EV Charging FAQs
Electric Vehicle (EV) & EV Charging Common Questions
Driving on sunshine, is a strong economic and environmental choice for homeowners, businesses, and even towns! The switch to EV is much more accessible and affordable thanks to various tax credits, rebates, and programs offered in the Northeast. If you enjoy saving money and saving the planet, driving electric might be the right choice for you. Explore the detailed answers to some of the common questions we are asked by those interested in transition to EV.
How is driving an electric vehicle different than driving a gas vehicle?
Most people don’t really know what to anticipate when they first get in an electric vehicle for a test drive. Some think about electric golf carts. In reality, the electric vehicle provides a superior driving experience on a number of levels when compared to combustion engines. Drivers immediately notice it is quiet when the engine starts. When they step on the “gas” pedal, there is no hesitation during acceleration or gear shifting to jerk the head. Instead, electricity immediately is converted into torque and forward motion, often with a performance that is startling by comparison. No noise, no smoke, no jerking, no hesitation. That’s why new drivers have a hard time not smiling.
How expensive is electricity compared to gas?
This is a common question. We recommend going to the US Department of Energy eGallon website to find out your local grid-based electricity rate converted to your local average price per gallon of gas. Generally, electricity is more than 50% cheaper than gasoline. Consequently it costs about 6 cents per mile to drive electric using standard utility rates versus 15 cents per mile (assuming 22 mpg at $3.50 per gallon).
If you invest in your own solar array, you will immediately convert all electricity you use for your car to clean energy (as opposed to relying on your local utility which typically mixes renewables with gas, coil or oil-based generation) AND save more money per kWh! How much? Once you pay off your upfront cost on the array (typically 10 years) you can fuel your car for free for the next 15-20 years. Stated another way, in Maine, a residential rooftop array provides the car with the equivalent of 71 cents per solar gallon for the life of the array. That profoundly lowers the operational costs of the vehicle!
How much maintenance do electric vehicles require?
Electric vehicles have 90% fewer moving parts and rely on regenerative braking, meaning there is less overall wear and tear. No fluids, no significant brake wear, and no exhaust system mean less ongoing repair and upkeep. While batteries do wear out eventually, they are typically warrantied for 100k miles, making them have long useful lives. Studies show that battery degradation based on overall mileage and charging cycles is less than the auto manufacturers anticipated – and the battery technology is improving in energy density and resilience over time.
If you find the battery is not providing adequate range toward the end of its lifespan, many manufacturers offer reduced cost battery replacements. Bear in mind as well that the “old” battery, which may be degraded over time for taking long trips, still has ample storage capacity such that it could be removed and used as a battery back-up for the home grid! In other words, your battery has a second life after the car as a source of storage for your solar array or as a back up generator for your house if you ever lose power!
In addition to saving money, what are the benefits of driving electric?
Besides enhanced performance and lower operational costs, electric vehicles are an elegant solution to many economic, environmental and social issues we have all inherited from our culture’s reliance on fossil fuel for transportation. Transportation is currently the single largest source of carbon emissions in the United State. It accounts for roughly 40% of all Green House Gas (GHG) emissions in the US. By driving electric we can draw from cleaner sources of electricity generation, including many types of zero emission renewable energy sources—such as solar! Since the majority of transportation currently relies on fossil fuel, by switching to electric you are cleaning up one of the dirtiest, most unhealthy sources of air pollution and climate change that we have.
New England is quite literally the tailpipe of the US because of the prevailing winds that push emissions produced in the West and Midwest to our communities. A cleaner environment, means fewer public health issues tied to dirty air, which benefits everyone in our region.
Driving electric also brings economic benefits to your state and community. By buying electricity instead of oil, you are helping stop the flow of petro dollars out of state and keeping energy dollars local to invest in domestic, diverse, often renewable, electricity generation. When US utilities grow their load and better use their grid assets they can invest in clean, renewable energy to power transportation, which generates more local jobs per million dollars of sales that the oil or gas industry. In addition, the money you, your business, or your town saves by driving electric means more discretionary dollars to spend in your local economy. EVs promote our domestic energy security and keep dollars in your community.
Are there any drawbacks associated with driving electric vehicles?
As mentioned previously, there can be added costs to driving electric, such as battery replacement and charging station installation. The biggest limitations regarding electric vehicles are dependent on what kind of EV you drive. If you buy an all battery electric vehicle (BEV) rather than a Plug in Hybrid Electric (PHEV), one that has both gas and electricity, you will need to assess your trip lengths more carefully and plan on getting to know your public charging infrastructure. If you buy a PHEV, you always have gas to rely on for added range, and the advantage of having up to 50 miles of all battery range on top of that.
Batteries also are impacted at some level by temperature. Lower winter temperatures can lower battery capacity by 40% in some locations, which is especially relevant in Northern New England. Choosing the right EV technology is an important step to driving electric comfortably, as is knowing where charging stations are accessible for you. Charging infrastructure continues to be built out every month and most drivers will find fast charging technology near their homes or on interstate travel corridors that allows them enhanced range. This growing infrastructure, as well as enhanced battery performance and range from newer generations of battery electric vehicles, means most drivers can easily find an EV that fits their needs.
How can I find out where public charging stations are located?
The easiest way to find public charging stations is to download the phone app Plugshare or use their online locator map. This mapping platform offers updated, current sources of information about the location and availability of all types of charging stations, most open to public use. The US Department of Energy also hosts its own interactive web map with updated charging station locations.
Since most people charge at home or work, public charging will make up a small percentage of your actual charging episodes. Luckily, many businesses are learning to attract drivers by providing free electricity as an amenity. We all should take advantage of that!
What do I need to know about charging my EV?
Over 80% of all current car charging occurs at home. Workplace charging comprises the next largest charging opportunity (10-15%). The average American drives less than 30 miles per day. This means typically takes about an hour or so to completely recharge your battery at home with a standard level two charger. You have the option of telling the car when to re-charge as well, meaning you can charge in the dead of night, often when some utility rates are at their lowest.
The most important thing to be aware of during the actual act of charging your car is that it usually takes ten seconds- five seconds to plug it in and five seconds to unplug it. What happens in the middle is just the passage of time when the vehicle would be sitting unused – such as overnight at home or during the work day. In addition most people overestimate how much they drive.
How quickly will my electric vehicle charge?
The speed at which your car will charge is dependent on numerous variables, including the kind of car, battery, and level of charging. There are three levels of charging, which relate to three different speeds of charging, and level has its usefulness depending on the car and situation. An electric vehicle has its own onboard charger that determines how fast it can draw electricity to its battery. Plugging a car into a 100A circuit does not mean it will charge at 100A; the car will tell the charger how fast it is able to charge and back off if needed. Since every car has a different size battery, the actual time it takes to completely charge an empty battery varies.
Because they have gas as a backup, Plug in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs) have smaller batteries and slower onboard chargers. On the other hand, all Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) have larger batteries and faster onboard charge rates, as they rely solely on electricity. The standard onboard charge rates for PHEVs is currently 3.3 kW and for BEVs is 6.6 kW. Ultimately, you will need to know your car, its onboard charge rate and battery size to determine the charger that best fits your needs.
What are the three charging levels and how do they differ?
Level One Charging – Every plug in electric vehicle comes with a portable level one charger (15-25 amp) that can be plugged into a standard wall outlet. This virtually assures every driver they can find electricity available anywhere on the grid. Drivers often keep an extension cord in their cars as additional insurance! The singular drawback is that level one charging is S-L-O-W. It re-charges the battery at about 1.4 kW, meaning cars with smaller batteries can often rely on it for overnight charging but that it is inadequate for BEVs. For example it would take 42 hours of level one charging to completely charge a BEV with a 60 kWh battery!
Level one is also ideally suited for long-term parking and workplace charging, where vehicles have long dwell times and can recover adequate range for the return commute in several hours. Level one chargers are also cheaper to install, can be clustered on the same service economically, cost less per hour in terms of electricity consumption and require less upfront capital hardware cost.
Level Two Charging – Level 2 is typically the bread and butter for most charging applications, particularly as the vehicle battery size and onboard charge rates increase. Level 2 charging offers a range of amperage (e.g. charging speed) options from 25A to 100A and the ability to charge using the J1772 standard connector, insuring general compatibility with all current and future vehicle types. Further, for longer term parking (1-4 hours) most EVs will have time to replenish their batteries by recovering 20 miles of range per hour of charge time, assuming the typical charge rate at 6.6 kWh/hour.
For residential applications, a basic 40A level two charger is more than adequate. Most home panels have extra breaker space for the 40A dedicated circuit. Then the question is where will charging take place- in a garage or outside.
For commercial or workplace applications, we also recommend level 2 chargers, with some caveats. Since the business does not know which type of car will be using their charging resources, we like the idea of providing a mixed charging cluster, that combines level two chargers and level one outlets. Why? Since PHEVs onboard charge rates are slower, they can usually make better use of a level one outlet. If they charge on a level 2, they are underutilizing its capacity and preventing a BEV (who does NOT have a gas back-up) from making better use of the charge rate. PHEVs can start at the level 2 if it is unused, but should be willing to be plugged in to the outlet if a BEV arrives. This opens the topic of EV charging behavior policy, which we will discuss later.
Level 2 charging benefits include low hardware and installation cost, greater compatibility with vehicles being manufactured, alignment with residential, commercial and workplace consumer behaviors, ample charging speed given 1-4 hour charge times and reduced electricity costs to the host.
DC Quick Charging (DCQC) – A DC Quick Charger is an expensive but strategic piece of charging hardware. It is based on three-phase high amperage (125A) system technology designed to charge an EV battery rapidly by bypassing the car’s onboard charger and funneling the DC current directly into the battery cells. Most DCFC charge at a 50 kW per hour rate, however, the industry is rapidly beefing them up such that most future placements will begin at 150 kW per hour(!). A DCQC may bring a fully depleted battery to 80% capacity within 20 minutes. This application has been usually installed sparingly because of the cost of the unit hardware (typically >$25k per unit) and attendant three phase power high installation expenses. By some estimates DCQC installations can cost 2-3x that of the hardware and must be carefully sited relative to the local utility’s distribution hardware- making each site very expensive. DCQC have been strategically installed along the West Coast’s Pacific I-5 corridor to facilitate longer range travel by Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) such as the Nissan LEAF, whose limited range can be enhanced through rapid charging. DCQC are now being placed in clusters along major travel corridors and in dense urban areas. As the battery technology improves, DCQC are increasing their amperage levels to meet the needs of the larger batteries, enhancing driver experience and facilitating long distance travel.
ReVision Energy has experience providing charging hardware and installations in all categories of charging, including DCFC units. Maine and all the other New England states are currently investing in DCFC projects to electrify their major interstate travel routes. These grant programs stem from VW settlement funds.
What charger manufacturers do you recommend?
For most basic charger applications, like residential charging, we use ClipperCreek products. They are a domestic manufacturer who has proven reliable and cost-effective. They also offer some choices that can be used for more complex charging needs, such as those requiring energy data collection and access controls. For businesses and workplaces, we tend to recommend basic chargers given the cost differential for smart, networked chargers.
Smart chargers do have their place and we sell Chargepoint products to some of our clients. The difference is that they offer many more features, including revenue through credit cards, and cost much more for hardware and ongoing annual software subscriptions. However, for high utilization host sites concerned about giving out free electricity and who need some form of revenue, smart chargers are increasingly the answer.
What is the economic benefit of combining solar and electric vehicles?
Adding an electric car and EV charging to your solar energy production means you accelerate the payback and rate of return on your investment. This is true because you are using solar to defray the cost of gasoline, which is more expensive per joule of energy than defraying the per kWh cost of utility generated electrons. Our initial calculations suggest that adding an EV can accelerate the average payback on a solar array by more than 30%!
We view EV charging as the natural complement to existing solar clients and EV drivers themselves as potential solar customers. The concept of driving on clean, self-generated energy is a profound and powerful new energy model. One study showed a high rate of adoption of PV among EV owners (39% of EV drivers had PV and an additional 17% were planning on installing it). Interestingly, even existing PV owners, a statistically significant number were planning on expanding their system to accommodate EV use.
The average EV driver consumes 6-8 kWh per day; this is by far the largest daily load of a typical household. While the number of miles per kWh varies, generally 3.5 miles per kWh is a reasonable average. Accordingly, 10,000 miles of annual driving equals approximately 2857 kWh of energy consumed. How many panels are needed? It depends on how much sun the location has, however, generally we suggest getting nine 300 watt panels to cover 10,000 annual miles.
• 2857 kWh / 1100 kWh/kW/yr = 2.6 kW array
• 2.6 = 2600 watt array / 300 watt panels = 8.666 Q Cell 300 watt panels
• 2600 watt array x $3.5/watt = $9,100 ballpark cost upfront x 70% (30% tax credit) = $6,370 net cost
Remember, this annual vehicle energy consumption is changing and will INCREASE as EVs get better range and become more commonly used for longer distance travel. No one knows the impact in eVMT (electric vehicle miles traveled) as a result of the new vehicles with 60 kWh batteries, like the Chevy Bolt. It is reasonable to predict an increase of 10-20% of added annual eVMT and more panels to accommodate this additional load. In fact I drove 23,000 miles with the Bolt the first year I owned in Maine (even in the winters). That means I could install 20 panels on my house just to cover my vehicle use!
Are there any incentives available to me to purchase the car or charging equipment?
Yes! There are numerous incentives on the federal and state level that can make the transition to driving electric more affordable and beneficial than ever. Please see our guides on Residential EV Charging Incentives and Commercial EV Charging Incentives for full details.
Should my business install charging stations?
The short answer: If you have workers or customers that visit and park their vehicles for more than one hour, you are a good candidate to supply some form of charging. It enhances your sustainability branding to be considered EV friendly and gives your workers a nice amenity, often convincing them to drive electric since they know they will save money on their daily commute. Installing EV charging infrastructure is a great opportunity to set your business apart from the rest!
How does my business get reimbursed for the electricity that we give for public charging?
The easiest and most cost-effective model is to give the electricity away as an amenity to workers and to customers as a means of attracting them to the business. This can work for many types of host sites- hospitality industry, retailers, destination venues. New patronage means added revenue and if a basic charger is used, the costs are low. Additionally, uploading your businesses charging site to a shared charging location resource, such as Plugshare or the US Department of Energy’s EV Charging site, broadcasts the chargers availability to a much larger market of EV users. Sometimes host sites sell advertising to raise money to pay for the costs of electricity (such as a charger located in a business district surface lot where retailers share the cost and advertise their support via signage).
Combining solar with charging is yet another way to save costs over the long term for any electricity consumption. Call ReVision Energy to discuss possible EV/PV options!