There are various electric vehicle (EV) types available; these are the three most common types:
Battery Electric Vehicles have a battery and an electric motor instead of a gas tank and an internal combustion engine. Sometimes EVs are also referred to as “All Electric Vehicles” or “Plug-in Vehicles” (not to be confused with Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles). They run entirely on electricity and do not produce any exhaust from the burning of fuel.
Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles have an electric motor AND a gas-powered internal combustion engine. Some PHEVs operate exclusively, or almost exclusively, on electricity until the battery is nearly depleted, then the gasoline-powered engine turns on to provide power. Like Battery Electric Vehicles, PHEVs can be plugged in to charge the battery when the vehicle is not in use.
Hybrid Electric Vehicles have an electric motor AND a gas-powered internal combustion engine and don’t plug-in for charging. HEV can have substantial range on a single tank of gas, but they still burn fossil fuel, produce carbon emissions, require trips to the gas station and scheduled engine maintenance. HEV may be an ideal choice for those with extended commutes and limited charging system access.
Range refers to the number of miles an EV will travel before the battery needs to be recharged. Electric cars typically have a shorter maximum range on a charge than fossil fueled cars can travel on a full tank of gasoline, however, EV can be charged at home – no gas station required – and the overall operation cost is typically substantially less than a gasoline-powered vehicle. It’s worth noting that 78% of all commuters in America drive less than 40 miles per day1, thus if they are driving an EV, they can go multiple days without recharging. Many 2017 EV have a range well over 100 miles per charge, with some models reaching over 300 miles per charge.
Charging your EV requires plugging into a charger connected to the electric grid, also called electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE). There are three major categories of chargers, based on the amount of power the charger can provide:
AC Level 1
Provides charging through a 120 V AC plug and does not require installation of additional charging equipment. Level 1 can typically deliver two to five miles of range per hour of charging. Level 1 is most often used in home applications, but is sometimes used at workplaces. A full charge may take up to 24 hours with level 1 120 V charging.
AC Level 2
Provides charging through a 240 V plug and requires the installation of additional charging equipment by a qualified electrician/installer. Level 2 chargers typically deliver 10 to 60 miles of range per hour of charging. Level 2 is used in homes, workplaces and for some public charging. Studies have demonstrated that level 2 charging systems provide slight energy efficiency benefits over level 1 chargers – savings estimates vary based on length of charge time.
Provides charging through 480 V AC input and requires specialized, high-powered charging equipment and special equipment in the vehicle itself. DC Fast-Charging can deliver an 80% battery charge or 60 to 100 miles of range for most EV models in about 20-30 minutes of charging. This is the format used most often in public charging stations, especially along heavy traffic corridors. Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles typically do not have fast charging capabilities.
Depending on how far you drive each day, you may be able to meet your driving needs with basic level 1 charging at home. To reduce charging time, you may want to install a 240 V level 2 charging system. This may also provide you with additional functionality (like cost estimation or remote on/off) and allow you to participate in future utility programs designed to reward people for charging at specific times, like after midnight, when area power demand is low.
Electric vehicle batteries are typically designed to last for the expected life of the vehicle, but battery life should be considered when calculating the extended cost of ownership, as all batteries eventually wear out and must be replaced. Battery replacement is typically costly – but keep in mind, gas powered vehicle equipment, such as motors and transmissions, have a lifespan too. The rate at which batteries expire depends on the type of battery and how they are used.
The failure rate of some electric vehicles batteries already on the road is as low as 0.003%2. There are also high mileage warranties on electric vehicle batteries available with many manufacturers. Several manufactures offer multi-year and one hundred thousand mile+ warranties on the batteries in their vehicles. Review manufacturer information carefully when selecting an EV model.
EVs produce no tailpipe emissions. While charging the battery may increase pollution at the power plant that is generating the electricity from fuel sources such as coal and natural gas, total emissions associated with driving EVs are still typically less than those for gasoline cars, especially in the Pacific NW where the electricity is generated from renewable energy sources like wind, solar or hydroelectric. Even when the power is generated using fossil fuels, electric vehicles usually show significant reductions in overall global carbon emissions over gasoline vehicles due to the highly carbon-intensive process of mining, pumping, refining and transporting fossil fuels.
Internal combustion engines are relatively inefficient at converting fuel energy to propulsion as most of the energy is wasted as heat. Electric motors are more efficient in converting stored energy into propulsion, and electric drive vehicles do not consume energy while at rest or coasting. Additionally, regenerative braking can be used to re-capture energy during braking. Typically, conventional gasoline engines effectively use only 15% of the fuel energy content to move the vehicle or to power accessories, while electric drive vehicles have on-board efficiency of around 80%3.
Electric cars are not completely environmentally friendly as there can be significant issues to consider related to energy and material use in the manufacturing process. This may include energy-intensive manufacturing processes or the mining and refinement of chemicals and materials.
The average U.S. household spends nearly one-fifth of its total family expenditures on transportation, thus saving on fuel can make a big difference in the average family’s budget4. Electricity is less expensive than gasoline and EVs are more efficient than gasoline vehicles. Electricity prices are also generally much more stable than gasoline prices. On a national average, it costs less than half as much to travel the same distance in an EV than a conventional vehicle. Your savings could be far more substantial if your current gas-powered vehicle gets poor mileage.
All-Electric Vehicles (BEV) require less maintenance than conventional vehicles because there are fewer fluids (like oil and transmission fluid) to change and far fewer moving parts. EV require minimal scheduled maintenance to their electrical systems, which can include the battery, electrical motor, and associated electronics. Because of regenerative braking, brake systems on EVs typically last longer than on conventional vehicles.
Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEV) and Plugin Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV) have an electric motor and a gas motor. Cars with gas motors still require the standard maintenance a regular gas-powered vehicle requires (oil changes, spark plugs and wires, exhaust systems etc.)
1 U.S. Department of Transportation, Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the Omnibus Household Survey.
2 U.S. Department of Energy – Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Alternative Fuels Data Center, Maintenance and Safety of Hybrid and Plug-In Electric Vehicles.
3 Shah, Saurin D. (2009), Plug-In Electric Vehicles: What Role for Washington? (1st edition). The Brookings Institution. pp. 29, 37 and 43.
4 U.S. Department of Energy – Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Saving on Fuel and Vehicle Costs.
This FAQ is provided by ChooseEV. Some numbers and statistics in this content may be estimates and subject to interpretation. Many factors must be taken into account to determine the total cost of ownership of EV and traditional gas-powered vehicles. This information is provided to give consumers a general understanding of EV concepts and opportunities. Customers should review information from EV manufacturers before making a purchase decision.