Top 25 Questions About Electric Cars [2019 Version]

How Do Electric Cars Work?
Sometimes, there's some unanswered questions about electric cars. In this post, I'll address the 25 most frequently asked questions. 

Question #1. How Do Electric Cars Work?

Answer. How electric cars work is both simple and a bit complex. Unlike traditional fossil fuel powered automobiles where there is internal combustion inside an engine, with electric cars there's no such thing. Electric cars have motors, not engines. This can be easy to misrepresent, so for future references... refer to the components that turn the wheels as motors and not engines.

The two main aspects of an electric vehicles are the battery and motor(s). It gets all the power from the battery which sends electricity to the motors that propel the vehicle into any given direction. The battery also supports most other crucial components of the automobile such as breaking, steering, power windows, radio, lights, HVAC system, and 100% of everything else that the automobile has.

How Long Do Electric Cars Last?

Question #2. How Long Do Electric Cars Last?

Answer. How long an electric car lasts is a rather tough question to answer as the mainstream ones have only been around for right around a decade. Since there's less moving parts, wear and tear is on far fewer parts resulting in longer overall life expectancy of the electric automobiles.

While electronics can fail, most can be replaced without paying too much of a premium (in most cases). However, there are times when an automobile has depreciated so much that the value is decreased by more than 50%. Today in 2019, cost per kilowatt-hour is just over $100. A replacement of a battery pack for an automobile such as the Nissan Leaf (lets say a 24kW version), could cost anywhere between 3 to 8 thousand dollars.

Depending on the scenario this could mean a total loss for the vehicle since the cost of replacing the battery is approaching or even surpassing the value of the automobile itself. If one is willing to replace the battery, the life expectancy is likely to be extended to 2x or more of what the automobile had before the repair.

Where Can You Charge An Electric Car?

Question #3. Where Can You Charge An Electric Car? 

Answer. Charging your electric car is quite easy. Anywhere where there's an electrical outlet ranging from 110-220 volts, you should have no problem. Reaching the 440 volt power levels will require using a more heavy duty cable. It is very unlikely that you'll find 440 volts in any residential areas.

I'd like to add that it does not matter where the electricity comes from. Whether it is from the wind, sun, hydro, or coal. It all works the same, with different levels of emissions.

 Who Makes Electric Cars?

Question #4. Who Makes Electric Cars?

Answer. Today in 2019, there are more than a dozen manufacturers that make electric cars. While more at the moment are producing plug-in hybrid style vehicles, ones that produce pure electric vehicles are: Audi, BMW, Chevrolet, Fiat, Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar, Kia, Mercedes, Mitsubishi, Nissan, smart, Tesla, Toyota and Volkswagen. A few others produce plug-in hybrid vehicles such as Cadillac, Porsche, Toyota and a few others.

At the moment, some manufacturers have one or two pure electric vehicles in their line-up for the sake of compliance with emission standards. Brands like Cadillac, Fiat and a few others are currently not dedicating much time to full electric vehicles (although that is subject to change in the very near future).

How Much Do Electric Cars Cost?

Question #5. How Much Do Electric Cars Cost?

Answer. It depends on what your needs are. Obviously if you buy brand new, you\ll be paying full price for whatever it is you are looking at. A Tesla Model S 85 from 2013 cost more than $70K USD brand new. Today in 2019, a 2013 Tesla Model S costs $30K-$40K USD second-hand with a reasonable amount of miles.

Another example would be a more reasonable Nissan Leaf which cost more than $30K for the higher trim level. The Nissan Leaf from 2013 today in 2019 costs as little as $8K USD.

Buy used and save a lot.

How Long Do Electric Cars Take To Charge?

Question #6. How Long Do Electric Cars Take To Charge?

Answer. Charging an electric car can take anywhere between a few days to just under an hour. It depends on the size of the battery and what rate of charge the battery is accepting. A Nissan Leaf with a 24 kilowatt hour battery pack will take longer to charge through a 110 volt power outlet than a Chevy Spark EV that has a 19 kilowatt hour battery pack. While the rate of charge stays the same, the time it takes will be longer due to the battery size difference.

This applies even if both can charge at a faster level 2 rate. The Chevy Spark EV will finish first because of its smaller battery.

Why Are Electric Cars Ugly?

Question #7. Why Are Electric Cars Ugly?

Answer. In almost all cases, electric cars that look ugly are that way because of aerodynamics. Being efficient and looking good often don't go together. Considering there's often big battery packs that need to be worked around, there tends to be compromises when it comes to making the automobile look appealing. 

A good example of that would be the Nissan Leaf from the first generation. The battery pack was bulkier to the top, resulting in greater a taller looking car. Curves were sculpted to aim the wind around the car in a more efficient manner, resulting in an overall... ugly looking car. 

How Fast Can Electric Cars Go?

Question #8. How Fast Can Electric Cars Go?

Answer. Electric cars can go very fast to 60 and even 100 miles per hour. In all cases so far, they have a single one-gear, gearbox. This makes the electric vehicles super torque-happy, but not "top-end" happy when it comes to high speeds.

While you may notice some manufacturers simply set a governor to a certain speed (Nissan Leaf from gen 1 at 92 mph), you can still tell they can go faster. It all comes down to efficiency, and electric cars nose dive with efficiency the faster they go (due to greater power usage). 

How Much Is A Charging Station for Electric Cars?

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

Answer. Buying a charging station for your electric car can cost different amounts. Manufacturers include a level 1 charger cable that lets you get some juice from a standard 110v power outlet. Getting a level 2 charger would on average cost around 500 dollars. 

Installing a level 3 charger in your home would not be possible (for most people), but if you really put your mind to it... expect at least a few thousand dollars for the charger station. 

How Do The Government EV Tax Credits Work for EV's and PHEV's in the United States?

Question #10. How Do The Government EV Tax Credits Work for EV's and PHEV's in the United States?

Answer. In the United States, the government offers financial incentives for anyone who wants to buy an electric or partially electric vehicle. The biggest determining factor for how much you'll be receiving is how big the battery pack is for the automobile. Cars like the Nissan Leaf qualify for the full $7,500 tax credits when bought brand new. While cars like the Toyota Prius Prime would qualify for just over half of that amount at $4,502.

Remember, the tax credits work for pure electric vehicles AND plug-in hybrids.

Why Don't Electric Cars Have Solar Panels?

Question #11. Why Don't Electric Cars Have Solar Panels?

Answer. The simple answer to that is it would take FAR too long to fully charge any electric vehicle to 100%. We are talking about days if not weeks to get almost 100%. 

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 does not make sense and would be easier to remove this possible feature and the extra added weight.

What Is The Worlds Most Popular Electric Car?

Question #12. What Is The Worlds Most Popular Electric Car?

Answer. The simple answer would be either the Nissan Leaf or the Tesla Model S. Depending on where you are in the world will determine the answer. For instance, in Europe the Renault Zoe, Volkswagen eGolf and Nissan Leaf would be the most popular electric cars due to their affordable prices. 

In places like Hong Kong, the Tesla Model S is the most popular electric car in their market. 

How Much Electricity Does An Electric Car Use?

Question #13. How Much Electricity Does An Electric Car Use?

Answer. If you are talking about how much electrical current an electric car is using when accelerating, it will depend on the throttle position and accessories running. As an example, a Hyundai Ioniq Electric would consume on average at 110 kph around 185 watt hours per kilometer (according to Bjorn Nyland on YouTube).

If you'd like to know how much electricity it will consume during a charge, you simply need to look at the battery capacity and multiply that by the current cost of a kilowatt hour of electricity.

For example, if a kilowatt hour of electricity costs around 0.22 cents... that means the full battery of Hyundai Ioniq Electric (27.8 kw) would cost around $6.12 USD for a full charge. 

How Far Can An Electric Car Go?

Question #14. How Far Can An Electric Car Go?

Answer. First of all it depends on what the manufacturer rates the automobile at. The slower you got the further you'll drive (the opposite with gasoline and diesel powered automobiles). 

As an example, a Hyundai Kona EV is rated for 258 miles for a full charge traveling at 45-55 mph speeds. When traveling 20-30 mph, you can achieve more than 300 miles on a single charge. Since less energy is being used to drive, you'll end up driving further. 

Can You Travel Cross Country In An Electric Car?

Question #15. Can You Travel Cross Country In An Electric Car?

Answer. You absolutely can, depending on which country that is. 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 at all due to their big battery packs, while cars like the 1st gen Nissan Leaf might prove to be troublesome in some cases of extensive range driving and cold weather.

In the United States only Tesla seems to have a network that extends through most states, allowing you to drive across the country if without an issue. 

Traveling across the country in any other electric car right now will be more challenging because the charging networks that are available, are not guaranteed to work when you arrive there and some are even out of order at times (without prior notice through apps like PlugShare). 

How Much Does It Cost To Charge Electric Car at Charging Station?

Question #16. How Much Does It Cost To Charge Electric Car at Charging Station?

Answer: There are many charging stations that do not charge you anything. This is most often found with level 2 chargers that are complimentary for patrons of restaurants, stores and other commerce locations. Level 3 chargers are sometimes free, but most of the time it will cost you a few dollars to charge to 100% (3$-8$ from past experience).

Though I can't speak for all places as the rates per kilowatt hour vary.

Question #17. What Does PHEV Mean and Stand For?


What About Overall Emissions, Including The Car and The Power Plant?

Question #18. What About Overall Emissions, Including The Car and The Power Plant?

Answer: While the car emits zero emissions into the atmosphere, it is a different story as to what it took to get the valuable material to create the batteries. Arguably, it takes quite a bit of fossil fuel burning to get on battery pack for an electric automobile. 

When you charge the automobile, where the energy is coming from is a different story. It would make little difference charge an electric car from electricity that was produced by coal or nuclear power. Emissions are still there and you are simple moving the tailpipe from one source to another. 

When you charge an automobile from clean hydro, wind or sun energy, the emissions are lower by a HUGE margin (most of the time, non existent). Now where the energy came from to mine the battery materials... that is the real question.

How Often Do You Have To Replace The Battery?

Question #19. How Often Do You Have To Replace The Battery?

Answer: Replacing the battery of an electric vehicle will depend on the reputation of the manufacturer. There's battery degradation over time which starts to eat away at the capacity, charge rates and power outputs. 

On average, batteries can hold their charge for more than 200K miles with 75%+ still remaining in capacity. It is not unusual to have the battery last 10+ years when properly taken care of. Now what does that mean exactly?

In places where the temperatures are super cold or super hot, batteries suffer... even if you drive modestly. Manufacturers nowadays include complimentary warranties to cover batteries for the 1st owners anywhere between 100K miles to a full lifetime of the vehicle. 

Where Do Batteries End Up?

Question #20. Where Do Batteries End Up?

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.

Do Electric Cars Emit Electromagnetic Radiation?

Question #21. Do Electric Cars Emit Electromagnetic Radiation?

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

Is My Electric Car Dangerous To Pedestrians?

Question #22. Is My Electric/Hybrid Car Dangerous To Pedestrians?

Answer: While most car batteries are a form of DC power and do not typically emit EMF radiation, when charging there's a strong temporary field of DC voltage that is being emitted. 

In a nutshell since there's more electronic devices in electric cars (go figure), the car will emit EMF radiation on a greater level.

What About Hydrogen Cars?

Question #23. What About Hydrogen Cars?

Answer: Hydrogen cars have a long way to go in terms of practicality and usefulness. No further comment because I do not know much about them.

Question #24. Can Electric Cars Self Charge?

Answer: One could argue that an electric car could recharge itself if equipped with a solar panel big enough, but unfortunately that isn't practical and would take a very long time to get any reasonable charge percentage. When you are driving your electric vehicle and decide to hit the break, the breaks are regenerating electricity back into the battery packs giving you "back" electricity. 

At the moment, that is the only way a vehicle could recharge itself.

Electric Cars Are Too Expensive, Right?

Question #25. Electric Cars Are Too Expensive, Right?

Answer: Do not be mislead, electric cars are not expensive if you are shopping properly. Anything brand new costs the full price, obviously. Electric cars that are mass produced are most likely to drop in value in just a few years due to their high production volume and availability. 

A Kia Soul EV from 2015 costs just over $30K USD. Today in the second-hand market, they are $12K-$15K USD and going down a little bit more each year.

On the flip side, for cars with LOW production volume like the first generation Tesla Roadster, it managed to only loose 35-40% value in the last 11 years. 

BONUS Question. What Are The Most Common Terms Used With Electric Cars?

Answer: Here's the most common terms used with electric cars:

  • Kilowatt Hours (kW): a measure of electrical energy equivalent to a power consumption of 1,000 watts for 1 hour.
  • Battery Degradation: a term used to signify the loss of battery energy storage.
  • Driving Range: is how far an electric vehicle can travel on its current state of charge.
  • Regeneration: is a term used when your vehicle puts electricity back into the battery by methods such as braking.
  • GOM (guess-o-meter): is sometimes referred to as the gauge in an electric car that shows the current estimated range. In cars like the Nissan Leaf it has been known to give a less than accurate reading, going up and down as you drive.