To EV or not to EV, that is the question…

September 30, 2015
  |   2 Comments

Now that my car is almost 12 years old, I’ve started thinking about what I might purchase next. And though I always thought my next car would be a hybrid (like a Toyota Prius), I’ve been hearing more about electric vehicles (EVs) and thought I should learn more about them before ruling them out.

If you’re like me, you might think that EVs are too expensive to buy, too difficult to drive, or that you’ll run out of charge trying to find a place to “fill up.” Well, I’ve done some research and below are answers to a few of my questions, which hopefully will help you, too!

 

What are the benefits and downsides of owning an EV?

EVs tend to be quieter, have a smoother ride, and give off fewer emissions (which is good for the environment); however, they can also have a limited driving radius (generally about 100 miles), a longer “fill-up” time, a higher purchase price, and fewer choices for purchase.

I recently chatted with a new EV owner, who spoke enthusiastically about his purchase. Hilton Augustine, Jr., a resident of Bethesda and one-year owner of an EV said that he, too, was reluctant at first to purchase an EV. However, once he test drove a Tesla, he realized that he wouldn’t be making any compromises versus a traditional gas vehicle. Further, he mentioned that “the acceleration is out of this world; it handles like a sports car.”

And though the initial purchase price of an EV seems greater than a gas vehicle, Ronald Kaltenbaugh, the president of the Electric Vehicles Association of Greater Washington, DC, purchased his EV because with “lower fuel and maintenance costs [EVs] are less expensive to own and operate over the life of the car.” For more details and side-by-side comparisons, check out the County’s Electric Vehicle Information Sheet.

 

A charging Volt

A Chevy Volt charging at a public charging station.

What incentives are available that would make an EV more affordable?

In addition to lower fuel and maintenance costs, there are several tax credits for Maryland residents who purchase EVs. Maryland offers a Titling – Excise Tax Credit for Plug-In Electric Vehicles now through June 17, 2017, which is a one-time excise credit of $3,000 for purchasing a qualifying plug-in vehicle.

Also, be sure to check out the federal tax credit of up to $7,500 for vehicles purchased in 2010 to present. The tax credit varies based on the capacity of the battery used to fuel the vehicle. Note that you also have to meet certain criteria to qualify for this incentive, so visit the fueleconomy.gov website for details.

 

What is “range anxiety” and is it something to worry about?

Range anxiety is the fear that you won’t have enough charge in your vehicle to make it to your destination. This is a major barrier for many people when purchasing EVs. Mr. Augustine mentioned this was also an initial concern of his; however, he purchased a Tesla Model that actually tells him (via GPS) exactly where to stop to charge and how long it will take to fill up at each stop. Now that’s innovative technology! Additionally, the County is working on increasing the number of public parking garages with charging stations to help residents “fuel up” without anxiety.

 

What are other ways to combat range anxiety?

Most people set up a charging station in their homes and charge a vehicle overnight. Doing so provides more than enough charge for the average person’s daily driving, which is about 35 miles per day. According to the Electric Vehicle Association of Greater Washington, DC, at-home charging only adds about $40 to your home’s electric bill to drive 1,000 miles/month!

 

Charging Station

An example of a charging station in a public parking garage.

 

To charge at home, you can use a regular 120V outlet, but a dedicated circuit is recommended. Alternately, you can install a 240V charging station for around $1,000 (plus installation) to charge your car faster. It’s best to consult a qualified electrician before setting up a home charging station to ensure your home can handle the extra power needed for charging. Learn more about the highest-rated home charging stations from PluginCars.com.

In addition to charging at home, there are a bunch of highly-rated websites and/or smartphone applications that you can use to find a nearby charging station while you’re out and about. Some of the most popular are:

  • PlugShare (for the Web, Android, and iPhone). This application locates charging stations; provides station ratings, reviews, and photos; and allows you to pay at participating locations.
  • ChargePoint (for the Web, Android, and iPhone). This application locates charging stations, can start your charging session, checks your charging status, and provides your charging history.
  • Another option is to use this DOE-maintained website, which can locate alternative fueling stations by zip code.

 

Why are there different types of charging stations?

Over time, the charging technology has changed, so you may see up to three different types of charging stations:

  • Level 3 DC Fast Charging (DCFC) Station. This type of charging station takes less time to “fill-up,” but it has a noticeably larger plug than the Level 1 or 2 plugs (480V dock, 150 miles charged in an hour).
  • Level 2 EV Station. This charging type has a lower voltage so it takes longer to get a full charge. The plug size, however, is smaller (240V dock, 24 miles charged in an hour).
  • Level 1 EV Charger. You don’t see this type of charger as often since these are generally found in earlier generation EVs (120V, 6 miles charged in an hour).
    Note: not all cars are equipped with to accept the Level 3 fast-charging station plug, which is why you may see multiple types of charging docks at one station.

 

Level 2 Charging Station

An example of a Level 2 plug-in charger.

 

How is the County improving its infrastructure for EVs?

In January 2015, the Montgomery County Department of Transportation, Division of Parking Management announced that it installed EV charging stations at a public parking garage in downtown Bethesda and that it has plans to install additional charging stations in Bethesda, Silver Spring, Wheaton, and Montgomery Hills soon. Read the Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Overview Plan for more information about the new EV charging stations in County-owned parking facilities, which will help reduce “range anxiety” for folks driving around the County.

 

So what did I learn from my research?

Overall, I have learned that EV ownership is not as intimidating as I thought and that EV owners are as passionate about driving their cars as they are about helping the environment. Mr. Kaltenbaugh also wanted to underscore that anyone thinking about purchasing an EV is not alone, “The EV community is passionate about their cars and eager to answer your questions.” If you’re interested in learning more, the EV Association of Greater Washington, DC hosts monthly meetings around the County that are open to anyone who wants to ask questions or find out more about EVs. Check out their events page for details. And maybe I’ll see you there!

 

By Lori Rhoades, guest blogger.  Lori has been connected to Montgomery County nearly her whole life. She grew up in Bethesda, did a field internship at DEP in college (nearly 20 years ago!), and continues to visit Montgomery County to see her mom on weekends.



2 comments on "To EV or not to EV, that is the question…"

  1. Joyce B. says:

    Nice article. FYI – as an EV owner (LEAF and Volt) I’d add that home charging equipment can cost as little as $400 plus installation AND Maryland has a tax rebate of 50% up to $900 for residential installations. http://www.mdot.maryland.gov/Office_of_Planning_and_Capital_Programming/Electric_Vehicle/EV_FAQ.html#3

  2. David Z. says:

    I liked the article, but wonder about people who don’t have a garage. How can homeowners, apartment dwellers, and other multifamily residents take advantage of electric vehicles? I’ve tried searching around online and there doesn’t seem to be much support for drivers who don’t have the luxury of plugging in at home.

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