Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is an electric vehicle?
    • An electric vehicle (EV) is one that is powered by electricity stored in rechargeable batteries instead of from the combustion of liquid fuels such as gasoline, diesel or alcohol.  EVs include full-size passenger cars and pickup trucks as well as bicycles, scooters, motorcycles, and industrial vehicles.  Other vehicles such as small boats, airplanes and even large trucks and buses are also being powered by electricity. 

  • What are the advantages of an electric vehicle?
    • EVs have many advantages such as lower maintenance and fueling costs.  They have higher efficiency along with incredible torque and acceleration in some cases.  Vehicles powered by petroleum fuels waste a lot of energy as heat which requires a cooling system that adds to the cost and complexity of the engine. 

      A large portion of the petroleum used for motor fuels is imported from other countries which is known as “dependency on foreign oil”.  Domestically generated electricity can be produced from environmentally friendly sources such as solar panels, wind turbines and hydroelectric generators.

      Fueling an EV with electricity typically costs much less than filling up a gasoline tank on a conventional vehicle. The fuel savings can be more than 70% in most cases. Residents of Santa Clara and San Mateo counties can also sign up with a clean energy provider who supplies electricity from Solar, Wind and Hydro-electric power sources.

  • Convenience
    • EVs do not need tune-ups, oil changes, fuel pumps, gas tanks, mufflers, catalytic converters, smog checks, etc. In many cases, they can be charged at home, eliminating trips to the gas station. Studies have shown that about 80% of all EV owners charge their cars at home.

  • Efficiency
    • An electric motor provides useful energy more efficiently than a combustion engine. The efficiency of electric motors is typically greater than 90% compared with gasoline engines that have an efficiency of less than 50%. 

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      In addition, no energy is wasted when the car is sitting in stopped traffic. In Los Angeles alone, 72 million gallons of gas are wasted annually by idling in traffic.  Gasoline and diesel vehicle emit harmful pollutants while driving and also while idling compared with EVs which have no emissions.

      EVs also have regenerative braking which harvests energy from the power train to charge the battery pack while simultaneously slowing down the vehicle independently from the friction brakes. This is similar to recharging the battery of an emergency radio with a built in hand crank generator.

  • Quiet
    • EVs are almost completely silent.  Newer EVs are required to make some artificial sound when backing up to warn pedestrians

  • Durability
    • Even the best-kept gas car will eventually need engine repairs.  An electric motor has a virtually infinite life span.  Since EVs have very few moving parts compared to a petroleum powered engine, there is a lot less that can go wrong so maintenance costs are much lower.  Some EV drivers report not going into their dealership for maintenance for several years.

  • Is it more expensive to own an EV?
    • Today’s EVs may cost more initially – due primarily to high cost of batteries and the economies of scale which reduce costs for a comparable gasoline powered vehicle.  Over 95% of vehicles currently produced run on gasoline or diesel.  So those vehicles benefit from the savings that come with the vehicle manufacturers buying parts in high volumes.

      As battery costs come down and the volume of EVs goes up, price parity will eventually be achieved.  However even with current prices, when considering the lower fueling and operating costs of an EV, the total life cycle cost of an EV is often less to own and drive.  This article from the National Resources Defense Council has a detailed cost analysis.  More Information Here

  • What are the operating costs?
    • An EV costs about 3 to 5 cents/mile for electricity, in any traffic. For comparison, at the cheap gas price of $1.50/gal., gas costs 7 to 8 cents/mile for fuel, depending on traffic. A gas car also requires maintenance services, averaging $400 to $600 per year, which an electric car does not need. Total expenses over 100,000 miles are about 8 cents/mile for an EV and 22 cents/mile for a gas car in the same use.

  • How fast can an EV go?
    • Most EVs can easily achieve highway speeds and many can go 80 mph or more. The top speed for a Nissan Leaf is over 90 MPH while a Tesla Model 3 can go well over 120 mph. The rate of acceleration is often better than a gasoline car due to the high initial torque of electric motors.

      Since most EVs have a single speed transmission, there are no gear shifting delays or RPM gaps that restrict the acceleration of gasoline or diesel cars. A standard Tesla Model 3 can go from 0 to 60 MPH in around 5 seconds while the Performance Tesla Model 3 can do that in about 3 seconds

  • How far can an EV go without recharging?
    • Most EVs can exceed 100 miles on a single charge. With recent improvements in Lithium batteries, some EVs can go 250 to 350 miles on a single charge. However, 90% of the cars in the U.S. travel 30 miles or less in a day. We recommend you check your average daily mileage for two weeks to see what your actual needs are. 

      You can save money by purchasing an EV with a lower range that still meets your needs. If the EV you buy is capable of using a fast charging station, you will be able to make longer trips by taking advantage of the many charging stations that that are conveniently located along your route.

      For more detailed information, click on the EV Buyers Guide link on our

      EV Sites, Affiliated Organizations and other Resources web page:

      https://eaasv.org/resources/

  • How long does it take to recharge?
    • This depends on the charger and power available. Many EV owners charge at home overnight. This is an ideal time to recharge, since electricity rates are often lowest in off-peak hours. Some power companies will give EV owners special low rates for nighttime charging.  Also, there are neighborhood schools, parking lots and businesses that allow public access to EV drivers who are not able to charge at home. EVs can often be charged at work during the day as well.   There are 3 levels of charging that are in common use. 

      Level 1 charging operates at 110 to 120 Volts AC and most EVs come with an adaptor that plugs into an ordinary wall outlet for this purpose.  Typical level 1 charging adds 4 miles of range per hour of charging, so charging from 9 PM to 7 AM will add about 40 miles of range.

      Level 2 charging is done using 208 to 240 Volts AC and typically relies on an external charging station known as an EVSE (Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment).  Most of the charging stations used away from home are Level 2 chargers. Typical level 2 charging adds 25 miles of range per hour of charging, so charging from 9 PM to 7 AM will add about 250 miles of range.

      Level 1 and Level 2 charging use a standard connector on the end of the charging cord.  This connector is known by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) standard J-1772.  Since Level 2 charging is much faster, many EV drivers have a level 2 EVSE installed at home. 

      Level 3 charging is supported in many of the newer EVs and is sometimes called DC Fast Charging (DCFC).  Unfortunately, there is not a single standard connector for this purpose.  Tesla EVs have a proprietary connector and very fast charge times.  Some older EVs such as the Nissan LEAF use a connector called Chademo.  Many newer EVs use a third charging connector standard known as CCS.

       Some DC fast charging stations have both a Chademo and a CCS charging cord.  DCFCs are very expensive and are mainly used away from home.  The available power from DCFCs varies widely.  Charging a Chevrolet Bolt EV using a DCFC may take a couple of hours while charging a Tesla using one of their “Super Chargers” may take less than 30 minutes.

  • What if I want to take a long trip?
    • There are several charging networks with EVSE stations all across America and in many other countries as well.  Typically the user pays a fee to use these stations, although in some cases the cost is covered by a private business or government agency so the user does not pay.  The location of these charging stations can be found using websites or Smart Phone apps such as Plug Share, AmpUp, or via the navigation system that is included in many modern EVs

  • Can I charge my EV with solar panels?
    • With current technology, the size of the solar panels needed to power a car would be too large and not practical to mount on the vehicle itself in most cases. However, larger solar arrays found on homes, businesses and other publically accessible locations can charge parked EVs using a Level 1 adaptor or Level 2 EVSE. 

      Some charging stations such as the one from BEAM have a pedestal that supports an array of Solar Panels that are mounted above a parking space.  The BEAM charging station stores energy in a built in battery pack.   That allows EVs to park in the shade using energy from the solar panels during the day or from energy stored in the batteries after dark.

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  • How often must the battery pack be replaced?
    • Most EV Manufacturers will provide a warranty on the batteries that is typically 8 years or 100,000 miles.  However the battery pack will likely last much longer.  This depends on the way the batteries are charged and discharged.  Avoiding over discharging and over charging the battery pack can greatly extend its life.  Maintaining the battery pack state of charge between 20% full and 80% full is considered “the sweet spot”. 

      After the warranty period ends, the cost of the battery pack replacement is the responsibility of the owner.  Currently, battery pack replacement is rather expensive.  However it is expected that the cost of these batteries will come down over time.  Battery costs have been going down every year and the amount of energy stored in them is increasing.

  • How much passenger room does an EV have?
    • Most EVs on the road today have room for four or five passengers. A few have room for even more passengers. Many EVs have compact batteries located under the floor board leaving more open storage and passenger space than current gas cars.

  • Can the batteries be recharged by an onboard generator, or using dynamic braking?
    • Yes, the electric drive trains in EVs use regenerative braking that can return a significant amount of power to the battery pack while slowing down the vehicle which will extend its range. This also reduces the wear on brakes which further reduces maintenance costs.  

      Some EVs have a feature known as “one pedal driving” which automatically engages the regenerative braking when the driver releases his or her foot from the accelerator pedal.  This feature can also be turned off allowing the vehicle to coast while not accelerating.  This is more efficient than having the regenerative braking automatically slow down the vehicle only to have the driver accelerate again to maintain the speed.

  • What about Autonomous Driving?

    • Autonomous Driving (also sometimes called Self Driving) vehicles are a very hot topic.  At some point, this technology will reach a point of maturity where the steering wheel, brake pedal and accelerator pedal and even the driver are no longer involved in driving the vehicle.  Advances in artificial intelligence (AI) are being made to handle the various situations which have required involvement of the driver so far.  Sensors and cameras are used to detect the lane boundaries of the road as well as other vehicles, pedestrians, objects and traffic controls.

      Unfortunately, this software has not fully matured yet and there have been several collisions and even a few deaths using this technology.  So for the time being, the driver still needs to be involved and must pay attention to avoid any collisions.  That being said, advances have been made with automatic braking, lane departure detection, speed control and steering to improve the driving experience and increase safety.  Automatic parking is another feature that is useful. 

      When full autonomy is achieved, it will be possible to use a smart phone to summon a self-driving vehicle to your home or business and take you to a public transit station.  When you arrive at a station near your destination, another autonomous vehicle can be ready to pick you up and take you the remaining distance.  In a scenario like this, you may not even need to own a car anymore for normal daily use.  You may still want to rent a car for occasional use as needed.

  • What about Hybrid Cars?

    • Hybrid vehicles have both an electric motor and a gasoline motor.  Hybrids are not considered to be electric vehicles since their only fuel is gasoline although they do have better fuel economy.  The electric motor in those hybrids receives energy from batteries that are only charged via regenerative braking.  That energy was originally used to accelerate the car and a portion of it is recovered when the drag of the motor-generator is used to convert the kinetic energy into electrical energy that is stored in the battery pack.

  • What about Plug-in Hybrid Cars?

    • Plug-in hybrids can be considered to be electric vehicles during the time they are receiving power solely from the batteries and not from their gasoline engine.  For those vehicles, the batteries can be recharged by plugging the car into an electrical outlet or a charging station in addition to the charging that occurs during regenerative braking.

  • What about Hydrogen Fuel Cell Cars?

    • Technically, Hydrogen Fuel Cell cars are actually electric cars.  Typically they have a very small battery pack similar to what a Hybrid car has.  However most of the electric energy comes from the fuel cell.  Fuel cells operate best when operated at a steady output, so they rely on the small battery pack for small bursts of power needed for acceleration and to capture regenerative braking energy. 

      Fuel cell vehicles are considered zero emission vehicles since their only emissions are in the form of water which spills onto the road.  These vehicles can have their hydrogen tank filled in a few minutes – typically a lot less time than charging an EV.  Their range per fill up is around 300 miles in many cases.  

      The fuel itself can be rather expensive and some manufacturers include 3 years of “free hydrogen fuel” along with the purchase or lease of their Fuel Cell vehicles.  This “free fuel” is valued at $15,000.

      However the Hydrogen fueling stations are few and far between and very expensive to install with restrictions that greatly limit their location.  The hydrogen tank in the vehicle is rather large and reduces the trunk space considerably.  Since the hydrogen atoms are so tiny, making a leak proof tank is very difficult and there have been problems with hydrogen leaks.  There has been at least one case of an explosion at a hydrogen filling station which caused a large piece of concrete to be launched across the street.  Luckily no one was hurt. 

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