With fluctuating gas prices and concerns about climate change, more and more people are considering making the move to electric cars. These vehicles are better for the environment and are becoming increasingly more affordable, especially given the up to $7,500 Clean Vehicle Tax Credit, for qualified purchasers.
But what exactly is an electric vehicle and how is it different from a gasoline-powered car?
If you’re thinking about purchasing your first electric vehicle, you may not know what to look for or what to expect. We’ve put together a short guide that tells you everything you need to know about owning an electric car, including how it can fit into your daily life and could reduce your environmental footprint by using renewable energy.
What is an EV?
EV is a common acronym for electric vehicles, also known as electric cars. These vehicles run either entirely or partially on electricity and require regular charging in order to function. Some EVs run on both gas and electricity, while others are only powered by electricity.
What are the different types of electric cars?
EVs are available as sedans, SUVs, trucks, sports cars, minivans, and almost any other kind of automobile. As electric cars become more popular, manufacturers continue to expand the options available to consumers.
There are three different types of electric vehicles: all-electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, and fuel cell electric vehicles. Each type is designed for different lifestyles and driving needs.
All-Electric Vehicles (EVs)
All-electric vehicles, or EVs, don’t use any gasoline and feature a large rechargeable battery that powers the electric motor. These EVs have a range of anywhere from 80 to over 300 miles depending on the model, and they can be charged at home or on the go at public charging stations.
Unlike gas-powered vehicles, electric cars require very little maintenance, since they don’t have many of the components that regularly wear out and need replacing, like spark plugs. One of the many benefits of electric cars is that they have 90% fewer moving parts than a traditional gas-powered vehicle, resulting in much less maintenance.
Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs)
As the name implies, hybrid vehicles have the option to run on gas or electricity. Because they have smaller batteries than fully electric cars, PHEVs can only run about 20 to 55 miles electric-only. Once the vehicle has used up its electric charge, it switches to gas and drives just like a traditional gasoline-powered car.
There are many types of hybrid electric vehicles available, and PHEVs are perhaps the most common EVs on the market right now. In fact, U.S. sales of hybrid vehicles jumped an incredible 76% in 2021.
Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEVs)
Just like all-electric cars, fuel cell electric vehicles run fully on electricity. However, these vehicles have a unique power system consisting of multiple cells combined into a stack. This stack chemically combines hydrogen gas from the vehicle’s tank with oxygen from the air in order to produce electricity for power.
FCEVs have a much longer driving range, anywhere from 300 to 400 miles on just one tank. They can be quickly recharged at a hydrogen fueling station and have all the benefits of a traditional EV. Just keep in mind that hydrogen fueling stations are not as common as public electric charging stations, so owning an FCEV requires a little more planning.
How do EVs work?
An electric car is plugged into a charge point to take electricity from the grid. Each vehicle stores that electricity in rechargeable batteries that power the electric motor, enabling the car to drive.
Do EVs use oil?
All-electric cars do not use oil, but PHEVs (hybrid vehicles) do. An electric car runs on an electric motor, so there is no oil in the engine that needs to be changed as with a gas-powered vehicle. However, there are still other fluids in an EV that may need to be monitored and changed periodically, like brake fluid and coolants.
How long does it take to charge an electric car?
There are three electric vehicle charging speeds:
- Slow: This speed is often used for overnight charges and takes about eight to 10 hours.
- Fast: Most public charging stations are at this speed, which takes three to four hours.
- Rapid: This charging speed is only compatible with electric cars that have rapid charging capability, so be sure to check your car’s specific user manual. Rapid charging time is just 30 to 60 minutes.
The speed of charging an electric car varies depending on what model and type of EV you have. For example, a fully electric car will require more charging time than a hybrid, which also has the option to run on gasoline.
How far can you travel on one full charge?
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, “the median driving range of all-electric vehicles (EV) was 234 miles.” The range of an electric car largely depends on the battery size, which is measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh). A higher kWh generally means you can travel farther.
How long do electric car batteries last?
How long an EV battery will last depends on the type of battery. In general, though, the battery cells used in electric vehicles are very resilient and can last for anywhere between 10 and 20 years with proper maintenance, and hybrid batteries can last five to ten years. While the battery pack of an electric car is the most expensive part of the vehicle, prices have continued to decrease and are on track to be a little over $100 within the next few years.
You can extend your electric vehicle’s battery life by keeping your battery between 20% and 80% charged and by not charging the vehicle every single night.
How can I save money with an electric car?
Some retail electricity providers, like Gexa Energy offer specialty plans for electric car owners, as well as lower prices for charging the vehicle during off-peak hours. These discounts can help decrease the cost to charge an electric car. And if you have rooftop solar panels, you can even generate your own electricity to charge your vehicle, adding to your savings.
Another way electric cars have an advantage over traditional gas-powered vehicles is their lower maintenance costs and limited maintenance needs. Electric cars have fewer parts, which means you don’t have to worry about frequent costly visits to the auto shop, and they are designed to be easier to maintain than gas-powered cars.
How do electric cars help the environment?
Because electric vehicles have no tailpipe emissions, they release no carbon dioxide while driving, unlike gas-powered vehicles. The difference between gas and electric vehicles is that EVs have zero local emissions, which means that they contribute to a cleaner environment where you work and live.