A desire to do something to help save the planet, along with the potential for saving money on fuel and vehicle maintenance, typically rank as the top reasons car buyers explore the EV market.
However, electric car range can contribute to anxiety buyers might feel while deciding to trade in their traditional gasoline engine.
Improvements in electric car batteries have come a long way in recent years. While manufacturers continue to make strides in capacity and recharge times, today’s EVs can easily accommodate most daily driving.
Those drivers who still find the longest-range electric car are not long enough should consider partial electrification with plug-in hybrids that use gasoline to achieve longer ranges.
Short to long range
Most drivers are familiar with EPA fuel-economy estimates for gasoline-powered vehicles. Electric cars have EPA ratings to explain how far the EV might travel before the battery gets depleted.
While traditional cars can regularly exceed their EPA mileage estimates, electric vehicles typically fall short of their EPA combined range estimate.
Long-range and short-range EVs can perform well in start-and-stop driving during rush hour. Technology allows the battery to recapture energy when decelerating by using its electric motor instead of the brakes. EVs consume significantly more of their battery at steady speeds on highways used for more extended getaways.
A long-distance road trip in an electric car can happen with careful planning based on the location of public charging stations, which are far less common than gas pumps.
What you need to know about charging
Specifications for EVs include terms not found with their gas-powered counterparts – kilowatt-hours (kWh) and kilowatts (kW). A simplified – very simplified – way to think of these terms is that kilowatt is similar to horsepower and kilowatt-hours is like talking about the size of the tank.
A fully electric car needs energy from the battery to run the motor. The size of the battery gets measured in kilowatt-hours. Engines get listed in terms of peak output addressed in kilowatts.
Charging an EV battery can be done at home or public charging stations. Three types of chargers are available. The charging speed of these methods is compared by looking at miles gained per minute of charging.
- Level 1 charging is the slowest and uses a standard household 120-volt outlet and gains about five miles per hour of charging.
- Level 2 uses a 240-volt electrical circuit typically used in homes for electric dryers. This method can capture about 35 miles or more per hour of charging. Most public charging stations have Level 2 chargers.
- Level 3 DC fast chargers supply a tremendous amount of power to an electric car battery. Newer EVs can be charged from nearly empty to around 80 percent capacity in as little as 30 minutes using a Level 3 charger, though these facilities are few and far between in most areas.
Longer range options — plug-in hybrids
A plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, or PHEV, features a larger battery pack than a conventional hybrid, allowing for short-distance drives of 25 miles or more using only the battery. A commuter with a 20-mile one-way drive and a place to charge at work could use no gasoline. The plug-in hybrid’s gas engine will cycle on occasionally to ensure that the fuel in the tank doesn’t go bad.
As long as there’s gas in the tank, a PHEV acts as a traditional hybrid using a combination of the gas engine and the electric motor. Hybrids with plugs can add a little charge in particular driving, such as heavy braking or long-distance downhill coasting.
Plug-in hybrids don’t take too long to charge and you can use public charging stations along the way to long-distance destinations. Many newer plug-in hybrids allow the driver to “bank” electric charge to use it when they see fit, such as at lower speeds where they may be able to get more miles out of the charge than at highway speeds where the amount depletes faster.
A hybrid that plugs in is a good option for some drivers because it combines a gas engine with the desire for some emissions-free driving without being anxious over a short electric car range.
This story originally ran on KBB.com.