Curious about EVs? Here are answers to common questions about electric cars

Buying an electric car can be a big decision. Many car buyers think they want one, but they have a lot of questions before they buy. Below we have answered the top 36 questions people are asking.

An electric car is a vehicle that uses an electric motor to drive its wheels. The electricity is stored in a battery pack that drivers can charge by plugging the car into a power source via a charging station or a wall in your home, just as you would a lamp or appliance.

What is EV charging?

EV charging refers to powering up the battery that stores the energy necessary to make an EV’s electric motor run.

Do electric cars use oil?

Electric cars do not use traditional internal combustion engines. Therefore, you won’t need engine oil to operate an electric vehicle. However, hybrids and plug-in hybrids use both electric motors and gasoline engines that can provide additional power. Hybrid vehicles will require oil changes.

What does EV stand for?

EV is an acronym for an electric vehicle. Types of EVs include PHEVs (plug-in hybrid vehicles) and HEVs (hybrid electric vehicles). They also include fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs), which set themselves apart from other EVs by converting hydrogen to electricity for the motor rather than drawing energy from a battery.

What does BEV stand for?

BEV, or battery-powered electric vehicle, is simply another name for the standard EV (electric vehicle).

What does PHEV stand for?

PHEVs, or plug-in hybrid vehicles, are cars with a hybrid battery pack that powers the electric motor and gets its charge from an external power source – literally plugging in the car to a wall socket or charger.

The car’s battery and electric motor can work on their own. But they also work in unison with the gas engine for power. PHEVs offer the capability of traveling on electric-only power for distances of up to 20 miles or more. When battery power runs out, the car then uses its gasoline engine.

What does HEV stand for?

HEVs, or hybrid electric vehicles, run on both an internal combustion engine and an electric motor that uses energy stored in a battery.

What is a hybrid vehicle?

Hybrid vehicles are cars with a gasoline engine and an electric motor. Hybrids can run on electricity alone at lower speeds, which means nothing comes out of the car’s exhaust pipe until the gas engine kicks on when needed for higher rates of speed or more acceleration.

Batteries get charged during braking and coasting. Those systems capture the energy that would otherwise be wasted and converts it into charge.

When was the first electric car made?

Scottish inventor Robert Anderson created the first electric carriage in the 1830s using a non-rechargeable battery. However, the electric car didn’t come to the U.S. until Iowan inventor William Morrison created a super-efficient storage battery and added them to a horse-drawn carriage, inventing the first American four-wheeled electric vehicle around the 1890s.

How long does it take to charge an electric car?

It depends on your car — and several other factors. First, consider your power source and how much power your car can handle at once.

If you use the standard Level 1 charger with a 3-prong plug found in your home, it provides about 5 miles per hour of charging. Level 2 charging will help you charge your car faster. Level 2 uses a plug typically used for electric dryers. Using this type of charge you can get about 35 miles or more per hour of charging. Most public charging stations at grocery stores or malls offer Level 2 charging.

Level 3, or DC fast charging, will charge an electric car the fastest. However, Level 3 chargers can only be found commercially, including in public and Tesla charging stations. Also, not all electric cars available today offer DC fast charging. But newer ones offer the software and combination socket that will work with a DC plug.

See: This is Kia’s fast-charging 2022 EV6

Another factor is that electric cars don’t charge at a constant rate. EV testers often find that the first few percent of charge enters the battery quickly, and the last few percent can take much longer. Excessive fast charging can degrade the life of the battery as opposed to Level 2 charging.

How much are electric cars?

Electric cars generally cost more than conventional automobiles. But the pricing gap between the two is closing rapidly.

According to data from Cox Automotive, parent of Autotrader, the average price for gas-powered cars reached $40,768 in April 2021, vs. electric cars at $51,533 in the same time frame. The federal government also offers incentives between $2,500 to $8,000 for fully electric, plug-in hybrid, and fuel-cell vehicles. That, too, helps lower the price and close the gap in the pricing of electric cars compared with their gas counterparts. Only GM
and Tesla
electric vehicles do not qualify for the federal incentives since they have exceeded the 200,000 sales threshold established under the program.

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How do you charge an electric car?

Knowing how to charge an electric car depends on where you’re charging it. If charging an electric vehicle at home, you can use a Level 1 charger with a standard 3-prong plug. You can also use Level 2 chargers (240 volts) that plug into the outlets typically used for electric dryers.

If you need more power, you can find Level 3 chargers (also called DC fast chargers, or DCFCs) that use direct current at 480 volts. But not all EVs are compatible with Level 3 chargers. Level 3 chargers can be found at many malls and public parking garages. All you need is a credit or debit card or an app that allows you to pay directly.

Are electric cars better for the environment?

Although automakers like General Motors and Volvo
have unveiled plans to overhaul their company business models to focus on battery-powered and electric vehicles over the next 10 to 15 years, questions persist regarding how green electric vehicles actually are.

Because these cars don’t burn gasoline, they generally produce fewer environmentally harmful emissions. However, they do have environmental costs due to the emissions generated by manufacturing and assembling them and mining materials for their lithium-ion batteries. Keep in mind that charging EVs in some states means burning coal and that electricity varies in cleanliness depending on how it’s generated.

Are all Tesla cars electric?

Yes. Per Tesla’s website, Tesla set out to prove that people could drive high-end, high-performance all-electric cars. The automaker has become an industry leader in all-electric vehicles and clean energy generation and storage solutions.

Do electric cars have transmissions?

Electric cars don’t have geared transmissions because they aren’t necessary, thanks to the electric motor that powers them. While traditional internal combustion engines need multiple gears that power the car at different speeds, electric cars produce the same amount of torque at any given rotational speed and typically have a single gear ratio.

How long do electric cars last?

Like a cellphone, charging an EV takes a toll on the life of its battery. However, EVs last much longer than the typical cellphone because of their cooling systems and other battery-extending components. EV manufacturers also buffer their batteries to keep drivers from using a car’s full battery power, extending the battery’s life and the car. So, conservative estimates for battery longevity in new electric vehicles stand at about 100,000 miles.

The federal government also mandates that manufacturers offer at least 8 years or 100,000 miles of warranty protection on batteries. Some manufacturers offer even more protection, such as the lifetime battery warranty on the Hyundai
Kona EV.

Where can you charge an electric car?

You can charge an EV at home and thousands of public charging stations throughout the U.S. and elsewhere. You can find charging stations anywhere via sites like PlugShare and EVgo.

Who makes electric car batteries?

Many companies manufacture the lithium-ion and nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) batteries used in electric vehicles. For example, Japanese electronics company Sanyo
makes NiMH batteries primarily for use in Honda and Ford hybrids. Panasonic has joined with Tesla to manufacture lithium-ion batteries for Tesla’s electric vehicles at the Tesla Gigafactory near Sparks, Nevada. Korea’s LG Chem
makes batteries for General Motors, Hyundai, Volvo, and Ford.

Read: Volvo’s XC40 Recharge impresses for space, safety and value

How do electric cars work?

Electric vehicles use electric motors instead of the gas-powered internal combustion engine found in a conventional automobile. Electric vehicles work by using a large battery pack to power the electric motor. Unlike hybrids, which have both an electric motor and an internal combustion engine, EVs have to be plugged into a wall outlet or a charging station. Because EVs run on electricity instead of gasoline, EVs don’t emit exhaust from a tailpipe.

What are the benefits of driving an electric car?

Electric vehicles don’t use fuel, which saves drivers money. Although drivers will likely pay more to buy an EV, operating an EV on electricity for a full month costs less than the price of a tank of gas. Drivers can also offset EV purchase costs with federal, state, and local tax credits and other incentives such as those from utility providers.

The federal Qualified Plug-In Electric-Drive Motor Vehicle Tax Credit provides an incentive of up to $7,500 to help drivers offset the cost of an EV if they select a manufacturer that hasn’t met certain sales thresholds. Driving an electric car can be safer for the environment because it doesn’t run on gasoline, eliminating harmful emissions. Most EV drivers also can conveniently plug in at home.

On what principle do electric vehicles work?

An electric vehicle operates on the principle of conversion of energy. EVs work by converting electrical energy into mechanical energy through a battery-powered electric motor that moves the car.

Which is better to buy, a fully electric car or a hybrid?

The choice between a fully electric car vs. a hybrid depends on your needs and budget. Although you could pay slightly more for a fully electric car, you can offset the price of both hybrids and EVs thanks to tax breaks and pricing incentives ranging from $2,500 to $8,000 (for fuel cell electric vehicles). With a fully electric car, you would be more likely to save money at the gas pump since it does not use an internal combustion engine or gas tank.

Are electric cars low-maintenance?

Electric cars need less maintenance than conventional cars or hybrids. Electric vehicles operate with fewer moving parts than conventional vehicles. Other than tire rotation, drivers don’t need to worry about fluids like motor oil that require replacement. Regenerative braking also reduces wear and tear on electric vehicle brakes.

How do hybrid and electric cars help the environment?

As mentioned above, automakers like General Motors and Volvo have unveiled plans to overhaul their company business models to focus on battery-powered and electric vehicles over the next 10 to 15 years. Because these electric vehicles don’t burn gasoline and hybrids burn much less, they generally produce fewer environmentally harmful emissions. However, questions persist as to how green hybrids and electric vehicles are.

Hybrids do produce some harmful emissions due to their internal combustion engines. In addition, electric vehicles have some environmental costs due to the emissions generated by manufacturing and assembling them and by mining materials for their lithium-ion batteries.

Other environmental impacts come from the generation of electricity used to recharge EVs. Clean renewables like hydro, wind, and solar power have minimal impacts. Electricity generated by burning natural gas or coal is not emission-free. EV power’s cleanliness depends on how it’s generated — so that’s something to keep in mind.

How do hybrid electric vehicles work?

Hybrid electric vehicles are powered by both an internal combustion engine and an electric motor, which uses energy stored in batteries that get charged via regenerative braking and by the gas-powered internal combustion engine. They can also power auxiliary loads and reduce engine idling when stopped, preserving energy and increasing fuel economy.

Why has it taken so long to develop electric cars?

Developing electric cars for modern times has been slow going due to the low cost and reliability of gas-powered vehicles. However, battery technology has steadily improved, bringing their range and purchase price more in line with internal combustion vehicles. Because of environmental concerns, automakers see electric cars as the future.

Are electric cars going to replace gas cars?

Experts project that electric vehicles will make up 25% of new car sales by 2035. Automakers like GM plan to pivot exclusively to EVs by that time. However, EV sales will still only make up 13% of all cars on the road.

Read: Cadillac’s new Lyriq sets the stage for an electric future

Experts believe electric vehicles will make up the majority of new car sales by 2050. Even then, experts believe drivers will still be using conventional vehicles.

Can you push-start an electric vehicle?

It depends on which battery needs a start. Most electric vehicles have two batteries: A 12-volt battery that operates the car’s electronics and controls, and a high-voltage battery that actually runs the car. If the 12-volt battery dies, you can use jumper cables to turn the car on.

Since EVs rely solely on electricity to run, if your high-voltage battery goes dead, you are out of luck. Push-starting only works on internal combustion engines because the mechanical energy from pushing the vehicle can be converted into the spark needed to begin the combustion process, which once started, is self-sustaining.

Is it safe to use an electric vehicle?

Electric vehicles are generally safe to use. But a series of recalls and battery fires involving EVs generated safety concerns last year. Lithium-ion batteries can overheat and break down due to defective parts or charging EVs designed for slow charging with faster DC ones.

See: The 2021 Nissan Leaf remains tops for affordability and safety among EVs

Many automakers now use safer batteries and liquid cooling systems that keep the battery from overheating to combat this. Tesla also uses extra aluminum plating for fire protection between the battery pack and the seats.

Why are electric vehicles so expensive?

Electric vehicles continue to be more costly than their gas counterparts due to battery costs. Although EV battery prices have dropped dramatically, an EV’s battery remains its single most expensive component due to the materials that make up the cathode in each lithium-ion battery. These cathodes are typically made of expensive metals like lithium and cobalt.

Related: The 10 most affordable electric cars on the market

Some automakers like Tesla continue to look for ways to lower battery costs. For example, Tesla has done this by building its own battery factory, the Gigafactory 1 in Nevada.

Does the term ‘electric car’ include hybrid cars?

Yes. Electric cars include hybrid vehicles. Hybrid cars operate using battery power combined with a gas-powered engine.

How successful are electric vehicles?

Although politicians and automakers have a major push to manufacture and promote EVs, consumers remain a bit skittish about going all-electric for several reasons, including range anxiety and cost. Still, their popularity continues to increase as more EV charging stations continue to get installed in retail shopping areas, parking garages, and office buildings. In addition, federal, state, and local incentives continue to make electric vehicles more attractive to purchase.

Why are electric vehicles not so popular?

Range anxiety and cost remain the biggest hurdles for consumer acceptance of electric vehicles. Still, as more charging stations pop up and more manufacturers produce and push electric vehicles, there’s no doubt their popularity will increase.

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Why are electric vehicle batteries so expensive?

An electric car battery remains its single most expensive component. It’s expensive due to the materials that make up the cathode in each lithium-ion battery. These cathodes are typically made of costly metals like lithium and cobalt. However, as technology improves, automakers are finding ways to lower costs.

In addition, some manufacturers like Tesla began manufacturing their own battery technology, which helps to lower costs, too. Keep in mind that if you take care of your electric car battery, it shouldn’t need replacing for up to 10 years.

This story originally ran on

Jacquelin Burkhammer

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