Charge and Go for Electric Cars

Guest web page by Stephanie Ross

As electric cars gain prevalence in the United States and more charging stations are made available, many people are starting to wonder if the trend is worth investing in. While there are environmental benefits to using electric cars instead of vehicles that use gasoline, is the use of an electric vehicle reasonable for the average consumer?

Electric Cars in the U.S. Market

Practical Environmentalist provides a comprehensive listing of electric cars that are available in the U.S. market as of 2012. The vehicles now available to consumers range from small vehicles intended for one person to luxury vehicles from well-known manufacturers.

Highlights on the list include the Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid, boasting an impressive 405 mile range including the gasoline on board, and the all-electric Nissan Leaf, which has a price tag comparable to traditional gasoline vehicles at $35,200-$37,250. There is a large tax credit for purchases of electric cars and plug-in hybrids.

Tips on Locating Charging Stations

The United States Department of Energy maintains a website that assists people in locating charging stations across the country. There are other web sites that list charging stations; some are for specific brands but one, PlugShare, lists sites entered by users. Anyone considering an electric vehicle can locate nearby charging stations that could be used on a regular basis. Some people do not need charging stations for their normal commute because the vehicle is able to handle a work commute on the charge that is acquired overnight when plugged in at home using a standard 120-volts outlet or a 240-volts outlet or smart charging station.

Road trips are often a tricky situation for people using electric vehicles. Anyone who is planning a road trip in an electric vehicle can use web sites to locate charging stations along the route. Keep in mind that some states do not have charging stations readily available. For example, Montana, North Dakota and Wyoming currently have no public or planned charging stations.

Should You Buy an Electric Car?

Mother Nature Network notes that the most important consideration when deciding whether an electric car is a smart purchase is making sure that there is an adequate number of charging stations in the area at destinations where they are needed.

Lifestyle should also be considered. Electric vehicles can be used for road trips with careful planning, but these types of vehicles certainly are not the best choice for people who regularly spend much time on the road. People who travel by car greater than 50 miles for work purposes may have trouble with an electric car unless their work place has an available charging station. For example, the Nissan LEAF typically can be driven 75 miles on a full charge, so a commute of 50 miles requires that there be at least a 120-volts outlet available for charging it at work. If the commute is 75 miles, a 240-volts charging station is needed at work.

Common Misconceptions Regarding Electric Vehicles

According to Yahoo, the most common misconception about electric vehicles is that they cost much more than traditional vehicles. However, electric vehicles do not add costs as significantly to an electric bill as many people think, and tax credits may offset any additional cost on the initial vehicle purchase. The operating cost of an electric car is about one-fourth of the cost of operating a gasoline or diesel car; this is true both for "fuel" and for maintenance.

Many people have a concern about the range of an electric vehicle. People thinking about an electric vehicle for a daily commute can rest assured that most electric cars have a range of 75 to 120 miles per charge. Charge times average around 30 minutes using a level-3/480-volts fast charger, which are rapidly being installed in many states; so longer trips can be planned as long as there are fast-charging stations on the route. Tennessee on I-40 and the west-coast states on I-5 are installing fast chargers all along those interstate routes.

One final misconception that must be discussed is the handling and speed of an electric car. Handling of the vehicle differs from a traditional vehicle, but it is not difficult to get used to. Most electric cars are able to reach speeds of nearly 100 miles and their acceleration is greater than typical gasoline cars because of nearly instantaneous torque, so highway driving is not an issue. In fact, drivers of electric cars laud the road performance of electric cars compared to typical gasoline cars.

Stephanie Ross' passion for reading, the environment and helping others has allowed her to pursue a career in writing. She currently writes for a Home Equity website.

L. David Roper