Electric cars and vehicles seem destined to be part of this planet's future. Although mostly set in motion by a rallying cry of the Green Movement to reduce the planet's carbon emissions, momentum toward the adoption of the modern electric car (English inventor Thomas Parker built his version with lead-acid rechargeable batteries in 1884), or electric vehicle (EV), can be propelled by various forces.
According to a Consumer Reports special report released August 2019, regulatory pressures on emission standards in Europe, China, as well as in select U.S. states and Canadian provinces, is one of the strongest drivers of electric cars and vehicle sales growth. Some countries plan an eventual phase-out and then ban of the manufacturing and sale of future gasoline-powered vehicles.
Above (l. to r.), electric car models Tesla Model 3 and Tesla Model X
How the car industry categorizes electric and hybrid cars and vehicles
Although the focus of this article will tilt mostly toward all-electric vehicles (EVs), it is essential to note that hybrid cars and plug-in hybrid vehicles might represent a transitional stage toward the full electric vehicle. For guidance and perspective, a brief overview of the types of alternatively powered vehicles is provided to offer a contrast to the electric car technology.
The Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEVs) generally runs on electric power until the battery is depleted, and then the car automatically switches over to use the internal combustion engine (ICE) typically powered by gasoline. Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicle (FCEVs) use electricity to power an electric motor, whereby the fuel cell is powered by hydrogen, rather than drawing electricity from a battery.
The Hybrid Electric Vehicles takes no plug-in charging, but instead are powered by an internal combustion engine and an electric motor, which uses energy stored in batteries. The battery is charged through regenerative braking and by the internal combustion engine. There also might be an option for an additional smaller engine to be onboard due to the resulting electric power generation made available.
Electric cars can fall into the category of road vehicle that also includes plug-in hybrid, hybrid electric, hydrogen fuel cell, that are a technological departure from the gasoline-powered engine. This article will address electric cars and reference electric vehicles at certain points.
Electric car buyers see their selection as a way to help the planet
Concern about climate change is at an all-time high, and the impact of fossil fuels vehicles and their emissions has become a matter of pressing urgency to even everyday civilians and consumers. Electric vehicles are increasingly viewed as a way to diminish and possibly reverse the harm that happens through climate change. In a 2018 Consumer Reports survey, 80% of those who intend to make an EV their next vehicle purchase cited environmental concerns as their primary motivator.
Norway, a pioneer of sorts of the electric vehicle industry, has diverted consumers and local governments toward battery power using a variety of policies. It offers strong tax incentives for the purchase or lease of EVs, and it subsidizes the construction of private and public charging infrastructure (more on that later).
EV drivers are exempt from many urban parking and highway lane restrictions, and they get discounted fares on toll roads, car ferries, and parking. On top of this, Norway gets most of its electricity from hydropower plants, creating a strong perception of a fully committed clean energy society. From this, over one-third of all EVs sold in Europe end up going to customers in Norway.
While Norway is the country with the highest sales penetration of electric cars in the world with purchases exempt from VAT, China is the world's largest market for electric cars with growth in sales fueled primarily from low-cost pricing and broad selection.
But another major inducement to jumpstart the move toward consumer consideration of the electric car are tax credits and/or subsidies offered by various nations to incentivize the purchase of the electric vehicle or car. In the USA federal tax credits were introduced in 2010 as a way to encourage interest in electric vehicles. They had a ceiling to hit (based on how many electric cars a manufacturer would sell) where they would then begin to scale downward.
Electric car sales are helped by subsidies and tax credits
While various nations of the world may currently support a form of subsidy or tax relief, that is likely to dissipate over time as the electric car and vehicle industry finds its footing and becomes more attractive to consumer purchase.
The tax credits, purchase rebates, tax exemptions and subsidy incentives offered in conjunction with electric cars are generally the incentive toward nudging consumers and manufacturers toward adoption of electric vehicles, and as a stimulative measure toward bringing down the purchase price for consumers that then eventually broadens the market. In certain countries, some of the subsidies could now be on a path toward being phased out.
The effect incentivizes automakers to make the long-term investments needed for a faster growth path. Many countries in the world will provide fiscal incentives directed toward their electric car industry. Following is a listing of nations compiled by Volkswagen that are regarded for their enthusiastic embrace of subsidy or tax credits toward the purchase of electric cars/vehicles. Brief remarks help to underscore program highlights.
- Romania – 10,000 Euros purchase incentive
- Italy – 4,000 Euros purchase incentive, 2,000 Euros state scrap bonus
- Sweden – 60,000 Swedish Krona purchase incentive
- United Kingdom – GBP3,500 Purchase Incentive
- Netherlands – Tax bonus at 22 percent for conventional vehicles
- France – up to 8,500 Euros of ecological bonuses available for private electric cars
- Germany – 4,000 Euros Purchase Incentive & tax bonus dependent on battery size
- Norway – Electric cars are not subject to the 25 percent VAT on motor vehicles
- USA – $7,500 federal tax credit where manufacturer's total sales are under 200,000 units
- China – In the largest green car market, Beijing is expected to cancel subsidies for EVs in 2020
Ultimately, to determine or learn if cost-saving subsidies, tax credits, and other incentives are available for you in your region of the globe, consult with your local dealership.
But aside from government subsidies and tax breaks some of the most personal incentives for making a purchase of an electric car or vehicle can be attached in the maintenance and running of the vehicle, and particularly the cost and convenience for recharging an EV battery as opposed to refueling a combustion-powered engine of an automobile with fossil fuel.
Some countries have stipulated target dates to eliminate fuel-burning engines
Countries that have at least offered an uneven (limited and/or imprecise) mandate or declaration that they will eliminate fuel engine vehicles by a specific date include:
- Athens, Paris, Madrid, Mexico City - End the use of all diesel vehicles by 2025.
- Copenhagen, Denmark - Ban new diesel cars from entering the Danish capital.
- Rome, Italy - Ban diesel vehicles from the city center by 2024.
- North America (US States, Canadian provinces: Québec) - Reduce national vehicle emissions to zero by 2050.
- Norway - Target of no new gasoline or diesel vehicle sales by 2025
- Paris - Ban on diesel in the city by 2025. Ban on all internal combustion vehicles by 2030.
- India - No new gasoline or diesel vehicles by 2030 (if economical)
- Ireland - No new gasoline or diesel vehicle by 2030.
- Israel - Only natural gas and electric vehicles permitted by 2030.
- Brussels, Belgium - Diesel ban in Belgian capital by 2030.
- Netherlands - All vehicles emission-free by 2030.
- France - No new gasoline or diesel vehicle sales by 2030.
- United Kingdom - No sales of petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040. Reduce national vehicle emissions to zero by 2050.
- Taiwan - No new non-electric motorcycles by 2035 and four-wheel vehicles by 2040.
- China - No date is given on phase-out of combustion engines.
- Germany - Ban on the sale of new diesel cars expected. Considering ban on all internal combustion engines by 2040.
Burning questions and concerns consumers may have regarding EVs
People show ample concern through the questions they have about a new innovation such as electric cars, how they function, and the best ways to use them, etc. But as in most technologically-driven fields answers to such questions are evolving and morphing, due to the state of the technology in place at that particular moment in time. So a checklist of considerations and metrics and benchmarks on electric vehicles would need to be revamped every so often.
Expect a changing technological backdrop and evolutionary advancements due to scientific breakthroughs in ways that could not be foreseen that comes over time. Let's provide a quick answer to a simple question right now. Why don't electric cars have solar panels? The answer would be it would take far too long (with present technology at this writing) to fully charge to 100% since the area required for even just 0.5kW of power would be larger than than the electric cars' entire surface area would provide. Nonetheless, here are some typical questions that are likely to crop up regarding the practicality of purchasing an electric car while the technology is in its relative infancy.
QUESTION: Who are the manufacturers of electric cars and what are their price tags?
ANSWER: As of 2019, well-known car brands had an early start along with a few new startups. Audi, BMW, Chevrolet, Fiat, Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar, Kia, Mercedes, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Smart, Tesla (majority owner Elon Musk), Toyota, and Volkswagen are mostly familiar names but you can expect the listing to expand and/or evolve with time. In a graph chart provided by Energy Sage of electric car vehicle pricing in 2018, Nissan Leaf was $22,490; Chevrolet Bolt was 25,995, Tesla Model S was $67,000; Tesla Model X was $72,000 reflecting pricing for popular U.S. electric car models at the time. Over time and with market expansion and technology improvements such as lower car battery cost, these numbers should go down. Separately, it is useful to note that while upfront prices for electric vehicles tend to be higher than prices for traditional gas-powered cars, the fuel and maintenance savings over an EV’s usable time tend to offset the higher initial price.
QUESTION: How Much Electricity Does An Electric Car Use?
ANSWER: Look at the battery capacity. To find out the cost, get your local cost per kilowatt-hour and multiply it by your batteries capacity.
QUESTION: How Far Can An Electric Car Go?
ANSWER: Check the manufacturers EPA rated range. Generally, unlike gas and diesel-powered vehicles, EV’s can drive further the slower you drive and under non-frigid outdoor temperatures.
QUESTION: How Long Do Electric Cars Take To Charge?
ANSWER: There can be several factors involved here, including the type of batteries in the car and the type of outlet you're using to charge from. With present-day (2019) lithium-ion batteries, it can charge overnight (8 hours) at a 220/240-volt charging dock that could be installed in a garage. It can also charge at a 110/120-volt outlet, like what is used for home appliances, but for more time. Certain 240-volt chargers like the Tesla High Power Wall Connector are capable of delivering a full 100 percent charge in 3.5 hours. As you might expect, the battery and charging technology will rapidly adjust over the coming years and future electric car releases will allow you to "top off" at a standard outlet for a little extra juice. The very fast-charging ports will usually charge most cars to around 80% in 45–50 minutes. The final 20% – as with a mobile phone or laptop – takes longer, because the systems slow down to safely fill the battery and avoid any risks.
QUESTION: Can you take very long-distance trips in an electric car?
ANSWER: Certainly, but a long journey would be more easily facilitated in some countries than others. For instance, in Norway, you can easily find charging stations due to their extensive network of chargers. The Tesla brand of electric automobile is known to feature a significantly larger battery pack than other manufacturers, as well as their own extensive network of proprietary charging stations. Factors and concerns over travel distance are likely to change with advancements in battery technology, electric car technology, and the overall mass adoption of the electric vehicle as a default mode of transportation which will then aid the proliferation of charging stations. Google Maps now makes it convenient to search and find EV charging stations no matter what part of the world you are in.
QUESTION: What is the expected lifetime of the battery (and car) before it needs replacing?
ANSWER: The car's lifespan itself can be linked to the longevity of the battery, especially since electric cars aren't subject to mechanical parts failure in the way gas engine automobiles would be. It is not uncommon to see the battery of an EV go hundreds of thousands of miles on the original battery. which could be considered a lifetime. The conditions your electric car drives in and how often you fast charge dictate the life span of your car. Extreme hot and cold climates can alter the condition of your battery. The same can be said when you use “fast chargers” on a regular basis.
QUESTION: What does it cost to charge an electric car and what are the company or trademark names of these charging outlets?
ANSWER: In quite a number of cases charging is free, although it would be fair to assume that fees would be attached to premium faster-charging services. 90% or more of level two chargers are absolutely free (USA). Level 3 chargers can sometimes be free. These are factors that might also be controlled depending on what part of the world you are in. Charging station operators that have been in operation include Blink, Electrify America, Greenlots, EvGo (RESEARCH GLOBAL CHARGE STATIONS), but this list is certain to grow as the industry gains traction.
Focus on the electric car battery, expected driving range, and worldwide charging stations
Similar to a conventional auto's gas gauge the majority of electric cars are fitted with a dashboard display of expected range. This may take into account many factors of how the vehicle is being used, and what the battery is powering. However, since factors can vary over the route, the estimate can vary from the actually achieved range.
The display allows the driver to make informed choices about driving speed (a factor in battery drain) and whether to stop at a charging point en route. Some companies have been experimenting with battery swapping to eliminate delay rather than charging. Some roadside assistance organizations offer charge trucks to recharge electric cars in case of emergency.
Perhaps of greatest concern to operating efficiency, today's EVs generally have a shorter range (per charge) than comparable conventional vehicles have (per tank of gas). Of course, it is assumed that the average day to day use of a car does not surpass 200 miles. So overnight charging at a 110-volt outlet could serve most needs. Naturally, you can expect battery and charging technology to adapt and improve over time.
The efficiency and driving range of EVs vary substantially based on driving conditions. Extremely cold or hot outside temperatures tend to reduce driving range since more energy must be used to heat or cool the cabin. High driving speeds reduce range because of the energy required to overcome increased drag. Compared with gradual acceleration, rapid acceleration reduces range. Hauling heavy loads or driving up significant inclines also reduces range.
Finding charging stations, their usage, and using Google Maps to do this
Within each major region of the world, electric car charging stations are essentially universal across car and charger brands, and plugging in a charger into an electric car will charge the car at the fastest rate that car and charger can support. A notable exception is Tesla cars (majority owner Elon Musk) and charging stations, which use their own proprietary chargers, but adapters costing a few hundred dollars can grant access to around 75% of non-Tesla stations. The adapters may also allow non-Tesla vehicles to charge at some Tesla stations other than level 3 Superchargers, assuming Tesla does not try to prevent it.
View EV charging stations on Google Maps
Here is an explanation on using the Google Maps app from your smartphone to locate global electric car charging stations and their real-time availability. Below this paragraph is a custom Google Map from Open Charge Map, a non-commercial, non-profit service working with the global community to develop and provide a public, free, open database of charging equipment locations worldwide. Depending on what country or region of the world you are in you can enter the location data to the Google Maps search slot below to find a charging station nearest you wherever you may be.
Charging stations will have a variety of different speeds, with slower charging being more common for home charging ports, and more powerful charging stations found on public roads and designated areas that can be found using app and mapping tools like Google Maps. The BMW i3 is known to charge from 0–80% of the battery in less than 30 minutes plugged into rapid charging mode. The superchargers developed by Tesla Motors provided up to 130 kW of charging, allowing a 300-mile charge in about an hour. Of course, these are benchmarks that could very well have changed by the time you read this article.
Top electric vehicle manufacturers
So if you are all set in your decision to make a purchase of an electric (or hybrid) car looking for a manufacturer to examine their catalog of offerings could be the next step. The Renault–Nissan–Mitsubishi Alliance is the world's leading all-electric vehicle manufacturer with its Nissan Leaf was once a worldwide top seller. Tesla as a solo manufacturer has always had some of the best-selling pure electric cars, both as a brand and by automotive group, particularly its Model S and Model 3.
Other electric car manufacturers in the space at this time are Audi, AvtoVAZ, BAIC, BMW, BMW Brilliance, Bolloré, BYD, Cadillac, Chery, Chevrolet, Citroën, COURB, ECOmove, ElectraMeccanica, Fiat, Ford, Girfalco, Honda, Hyundai, JAC Motors, Jaguar Land Rover, Kewet, Kia, Kyburz, Lamborghini, LeTV, Lightning, Mahindra, McLaren, Mercedes-Benz, Motores Limpios, MW Motors, NIO, Nissan, Opel/Vauxhall, Peugeot PSA Group, Porsche, Rayttle, Renault Samsung, Rimac, Smart, Sono Motors, Stevens, Tazarri, Toyota, Venturi, Volkswagen, Volvo. The listing does not include manufacturers of city speed (limited) vehicles, low speed (neighborhood) vehicles, and electric race cars. It's a list which is certain to evolve over time.
To stay up to date with the latest developments and make future decisions about the best electric cars available to purchase, refer to the news feeds at this link for the incoming electric car and vehicle news and information.
Electric vehicle tech terms to know
Battery - In an electric drive vehicle, the auxiliary battery provides electricity to power vehicle accessories.
Battery Degradation - a term used to identify loss of battery storage.
BEV - Battery Electric Vehicle
Brake Regeneration - is a term used when your vehicle puts electricity back into the battery by methods such as brakes.
Charge Port - The charge port allows the vehicle to connect to an external power supply in order to charge the traction battery pack.
DC/DC Converter - This device converts higher-voltage DC power from the traction battery pack to the lower-voltage DC power needed to run vehicle accessories and recharge the auxiliary battery.
Driving Range - how far an electric vehicle can travel at its current state of charge.
Electric Traction Motor - Using power from the traction battery pack, this motor drives the vehicle's wheels. Some vehicles use motor generators that perform both the drive and regeneration functions.
GOM (guess-o-meter) - refers to the driving range in an electric vehicle.
HEV - hybrid electric vehicles
ICE - Internal combustion engine
Kilowatt Hours (kWh) - a measure of electrical energy equivalent to a power consumption of 1,000 watts for 1 hour.
Onboard Charger - Takes the incoming AC electricity supplied via the charge port and converts it to DC power for charging the traction battery. It monitors battery characteristics such as voltage, current, temperature, and state of charge while charging the pack.
Power Electronics Controller - This unit manages the flow of electrical energy delivered by the traction battery, controlling the speed of the electric traction motor and the torque it produces.
PHEV - Plugin hybrid electric vehicles
Powertrain - The mechanism that transmits the drive from the engine of a vehicle to its axle, or a vehicle's main components that generate power and deliver it to the road surface.
Thermal System (cooling) - This system maintains a proper operating temperature range of the engine, electric motor, power electronics, and other components.
Traction Battery Pack - Stores electricity for use by the electric traction motor.
Transmission (electric) - The transmission transfers mechanical power from the electric traction motor to drive the wheels.
Top Off - As it relates to battery charging, you add to the residual charge in your EV battery rather than waiting for it to drain down close to 0% before recharging.
How much do electric cars cost? (EnergySage website)
Nine countries say they’ll ban internal combustion engines. So far, it’s just words. By Michael J. Coren (Quartz, August 7, 2018)
How Do All-Electric Cars Work? (U.S. Department of Energy website)
The Race For The Electric Car (CB Insights Technology Market Intelligence website)
25 Questions About Electric Cars (Answered) (Avto Wow website)
Special Report: The Electric Car Comes of Age. By Jon Linkov (Consumer Reports, August 8, 2019)
wattEV2Buy Electric Car List (wattEV2Buy website)
Global Electric Vehicle Market Outlook Report 2019-2025 - ResearchAndMarkets.com (AP press release content from Business Wire, April 9, 2019)
List of electric cars currently available (Wikipedia website)
Global EV Outlook 2019 (IEA website, May 27, 2019, Paris)
Can you save money and the planet by owning a Tesla or another electric car? By Lorie Konish (CNBC: Impact Investing, April 16, 2019)
Electric Car Price Tag Shrinks Along With Battery Cost. By Nathaniel Bullard (Bloomberg Opinion: Technology & Ideas, April 12, 2019)
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Electric cars, vehicles, and hybrids are approaching and what you need to know