Electric Vehicle Q&A

The first electric car was built in the mid 1830s, but it has only been within the past decade that these fuel-efficient creations have really taken off with the everyday consumer. Whether you are interested in lightening your carbon footprint or simply trying to save money on gas, odds are you have some questions. DEC has the answers.

What’s the difference between electric cars and hybrids?

Many people talk about the two as though they were interchangeable, but there is actually a major difference: the way they receive power. Electric cars get their energy solely from electric motors. Hybrids work on a combination system, alternating when necessary between electric motors and a gas-powered engine.

Hybrids also don’t recharge the same way electric cars do. Even plug-in hybrids have the support of gas power, so if drivers get caught in a pinch, they have that to fall back on.

Where/how do you charge?

Electric cars can be charged at home or at a charging station. It’s just like filling up for gas, but instead of a fuel nozzle, you plug in an electric cable. While all-electric charging stations still aren’t as common as gas stations, many are being installed around the country. Look online to find the nearest station near you.

At home, you can run a power cable directly from your home line. Just make sure that your electric service is capable of charging your car, along with what charging equipment is compatible with your car’s system. You will also need to check the specific regulations regarding at-home charging in your city or town.

How long does charging take?

How long it takes to charge your car’s battery depends on the type of charging equipment it uses. Charging equipment is categorized in three levels: AC Level 1 (standard), AC Level 2, and DC Fast Charge equipment.

AC Level 1 charges come through a 120-volt outlet, which is the general size for home use. Eight hours of charging with this setup gives you a range of roughly 40 miles driving distance.

AC Level 2 requires double the strength, a 240-volt outlet, to charge, but about four times faster than AC Level 1. This can add 10-20 miles to your charge with every hour it is connected.

DC Fast Charge surpasses both of the previous levels. It functions with a 240-volt circuit, but takes it up a notch. With a higher amperage, it can give your car enough power for a 70-mile run in just 20 minutes.

What is the lifespan of the car’s battery?

Generally speaking, the lithium-ion battery in most electric cars is expected to last for about 10 years, but some companies base the battery life on the mileage of the car. For example, one report sited BMW’s batteries were built to last up to 100,000 miles.

Are electric cars actually beneficial to the environment?

This is a real hot button issue with so many people taking an interest in “green living.” Oddly enough, this question is still up for debate. Many people do not see electric cars as environmentally friendly because of the fact that producing the electricity to run them still requires the burning of fossil fuels. Advocates of electric cars counter their claim by saying that, unlike gas-powered engines in conventional cars, power stations can convert fossil fuels into energy much more efficiently. 

If you’re still interested in purchasing an electric car but aren’t quite convinced, visit www.fueleconomy.gov to find out more information.