Everything you need to know about electric cars.
From amp to zero emission, we’ve created a resource for absolutely everything you need to know about electric vehicles.
What is an electric car?
An electric car is an automobile that uses an electric motor as it’s primary source of propulsion. Electric vehicles (EVs) use electrical energy which is stored in rechargeable batteries. One of the primary benefits of an EV is the lack of tailpipe emissions.
Types of electric cars
The term electric vehicle (EV) is commonly used to refer to three main types of automotive drivetrains. These are Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV), Hybrid-Electric Vehicle (HEV), and Plug-in Hybrid-Electric Vehicle (pHEV).
Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV)
A BEV is a ‘true’ electric vehicle in that the only source of propulsion is from electrical energy. Battery electric vehicles store electricity onboard with high-capacity battery packs. This battery power is used to run all onboard electronics as well as the main-drive electric motor(s). BEVs are powered by electricity from an external source, an electrical outlet or specialty electric vehicle charging stations.
Hybrid-Electric Vehicle (HEV)
A hybrid-electric vehicle has a two-part drive system, a conventional fuel engine, and an electric drive. HEVs contain all the components of both internal combustion engine (ICE) and electric vehicles. These include an ICE engine, fuel tank, transmission as well as battery pack and electric motor. Some vehicles classified as HEV may have only a small electric motor and battery system to propel the vehicle at low speeds. Other HEVs may have smaller fuel engines and relatively larger electric drives. The degree to which the vehicle is propelled, either by fuel or electric power determines on the specific make and model of the vehicle. In all HEVs the only energy source is fuel, electrical energy is generated secondarily via alternator or regenerative braking.
Plug-in Hybrid-Electric Vehicle (pHEV)
Plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles (pHEV) are similar to HEVs except that the proportion energy used to propel the vehicle is electricity, not fuel. These vehicles have larger electrical drives and battery storage capacity than HEVs and are also equipped with a smaller internal combustion engine. The vehicle is designed to engage the fuel engine when battery electricity is running low or to replace the electric drivetrain when more power is required. Since pHEVs can be recharged from an electrical outlet it is possible to drive them entirely on electrical energy.
How do you charge an electric car?
Charging an electric car is easy and can be done anywhere there is an outlet or charging station. Most EV owners charge their vehicle at home or at work. Public charging stations are also available at gas stations, parking lots, retail and grocery stores. All the equipment required to charge an electric car typically comes included. Typically this is an electrical cord which plugs into the vehicle and into a standard household power outlet. There are also a number of aftermarket solutions which can provide faster charging for electric vehicles.
EV charging levels
Electric vehicle service equipment (EVSE) is a term used for all EV charging solutions. EVSE solutions are further classified according to the rate (speed) at which they can recharge an EVs batteries. These are generally referred to as Level 1, 2 and 3 (or DC fast charge).
Level 1 charging (120v)
The easiest form of EV charging, level one uses a corded plug to connect to the vehicle to a standard household (120v) outlet.
- Lowest voltage and slowest form of EV charging.
- Can take over 8 hours to recharge a depleted battery.
- Typically used at home, when the vehicle is parked overnight.
Level 2 charging (240v)
Level two charging requires the installation of a specialized station which provides power at 220v or 240v and up to 30 amps. Typically level two stations are found at workplaces or at public charging locations. However, some homeowners may choose to install a level two station at home for quicker recharging times.
- Installation requires wiring and mounting of a charging ‘pylon’ and cord.
- Typically used for workplace public charging.
- It can take 4 hours to recharge a depleted battery.
Level 3 charging (480v)
Level three or DC fast charging is currently the fastest charging solution for electric vehicles. Unlike levels one and two, there is no standardized charging protocol for level three charging stations. Currently, the Tesla Supercharge Network, the Nissan CHAdeMO have deployed level three or high-voltage chargers. All of the above fast chargers deliver about 80% charge in 30 minutes.Installation requires wiring and mounting of a charging ‘pylon’ and cord. Because of the cost and power requirement of level 3 chargers, these stations are typically only installed along transit corridors.
- Can recharge a depleted battery in ~30mins or less.
- Typically only used in commercial applications.
How long does it take to charge an electric car?
Charging times for electric vehicles vary a great deal. Factors affecting the time required to charge include the total capacity of an EVs battery, the amount of charge required, and the charger level (or speed). While it is common to compare the times required to recharge the battery of an electric vehicle completely (from 0% to 100%) in practice, this is extremely rare. More commonly EV owners recharge their electric vehicles on a regular basis and seldom dip below 1/3 charge. The following graph compares the average real-world time spent charging of over 600 mixed EV models from over 85,000 charge events.
Average time spent charging per charger level:
- Level 1 – 290 minutes
- Level 2 – 115 minutes
- Level 3 – 23 minutes
Types of electric vehicle chargers
There are also two types of EV chargers, commonly referred to as ‘Smart’ or ‘Dumb’ chargers.
‘Dumb’ (Non-networked) EV charging stations
The biggest factors which affect the cost of an EV charging station are speed (charging level) and network capability. Chargers which aren’t connected via the internet to network management services are commonly referred to as ‘dumb’ chargers. Non-networked chargers are essentially a power cord plugged into an outlet. This form of charging is common in level one and level two chargers for home or commercial fleet use where the cost of charging stations is a consideration.
‘Smart’ (Networked) EV charging stations
Networked EV charging stations are more costly than non-networked options. Most EVSE manufacturers charge a premium for the collection of charging data. Networked charging stations also require a connection to the internet, either via wifi or cellular connection. For the cost of service, networked charging stations offer features such as the ability to delay charging remotely and monitor the energy use of charging.
Networked EV charging stations are typically operating at level two and three charging capacity. These are most commonly found in public charging locations where station operators may require EV owners subscribe or pay to use the station. A number of EVSE manufacturers offer ‘smart’ home-use charging stations.
How to find public EV charging stations
How far can an electric car travel?
Electric range is a term used to describe the distance a vehicle can travel under electric propulsion alone. The electric range of a car depends on the specific make and model of vehicle. It also depends on a number of factors such as outside temperature and driving habits – acceleration and braking.
How to increase the range of an electric vehicle
Outside temperatures affect the range of all cars, but electric vehicle drivers will feel the sting most in extreme weather. That’s because an EV battery does not deliver the driving range of a gas tank yet. Until that day comes, drivers of plug-in vehicles have to be more vigilant than folks driving cars powered by fossil fuels.
- How to maximize EV range in hot weather.
- How to increase EV range in cold weather.
- EV range ramifications heating and air conditioning.
How to increase electric vehicle range
- Maintain a regular/steady driving speed.
- Smooth/gradual acceleration and braking.
- Use of regenerative braking on equipped vehicles.
- Use of vehicles ‘eco’ settings.
- Ensure the vehicle is in prime operating condition.
- Ensuring tires are properly inflated.
- Remove unneeded heavy luggage or accessories.
- Pre-heating the vehicle before unplugging.
- Park in an enclosed or heated space.
- Smart use of devices
- Use of heated seats over a heated cabin.
- Limit the use of air conditioning and heating.
- Limit the use of the stereo, electronics or high-volumes.
How long do electric vehicle batteries last?
The topic of electric car batteries has been one of intense focus for those in the industry, consumers and EV skeptics alike. Unlike fuel vehicles, where the storage of fuel energy is relatively straightforward, EVs require the storage of electrical energy for propulsion. The ability to store more energy is the single largest determining factor of a vehicle’s range. The subject of electric car batteries is usually divided into the following categories: battery life, and the cost of a new battery.
The ‘life’ of an electric car battery depends on a number of factors which include battery technology, total battery capacity, and use of the battery. While consumers are not able to control factors related to battery technology and total capacity they are able to significantly increase or decrease the ‘life’ of a battery based on charging and usage habits. Key to this finding is research which indicates that constant partial discharge of a battery can significantly increase the duration which it can be reliably used. Electric vehicle batteries which are discharged completely will typically last between 300 to 500 cycles. The same batteries which are regularly discharged to only 50% capacity will see an increase of 3 to 4 times life expectancy.
- The impact of battery degradation on electric vehicles.
- Exploring EV battery life, degradation, and developments.
How to increase the life of electric car batteries
- Avoid fully charging or discharging the battery.
- Avoid extreme temperature ranges, hot and cold.
- Use slow-charging, level one and level two.
Cost of electric car batteries
Electric car batteries are typically compared by looking at the at the cost per KwH, the total cost of the battery over the total electric capacity. While batteries continue to be a large proportion of the overall cost of a new electric vehicle, that ratio is changing. Recent battery technological developments, as well as consumer demand, is driving the price of batteries down substantially. Industry analysts are reporting that the cost of batteries is falling fast than expected. The cost of EV batteries has dropped 80% in the last 6 years to below $230/kWh. Forecasts project $100/kWh batteries by the year 2026.
How much does an electric car cost?
A wide range of electric vehicles is available for every conceivable free market segment. As a result, the purchase price of a new electric vehicle varies widely based upon the vehicle make, model, type, package, and accessories. As the number of EV models for sale grows, the comparative cost to conventional vehicles continues to fall. When considering the cost of an electric vehicle, consumers usually consider several factors which include the initial purchase price, new vehicle rebate programs, cost to operate the vehicle, utility or charging rebates, and repair costs. The result is an understanding of what the lifetime cost to own a specific model would be.
The purchase price of an electric vehicle
Similar to any number of conventional fuel vehicle on the market, the cost of an electric vehicle will range widely depending on a number of factors. However, unlike a fuel vehicle, EVs currently benefit from Government and Private subsidy or incentive programs. These programs are designed to increase the adoption of electric cars (purchase or lease) and vary in availability and total compensation depending on location.
- The top 11 affordable electric cars in 2017.
- Countries with the best incentive programs for purchasing a new EV.
- Elements of electric vehicle incentive programs.
New electric vehicle incentive and rebate programs
- Canada, Ontario Electric Vehicle Incentive Program (EVIP).
- Canada, Quebec purchase or lease rebate program.
- Canada, British Columbia, Clean energy vehicles for British Columbia.
- US Federal Tax Credits for All-Electric and Plug-in Hybrid Vehicles.
- US State incentives for electric vehicles.
- United Kingdom, low-emission vehicles eligible for a plug-in grant.
Cost of operating an electric vehicle
Owning an electric vehicle is an investment that will pay off the more you drive. The single largest opportunity for savings exists in the relatively low cost of electrical energy. Electricity isn’t free, but the cost of energy over the distance traveled is lower than that of fuel. Over the lifetime of a vehicle, the fuel saved by driving an EV can become substantial. In most cases, this is enough to more than offset the initial purchase premium of an electric vehicle. This is especially true considering many EVs are purchased with the aid of substantial government subsidies.
A comparison of the seven of the most popular electric car models and comparable fuel alternatives shows where the financial break-even point of purchasing an EV is. While the comparison is dependant on the fluctuating price of fuel, most high-end EVs break-even around 100k miles (161k km). Economy models of EVs can see an early break-even point around 50k miles (80k km). Almost all EV owners will ‘break-even’ financially by choosing to drive an electric car over a fuel car within the vehicles life. Many more owners will see substantial savings over the course of owning that vehicle. As the cost of electric vehicles declines annually due to market competitiveness, and production efficiencies we can look forward to a widening margin of cost benefits from electric vehicles in the years to come.
Estimating the cost of owning an electric vehicle
Because the total savings from owning an electric vehicle is so dependent on the use of the vehicle, forecasting total savings can require some calculation. To help with this several basic calculators are available online to help.
Which EV models are available?
Electric vehicles available in Canada
What are the benefits of driving an electric car?
Cheaper to operate
Performing basic calculations, the average electric vehicle can save a driver who drives 15,000 miles in a year about $850 annually on fuel. Keep in mind that these estimates have been made without taking any special charging systems into consideration. This, together with various tax breaks and government subsidies, means that virtually all-electric vehicles start to pay for themselves a long time before they reach the end of their expected lifespans, leading to significant savings over time.
Require less maintenance
Electric cars have fewer moving parts compared to internal combustion engine vehicles. As a result, EVs require less maintenance and have lower maintenance costs. “The electric motor has one moving part, the shaft, which is very reliable and requires little or no maintenance. The controller and charger are electronic devices with no moving parts, and they require little or no maintenance,” states Idaho National Laboratory in their paper comparing gasoline and electric vehicles.
- Why electric cars are better than gas cars.
- How do gasoline and electric vehicles compare? (pdf)
- Spend less time on repairs. (video)
Electric vehicles are safer
All passenger vehicles are required to pass the same safety and crash tests, electric cars, however, have a few extra features which may make them safer to ride in. For example, statistics on real-world crash events show that electric vehicles are far less likely to catch fire when compared to fuel vehicles. Compare gas cars – 1 fire to every 20 million miles – to electric vehicles – 1 fire to every 120 million miles driven. It’s virtually impossible for a battery-powered car to explode on impact, and because heavy battery packs significantly lower an EV’s center of mass, the car is less likely to roll over. Manufacturers of electric vehicles don’t spare any expense on built-in safety systems, which is why EVs regularly exceed all safety standards. In fact, many EVs score higher in crash test safety ratings, Tesla Model X, for example, has a perfect score.
- Top 12 reasons why electric cars are better than gas cars.
- How electric vehicles improve fleet safety.
Reduced tailpipe emissions
Battery electric vehicles (BEVs) don’t produce any tailpipe emissions compared to the average gasoline car produces over 350 grams of CO2 per mile. Cleaner air means less disease in the world, which means less stress on public health systems, hospitals, and so on. In addition, fewer greenhouse gas emissions will save the ozone layer and reduce our carbon footprint. If we can’t stop global warming, we can certainly slow down the onset, and EVs are nothing if not a good start.
Easier to use
An often overlooked aspect of owning and operating an EV is just how easily they fit into your life. The ability to charge them at home, at work or at public chargers means you never have to go out of your way to ‘refuel’. EV owners can simply plug-in after returning from home and have a fully charged battery the next morning. Fleet vehicles can be charged using smart EV charging systems that offer maximum cost savings, thanks to advanced energy management tools. Residential users can signup to special programs which optimize home charging for big savings.
- Utility customers set to save billions each year thanks to electric vehicles.
- Gas butler not required. (video)
Electric cars are quiet
At 65 mph, the average interior noise of a car with an internal combustion engine is around 70 dB. Electric vehicles, on the other hand, are almost whisper-quiet. According to a study published by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), “Tens of millions of Americans suffer from a range of adverse health outcomes due to noise exposure, including heart disease and hearing loss.” The same study claims that “nearly 100 million people in the United States (about 50% of the population) had annual exposures to traffic noise that was high enough to be harmful to health.”
Faster than you think
Despite the allure of high-octane fuel burning muscle cars, new speed records are being claimed by electric vehicles. For example, the Tesla Model S P100D did 0 to 60 mph in 2.28 seconds, that’s faster than a Bugatti Chiron. Even the most powerful fuel engines are unable to match the instantaneous and constant torque of an electric motor.
Should I drive an electric car?
Purchasing or leasing any vehicle is a big decision financially and otherwise for the majority of consumers. Considering whether or not to drive an electric vehicle is no different, and maybe it’s just a bit more involved. Because electric vehicles are relatively new, there are a few extra considerations to be made. The follow are questions you should be comfortable answering before choosing to go electric.
- How to buy your first electric car.
- A simple guide to the used electric car market.
- The six biggest concerns for fleets when buying electric cars.
Questions to ask before buying an electric car
Why am I buying an EV?
Motivations for choosing an electric vehicle vary among owners. Many consumers choose electric vehicles for their ‘green’ image and the fact that they don’t emit tailpipe emissions. Others desire a more cost-effective form of transportation and electric vehicles fit their commuting habits. And yet others may choose an electric vehicle to drive the most technologically advanced vehicle on the market. Understanding your motivation for buying an EV will help determine which model is right for you.
Can I find an afford a model that’s right for me?
The price of electric vehicles ranges widely from economy to luxury models. A price premium exists on electric vehicles as the supply chain catches up with demand. Despite the role of purchase incentives in making the newer technology vehicles affordable, many still view EVs initial price as being too expensive. Before purchasing an electric car, ensure it fits into your budget as much as it may fit your desires.
Do I have access to charging locations?
Ensuring you have uninhibited access to regular charging is important. Most EV owners charge their vehicle in the most convenient location, at home.If you live in a condo or apartment, make sure that the building management is okay with EV charging and can provide access to an outlet. Those who don’t have access to home charging make regular use of public charging.
Is an electric car a good investment?
The initial, operating, and maintenance costs associated with owning an electric car should be considered before determining whether or not an EV is a good investment. Many factors can influence this decision including how often the vehicle is used and the driving habits of the owner. While the initial purchase price of EVs is relatively high, the cost of electricity vs fuel, and maintenance costs are typically lower.