Electric Vehicles: What You Should Know
ECI REC offers rebates on residential Level II Chargers requiring a 240/208-volt input supply. Members may qualify for 50% of installed costs up to $500. Learn more about the program requirements via the rebate form.
Informative Electric Vehicle Videos
How far can EVs go on a single charge? (1.08 min.)
How do you charge an EV? (1.08 min.)
Other advantages of EVs (1.20 min.)
Battery storage of an EV (34 sec.)
Are EVs environmentally friendly? (34 sec.)
Which companies produce EVs? (34 sec.)
Electric Cars 101: The Answers to All Your EV Questions
Electric cars use far less energy than gasoline-powered cars, generally cost about a third as much to run as a gas-powered car, and have lower maintenance costs. Running on electricity in most parts of the country costs much less than using gasoline. (Compare how much you’d save in your state using the Department of Energy’s eGallon tool.)
EVs are quiet due to lack of engine noise.
EVs generally have lower maintenance and fuel costs, reducing the total cost of ownership.
EVs don’t rely on petroleum, and electricity prices are more stable than gasoline prices.
Charging at home is convenient.
When combined with a home solar system, “fuel” costs can be completely eliminated.
Variety among electric vehicles is still limited, and EVs command a price premium. In addition, several pure electrics may not meet people’s needs if they drive more than 70 miles per day and do not have access to workplace or public charging. Plug-in hybrids solve the range problem, but they still need a place to plug in to take full advantage of how they operate.
Electric vehicle owners generally need to have ready access to an outlet (or 240-volt battery charger) and a parking spot for overnight charging, unless they are relying entirely on workplace charging. In most areas of the country, this means convenient charging is limited to single-family houses and townhouses rather than apartments or condos. Some initiatives have begun to foster charging and parking solutions for multi-family housing, but this will be a challenge for most situations.
While statistics show that 78% of American drivers travel less than 40 miles a day, and 90% drive less than 50 miles a day, people in single-vehicle households who need to make long trips even occasionally are probably not the best match for most current pure EV offerings. But if charging access is available, a plug-in hybrid can go the distance. Of course, nothing says an EV has to be somebody's only car. A conventional gas-powered car can fill in where a pure EV falls short—and vice versa—in a multi-car household.
Questions to Ask
How many miles do I drive each day?
Do I have regular access to charging at home or at work?
How much would the electricity costs be?
Do I need a faster charging option, or can I charge overnight with a regular outlet?
How often do I travel beyond the electric range?
Base prices range from $21,750 for the Smart Electric Drive to more than $125,000 for a high-performance Tesla Model S. In some cases, that’s thousands more than similar-sized gas-powered cars. But electric cars (excluding low-speed neighborhood vehicles) are eligible for up to a $7,500 federal tax credit to offset the extra cost. Additional city and state tax credits, rebates, or vouchers are available in California, Colorado, Texas, Maryland, and elsewhere that can make the costs of electric cars more compelling. Plus, consumers with a home solar system can really lower or even eliminate their “fuel” costs.
Some popular electric and plug-in cars are sticker-priced at $26,000 to $32,000 before the tax credit. Leases are available for as little as $120 a month (after you sign the tax credit over to the leasing company).
The two most common plug-in hybrid electric vehicles are sticker priced between $30,000 and $40,000, but lease prices can make them very affordable.
Bottom line: It pays to do your homework and look beyond the sticker price to find out how much you’d actually be paying after state, federal, and local incentives, as well as local lease offers.
Charge times vary greatly, depending on the size of the battery, how fast the car is able to take the charge, and the amperage of the circuit. For most EV owners, charging overnight is the cheapest and most convenient option (much like charging a smartphone), so comparing hours when shopping isn’t necessary for most applications. Unless you are pushing the range limit on a daily basis, you won’t have to fill it up from empty to full very often.
On a typical 240-volt (Level II) charger, it can take between 4.5 and 6 hours to fully charge an EV. Plug-in hybrids can take significantly less time to recharge, ranging from two hours for the Toyota Prius Prime to about 4.5 hours for the Chevrolet Volt.
Expect a little more than double those times when charging from a standard 110-volt (Level I) household outlet. Put another way, on a standard household outlet, expect to get about four miles of driving for every hour of charging.
A wider variety of 240-volt chargers are coming on the market that charge at different speeds, with charge times that vary depending on the car and charger. Some systems, such as Tesla’s High Power Wall Connector home charger, replenish the battery much quicker.
DC fast chargers, which can power up to 80% of the battery’s range in about 20 to 30 minutes, are expanding around the country, but they’re still few and far between. There are only about 300 DC fast chargers publicly available. In addition, Tesla’s supercharger network boasts over 500 stations around the country, and those powerful chargers can restore 100 miles of range in as little as 20 minutes for the Tesla Model S.
Electric cars achieve the biggest benefits and cost savings when they’re charged overnight at home (when electric rates may be lowest). As another benefit, most electric-car drivers say they find it much more convenient to just plug in at home than to have to stop at gas stations.
It’s possible to charge a plug-in hybrid overnight, even on a standard 110-volt household outlet. Practically speaking, owning a pure EV probably means installing a 240-volt Level II home charger. These chargers sell for $400 to $700, depending mainly on amperage and the length of the cable. Installation can run an additional $300 to $500 (or more), depending on the distance to the fuse box. These Level II units will allow you to charge in less than half the time of a standard wall outlet or as little as four hours for some electrics. The latest models will charge four times as fast as a home outlet.
Public chargers are being installed in many cities and highway corridors throughout the United States, but their distribution varies widely. Convenience and pricing also vary. Check out PlugShare.com, the DOE’s Alternative Fuels Data Center, and related apps to locate public charging in your area or to plan a road trip.