EV FAQ


The Following links will jump you to the relevant spot on this page. Scrolling through the page will allow you to read all info.

Definitions
What rebates and incentive are available in 2011?
History of the EV?
Why drive an EV?
Why can't EVs recharge themselves while they drive?
Doesn't your EV just move the pollution?
Doesn't the range suck?
Can you drive up hills and merge onto the freeway safely?
How long does it take to charge?
Does the RAV4EV drive as well as the gasoline version?
Why can't I purchase an EV?
Won't an accident in an efficient (small) car kill me and my loved ones?
Don't incentives for EVs (and renewable power) just skew the "free market?"
Aren't hybrids EVs that are just more convenient?
I never see EVs on the road... must be that the auto makers are correct - nobody really wanted these cars, did they?
I need a big, powerful truck to tow my boat. Why should I let you ruin my "American way of life?"
Will EVs solve all our problems?
Why not put solar cells on the car so we don't have to plug it in?
I am thinking of purchasing a used Rav4EV - what do you know about future maintenance and battery replacement availability and cost?
Where can I ask questions about building my own EV?
What difference can I make?
Is there an EV Timeline?
Aren't there a lot of reasons to dislike EVs?
Are there other EV FAQ's so I don't have to keep listening to you?


Definitions:

What rebates and Incentives are available in 2011?

- Federal Tax Credit:
The Leaf qualifies for up to $7,500 federal tax credit. In the case of a lease, that tax credit is included upfront on the lease program. In case of a purchase you have to apply for on your tax declaration for 2010-2011.

For more information visit www.fueleconomy.gov
- State Tax Credit:
Zero Emission Vehicles like the Leaf qualify for a state tax credit between $3,000 - $5,000, either on a purchase or a lease. The owner has to keep the vehicle on either case for a minimum of 3 years. You apply for on or after day of ownership, whether a lease or purchase.
You also qualify for 30% or up to $1000 state rebate for cost of home charging units on all charging stations installed between January 1st 2011 and December 31st 2012.

To apply visit www.energycenter.org/cvrp
* Check these links for more information on State tax rebates:

- Center for Sustainable Energy of California/Clean Vehicle Rebate Program:
www.energycenter.org/cvrp

- CVRP Elegible vehicles:
https://energycenter.org/index.php/incentive-programs/clean-vehicle-reba...

- Applicant requirements and qualifying vehicle information:
https://energycenter.org/index.php/incentive-programs/self-generation-in...

- Implementation manual for CVRP:
https://energycenter.org/index.php/incentive-programs/self-generation-in...

- Zero Emission vehicle sticker (white):
For using the carpool lane. Sticker has to be obtained at DMV offices once a permanent license plate has been issued.

- PG&E: You can ask for a special rate for night charging.

History of electric automobiles
A: Here is a brief history from the New York Times.

Q: Why drive an EV? (Gas is cheap and and we keep finding more)
A: First read some of these. Even though we keep finding seemingly limitless oil reserves, and that gasoline is cheap today, this does NOT mean we should be consuming our finite quantity of fossil fuels at or near our current rate. Gasoline is dirty to create, to transport, and to burn. The fact that we depend on unstable foreign countries for much of our oil is enough to keep me from wanting to consume it. Much of our foreign policy is determined by our need for oil, and that scares the heck out of me. The environmental destruction and human deaths associated with the use of gasoline are staggering. Oil is simply too valuable to be burning in our cars. Today our economy loses about $150 Billion/year when we purchase foreign oil. I would rather keep that money here, creating American jobs and making our economy and environment healthier. But enough about the negatives. The best part about driving an EV is the performance! Once you experience the gearless acceleration, and the huge torque of an EV, you'll never go back. No more trips to the stinky gas station, no tune ups or oil changes, no drips on the driveway floor. A slightly different angle on this question can be found here. Why we "need" electric vehicles is explained here. And here is a fantastic video by Sherry Boschert describing EVs and PHEVs.

Q: Why can't EVs recharge themselves while they drive?
A: Many people have proposed adding generators to EVs to allow the vehicles to partially recharge themselves. Some suggest generators on the wheels or drive shaft while others suggest small wind turbines behind the grille or on the roof. In each case, more energy would be consumed to turn the generators than could ever be recaptured. Attempting to generate while driving would result in a net loss of range.

There is no free lunch. Energy conversions are never 100% efficient, so every time we convert one form of energy to another, we lose some of that energy. We lose energy when we charge an EV's battery from the wall outlet. We lose energy when we take charge out of the EV's battery to push the car down the road. If we tried to convert the energy from the moving car back into battery charge, we would again lose energy.

Installing a generator on an EV would be akin to driving with the brakes on. For this reason, modern hybrids and EVs only recapture electrical charge when slowing down. The kinetic energy of the vehicle in motion is partially converted -- by the electric motor working in reverse -- into electricity that can be added back to the battery. This advantageous process slows the vehicle by capturing the vehicle's kinetic energy that is normally wasted to heat with traditional brakes. The problem comes when we do NOT want to slow down while simultaneously converting the kinetic energy of the car into battery charge. Spinning a generator will always require energy input. And that energy input will always slow the vehicle. To overcome this “slowing force” caused by the generator, additional energy must be consumed from the vehicle’s battery to maintain speed. Because of the conversions losses mentioned earlier, more energy will be consumed than will be replaced. The ironic result of “self charging” would be a net loss of charge (resulting in shorter range).

Normally when one of these fancy devices is brought up, it follows along these lines: It is a generator of some sort. Super efficient. Like nothing that has ever been demonstrated before. It isn't actually *called* a generator though, because those are "old school" and this is way beyond that. It either uses "wasted" friction or air movement or momentum of the vehicle or shocks or wheels or motor. It recaptures energy that would otherwise just be tossed aside. Though there are no scientific tests done on this device, it should extend and EV's range tremendously. It isn't an easy concept to explain to people with closed minds. But the logic of its operation, of course, is sound

Q: Doesn't your EV just move the pollution from the tailpipe to the power plant exhaust?
This is a big one with many facets, so hang on...
A: Ours certainly do not. Our vehicles are charged from the PV solar array on the roof, so our cars truly are clean to operate. But even cars that use grid power for charging are far cleaner than an ICE can ever hope to be. EV charging typically happens at night during off-peak hours, using electricity that is otherwise underutilized since many generators have to be idling on stand-by. EV charging can actually help power plants be more efficient in this way, and there is very little - if any - negative effect on the "grid." One of the largest electric utilities in CA has estimated that there is enough "extra" grid capacity at night to fuel a million EVs for their daily commute. And a final point that I always enjoy making is that the oil industry is the single largest electricity consumer in the USA. It takes huge amounts of electricity to make and distribute gasoline. Yes, every gallon of gasoline you pour into your ICE vehicle accounts for a significant amount of electricity. Surprise! EVs can be 100% clean to operate. A gasoline vehicle can never be "clean." When comparing pollution of ICE vehicles to EVs, the upstream emissions of EVs are always considered (power generation) while the upstream emissions of the ICE vehicles (fuel extraction, refining, distribution) is ignored in favor of ONLY discussing the tailpipe emissions. That's not a fair fight, is it?

Many people think that car engines and power plants are equally efficient. They are not. The best power plants (the new GE H series gas turbine) are 60% efficient, the BEST cars, under ideal conditions, are not more than 30% efficient. That's a 2:1 factor in favor of electricity generation right there. The reason is that when designing a power plant, one can ignore weight, or size, and (to a large extent) cost; one can also optimize for efficiency at a known load and temperature. Add a steam turbine to recover waste heat from the gas turbine? No problem. None of this is true for the gasoline engines in our vehicles. A car engine has to be light, cheap, small, and operate over a very wide range of speed/load/temps. And gasoline engines are only "efficient" in a small part of the speed/load space: somewhere near peak torque and wide-open throttle. If you size the engine to operate near there in normal cruising, the car will take a week to climb the grapevine. Note that this "efficiency window" concept is not an issue for EVs. EVs are better than 90% efficient pretty much anywhere in the speed/load range. You can (and people have!) build an electric car that does 0-60 in 3 seconds and still returns 170mpg equivalent in city driving.

Many People think the grid is inefficient. It is not. On average, it is about 95% efficient to distribute our electricity. The grid could be made more efficient by spending more on copper and high voltage lines, but how much more would you spend to make it 96% efficient?

Many people think electricity comes from burning oil. It does not. Nationally, it's 51% coal (domestic coal, and there is enough to burn at this rate for 500 years), 20% nuclear, 7% hydro, 17% natural gas (almost all domestic or Canadian), 3% oil, 2% renewables other than hydro. So if you worry about national security, use electricity not gasoline; if you worry about CO2 emissions, use solar cells on your roof to power your EV; if you worry about running out of fossil fuel next decade, use electricity. There are much better uses for the remaining oil than powering our over-sized, over-powered commute vehicles a few miles to work each day.

And finally, here is a fantastic piece from a dual Rav4EV owner with PV.

Q: Doesn't the range suck?
A: Sometimes, yes. Typically, no. The 100 miles that our Rav4EV offers is a lot of driving to do in a day, and the average vehicle in the US drives MUCH less than that per day. The average daily commute is about 30 miles/day. 15,000 annual miles would be just 41 miles/day. With a charger at each end, a 200 mile trip is simple to accomplish. We put over 1000 miles/month on our EVs, and about 300 miles on our ICE car. There is really no better commute car than an EV, provided the commute is within the vehicle's range. This comes down to the right tool for the job. You aren't likely to take your EV camping into the boonies. But neither are you likely to take your Corvette or motorcycle. Please also consider that today's range limitations are based on 10+ year-old battery technology. With today's battery chemistries, there are EVs with 300 miles range, and astonishing performance. See the Li-Ion Tzero. (with Press Release here.) and how about the Wrightspeed X1 if you'd like to go faster. Also please note that there are more than 1000 public chargers sprinkled around CA. A few generous folks have created and maintained the most complete listing of public chargers ever attempted. Visit EVchargernews.com to see it for yourself.

Q: Can it drive up hills? Are you afraid to accelerate onto a freeway? Can you keep up with traffic?
A: There are no real-world performance hurdles to an EV. These cars can do anything that their ICE counterparts can do, and often do them better. The EV1 can beat 5L Mustangs and Camaros to 60 mph. This fact I have confirmed for myself. :-). Electric vehicles can be made as powerful, and certainly MORE powerful than any internal combustion vehicle - typically for less money and less effort. Here are two examples of high-performance EVs: The Tzero (Discovery Channel video) and the WrightSpeed X1.

Q: How long does it take to charge?
A: 3 seconds. At least that is how much time we invest in the process. Our current commute car, the EV1, needs about 1.5 hours of being on the charger for the 40-mile round-trip commute. More range requires more charge, of course. Normally we don't care how much time the charging process takes since we are typically sleeping when it happens. To go from completely empty to completely full (which we rarely do unless we need the full range) can take five hours. But again, we are normally sleeping during this process. The better question is: "how long does it take ICE drivers to drive out of their way to a gas station, stand around (in the wind, rain, heat, on greasy asphalt, breathing benzene) while the car fills, pay, and get back onto the road?" Our fueling is done at home, in our garage, while we are doing other things. Our time involvement in the charging process is about 1.2 seconds for plugging, and 1.2 seconds again for unplugging. It is more difficult and time-consuming to plug a vacuum into the wall outlet, than it is to charge an EV each day. Have you ever let your 18-month-old child fuel the family car?  It is still one of her favorite activities today.

Q: Does the Rav4EV drive as well as the gasoline version?
A: No. The EV offers a far better driving experience than the ICE version. Quiet, smooth acceleration with no gear changes. No warm-up period, no exhaust. No noise, no smell.  Better acceleration. Once you've had EV, you can never settle for less.

Q: Why can't I purchase an EV?
A: Short answer: The ZEV mandate has been squashed (after suits from GM and the Federal government scared the CARB into submission), and  automakers have zero incentive to try anything new. Today they ride high on the hog, enjoying the largest profit margins of any class of vehicle ever produced - the SUV. There is no reason to make money the hard way when the easy was is parked out on the lot. The great news is that some independent EV-makers are now trying to make a go of it. Here is Tom Hanks talking about what he is doing to help:   Low RezHigh Rez.

Q: Won't an accident in an efficient (small) car kill me and my loved ones?
A: First off, EVs, hybrids, PHEV's, biofuel cars - and even efficient gasoline cars - do not need to be clown-car sized! The US military has built hybrid Hummers and tanks, for example. Phoenix Motorcars' first EV offering will be a full-size pickup truck. But I digress. That was not the question.

Many people think that bigger is always safer. That "the laws of physics cannot be broken." Well, it turns out that the laws of physics can be used in your favor, to make smaller cars safer than bigger ones. A large truck with a ladder frame and no crumple zones could injure the occupants easier (never mind how much easier it is to kill the people outside the vehicle) than a small car that is engineered for safety. It is all about sacrificing the vehicle for the occupants. Many people think that having the vehicle survive a crash is an indication that the occupants would be OK. By viewing a high-speed racing crash, you can easily see that is not the case.

The "bigger is safer" mentality comes from the logical conclusion we draw from crash testing data. If a full-size truck or SUV smacks into an economy car, the people in the truck are more likely to walk away from the accident. Of course we'd ALL be safer if the roads were populated with small cars than if everybody drove huge SUVs or pickups. And what of the ability to *avoid* accidents in the first place? A smaller, lighter, better-handling car is more likely to stop in time, or swerve around an accident. Please read this Gladwell Article on the subject. The direct consequence of "bigger is safer" logic is, as you might imagine, ever-bigger vehicles - because who wouldn't want to buy a "safer" car? Pretty soon (well, it is happening right now, of course) the roads are filled with those "bigger" vehicles and next logical step is to then buy something even larger, heavier, more powerful... and fuel hungry. Where does it end? And when do we start to consider the consumption of fossil fuels as a safety issue?

Q:  If we offer incentives for EV (and renewable power), aren't we skewing the "free market" and creating a situation of "social engineering?"
A: I am all for social engineering that will take us away from imported oil and into investing in American jobs and security with locally produced, renewable energy. I truly see no benefit in sending our energy dollars to those countries that happen to be sitting on top of the oil that we "need." We are currently spending $150 Billion dollars every year on imported oil (and rising every minute). If we could divert that annual loss INTO our economy...how much would that be worth in new jobs for construction and operation of U.S. renewable energy companies? I guess $100 Billion a year. I think it would be worth some tax incentives to accomplish that. It will probably happen on its own as petroleum dwindles away...but not before oil gets a LOT more expensive. Why not get ahead of the game and do it now? Why wait and continue to throw billions out of our economy? Many people assume that "green technologies" like BEVs, wind, solar and biodiesel will COST our economy money...and therefore we can't afford them. Just the opposite is true. We CAN afford them because they will pay us back with new jobs and more opportunity.

Q:  Aren't hybrids just EVs that are more convenient?
A: Well, I can now speak from experience since we now own a Prius, and use it sparingly as our secondary vehicle. Hybrids are a double-edge sword for me. On the one hand they are a small step forward from pure ICE vehicles; and they allow for some efficient and relatively clean ICE vehicles with good (to extreme!) performance and unlimited range. On the other hand, hybrids are a large step backwards from pure BEVs in both efficiency and cleanliness. Today we have everybody (even the American auto makers, finally!) jumping on the "hybrid" bandwagon. And since there is no firm definition of "hybrid vehicle" we are seeing pickup trucks that do nothing more than shut the ICE off when slowing or stopped. For my money, we don't have ANY real production hybrids on the road today. In my book, a hybrid would be able to run on at least two different fuels. Today's "hybrids" require gasoline to run. We often hear in the press (repeated by proud owners) that hybrids are "cleaner" then BEVs. Well, it should be obvious that this is an impossibility, unless you purposefully ignore most of the upstream pollution caused by *creating* the gasoline. The supporters of the "BEVs are dirty" position want to include the emissions from the dirtiest coal-fired power plant on the BEV side of the equation - while at the same time ignoring all the pollution (including electricity generation!) involved in gasoline production. We hear the same argument from the FCV folks. The power to create Hydrogen is all going to come from clean sources only, apparently. And BEVs will all need to be charged from coal power. So back to hybrids - Electricity can be made renewably; gasoline cannot be.  Electricity can be made cleanly; gasoline cannot be. Electricity can all be domestically produced; we have been net importers of oil since the 1930's. Hybrids are a small step in the right direction. Yet they still rely on foreign oil, still require trips to the gas station, they need tune ups and oil changes, and they still pollute. For me, a real hybrid is one that allows me to charge the batteries without using a fossil fuel (in other words, I want to plug it in!), and drive exclusively on battery power for a significant range before the ICE kicks in. That would make an excellent second vehicle for our family.

Q:  I never see EVs on the road... must be that the auto makers are correct - nobody really wanted these cars, did they?
A: Turns out that every "production" EV ever made available for lease or sale was leased or sold. A waiting list was left dangling for each car-makers' electric vehicle when the respective program was terminated. And ironically, each program termination was blamed at least partially on "no demand for EVs." Usually factual numbers  are repeated in the press, but with only part of the fact behind it.  For example, I have heard GM say, "We cannot make a business model out of this - we could only lease 1,100 EV1s over four years!" Sure enough, 1,100 just happens to be the number of EV1s that were ever built during those four years. Not too surprising that non-existent cars could not be leased. Obviously it would have been more honest to say, "We leased every EV1 that we built," but that doesn't have the same ring to it, does it? Here are the approximate numbers for each modern "production" EV made and put in service in the US.

RAV4 EV prior to retail program 1039
RAV4 EV retail program about 330
EV1 about 1100
Ranger EV about 1500
Ranger EV in USPS body 500
Chevrolet S10E about 500
Honda EV Plus about 320
Nissan Altra about 120
Chrysler TEVan about 30
Dodge Epic minivans about 120
Toyota Ecoms about 30
Nissan HyperMinis about 50 (maybe more)
Th!nk Cities about 550

As of April, 2007 - According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles, there are a total of 82,654 electric vehicles registered. The department's system does not differentiate between the different types of electric vehicles so this counts all NEVs, conversions and freeway-capable production cars. Approximately 1,000 - 1,200 of the 5-7,000 freeway-capable EV's are left-over's from California's Zero-Emission Vehicle Mandate (ZEV).

Q: I need a big, powerful truck to tow my boat. Why should I let you ruin my "American way of life?"
A: How is this for an indirect answer?

The American way of life is non-negotiable! This was apparently first articulated at the summit on the environment in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 by U.S. President #41 George H. W. Bush. It was echoed again by Vice President Dick Cheney after our country was attacked on 9-11 by terrorists from the country with the world's largest remaining oil reserves.

In the years since the first President Bush made this statement, we are in the midst of fighting the second American war in the Persian Gulf. However this war turns out, will we be fighting a third Persian Gulf War?

We know that China and India are both hugely increasing the amount of oil they consume. Regular people in China that now have money, also want a big vehicle and probably a boat too. The world's supply of cheap/easy oil is dwindling away. Since 1982 (25 years ago), we have been consuming more oil than we find each year. And it isn't as if we aren't scouring the earth looking for more large deposits!

When the world's supply simply won't meet the demand, the pressures will begin to increase. That might be in just a year or two. There will still be plenty of oil... just not enough for everyone. In 10 years, will the people in a then much richer and more powerful China also feel that their lifestyle in non-negotiable? I think they will. I doubt if the Chinese will feel that the U.S. has any special right to the oil under the sand of the Middle East.

We don't have to fight a third Gulf War with a (likely) nuclear armed opponent. But we may very well do that unless we take steps to change the way we consume energy. That the USA imports 65% of its liquid fuel represents a real and present danger to us all. In the interest of national security, we must make changes to this tenuous situation. There will continue to be people that need large trucks to do the work of our society, but we must do what we can to reduce our dependence on imported oil at every opportunity.

Q:  Will EVs solve all of our problems?
A: No. Heck no. They don't reduce congestion, tire dust, obesity, the energy used to manufacture vehicles, the need for parking lots and roads. No, they don't even come close to solving all of our problems. They represent one step that we can take that still allows us our transportation freedom while making a smaller impact on our environment and our foreign policy.

Q: Why not put solar cells directly on an electric car so we don't have to plug it in?
A: Our world is moving away from a 'single source' energy culture, and moving into a multi-source diversified energy culture. This will be the first time that human civilization has had diversified energy since before the adoption of coal.

The current mind set is, "Fossil fuel provides all our energy. If we need energy somewhere, just bring fossil fuels along." But that doesn't work for renewable energy. You can't just say, "all our power will come from wind, so we'll put wind turbines everywhere we need power." The question now is, "What resources does this region have? What can take best advantage of them?" Put wind in windy places, solar in sunny places, geothermal in geologically active places, etc.

When you manufacture a solar cell, you know that it isn't going to 'wear out'. There are solar cells that are almost 100 years old that are still operating at more than 80% of their original power. What does happen is they get broken, dropped, lost, damaged, etc.

When a solar cell is born, you have damaged the Earth. You expended energy to make it, you created pollution to transport it, etc. The newborn solar module is a liability. So you ask, "Where can I put this, to allow it to redeem itself best?" If you put it in a marginal location, and it only creates 1/3rd of the energy it took to make it before it is damaged, then it hurt our situation more than it helped. But if you put that panel in a great place, and it makes 10 times the energy it took to make it, then it has redeemed itself, and begins to help the environment.

So if you built some very high efficiency modules at great prices, you would ask, "Where will I get maximum effect from these?" The answer will never be, "on a car". The only use for solar cars would be distant, remote locations where recharging is not an option. In those cases, you need renewable energy, not as an environmental choice, but as an operational choice.

A solar powered car still needs a battery. So why not make the battery a little bigger, and then put the solar panels on a building, where they will produce many times more power. You sleep in the same place every night, and you park your car every night. Just let it recharge. You need good range to be practical, but if you can go 200 miles on a charge, you are in good shape. The world will be a cleaner place because you chose to maximize the effect of your power generating system.

So like I said, seek to utilize renewable energy sources in the most effective way possible. Vanity renewables don't do the planet any good, and make poor financial sense. It would be fun to have a car covered in solar panels, but it would not make the world a cleaner place to live, and it would cost you more in the long run.

Q:  I'm considering the purchase of a used Rav4EV. Do you know what the upkeep will be like when they are no longer under warranty? Any idea how I will be able to obtain maintenance? How long will the batteries last? Any idea on the cost of a replacement battery when that time comes?
A: The quick summary is that I can only answer what is known - and nobody has much - if any - experience with the out-of-warranty situation. I can tell you is that there is a growing group of OWNERS of these cars (as leases are bought out) and we're committed to keeping these on the road as long as possible. Our experience has, for the most part, been quite positive. We have no idea what we will be facing for future maintenance, however. There are 25 official Rav4EV dealers in CA, listed here. That is where all the service on these vehicles has been done, and is where future service will likely be done. There are many (growing in number as well) out-of-state owners, and they have ZERO dealership support. These cars require less maintenance than gasoline vehicles, but if something major goes wrong, you find out quickly that you are a pioneer and trail-blazer in the area of EV ownership! Nobody really knows how long these batteries will last, since they just seem to keep going and going so far. And for that same reason, we do not know how much the batteries will cost - since nobody has had to replace them yet. I cannot recommend the purchase of an EV to everyone, yet for most people it is an excellent investment in the health of their loved ones, and in the health of our environment.

Q: Where can I ask questions about building my own EV?
A: The EV Discussion List is your best bet: EVDL
. More info HERE at the EValbum as well.

Q:  What difference can I make? Who do I alert to this travesty? How can I be part of the solution?
A: That's what the Plug in America site was created for. Silence sends the message that we're happy with where we're headed.

Q: Is there an EV timeline?
A: Yes! Created for Who Killed the Electric Car?

Q: Are there other EV FAQs so I don't have to keep listening to you?
Paul Scott's Q and A for Plug in America
Ian Wright's FAQ for his X1
Tesla FAQ
Washington State EV FAQ


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