Major automobile manufacturers are introducing electric cars, and drivers are taking notice. Why? Electric vehicles are less costly to operate and maintain, and have fewer environmental impacts, too. Electricity is a domestic source of energy, and is about half the cost of gasoline. Producing electricity is also about 70 percent cleaner than using a gasoline engine. Right now, electric cars are more expensive than their conventional counterparts, but the lower operating and fuel costs help to offset this difference, and many drivers appreciate the environmental benefits, too.
A common question is, how far can electric cars drive before the batteries run low, and how long does it take to recharge? The driving range for electric vehicles varies by model, and has improved considerably, for example up to 100 miles for the Nissan Leaf. For most local driving, this is more than adequate. Some models, like the Chevy Volt, use an on-board gasoline powered generator to allow the car to continue driving after the batteries are depleted for about 300 miles more. So, electric vehicles are being offered with features that suit a variety of driving styles and needs.
Example: Nissan Leaf
|A plug-in electric vehicle is powered entirely by its battery and does not include a gas engine.
(Miles per gallon electric equivalent, reflecting fuel used to generate electricity)
Example: Chevy Volt
|A PHEV has a gasoline engine and an electric motor that runs off a high-capacity lithium-ion battery that can be charged at an electric outlet. When the vehicle's battery power is exhausted the gas engine kicks in.
||Typically 70 MPG
||$0.75 to $1.00
Example: Toyota Prius
|Gas-electric hybrids do not plug in; rather, they have a gasoline engine that is assisted by a battery-powered electric motor. The battery in a gas-electric hybrid is charged only by the engine and recapturing the energy from braking and deceleration.
||Typically 40 to 50 MPG
||$2.00 to $3.00
|Traditional gas-powered cars are driven entirely by a gasoline engine.
||Typically 20-30 MPG
||More than $4.00
Use this calculator to compare the cost and emissions of electric or plug-in hybrid cars to various models of conventional gasoline vehicles. You may select the vehicles to compare and indicate your anticipated driving miles and fuel costs. The calculator also provides a break-even chart, projected electricity and gasoline usage, and compares greenhouse gas emissions. Actual results will vary according to driving conditions.
Use 15 cents per kilowatt-hour as the electricity rate (this is the average incremental cost of additional electricity usage).
"Greener Driving: Introducing a New Generation of Plug-Ins" featuring John Voelcker, editor GreenCarReports.com.
"Electric Vehicles: Plug Into Their Potential" from the Edison Electric Institute.
"Kilowatts vs. Gallons" cost, energy and emissions comparisons from The New York Times.
"How is the Transition to Electric Cars Going?" Article from USA Today.
Plug-in electric vehicles can be charged using either 120 volt outlets (the same used throughout your home to plug in TVs, lamps and other ordinary appliances) or 240 volt outlets (the kind used for ovens and electric clothes dryers that require their own circuit. The 240 volt outlet will charge an electric vehicle in about half the time it would take to charge at a 120 volt outlet. As an example of recharging times, a full recharge for a Chevy Volt is about 10 hours at 120 volts, and 4 to 5 hours at 240 volts. Charging times vary depending on vehicle model and the voltage of the outlet being used. The Nissan Leaf by comparison would need about 20 hours to charge with a 120 volt outlet and about 7 hours to charge with a 240 volt outlet.
The cost to charge the vehicle also varies from model to model.
With the time required to fully charge a plug-in electric vehicle and the fact that there are still very few public charging stations at this time, most electric vehicle battery recharging will take place at the vehicle owner's home.
A federal tax credit of up to $7,500 is available for the first 200,000 electric vehicles sold by each manufacturer. A federal tax credit of 30 percent is also available for in-home charging stations and expenses, with a maximum limit of $1,000. Check with your car dealer or visit this page of the Department of Energy's website and scroll to the section on Automobile Tax Credits for more details.
Do I need a special or separate meter for an electric vehicle?
No, your existing Central Hudson meter is all that is needed.
Do I need a special outlet in order to charge an electric vehicle?
Electric vehicles can be charged by plugging into a standard 120-volt outlet (the same used throughout your home to plug in TVs, lamps and other ordinary appliances). Alternatively, recharging can be performed in about half the time through a dedicated 240-volt “Level 2” recharging system, available through auto manufacturers or independent suppliers. The Level 2 chargers are professionally installed by an electrician for about $2,500, and often require changes to the home’s electrical panel and installation of a new, dedicated 240-volt circuit. As an example, fully recharging a Chevy Volt takes about 10 hours at 120 volts, and 4 to 5 hours at 240 volts, although the cost is the same at about $1.50 to $2.00 (the equivalent amount of gasoline is $4). By comparison, the Nissan Leaf, an all-electric vehicle with a larger battery and an 80-100 mile electric range, recharges in about 20 hours at 120 volts and about seven hours at 240 volts.
Can I drive an electric vehicle in the rain?
Yes. Electric vehicles are built to be safe to drive in wet conditions. All cars have electrical systems, so this is not an entirely new circumstance. Electric vehicles will carry more voltage than traditional gas-powered vehicles, but those components are heavily insulated and sealed to prevent water from infiltrating the car's electrical wiring and battery. Electric vehicles must comply with standards set by The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration.
I'm planning to add an outlet in my garage for electric car charging. Who installs that?
Electric vehicles can be recharged using a standard, 120-volt outlet; if one is not available, homeowners may hire an electrician to install one. Most electric vehicles can also be recharged in about half the time using a 240-volt outlet (similar to those used for electric stoves or clothes dryers). Most homeowners do not have a 240-volt outlet in their garage or where they park, and so would hire an electrician to install one if that recharging option is elected. Local permits for electrical work or upgrades may be required.
Can I just walk into a car dealership and drive away in an electric vehicle?
Car manufacturers are allocating electric vehicles, and their supply is currently limited, so check with local dealers to learn of availability.
Does Central Hudson offer a special rate plan for electric vehicle owners?
Central Hudson is in the process of developing a special rate class for electric vehicle recharging (to encourage off-peak recharging, for example at night), however state regulators must first approve this before it can be implemented.
Where can electric vehicles be recharged and how much does it cost to do so?
Initially it is anticipated that most electric vehicle recharging will take place at home. The cost to charge the vehicle varies from model to model, however electricity is typically less than half of the cost of gasoline. Public charging stations are likely to appear over time.
Do you expect electric cars to put excessive strain on the electric grid?
National studies show that if electric vehicles should gain a significant foothold, off-peak vehicle charging should have minimum impact on the electric grid.