More Facts About Electric Cars

April 13, 2014
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Following on from an item earlier this week, Jon E. Bagg looks a little further into the question of electric cars…

Can electric cars catch fire because of an overloaded battery? Seems there were a couple of cases concerning the Tesla Model S and many negative rumors. Yet this car has never exploded spontaneously and drivers got plenty of warning. The truth is that Lithium-ion batteries are far less volatile than gasoline and Tesla addressed that issue in 2012 with a recall.

electric cars

Weather-wise, using your heater, lights, and wiper (the air conditioner in the summer) can use up to half the battery’s charge. The batteries also have a little less energy in the winter. Time-wise, as with a regular automobiles, batteries wear down and their capacity to absorb a charge diminishes. So the range of electric cars will diminish with age. General Motors and Nissan, the first two companies to introduce electric cars in the United States, are providing battery warranties of eight years or 100,000 miles. In California and 15 other states that follow California emissions laws, GM will have to warranty the batteries to 10 years or 150,000 miles.

Price-wise: EV prices range from $23,000 for the slow and unrefined Mitsubishi iMiev to over $100,000 for the luxurious Tesla Model S sports car. Most cost around $30,000. All pure EVs are eligible for a $7,500 federal tax rebate in addition to other state and local tax credits. Most of the pure electric cars have a range of about 100 miles between charges. The Tesla Model S1, which is expected to debut in 2015, will have larger optional batteries that can go up to a claimed 300 miles. Others, like the Chevrolet Volt and the Fisker Karma, can only go a short distance (less than 40 miles with the Volt) on electricity, but have gas engines that can carry them farther when the necessity arises.

Electricity rates vary across the country, from a low of 5 cents per kilowatt-hour to a high of more than 29 cents in Hawaii. Charging costs on electric cars depend on your electric rates and the size of the batteries. A Chevrolet Volt, with a relatively small battery capacity doesn’t rely on them as a sole energy source, charging takes about 10 kWh. Thus, depending on one’s location, a full charge would cost between 56 cents and $1.90 a day (or $2.90 in Hawaii), and take you about 35 miles. A Nissan Leaf would cost between $1.25 and $4.50, which will carry you about 80 miles. Charging a Tesla costs much more: $2.65 to $9, but then again you’d go about 200 miles on that charge.

electric cars
Image by jbor /

Averages-wise, an electric car ought to cost about 4 cents a mile to charge at national average electric rates while a conventional car which gets 30 mpg would cost about 9 cents a mile to fuel.

EVSE stands for Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment. The EVSE is the box on the wall (or a post in a parking lot) that you plug an electric car into to recharge. The EVSE is the part that most people may call a “charger,” because it is an accessory that costs extra. For consumers considering an electric vehicle, a Level II EVSE for the garage should cost between $500 and $900 (Prices are coming down fast soon, says my Leaf dealer). Installation can more than double that amount, depending on the configuration of your house. These are the three levels of chargers:

Level 1 is a 110-volt charger that can charge a plug-in hybrid or extended-range electric vehicle overnight, but takes more than 24-hours to charge a pure electric vehicle.

Level 2 is the 220-volt charger most electric-car owners will purchase to charge their cars overnight in their homes. A Level 2 charger can charge a car in 8 to 10 hours. Level 2 chargers cost $400 to $800, plus the cost of pulling a dedicated 220-volt outlet to your garage or driveway.

Level 3 chargers will eventually be installed in public places and provide an 80 percent charge to a full electric car in under a half hour. Expected to cost as much as $60,000 to install, they will be available in malls, restaurants, and parking garages, charging customers by the hour.

In other words, the time has come when EV’s really are a worthwhile long-term investment worth making.

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