Electric Car Frequently Asked Questions: Top 25

top 25 frequently asked questions

Sometimes, there’s some questions you can’t quite get an answer to. When it comes to electric cars, I came up on 25 of the most frequently asked questions. Below, I broke down each one with a detailed answer:

Top 25 Q&A List

Table of Contents

Question #1. How Do Electric Cars Work?

how electric cars work
Answer. One of the biggest highlight of electric cars is lower maintenance. There are fewer moving parts, resulting in great long-term reliability. 
The following components make up the bulk of what makes an electric car tick:
  • Induction Motors
  • Inverters
  • Thermal Cooling System
  • Single-Speed Transmission
  • 12v Battery
  • Regenerative Breaking System
  • Onboard Charger
  • Power Electronics Controller
  • Onboard Main Computer

Question #2. How long do electric cars last?

how long do electric cars last
AnswerIn many cases, electric cars last a lot longer than fossil cars. Few moving parts = fewer things that can break. With fossil cars, problems tend to be more mechanical in nature. When it comes to electric cars, problems tend to be electronic. 
In particular, the battery.
Battery degradation over time can take a serious toll on your electric vehicle. The first iterations of electric cars (like the Nissan Leaf) had issues with premature battery degradation. In many cases, Nissan addressed that issue by replacing the battery under warranty for original owners.
Today, most electric cars today have batteries that can run over 200k miles without a problem.
The conditions your electric car drives in and how often you fast charge dictate the life span of your car (or should I say, battery). 

Question #3. Where can you charge an electric car?

where can you charge an electric car?
AnswerCharging an EV can be done in one of two places. You can either charge it at home using 110-220 volt outlets, or use public level 3 charging stations.
Residential charging is limited to 240 volts, while 480 volt systems are available for commercial building locations. On average, you can achieve 1-10kW of charging speed with 240 volt systems.
Going the level 3 route can give you over 100kW of power. 

Question #4. Who makes electric cars today?

which manufacturers make electric cars?
Answer. At the moment, the following brands produce electric vehicles: Audi, BMW, Chevrolet, Fiat, Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar, Kia, Mercedes, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Porsche, Polestar Smart, Tesla, Volvo, Toyota and Volkswagen.
The brands that produce the most popular plug-in hybrid vehicles are: Chevrolet (Volt), Toyota (Prius Prime), Hyundai (Ioniq), Kia (Niro), and Honda (Clarity).

Question #5. How much do electric cars cost?

how much do electric cars cost?
Answer.  If you buy brand new, you’ll be paying the full sticker price. A Tesla Model S 85 from 2013 cost more than $70K USD new. Today in 2021, a 2013 Tesla Model S costs $25K-$35K USD used. 
Another example would be a Nissan Leaf which cost more than $40K for the highest trim level back in 2013. The Nissan Leaf from 2013 now costs as little as $5K USD.
To save money, buy used. To get all the warranties and the “brand new” feeling, buy new.

These things depreciate just like gas powered cars. The more there are on the road, the more likely you’ll find them heavily discounted.

Question #6. How long does it take for electric cars to charge?

how long do electric cars charge?
Answer. This depends on a few factors.
Are you charging from a 110, 220, or 440 volt source?
Also, how big is your battery?
A 2013 Nissan Leaf with a 24kW battery pack accepts 1-1.5kW through 110 volts, up to 6kW through level 2, and takes about 45-50 minute at level 3 through 440 volts.
For the example above, level 1 would take 16-24 hours to charge 100%. Level 2 would take around 4 hours, and level 3 would will depend on the charge rate. Usually, 80% happens in 30-40 minutes and from there an extra 15-20 minutes to reach 100%.
Usually EV’s charge fast until 70-80%, from there they slow down to near level 2 speeds until you reach 100%.

Question #7. Why are electric cars so ugly?

why are electric cars so ugly?
Answer. In almost all cases, electric cars that look ugly due to aerodynamics. The Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi iMIEV are great examples of that. 
While some EV’s start out ugly, they start to look better after a few years of being on the market.  A Nissan Leaf from 2011-2017 and 2018-Present would be a great example of such. 
The Hyundai Ioniq Electric is an electric car that looks good and gets surprisingly good efficiency. 

Question #8. How fast can electric cars go?

how fast do electric cars go?
Answer. It all depends on which EV you are talking about. Most economical electric cars feel “quick” off the line, but ultimately don’t go any faster than 90-100 miles per hour. Its a strange feeling when the car is climbing towards its max as if it can easily go past it, but built-in governors prohibit EV’s from going any faster.
Tesla and now Porsche seem to be taking over the top speed and 0-60mph benchmarks. How does 0-60mph in less than 2.5 seconds sound?

Question #9. How Much Is A Charging Station for Electric Cars?

how much do charging stations cost?
Answer. It all depends on which type of charger you want to install, and also where?
Commercial locations that have 400-480 volt electric systems available can get level 3 charging stations installed. These charging stations are expensive and only make sense to install if you charge people for them. 
On the flip side, you can install a level 2 charger that runs on 220-240 volt and spend as little as a few hundred bucks. Going the level 2 route is by far the best option, I wrote an article on how to install your own charger at home

Question #10. How do government incentives work for EV's?

how do federal and state electric car incentives work?
Answer. The US government offers financial incentives for anyone who wants to buy a battery powered automobile (for both EV’s & PHEV’s). To determine if you’ll get the largest incentive, consult with your local dealership. Cars like the Nissan Leaf still qualify for the full $7,500 tax credits when bought brand new. While cars like the Toyota Prius Prime would only qualify for a fraction of that amount.

Question #11. Why don't electric cars have solar panels on their roof?

why don't electric cars have solar panels

Answer. That’s no enough space to make worthwhile power. We are talking about days if not weeks to get a full charge. 

The area required for even just 0.5kW of power is far larger than any electric cars roof. At the end of the day, it doesn’t make sense, unless far more effective solar tech is invented.

Question #12. Which electric cars are most popular around the world?

model s p100d

Answer. The most popular cars in the world are probably Teslas. Now, that does not mean they are the most driven cars in any given country. In the USA, Teslas is very popular because they are fairly affordable and are made domestically. 

On the other hand, in countries like France and many other parts of Europe, the Renualt Zoe is the most popular economical EV on the market. 

Question #13. How much electricity do electric cars use?

How Much Electricity Does An Electric Car Use?
Answer. The answer is very straightforward. If you want to know how much energy your car will take, simply look at the battery specs sheet and see how many kWh it will take. 
Since some manufacturers leave a “buffer” in the battery to preserve battery life (for the long term), run your EV down to as close to 0% as possible and charge it back up to 100%. Look at how many kWh were delivered and you can be within 1-2kWh margin of knowing exactly how much electricity your car can use. 

Question #14. How far can an electric car go?

Answer. Getting to know this exact number can be tricky. Manufacturers don’t rate their cars with range that is based on “only highway” or, “only city” driving. It tends to be a mixture of both, but in most cases the range is rated with a cautious driver in mind.  
For example, the Chevrolet Bolt EV (from 2017) is rated for 238 miles of range. If you took that and divided it by 60kWh of storage the car comes with, it would come out to around 3.9 miles per kilowatt hour.
In the winter, that figure is difficult to achieve, you’ll get somewhere between 2.7 and 3.0 if 95% on the highway. That number goes up a little more when in the city, look at 3.3-3.7 on average. 
Now, in the summer with very warm weather, strictly highway figures reaching 3.9 miles per kilowatt hour are very achievable. In the city, it’s quite easy to achieve 4.0. 
Another car like the Kona Electric is rated for 258 miles per charge, or 4.0 miles per kilowatt hour. 
At this point, I hope you get the point that the number vary by multiple driving conditions. 

Question #15. Can you drive long distances in an electric car?

AnswerYes, but it depends on where you live. In countries like Norway, you can go anywhere with almost any electric car due to their extensive network of chargers. Tesla would have no problem due to their HUGE battery packs.

In the United States, after Tesla became popular (for good reason) for their charging network, Electrify America made their network almost just as good. With the exception of states like Hawaii, Alaska and North Dakota, Tesla Supercharger stations can be found, in addition to Electrify America stations. Check out our latest guide on the best states for EV charging.

Question #16. What are the fees to charge at level 3 charging stations?


Answer: In the beginning, charging stations charged very little or nothing at all. Today, charging stations tend to charge either per kWh delivered or per minute of charging. 

EVgo tends to be $0.15-$0.30/minute of charging (no matter what speed you are charging at). ChargePoint has $0.15-$0.30/minute (sometimes more). Also the biggest network in the USA (for now) is Electrify America, they charge both per minute and per kWh delivered. The fee type depends on which state you live in. In Virginia for example, they charge $0.31/kWh delivered while in Tennessee they charge $0.15/minute charged. 

Question #17. What do BEV, PHEV and HEV stand for?


Answer: The following terms are broken down:

  • Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV)
  • Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV)
  • Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV)

Question #18. What about "your just moving the tailpipe from the charger, to the local power station" argument. Is it any true?

Answer: It’s a great question and it does have some validity to it. 
At the moment, most places use fossil fuels to generate electricity for todays charging stations. In a nutshell, its moving emissions from one source to another.
When you charge an automobile and the electricity comes from clean hydro, wind or sun energy, emissions are virtually non-existent
I can’t get an exact figure on how much fuel is being used to mine battery components. Companies like EVgo prides themselves as being 100% renewable sourced energy for their stations. 

Question #19. How often do you need to replace an EV's battery?

Answer: Unless you were unfortunate to buy one of the first Nissan Leaf’s or any other vehicle that has a premature recall in place, a vehicles battery can last for a few hundred thousand miles. There are many examples of EV’s going over 200K miles.

Question #20. What happens to batteries after they die?


Answer: Batteries are usually recycled into other metal products such as rebar or angle iron. In almost all cases, batteries are shredded and sent to steel mills.

Question #21. Do electric cars emit EMF's?


Answer: This is a great question. Certain EMF’s are known to cause harm in the long term for any living organisms. Low levels of radiation won’t pose a high risk. Electric cars when in use, don’t emit anything of significance. On the flip side, vehicles equipped with 4G or even 5G connections DO emit radiation, just like your cell phone. 

Question #22. Since EV's are silent, aren't they more dangerous to pedestrians?


Answer: They can, but to a limited extent. Electric cars produce far less noise, resulting in a lesser sense of awareness for pedestrians. Most modern electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles create an artificial noise at very low speeds to warn pedestrians of a vehicle approaching them.  This noise sounds identical to a subtle engine hum at low speeds. 

Question #23. Are hydrogen-electric cars viable?


Answer: Hydrogen cars have a long way to go in terms of practicality and usefulness. In select areas (mostly in California), there are hydrogen fuel stations which allow you to get a full tank in as little as 5-10 minutes.

Question #24. Can electric cars self-recharge?


Answer: No they cannot. But to an extent, EV’s and PHEV’s can use regenerative breaking to regenerate a fraction of their battery juice. With some PHEV’s like the Chevrolet Volt and Hyundai Sonata, there’s a mode where you can recharge 50-80% of a battery while driving using the gasoline engine. While mode gives you electric range, you will reduce fuel efficiency during the recharge period.

Question #25. Electric cars are too expensive, right?


Answer: Don’t be mislead, electric cars are not expensive if you shop properly. Anything brand new costs the full price, obviously. Mass produced EV’s always drop in value in just a few years due to their high production volume and availability. 

A new Kia Soul EV from 2015 cost just over $30K USD. In the used market, they can be had for $8,000-$11,000 USD in 2021.

Over 50% depreciation in just 3-4 years… THAT is the benefit of mass produced EV’s. Better yet, if you want to save money on a NEW electric or plug-in hybrid, consider looking at federal tax incentives found here.

BONUS Question. What are the most common terms used with electric cars?

Answer: Here’s are the most commonly used terms with electric vehicles:

  • Kilowatt Hours (kWh): a measure of electrical energy equivalent to a power consumption of 1,000 watts for 1 hour.
  • Battery Degradation: a term used to identify loss of battery storage.
  • Driving Range: how far an electric vehicle can travel at its current state of charge.
  • Brake Regeneration: is a term used when your vehicle puts electricity back into the battery by methods such as brakes.
  • GOM (guess-o-meter): refers to the driving range in an electric vehicle.

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