FAQ

Some basic questions that may help.

What is an electric vehicle (EV)?

A:

An electric vehicle is any vehicle that can drive on electricity derived from a power plug. An all-electric vehicle (sometimes called a battery electric vehicle (BEV)) drives solely on power from the plug. There are a few different ways to charge. You can learn about them here.

What is a plug-in hybrid vehicle (PHEV)?

A:

A PHEV is a car that can operate on both electricity (from plugging in) and petrol. Usually, they run on electricity first and then draw on petrol later. That way, you are driving electric around town and only use petrol for long trips.

Is the Prius an electric car?

A:

No. Most Priuses get their power from petrol and then convert it into electricity, but it is still a petrol car. A few Priuses can also plug in (See plug-in hybrids, above), but those are not being produced anymore.

Are plug-in vehicles dependable?

A:

Yes. Plug-in cars are the most dependable vehicles on the market. They will last as long or longer than petrol automobiles, with less regular maintenance required. Since there are significantly fewer moving parts in an EV compared to a traditional vehicle, less ongoing preventative maintenance is needed. They require no oil changes, tune-ups, or new spark plugs. Brake life is extended on EVs since the motor is used to slow the car, recapturing the kinetic energy and storing it back in the battery. Electric motors will also outlast the body of the vehicle. Many automakers also offer warranties on the batteries.

Can electric cars drive far enough to be practical?

A:

Most electric cars have a range of 90-130 kilometers, although this is quickly growing. Very few drivers travel this far on a daily basis. For the infrequent occasions when a long-distance drive is needed, the drive can be done with a second car that is a plug-in hybrid (PHEV), by access to vehicles in car-share services, or by renting or borrowing another vehicle.

Aren't plug-in cars expensive?

A:

When you consider the total cost of ownership, including purchase, fuel costs, and maintenance, plug-in cars are cheaper than similar gas cars.

Can electric vehicles self-charge?

A:

No. Energy conversions are never 100 percent efficient, so every time we convert one form of energy to another, we lose some of that energy. Hybrids and EVs recapture some of their energy back into the batteries through regenerative braking.

How long does it take to charge a plug-in car?

A:

How long does it take to charge your cell phone? Think about charging your car just like you think about charging your cell phone. Most people charge their cars at home or work, just like a cell phone. Plug it in when you arrive and it will be ready for you in the morning, or the end of the work day.

The actual charging time depends on the size of your battery, how far you have driven, and the amperage of the charging system. Keep in mind that most of the time, the battery will not be empty when you plug in, just like your cell phone.

Where do you recharge a plug-in vehicle?

A:

Most people recharge overnight in their garage, carport or driveway or work, but there are many public chargers for electric cars as well. Find a public EV charging station here. An estimated 99 percent of all charging currently happens at home or work.

How much does it cost to charge a plug-in vehicle?

A:

Much less than it costs to buy petrol. Exactly how much depends on the vehicle and electricity rates. On average, it costs less than $5 to charge a plug-in hybrid and $5-$10 for an all-electric car. Your overall energy bill will be lowered by driving with electricity.

Is plugging in a hassle?

A:

Not at all – it takes less than five seconds, and there’s no going out of your way to a gas station,  jockeying for a pump, and getting toxic petrol on your hands. You can charge anywhere there is an electric outlet. Most EV drivers plug in when they get home.

What about hydrogen cars?

A:

Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) use four times as much electricity on a per-mile basis as a battery EV if the hydrogen is obtained through the process called electrolysis. So, you would need four times the number of solar panels to go the same distance as you would in a battery EV. FCVs are also 40 percent less efficient than battery EVs if the hydrogen is obtained from converting natural gas, and this process releases significant quantities of CO2 into the atmosphere. FCVs have many difficult and expensive engineering challenges to solve before they will ever be widely available, and even then, the energy required per mile will probably still be substantially higher than for EVs. The electrical grid already exists for plug-in vehicles, only a handful of hydrogen refueling stations currently exist. The bottom line is that there is no advantage to using FCVs over EVs. And hydrogen is not currently available in New Zealand for vehicle owners to purchase.

Is the quiet nature of electric vehicles a hazard?

A:

Electric vehicles aren’t silent, and at parking-lot speeds they make as much noise from various fans, pumps and tyre noise as most modern internal-combustion engine vehicles. At high speeds, the wind and tyre noise is comparable to any car.

Do plug-in vehicles emit electromagnetic radiation?

A:

Data suggest there are no harmful electromagnetic emissions from plug-in cars. There is no broad agreement in the United States over what level of exposure to electromagnetic fields may constitute a health hazard, and there are no federal standards for allowable exposure levels. Two reports from the United States show that electric cars and buses have lower electromagnetic fields than conventional gasoline cars.

Does it make sense to put solar panels or wind turbines on an EV?

A:

Putting solar photovoltaics (PV) directly on EVs would be nice but likely not adequate. Most solar panels would add too much weight. Some newer, lighter and flexible PV technology could generate power for interior climate control or minor tasks, but not enough to power a car a significant distance. Furthermore, cars are often parked in garages or under carports, where sunlight won’t reach.

Likewise, windmills on EVs don’t make sense. The drag they create reduces efficiency, necessitating more energy to run the car. However, EVs can be charged with electricity that is generated from solar panels and wind turbines.

What about putting stationary solar panels on your house or business? That is a great idea. Fixed panels can be set up so that they’re not obstructed, and angled optimally to the sun. And fixed wind turbines can work wonderfully as well.

Where do batteries end up? In landfills? Or recycled?

A:

Vehicle batteries have an excellent recycling record that will get even better with plug-in vehicles. Every car in the world has a lead-acid battery. Even with its low value as scrap, the national recycling rate for lead-acid batteries is about 98 percent. Plug-in vehicles mostly use lithium ion, which is much more valuable than lead. Their inherent value will ensure that they are recycled. Some car makers are exploring “second-life” applications for used EV batteries as well including adding them to a house hold solar system.
Now that EV's have been around for while manufacturers are learning the batteries last longer than they expected.

How often do you have to replace the batteries?

A:

Not for many years. GM, Tesla and Nissan offer warranties covering eight years or 100,000 miles of driving on the lithium-ion batteries in their vehicles. Plug In America is conducting surveys of battery life among EV drivers. You can learn about survey results or participate here.

Can I charge a plug-in car with solar or wind power?

A:

The cleaner the power, the cleaner the car. Using solar photovoltaics (PV) at your home or business makes even more sense with a plug-in car. The investment in solar panels pays off faster when the solar power is not only replacing grid electricity but also replacing much more expensive gasoline. EVs typically can’travel 4-8 km (or more) per kWh of electricity. If you drive 19,000 km per year, you will need 3,000-4,000 kWh. Depending on where you live, you will need a 1.5kW-3kW PV system to generate that much power using about 14-28 square meters of space on your roof.

Will plug-in cars lead to more coal or gas power plants?

A:

No. The existing electric grid’s off-peak capacity for power generation is sufficient to power 73 percent of commutes to and from work by cars, light trucks, SUVs and vans without building a single new power plant. The existing nighttime electricity could also be stored in plug-in vehicles and retrieved during peak-demand hours through vehicle-to-grid technology for use by the grid, helping to meet society’s daytime power needs. New Zealand has consents for enough renewable energy sources to power every vehicle in NZ if they converted to electricity.

What about pollution?

A:

Battery electric vehicles do not have an exhaust system and tail pipe because they produce no emissions into the atmosphere. As a comparison an internal combustion engine (ICE) SUV would emit approximately 4.5 tons of CO2 per year, if it drove 10,000 kilometres.

What if my question is not answered here?

A:

If you can't find an answer to your question here, or on the search page,

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