can drive on electricity derived from a power plug. An all-electric vehicle (sometimes called a battery electric vehicle (BEV)) drives solely on power from the plug. There are a few different ways to charge. You can learn about them here.
A PHEV is a car that can’take both electricity (from plugging in) and gasoline. Usually, they run on electricity first and then drawn on gasoline later. That way, you are driving electric around town and only use gasoline for long trips.
No. Most Priuses get their power from gasoline and then convert it into electricity, but it is still a gasoline car. A few Priuses can also plug in (See plug-in hybrids, above), but those are not being produced anymore.
Yes. Plug-in cars are the most dependable vehicles on the market. They will last as long or longer than gasoline automobiles, with less regular maintenance required. Since there are significantly fewer moving parts in an EV compared to a traditional vehicle, less ongoing preventative maintenance is needed. They require no oil changes, tune-ups, or new spark plugs. Brake life is extended on EVs since the motor is used to slow the car, recapturing the kinetic energy and storing it back in the battery. Electric motors will also outlast the body of the vehicle. Many automakers also offer warranties on the batteries.
Most electric cars have a range of 85-110 miles, although this is quickly growing. Very few drivers travel this far on a daily basis. For the infrequent occasions when a long-distance drive is needed, the drive can be done with a second car that is a plug-in hybrid (PHEV), by access to vehicles in car-share services, or by renting or borrowing another vehicle.
No. Energy conversions are never 100 percent efficient, so every time we convert one form of energy to another, we lose some of that energy. Hybrids and EVs recapture some of their energy back into the batteries through regenerative braking.
How long does it take to charge your cell phone? Think about charging your car just like you think about charging your cell phone. Most people charge their cars at home or work, just like a cell phone. Plug it in when you arrive and it will be ready for you in the morning, or the end of the work day.
The actual charging time depends on the size of your battery, how far you have driven, and the amperage of the charging system. Keep in mind that most of the time, the battery will not be empty when you plug in, just like your cell phone. Learn more about types of available charging stations on Plug In America’s accessories tracker.
Most people recharge overnight in their garage, carport or driveway or work, but there are many public chargers for electric cars as well. Find a public EV charging station here. An estimated 99 percent of all charging currently happens at home or work.
Much less than it costs to buy gasoline. Exactly how much depends on the vehicle and electricity rates. On average, it costs less than $1 to charge a plug-in hybrid and $2-$4 for an all-electric car. Your overall energy bill will be lowered by driving with electricity. Read more about costs here.
New plug-in vehicles come with cords to plug into standard 120-volt household outlets. For faster charging, many drivers will want to buy a charging station to plug into a 240-volt outlet. See our Accessory Tracker to compare charging station options. All 240-volt charging stations (Level 2 charging) come with the same “J connector” that should allow any plug-in vehicle to connect to any charging station.
Not at all – it takes less than five seconds, and there’s no going out of your way to a gas station, jockeying for a pump, and getting toxic gasoline on your hands. You can charge anywhere there is an electric outlet. Most EV drivers plug in when they get home.
Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) use four times as much electricity on a per-mile basis as a battery EV if the hydrogen is obtained through the process called electrolysis. So, you would need four times the number of solar panels to go the same distance as you would in a battery EV. FCVs are also 40 percent less efficient than battery EVs if the hydrogen is obtained from converting natural gas, and this process releases significant quantities of CO2 into the atmosphere. FCVs have many difficult and expensive engineering challenges to solve before they will ever be widely available, and even then, the energy required per mile will probably still be substantially higher than for EVs. The electrical grid already exists for plug-in vehicles, only a handful of hydrogen refueling stations currently exist. The bottom line is that there is no advantage to using FCVs over EVs.
Electric vehicles aren’t silent, and at parking-lot speeds they make as much noise from various fans, pumps and tire noise as most modern internal-combustion engine vehicles. At high speeds, the wind and tire noise is comparable to any car.
Data suggest there are no harmful electromagnetic emissions from plug-in cars. There is no broad agreement in the United States over what level of exposure to electromagnetic fields may constitute a health hazard, and there are no federal standards for allowable exposure levels. A National Institutes of Health report shows (on page 41) that electric cars and buses have lower electromagnetic fields than conventional gasoline cars, similar to findings reported in a 1999 study by the U.S. Department of Energy.
(Editor’s note: the above linked documents seem to be unavailable. We are working on updating these links)
Putting solar photovoltaics (PV) directly on EVs would be nice but likely not adequate. Most solar panels would add too much weight. Some newer, lighter and flexible PV technology could generate power for interior climate control or minor tasks, but not enough to power a car a significant distance. Furthermore, cars are often parked in garages or under carports, where sunlight won’t reach.
Likewise, windmills on EVs don’t make sense. The drag they create reduces efficiency, necessitating more energy to run the car. However, EVs can be charged with electricity that is generated from solar panels and wind turbines.
What about putting stationary solar panels on your house or business? That is a great idea. Fixed panels can be set up so that they’re not obstucted, and angled optimally to the sun. And fixed wind turbines can work wonderfully as well.
Vehicle batteries have an excellent recycling record that will get even better with plug-in vehicles. Every car in the world has a lead-acid battery. Even with its low value as scrap, the national recycling rate for lead-acid batteries is about 98 percent. Plug-in vehicles mostly use lithium ion, which is much more valuable than lead. It’s illegal to dispose of these batteries in a landfill, and their inherent value will ensure that they are recycled. Some car makers are exploring “second-life” applications for used EV batteries as well.
Not for many years. GM and Nissan offer warranties covering eight years or 100,000 miles of driving on the lithium-ion batteries in the Volt or the Leaf. Plug In America is conducting surveys of battery life among EV drivers. You can learn about survey results or participate here.
The cleaner the power, the cleaner the car. Using solar photovoltaics (PV) at your home or business makes even more sense with a plug-in car. The investment in solar panels pays off faster when the solar power is not only replacing grid electricity but also replacing much more expensive gasoline. EVs typically can’travel 3-4 miles (or more) per kWh of electricity. If you drive 12,000 miles per year, you will need 3,000-4,000 kWh. Depending on where you live, you will need a 1.5kW-3kW PV system to generate that much power using about 150-300 square feet of space on your roof. Utility credits for the energy generated from solar panels during the day can offset the cost of charging the car at night. If solar PV isn’t feasible at your home, find out if your utility offers a green energy option.
- To find a solar installer in your area to provide a free quote on the cost of going solar, see Find Solar.
To see if you can get green power in your area, check the U.S. Department of Energy’s Buy Green Power locator.
No. The existing electric grid’s off-peak capacity for power generation is sufficient to power 73 percent of commutes to and from work by cars, light trucks, SUVs and vans without building a single new power plant, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. The existing nighttime electricity could also be stored in plug-in vehicles and retrieved during peak-demand hours through vehicle-to-grid technology for use by the grid, helping to meet society’s daytime power needs. The U.S. power grid is also getting cleaner every year as affordable renewable energy continues to replace coal plants.
Even today, with more than 35 percent of electricity in the U.S. coming from dirty coal plants, plug-in cars reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and most other pollutants compared with other vehicle types.
You don’t need to take our word for it — read the summary of more than 40 studies, analyses, and presentations on this topic. EVs also allow you to use 100 percent clean, renewable electricity from sources such as the sun or wind, eliminating greenhouse gas emissions entirely. EVs get cleaner as the electric grid gets cleaner – gas cars only get dirtier.