Electric Vehicles FAQ's


What is an electric vehicle?


An electric vehicle (EV) is one that draws its power from electricity stored in batteries, instead of from the combustion of liquid fuels. EVs include handicapped carts, golf carts, industrial machines, motorcycles and full-sized passenger cars.


What are the advantages of an electric vehicle?


EVs have many advantages which make them ideal commuter vehicles or second cars.


-Convenience. EVs do not need tune-ups, old changes, mufflers, fuel pumps, carburetors, etc.


-No pollution. EVs create no exhaust fumes, no gas, no coolant, and no waste oil. Even including the pollution from the utility's power plant, an electric car is 97% cleaner than a gas car. That's good for the environment, and it also means less hassle for the owner: no smog inspection is needed, no complex and expensive emission control system to break down.


-Efficiency An electric motor provides useful energy more efficiently than a combustion engine. 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 waiting in traffic)


-Quiet. EVs are almost completely silent.


-Durability. Even the best-kept gas car will eventually need a new engine. An electric motor has a virtually infinite life span, needing only an occasional change of brushes, which costs approximately $100.


What does an EV cost?


Today's EVs are either kit cars, gas cars that have been converted to electric power or purpose built cars such as GM's EV-1, Ford's Ranger EV or Solectria's Sunrise or Force (Honda's EV-Plus, Toyota's RAV-4EV & Daimler-Chrysler EPIC are currently not available).


All numbers given here are averages. The cost of conversion is about $7500 for components and batteries, and takes 150-200 hours, depending on the features. Assuming you have a chassis, conversions that included parts and labor run approximately $15,000. Completed kit-cars run about $20,000 and purpose built cars are generally $25,000 to $60,000 or lease at $400 to $700 per month. Leased cars usually include full maintenance and in some cases will include the cost of insurance and a charger.


What are the operating costs?


An EV costs about 4 to 7 cents/mile for electricity, in any traffic. For comparison, at the cheap gas price of $3.00/gal., gas costs 16 to18 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.


How fast can an EV go?


Most can do highway speeds of 55 to 80 mph. The speed record for an EV is 247 mph (White Lightning). Most EVs rate of acceleration is comparable to a typical gas car. EV-1 is 0 to 60 in 7.6 seconds with a top speed of 80 mph (factory set).


How far can an EV go without recharging?


The average range is 50-60 miles, but some EVs can exceed 100 miles on a single charge using lead/acid batteries. The documented distance record is 375 miles in a Solectria Sunrise. ZAT recorded 478 miles on a single charge in a delivery van using Zinc Air batteries. Most production vehicles are now using advanced batteries which have a range between 80 and 120 miles. 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 if you are a candidate for an electric car.


How long does it take to recharge?


This depends on the charger and power available. Usually EV owners charge overnight. This is an ideal time to recharge, since electricity rates are lowest in off-peak hours. Some power companies will give EV owners special low rates for nighttime charging. If the EV has an onboard charger it can be charged during the day at work as well. Some types of chargers can be combined to give a faster charge. On board chargers are now in the range of 10 to 30 lbs. and will plug into either 110 or 220VAC. Some public charging take advantage of 408vac. Most EVs charging at 220vac will reach 80% charging levels in 1 to 3 hours depending on the quality of the charger.


What if I want to take a long trip?


An EV today is basically a commute or town car, not a vacation car. Most cars in the U.S. spend most of their time commuting short distances. Unless you travel a great deal, it is actually cheaper to rent a gas car for occasional trips than to own, register, pay insurance and maintain one year-round.


Can I charge my EV with solar panels?


With current technology, the amount of panels needed to power a car would be too extensive and not practical to mount on the vehicle. However, a solar array can be set up at home and used to charge a battery pack, which can charge the EV. Public parking areas can setup charging stations similar to one now in use at the Sacramento airport. EVs get covered parking and the cover is made up of solar panels.


How many batteries does an EV use?


Typically there are 12 to 20, 6 or 12 volt batteries. The batteries are not standard car batteries, but are deep discharge batteries specially designed to be heavily discharged and recharged repeatedly. A 72 volt system is the minimum for a road-going car. Some go as high as 360 volts. The advantages of added voltage must be balanced against the increased weight and size of the battery pack.


How often must the battery pack be replaced?


In general commute usage, the lead/acid batteries will last about 15,000 to 20,000 miles. This depends on the way the batteries are charged and discharged. New technology batteries are expected to last up to 100,000 miles but they are currently very expensive to purchase. It is expected that the cost of these batteries will come down as production increases.


How much passenger room does an EV have?


Most EVs on the road today are two person cars, but many have room for four or five. Most of the EV components can fit in the space where the gas tank and engine were and newer maintenance free batteries will fit under the floor board leaving more open storage and passenger space than current gas cars. There are currently many electric buses and full size vans in service in many cities.


Can the batteries be recharged by an onboard generator, or using dynamic braking?


These systems are in use in all purpose built electric vehicles and can add a significant amount of power which will extend range (regenerative braking). This also reduces the wear on brakes which further reduces maintenance costs.


Thanks to the SVEAA for the use of their FAQ