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A guide to electric vehicles

If you want a more sustainable way to get from A to B, getting an electric vehicle could be the answer.

An electric vehicle (EV) could reduce your costs – as well as your carbon footprint – in the long run, particularly if gas prices in 2022 are anything to go by.

Regular unleaded gas topped $5 a gallon in June 2022, up from an average of $3.036 in 2021.

If the idea of an electric vehicle has sparked your interest, find out all you need to know, here.

What are electric vehicles?

An electric vehicle is just as it sounds – a vehicle that runs on electricity.

EVs are becoming more affordable, with a range of makes and models on the market. The 2 most popular types are pure electric vehicles, otherwise known as 100% electric vehicles, and hybrids.

100% electric vehicles

Fully electric vehicles are powered solely by rechargeable batteries. Just like a cell phone, you plug it in and wait for it to charge. When it’s ready, the batteries will power the electric engine, setting your wheels in motion.

Many people charge their vehicle at home through the night, so it’s ready by morning. But you’ll also find public charging points up and down your state.

The average range of an all-electric vehicle is 150-400 miles on a full charge, but it varies by type.

Hybrids

Hybrid vehicles have more than one way to power the engine – typically a battery powered motor and a gasoline or diesel engine. Common types of hybrid vehicles include:

  • full hybrids – use the combustion engine and electric motor independently or simultaneously

  • mild hybrids – use the combustion engine and electric motor simultaneously

  • plug-in hybrids – can be plugged in to charge the electric batteries

Hybrids can be a good transition into the EV market as they generally consume less fuel and emit less CO2 than gasoline or diesel powered vehicles.

President Biden has set a target of 50% of all vehicles sold in the US being battery electric, plug-in hybrid or fully electric by 2030.

What are the pros of an electric vehicle?

There are a number of advantages to driving an electric vehicle, such as:

Driving more sustainably

Electric and hybrid vehicles can have significant emissions benefits compared to conventional vehicles.

It’s a myth that EVs are actually worse for the environment due to power plant emissions. In fact, EVs typically have a smaller carbon footprint than gasoline cars, even when accounting for electricity used when charging.

All-electric vehicles produce 66% less CO2 or equivalent emissions on average than gas powered cars, while hybrids produce 45% less. 

The source of your electricity is important, however. For example, using an EV in a region that depends heavily on coal for power provides less of an environmental benefit.

Driving in comfort

EVs can be quicker to accelerate and feel lighter to drive as the electric motor is much simpler than a traditional engine.

They’re quieter to drive – so as a safety measure, manufacturers are required to fit them with acoustic sound systems when they’re reversing or functioning under 20mph. This prevents them being too quiet, so pedestrians can still hear them when crossing the road.

Low running costs

With less mechanical components than their gasoline/diesel counterparts, electric vehicles often have lower maintenance and servicing costs. 

Fuel and energy costs range depending on your source of electricity and the model of your EV. But motorists can save as much as $14,500 on fuel costs over 15 years by driving an EV instead of a similar one fuelled by gasoline, according to analysis conducted by researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and Idaho National Laboratory (INL).

Buying incentives

When purchasing an EV, you may be able to benefit from federal incentives and tax credits. The government-backed Inflation Reduction Act could save you up to $7,500 on a new electric vehicle or up to $4,000 on a used electric vehicle. Check if you qualify for this credit

Some states offer additional grants for the purchase of EVs or charging stations.

Things to consider

Before getting your first EV, here are some things to keep in mind:

Charging time

Charging times vary, depending on the type of EV and the type of charging station you have. If you’re driving around, you may see a range of different chargers, such as:

  • Level 1 chargers

    A common residential outlet (120-volt (120V) AC outlet). Can take up to 40 to 50 hours to charge a battery EV from empty to full. It can take 5 to 6 hours to charge a plug-in hybrid from empty.

  • Level 2 chargers

    Typically, the type of charge you can have installed in your home. Charges through a 240V outlet. Can charge a battery EV from empty in 4 to 10 hours and a plug-in hybrid from empty in 1-2 hours.

  • Direct Current Fast Charging (DCFC)

    The fastest method, typically seen in public and along highway corridors. Can charge a battery EV to 80% in just 20 minutes to an hour.

Finding a charging point

Knowing where to charge your vehicle can be a concern, especially if you have a long journey planned. The range you’ll get from your electric vehicle will depend on how you drive it, as well as the make and model. 

Many public places, like highway services, gas stations and some workplaces have charging points installed. There are also apps you can use to help locate charging points. There may be a cost for using some charging points, so factor this into your budget.

The US Department of Transportation and Energy has pledged nearly $5 billion over five years to help states create a network of EV charging stations, particularly along the Interstate Highway System.

Here is a map of charging locations across the US.

Initial cost

Electric cars are seen to be more expensive than gasoline and diesel options. Initial costs can seem high when you consider the price of the vehicle, plus the cost of getting a home-charger installed.

However, with the EV market growing rapidly – and more affordable options being introduced – prices are expected to fall. Initial costs can also be mitigated with federal tax incentives and grants.

Other transport options

There are other ways you can help reduce your environmental impact when travelling, these include:

  • cycle or e-bike

  • car share

  • walk (where possible)

  • use public transport – trains and buses

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