Vehicles (Electric & Hybrid)

There are four types of technology currently in the market place for cars:

1)     Traditional standard gasoline combustion engine.

2)     A Hybrid vehicle that has both a gasoline engine and an electric engine (NON plug-in).

3)     A state-of-the-art ALL electric engine with batteries known as a Plug-In Electric Vehicle (PEV).

4)     And lastly a Plug-In Hybrid Electric (PHEV) that has a plug-in electric engine ‘and’ a gasoline engine.

For us the plug-in hybrid (gas/electric motor) is far superior to a standard hybrid (non plug-in).  Below are the things to consider prior to choosing one vehicle over another.  If you want a chart of the cars and their manufacturers, please email us and we will send you my side-by-side comparison.

As we move toward electric vehicles and their hybrids from Toyota to Nissan and with others on the way from Ford, Volkswagen, Honda, Toyota, Mercedes and Fiat, I wanted to review the pros and cons of electric cars as they now exist.

Strengths (Pros):

ü  Green Is Good Economic Power: Leaving aside the environmental benefits, which are considerable, all-electric cars and their hybrids mean freedom from oil addiction and saying goodbye to its related constraints is a big motivator.

ü  Cheap Fuel: Average cost of approximately $2.75 at average utility rates to charge from empty to full. So a range of around 100 miles, a distance that would cost about $13 to drive in a compact car getting 30 mpg (3.33 gallons x the average gas price of $4.00). That gap will become even wider if gas prices rise in the coming years.

ü  Less Maintenance: Because they don’t have to deal with the heat and force generated by an unending series of powerful explosions the way combustion engines do, electric engines don’t need the oil changes and other regular maintenance that conventional engines need to stay running. That can add up to significant savings over time.

ü  Tax Credits: Significant tax credit from the federal government of up to $7,500.

Limitation (Cons):

Ø  Shorter Range: Current battery technology can’t yet match the energy stored in a regular old tank of unleaded. That means in the near future, ALL electric cars will have less range than comparable combustion cars.

Ø  High Sticker Prices: An average cost of $32,780 before federal tax credits, $25,280 after. In contrast, the a standard new car will cost around $20,000.

Ø  Fewer Used Options: Owners keep their cars.  There likely won’t be a large used inventory of electric cars for years.

Ø  Less Existing Infrastructure: Public charging stations are infrequent at best for many years to come.

Ø  Expensive Home Chargers: Unless you want to wait eight hours or more to “fill up your tank,” you’ll want a high-speed charger installed in your home, potentially adding thousands to your electric-car price tag.

Ø Battery uncertainty. Just like the batteries in your iPod or laptop, the large, expensive batteries in an electric car will inevitably run down and become unable to hold a full charge. The question is, how will they perform in the real world, under real-world weather and traffic conditions, over the many years buyers hope to own their cars?

 

 

Technology Review:

A typical Plug-In Electric Vehicle (PEV) is powered entirely by electricity that is stored in on-board batteries that charges by plugging into an electrical outlet to store electricity, providing power to an efficient electric engine to move the wheels.  The electricity can come from one of several sources:  1) the utility grid, or 2) from a renewable energy solution like solar, wind or fuel cells. Current Battery Electric Vehicles have a range of 80 to100 miles or more.

A PEV can also be known in the market place as a Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV). PEV or BEV is still the same type of car which is powered by electric motors and batteries, and they do not have/require any gas. Electric only electric cars ‘can’ run out of electricity and you then have to wait to get it recharged.  At best a commercial grade rapid charging station will take 30+ minutes.  A battery electric vehicle will take 12 to 24 hours for a full charge on a standard 120-volt outlet, while most models will take four to six hours to fully charge on a 240-volt rated charging unit.

 

 

A Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) is similar to conventional hybrids, but they have a larger battery that can be charged by plugging into an electric outlet. PHEVs are usually designed with an electric-only range of 10 to 40 miles, blended with a gasoline engine to achieve higher speeds and loads. After the electric-only range is exceeded, the vehicle continues to operate as a hybrid vehicle using a gasoline engine or generator for a total of about 400 plus miles.

Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) has two power systems:  1) An internal combustion engine, and 2) an electric motor with on-board batteries.  The batteries can be re-charged from electricity from the electric motor or from the braking action of all four tires. These vehicles use both gas and electricity (at low speeds). With a plug-in hybrid … when the electric charge is gone/depleted – used up – you can use regular gasoline until you can get to a charging station.  Most plug-in hybrids will take four to six hours to fully charge the onboard batteries, on a standard 120-volt outlet.

A typical Extended-Range Electric Vehicle (EREV) is also a Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) thathas an all-electric range of about 40 miles.  PHEV and EREV’s can both be categorized as PHEV’s, since they are more similar than not.  With an EREV after the battery has been discharged, a gasoline generator powers the vehicle for 300 plus miles.

 

Charging A PEV: Overview

If you are thinking about buying an electric vehicle, there are a few things to consider before you drive it home:

  • Are you buying a plug-in hybrid or a battery electric car?
  • Is your home’s electrical panel and wiring configured to enable you to charge the battery in your car?
  • What is the best rate plan for you to charge your vehicle on?
  • What is the best time for you to charge your vehicle?
  • Do you need to hire an electrical contractor?
  • Will you need to obtain city permits for any electrical work?

Understanding Charging Options: One of the most important decisions a plug-in electric vehicle owner will make is how to charge their vehicle. Most plug-in electric vehicles will charge at home on one of two charging “levels.” Depending on which charging level you select, you may need to upgrade your home electrical system.

Level One. Charging at Level One is done on a standard 120-volt outlet that typically won’t require customers to make modifications to their electric panel or home wiring. The electrical draw is the rough equivalent of a 1500-watt personal hair dryer. Most plug-in hybrids will take four to six hours to fully charge at Level One. A battery electric vehicle will take 12 to 24 hours for a full charge. The ideal configuration for Level One is a dedicated circuit that can be use for the electric vehicle charge connection.

Level Two. Charging at Level Two is done on a 240-volt rated charging unit and will likely require customers to make changes to their electrical panel and add a new circuit (if one is not available) in their home similar to that used for an air conditioner or electric dryer.

Most battery electric vehicles would take three to six hours to fully charge at Level Two. Faster rates of charging can be achieved but may require power consumption greater than the peak load of a whole house.

The Society of Automotive Engineers has set the standard for Level One and Two charging plugs, known as the J1772. The five pin smart plug conducts electricity and sends data about the flow of electricity.

Fast Charging. DC Fast charging is currently under development and is being designed for commercial charging.

Permits For Electrical Work: Local government permits may be required prior to installation or construction. The local building and safety department should be consulted to determine specific requirements. If an electrical contractor is hired to perform the work, it is still the homeowner’s responsibility to ensure that the appropriate permits have been obtained.

Inspections

If permits are required, a city or county building inspection must be completed prior to activation of the new charging circuit for the plug-in vehicle. It is the homeowner’s responsibility to verify that all required inspections are completed satisfactorily.

Installation Costs

Plug-in vehicle charging equipment installation costs can vary greatly depending on the configuration of the home and electrical circuitry, local code requirements and the type of equipment installed. A licensed electrical contractor can provide a cost estimate.

Basic Charging Circuit Requirements: In accordance with the California Electrical Code (CEC), all residential plug-in vehicle charging circuits are required to meet certain guidelines.

Circuit Breaker
  • Level One – Either a 15- or 20-amp single-pole breaker is required.
  • Level Two – A 40-amp, two-pole breaker is necessary.
Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE)
  • Level One – A 15- or 20-amp standard residential wall plug and receptacle is acceptable for 120-volt charging.
  • Level Two – According to the National Electrical Code® (NEC) and the CEC, in 240-volt electric vehicle charging equipment installations, the supply equipment should be wired permanently to the electrical supply circuit. The supply equipment may vary in design depending on the manufacturer and vehicle type, but it must meet specifications set forth in the NEC. These specifications include:
    • Equipment that is listed and labeled;
    • Ground fault protection;
    • Diagnostic capability to prohibit charging from taking place when the batteries or the vehicle is damaged or an unsafe condition exists; and
    • An interlock that de-energizes the charging cable when the vehicle is disconnected from the charging equipment, or if excessive strain is placed on the cable/cord.

Customers should check with the auto manufacturer to determine what type of plug-in vehicle charging equipment is required and should consult local code officials to determine specific installation requirements.

Ventilation

In limited circumstances, an exhaust fan may be required by state or local codes to ensure proper battery ventilation. Generally, all new plug-in electric vehicles expected to be produced by major automakers will use sealed battery packs that greatly reduce the possibility of gaseous release during charging. These vehicles may be considered exempt from ventilation requirements. Again, customers should check with the vehicle manufacturer and with the local building inspector’s office for requirements.

Permits/Inspections

Local government permits may be required prior to installation or construction. The local building and safety department should be consulted to determine specific requirements. If an electrical contractor is hired to perform the work, it is still the homeowner’s responsibility to ensure that the appropriate permits have been obtained.

Some Websites For Continued Review:

v  http://www.bankrate.com/financing/cars/pros-and-cons-of-electric-cars/

v  http://www.ehow.com/about_5402145_pro-cons-electric-cars.html

v  http://www.sce.com/PowerandEnvironment/PEV/default.htm

v  http://www.goelectricdrive.com/

 

Rate Plan Options

Buying an EV means that your household’s electricity consumption will soon change. There are rate plan options available for electric vehicle owners; check with your utility to see which one’s apply.

 

  • Residential Plan (Schedule D). Under the standard residential rate plan, the price per kilowatt-hour is tiered and increases as the amount of energy usage over your baseline allocation increases. Unless you have specifically sel ected a different rate option, you are probably on your utility’s standard residential rate. Remaining on this rate is the simplest choice, but it may not be the cost-effective choice for some plug-in electric vehicle owners depending on how you use electricity.
  • Home & Electric Vehicle Plan (TOU-D-TEV). This rate option uses a tiered structure similar to the standard residential rate, but provides lower electricity rates at night, when many plug-in electric vehicle owners are likely to charge their vehicles. This rate may be ideal for customers who have low usage during peak daytime hours of 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Electric Vehicle Plan (TOU-EV-1). This rate uses a second meter to measure the electricity you use to charge your vehicle, so that it can be billed at a separate rate from the rest of your home. Rates are discounted for charging that occurs during ‘off peak’ nighttime hours. This option potentially gives customers the lowest rates for electric vehicle charging, but also involves more initial set-up cost and time.

 

 

Electric Vehicle Incentive And Funding Opportunities

The following Federal and state incentive and funding opportunities for consumers and communities are available, including:

 

  • Federal Tax Credits
    • Plug-in electric vehicle tax credit program eligible for 200,000 units per carmaker (up to $7,500 per car); includes plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and pure battery electric vehicles
    • 2010 consumer tax credit for two and three wheel electric vehicles, low speed electric vehicles and converting vehicles to plug-in hybrids
    • The alternative fuel infrastructure tax credit now includes plug-in vehicle infrastructure (50% of costs up to a maximum of $2000 per residence and $50,000 per business site)
  • California
    • Up to $5000 for pure battery electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles in 2010 until money runs out (about 1800 vehicles); a different program for mid-2011 is being designed.
    • Carpool lane access for pure battery electric vehicles only
    • Assembly Bill 118 funds that support alternate fuel infrastructure development. In May of 2010, $3.2 million allocated for electricity infrastructure
    • South Coast Air Quality Management District plug-in electric vehicle infrastructure funding
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