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Everything You Need To Know About Electric Cars (With Asterisks)

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2012 Ford Focus Electric launch, New York City, January 2011 - charging point

2012 Ford Focus Electric launch, New York City, January 2011 - charging point

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Although we’ve been covering electric and fuel-efficient green vehicles here at Green Car Reports  for a long time now, a lot of first-time readers are completely new to the idea of buying an electric car.  

Exploring electric cars for the first time, these readers are looking for a simple primer to the world of plug-in vehicles before they visit our more in-depth Ultimate Guides to various models, including the Nissan Leaf, Chevrolet Volt, Ford Focus Electric, Mitsubishi i, and Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid.

So we’ve been on the lookout for a way of helping explain the basics in a simple way. And now we’ve just found the video that we think will help. 

GOOD Transparency: Electric Vehicles is a short film sponsored by IBM and produced by GOOD--a global association of individuals, business and nonprofits--and covers some of the basics of electric cars. 

While the video is great, we have a few side notes to accompany it--so make sure you read our commentary as you watch this 3-minute short. 

  • Time to charge

We’d like to point out that while cars like the 2011 Nissan Leaf can recharge from a domestic 110-volt power socket, doing so can take 18 hours or more. In order to charge most electric cars in 8 hours or so you'll need to have an electrician install a dedicated 240-Volt charging station in your garage. Known as a Level 2 fast charging station, these can charge cars like the 2011 Nissan Leaf in 8 hours and use around 3,500 watts per hour. 

  • Cost to charge 

When comparing an electric car to a gasoline car on fuel costs, there’s an assumption of an average gas car with a fuel consumption of 25 miles per gallon and a gas price of $2.50 per gallon.  Many areas in the U.S. now have gas prices around $3.50 per gallon, so the cost comparison is probably nearer $14 per 100 miles for a 25-mpg car. 

  • Nighttime charging

While it's normally cheaper to charge at night, you’ll need to remember that you may not yet have time-of-use metering in your home. Contact your local utility company to find out if they have specific electric-car tariffs, or a cheaper night-time rate. 

  • Availability of cars

Yes, electric cars are available now--but the car shown in the sketch where the narrator says "available" appears to be a 2012 Tesla Model S. That won’t launch until later this year.

And the availability of plug-in cars is dramatically affected by where you live, with most variety being available to those who live in areas where the highest electric car incentives exist. 

  • Grid capacity, billing

At the moment, the electrical grid can more than cope with the demands of the relatively small number of plug-in vehicles on the road today, and most studies suggest that with night-time charging, it will be able to cope for many years to come. 

It’s also worth noting that many charging stations don’t presently charge for electricity use -- although they may require you to pay an annual membership fee. Given that a full charge is so cheap, we can’t think of many friends who would begrudge you the occasional few hours of power in exchange for a coffee or a chat.

Your thoughts? 

We’ve outlined the points that need to be made alongside this video, but do you have some you’d like to share? 

Give us your thoughts in the Comments below.

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Comments (5)
  1. One of the things I'm most looking forward to is charging at home, I love the idea of being able to refuel my car at home and not having to make quick trips for gasoline. I think it's funny that there are so many people that think charging electric cars will drain our power supply and run up our power bills, it will be cheaper then gas or diesel and do any of these people ever take a look at what they are already powering with their home electricity? If you have a car you know that is a necessity but many of the things we consume electricity with are luxuries your TV can't get you to work and your air conditioning can't go pickup food. Electric cars will make life easier we just need better charge times and ranges to suit everyone.
     
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  2. Agreed.
     
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  3. Sometimes I wonder, what % of people live in apartment complexes and/or communities where they have no garages, and hence are unable to charge their vehicles from home (and therefore not able to consider an electric car). I would say housing infrastructure/renting would be a big barrier to purchasing an electric car. Has there been any reported analysis on this?
     
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  4. Chargers can be made available to renters, outdoor chargers could be easily installed. One day I could see apartment complexes advertising electric car chargers as an amenity within the complex. As demand for charging grows you will start to seem more chargers installed for residents of all living situations.
     
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  5. If u want a design for a electric car that recharges itself let know
     
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