Electric vehicles (EVs) are a “hot item” in the auto world, with many auto manufacturers offering at least one model. Electric vehicles can be a good fit for some people and lifestyles but not everyone.

 

Electric Vehicle Owner Member Registration

Do you own an electric vehicle? It is helpful for CTEC to know if you have an EV since it will add a new electric load on our system.  This way we can ensure all our members have safe and reliable electric service.

Types of Plug-In Electric Vehicles

Battery electric vehicles (BEVs) have much longer electric ranges than PHEVs, are powered solely by electricity and are charged by plugging in.

The answer is both “yes” and “no.” The initial purchase price of a BEV may be somewhat higher than a similar gasoline vehicle (though look out for tax credits, rebates and other incentives), but BEVs cost much less to operate. Driving on electricity is cheaper than driving on gasoline, and BEVs have fewer parts, which means less maintenance and fewer repairs.

  • Though specific savings will depend on gas prices and your driving habits, BEVs cost less to operate than gas-fueled vehicles because electricity costs are equivalent to approximately $1 per gallon of gasoline.
  • Electricity prices are far more stable than gasoline prices, which means less fluctuation in how much you’ll pay throughout the year. Furthermore, because the U.S. electric supply does not rely on imported petroleum, the long-term outlook for pricing is better.
  • BEVs are highly efficient, converting about 80% of their energy input into moving the car. In contrast, gas-powered cars are only about 20% efficient; the remaining 80% of the energy input is lost to engine inefficiencies or used to power accessories.
  • Most BEVs have a regenerative braking system that captures energy and restores it to the battery when you stop.
  • Charging an electric vehicle at home is not a huge power drain. A BEV driven 10,000 miles a year may use between 2,500 and 3,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) to charge; that is between $325 and $390 per year assuming an average residential electricity rate of 13 cents. This is approximately the same amount of energy used to operate an electric water heater for a family of four.
  • BEVs run on locally generated electricity and reduce dependence on fossil fuels.
  • The vehicles have less of a negative environmental impact because of higher efficiency, lower energy consumption and no tailpipe emissions.
  • Electricity is not a “fuel” in the same way gasoline is. Cooperatives and other utilities produce electricity from many sources, including hydropower, nuclear, natural gas, coal, and increasingly, wind and solar generation. As the source of electricity gets cleaner, so does the vehicle.
  • BEVs require little maintenance beyond changing windshield wipers and tires. They have far fewer moving parts than gas-powered vehicles, so less can go wrong. Even brake pads last longer because of regenerative braking.
  • BEVs are extremely quiet, as there is no combustion noise produced.
  • BEVs have quick acceleration and are fun to drive.
  • BEVs get better range in stop-and-go traffic than during highway driving, making them ideal for in-city commuting.
  • BEVs are very safe to operate and charge. The vehicle inlet and charging equipment are required to be safety tested, certified and listed by UL.
  • Although vehicle ranges keep improving and charging stations continue to be installed, long-distance travel in a BEV will require more advanced planning.
  • If you need to charge partway through a trip, you will be stopped for longer than had you filled up a gas-powered vehicle.
  • It may be difficult to find a charging station when and where you need one. Fortunately, this is improving as BEVs become increasingly common and more stations are added. Several apps can help you locate places to charge
  • There is a federal tax credit worth up to $7,500, though the amount depends on the vehicle, manufacturer and your tax liability.
  • Some states and cities offer incentives, including access to high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes and special parking spots.
  • Some cooperatives offer special electric rates for charging during off-peak times (such as overnight).
  • Some states, cities and cooperatives offer rebates and incentives to offset the purchase of an electric vehicle or charging station

There are several levels of charging. How often you charge and where you plug in depend on how far you drive and the charging
method.

 

  • Level 1: A standard 120-volt home receptacle on a dedicated circuit will provide three to five miles of driving range for every hour of charging.
  • Level 2: A 240-volt connection will provide 10 to 20 miles of range for every hour of charging. Note that this connection must be installed by an electrician who understands BEVs. Some public areas and workplaces also offer Level 2 charging stations.
  • DC Fast Charge: DC fast charging can charge a car to 80% in about 30 minutes. However, this option requires special equipment and isn’t compatible with all vehicles.

Safety features are built into BEVs and charging equipment. The charging cable is live only when it is connected to a vehicle. The charger senses that the connection is properly made before the electric current is turned on. Also, the charger has a ground-fault interrupter (GFI). To prevent shocks, charging stops immediately if even a few milliamps of current leak.


If a lot of people plug in to charge their electric vehicles, will this drain the electric grid?


Charging BEVs will not drain the grid. An investigation by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory found that the grid has enough excess capacity to support about 150 million electric vehicles without having to add new power plants. With under 2 million electric vehicles on the road today in the U.S. (this includes both BEVs and plug-in hybrids), there is much opportunity for growth. Furthermore, electric vehicles are a flexible load, meaning they can
be managed to charge during times of low demand for electricity, putting limited strain on the grid.

  • Using heating and air conditioning, as well as running headlights, wipers and the defroster
  • Extreme temperatures, particularly cold
  • Your driving style
  • The type of driving (city vs. highway) – with the benefits of regenerative braking, BEVs perform better in city driving

Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) have larger batteries than hybrids and use both gas and electricity to power the wheels. These vehicles vary in their electric range but shift to gasoline-only operation when battery power is depleted or in certain other conditions. The vehicles plug in to charge the battery.

  • They offer the benefits of electric power, but the gasoline engine can help out when needed.
  • Compared to gasoline vehicles, they offer better fuel economy (less gas burned) and lower fuel costs (because electricity is cheaper than gas).
  • Because less gas is burned, PHEVs reduce our dependence on oil and emit fewer greenhouse gases than gasoline vehicles.
  • PHEVs may qualify for the federal tax credit of up to $7,500. The amount depends on the vehicle, manufacturer and your tax liability. There may be additional benefits offered by your state, city or cooperative, such as rebates, cheaper electric rates, and special parking spots and driving lanes.
  • Because they have both electric and gasoline components, PHEVs have a more complex design than BEVs.
  • Maintenance is required on both systems. Gas engines require oil changes and the same checks that conventional gas engines need. And while the electric components (battery, electric motor and electronics) require less maintenance than gas-powered engines, some is required.
  • Having both a combustion engine and battery pack takes up space and adds weight.

Just as with a BEV, the battery in a PHEV needs to be charged. There are several levels of charging. How often you charge and
where you plug in depend on how far you drive and the charging method.

 

  • Level 1: A standard 120-volt home receptacle on a dedicated circuit will provide three to five miles of driving range for every hour of charging.
  • Level 2: A 240-volt connection will provide 10 to 20 miles of range for every hour of charging. Note that this connection must be installed by an electrician who understands PHEVs. Some public areas and workplaces also offer Level 2 charging stations.
  • DC Fast Charge: DC fast charging, the quickest level of charging, can be used by many BEVs but is not compatible with most PHEVs.

Safety features are built into PHEVs and charging equipment. The charging cable is not live while you handle it, but only when it is connected to the vehicle. The charger senses that the connection is properly made before the electric current is turned on.  Also, the charger has a ground-fault interrupter (GFI). To prevent shocks, charging stops immediately if leakage of even a few milliamps of current occurs.

Consider the following questions if you are thinking about purchasing an electric vehicle:

  • The average person drives 40 miles each day commuting to work and running errands. If that aligns with your daily mileage, consider a battery electric vehicle (BEV). Charging overnight should keep it ready for your commute, and today, most new BEVs cover over 200 miles. However, to ensure your needs are met, assume your range will be somewhat less.
  • Even if you frequently take long trips or have a few longer daily drives, an EV may not be convenient.  You may consider a BEV as a second vehicle. 
  • If you average more miles per day and/or take frequent long trips, a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) may better meet your needs. PHEVs use a combination of an electric motor and gasoline engine to provide about 12-50 electric miles and the ability to keep driving on gasoline after the battery is depleted. They do need to be plugged in to charge but can operate in gas-only mode when necessary.
  • BEVs operate solely on electric power and must be charged by plugging in. The battery in PHEVs must also be charged, but the vehicle can operate on gas if the charge runs out. 
  • A 120-volt outlet in your garage or driveway may handle overnight charging if you are driving only about 40 miles per day and have a full 8 hours to plug in. If you drive more and charge less, you may not get a sufficient charge. 
  • If you want quicker charging, you will need a 240-volt outlet and compatible charging station, which start at a few hundred dollars.
  • If you do not have off-street parking, it may be difficult to charge your EV at home.
  • The purchase price for EVs may be somewhat higher than similar gasoline vehicles; however, this additional price is offset by lower operating and maintenance costs. 
  • The used EV market is continuing to grow, and you may be able to get a good deal on an older model. 
  • For some vehicles and situations, leases for EVs can be less than $200 per month. 
  • You may receive a federal tax credit for BEVs and PHEVs.
  • The purchase price of EVs does not tell the entire story. When purchasing any vehicle, operating and maintenance costs should be incorporated into the car’s total cost of ownership, and these costs are generally lower for EVs than gas-powered cars. Start with what your current vehicle costs in operation and maintenance; then compare it to alternatives. 
  • Energy costs to operate BEVs typically run $590 a year, while PHEVs cost about $720 a year. 
  • Maintenance costs will be far less in BEVs thanks to fewer moving parts and a simpler design. PHEVs have both electric and combustion components, but they may still have lower maintenance costs than conventional vehicles because some components, such as brakes, experience less wear. 
  • Also, don’t forget the federal tax credit of up to $7,500 may be available. The exact amount depends on the vehicle, manufacturer and your tax liability. In addition, you may qualify for other rebates and perks from your state, city or cooperative, such as lower electric rates for charging overnight, free parking or access to special commuter lanes.
  • Your electric bill will increase, but how much will depend on factors like how much you drive and how frequently you change at home. 

How long will an electric vehicle battery last and what’s the price to replace it? Well, the response is often “it depends.” Many electric vehicle (EV) models come with an 8 year/100K mile warranty, but some do not.

While there is little agreement in the EV industry as to how long a vehicle battery will last, there is strong agreement and data that proves that the more energy used from the battery between charges, the shorter the battery’s life. As a result, there are some in the industry that have adopted the charging phrase of “graze not gorge” to encourage regular short charging sessions as opposed to using the vehicle until the battery is depleted.

There are a few common conditions that may cause high energy usage of the battery and possibly contribute to shorter battery life:

  • High temperatures
  • Overcharging
  • Frequent driving with battery less than half full
  • Frequent quick accelerations

As far as the cost to replace a battery when the vehicle is past warranty, prices vary from $5,500 on up. There is also an option to refurbish battery packs for about half the cost of a full replacement.  Additionally, battery prices continue to drop, so the replacement cost may decline in the future.

Lastly, there is a concern about the disposal of old batteries.  Thankfully, we are beginning to see the batteries being recycled or used as part of energy storage systems. This will keep the batteries out of landfills and enable them to be used for years after they are removed from the vehicles.