Electric Vehicles (EVs)
An electric vehicle (EV) is one that uses electricity to propel itself. EVs have been around for over a century. In the automobile’s early years, many vehicles were electric, since gasoline was hard to produce and gas cars were hard to start (owners would have to hand-crank the engine to start it). In time, gasoline technology improved at a faster rate than battery technology, and gasoline-powered cars quickly became the more popular option. Over the last few decades, electronics makers demanded better batteries. As a result, battery technology has slowly but surely improved year over year, and EVs are once again a viable alternative.
There are three types of “electrified” cars:
- Hybrids use both gasoline and electricity to create forward motion. Examples of such cars include the Toyota Prius, the Honda Insight, and numerous other cars that are now available in hybrid models, like the Honda Accord, Chevy Malibu, and Ford Fusion. These cars usually contain small battery packs with capacities of just a few kilowatt hours (kWh) that can be recharged when the car is coasting or braking. These cars do not require any fuel beyond regular gasoline, but can easily achieve 40-50 miles per gallon.
- Plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) also run off of both gas and electricity like regular hybrids, but can be plugged into a wall outlet at home to recharge their (usually bigger) batteries. Capacities are usually between 5 and 15 kWh. These cars can actual as regular hybrids, but can also be run in an electric-only mode. During which time, the car will behave more or less like a pure EV. PHEVs are usually subject to a federal tax credit up to $7,500, and examples run from everyday cars like the Chevy Volt and Ford Fusion Energi to higher-end cars like the Mercedes S Class, BMW 7-series, and Volvo XC90. You can learn more about the specifics of the tax credit here.
- Pure EVs are propelled solely by electricity alone. These cars lose much of the machinery necessary in a gasoline car. They do not need a transmission, motor oil, exhaust pipes, or fuel tank. The batteries in an EV are usually made of several hundreds or thousands of smaller battery cells (similar in size to AA batteries), and have capacities from 30-100 kWh. For a visual explanation of the differences in batteries between hybrids plug-ins and EVs, check out this infographic from the US Dept. of Energy. EVs also qualify for a federal tax credit, and almost all qualify for the full $7,500. Examples run from short-range city cars like the Ford Focus EV and BMW i3 to much more practical cars like the Chevy Bolt, Tesla Model S, and Tesla Model X. You can find out more information about fully electric vehicles here.
“Fueling” an EV with electricity typically costs just a fraction of the fuel for a comparable car—even here in Texas, where oil prices are low. Fueling also happens overnight for those with access to an outlet—much like a phone. The car’s full range is available for use every morning. More powerful EVs can also offer a much more engaging driving experience, as EVs have instant throttle response and max torque from a standstill.
EVs still present some problems. Taking a long distance road trip in an EV requires more planning than a conventional gasoline car, and “range anxiety” can become a problem if you select the wrong car for your lifestyle. New EVs typically cost more upfront than comparable gasoline cars. Charging stations outside of the home, while growing rapidly, are still not as common as gas stations. Nevertheless, EVs present a compelling case for basic daily driving.
The bottom line: EVs are a practical and cost-effective option for your next car.