Some basic questions that may help.
- What is an electric vehicle (EV)?
- What is a plug-in hybrid vehicle (PHEV)?
- Is the Prius an electric car?
- Are plug-in vehicles dependable?
- Can electric cars drive far enough to be practical?
- Aren't plug-in cars expensive?
- Can electric vehicles self-charge?
- How long does it take to charge a plug-in car?
- Where do you recharge a plug-in vehicle?
- How much does it cost to charge a plug-in vehicle?
- Is plugging in a hassle?
- What about hydrogen cars?
- Is the quiet nature of electric vehicles a hazard?
- Do plug-in vehicles emit electromagnetic radiation?
- Does it make sense to put solar panels or wind turbines on an EV?
- Where do batteries end up? In landfills? Or recycled?
- How often do you have to replace the batteries?
- Can I charge a plug-in car with solar or wind power?
- Will plug-in cars lead to more coal or gas power plants?
- What about pollution?
- What if my question is not answered here?
- What are the regulations around charging equipment?
An electric vehicle is any vehicle that can drive on electricity derived from a power plug and stored in a battery, which is typically designed as the chassis of the EV. A battery electric vehicle (BEV)) drives solely on battery power from the plug. The capacity of the battery determines the range of the vehicle; some early Nissan Leaf cars have a 24 kWh battery capacity which will take you about anywhere between 100 and 120 km - and that depends on terrain, and age of the car. A Tesla Model S with a 90 kWh battery has a range of 370-400 km with the same provisos. A leaden right foot on the accelerator in either car can reduce range, as can driving over 100 km/hr!
There are a few different ways to charge. You can learn about them here.
A PHEV is a car that operates on both electricity (from plugging in) and petrol, and therefore has an electric motor and an internal combustion engine. Usually a PHEV runs on electricity first and then draws on petrol once the battery is depleted. That way, you are mainly driving on electricity on short hops around town and only using petrol for those longer weekend trips. If a family has only one car then a PHEV is a good option; however still having an ICE engine means that it will require servicing regularly, which can be an expensive undertaking. Check out the Mitsubishi Outlander which has a great luggage capacity for families or the Toyota Priius Prime for a compact PHEV or the Audi e-tron, which may appeal to Audi drivers!
It depends which model of Prius you're talking about. The original Prius was a first generation hybrid, meaning it drives on both electricity and petrol. However the electric motor in a Prius makes the petrol engine operate at a much more efficient level, and anecdotally give an efficiency of 4.5 litres petrol per 100 km driven. But, and this is the big but, a original Prius cannot drive without petrol and it has no plug to charge the electric battery. Driving the original Prius charges the electric battery, and there is some regen whilst braking and travelling downhill, which is fed into the electric battery.
However, Toyota do now make a plug-in Prius, the Prius Prime, which makes it a PHEV, but sadly in NZ you see very few on the roads. Toyota has only recently (mid 2017) started selling used / refurbished Prius Prime cars in NZ. These are EVs as they can be driven up to 40km (at last revision) on battery alone, provided you don't go over 105kph, at which point the petrol motor kicks in.
What you can say about a original Prius is that it was a handy stepping stone towards full BEV cars, and it seems mad that Toyota threw away the head start they owned in the early 2000's.
Yes! Plug-in cars are the most dependable vehicles on the market. They will last as long or longer than a comparable petrol vehicle, with much less regular maintenance required.
Since there are significantly fewer moving parts in an electric motor compared to a traditional ICE engine (in fact the electric motor has about 10% of the components of an ICE), less ongoing preventative maintenance is needed.
An electric motor requires no oil changes, tune-ups, or new spark plugs. An electric motor will also outlast the body of the vehicle.
Brake life is extended on EVs since the motor is used to slow the car down once you take your foot off the accelerator, thus recapturing the kinetic energy and storing it back in the battery - this is called regeneration.
All automakers also offer good warranties on the life of the batteries. For example, the Nissan LEAF has been so reliable thousands of people are happy to import them used from Japan and UK without much in the way of warranty cover. In the Consumer NZ's 2017 survey of car owners, the Nissan LEAF rated highest in terms of reliability and owner satisfaction.....and most of those cars wouldn't be covered by any local warranty.
Range can be a very emotive topic, and is frequently used by non-EVdrivers as being an insurmountable problem that prevents them considering buying an EV.
The first Nissan Leafs have a range of 90-130 kilometers, depending on age, and all manufacturers are pushing to get affordable cars with a range between 250 and 300 kilometers. Again the cost of the EV bears a direct relationship with the range of the battery. A Tesla Model S with a 90 kWh battery has a range of around 400 km.
In NZ very few drivers travel this far on a daily basis; in fact the average daily drive is about 30km, and only a very small percentage drive over 100 km/day. So as a second car in a family, an EV run-around makes so much sense! Anecdotally when a family gets an EV as a second car, it quickly becomes the main town car, and the 'bigger, petrol' car becomes the out-of-town holiday driving car!
For the infrequent occasions when a long-distance drive is needed, and time is so critical that stopping to charge en route is not considered, then that long distance 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.
In NZ the charging network is now well established - see the Smartphone App PLUGSHARE - and any journey can be planned to include charging when natural breaks for food or toilets are required.
On first glance the initial cost of buying either a full BEV or a PHEV can look very expensive indeed. It is still a new variant of transport, and all manufacturers have invested heavily into producing such vehicles. Sales volumes are therefore still small, but increasing year on year.
In NZ where we are very used to buying second-hand Japanese cars, the cheapest EV available on the market is a second hand Nissan Leaf and prices can be as low as $12,000. At the other end of the scale a brand new Tesla Model S starts at around $120,000. So the price graph is wide, and therefore hopefully anyone can find a price that is justifiable for their circumstances.
When buying a petrol car, few people consider the on-going costs of fuel and maintenance.
In fact the more kilometers you drive, the more money you save when driving an EV. As a rule of thumb charging at home on overnight rates gives you 'electric fuel' at roughly a sixth the cost of fossil fuel petrol.
Hence, over the life of an EV, the total cost of ownership can work out better than buying an ICE car - and you have contributed no CO2 to the environment! This is a win-win situation!
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Electric vehicles aren’t completely silent, although the lack of engine noise takes a little getting used to!
When driving slowly in carparks an EV makes some noise, primarily from the tyres, but it is true that as an EV driver, paying attention to pedestrians is of high importance. Reversing in an EV, like most ICE cars, has a warning beep to alert pedestrians, and most EVs have warning noises for any obstacle in their forward path, both solid and human.
At very high speeds, the wind and tyre noise is comparable to any car.
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.
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.
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.
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. In the States Plug In America is conducting surveys of battery life among EV drivers, and all battery manufacturers are working hard to get more 'bang for your buck' in terms of battery cells - as range is seen as the foremost problem with driving an EV. Different chemistry solutions for batteries are also being explored as an alternative to lithium -ion, and several ideas for the catalytic elements are being investigated. You can learn about survey results or participate here.
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.
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. In NZ we are very fortunate to have 80% of our power needs delivered via renewable generation - wind, solar and hydro - with little coming from the older coal fired stations. This percentage can only increase as the impact of CO2 emissions make us think in a cleverer way to mitigate the problems CO2 cause the planet.
There is a big push to develop systems that allow existing nighttime electricity be stored in EV batteries and retrieved during peak-demand hours. Such vehicle-to-grid technology will revolutionise the provision of power, 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 at a stroke. In fact household electricity use has flattened in the past decade as we all switch to LED lighting and more efficient whiteware.
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 do I need to know about Charging Safety?
Worksafe NZ has a set of guidelines posted for Electric Vehicle Charging Safety.