By Steve Hanley
This post is sponsored by FleetCarma
If you live in the state of New York and are thinking about driving an electric car, congratulations, you could soon be enjoying the many advantages that go with driving an electric car, things like a quiet ride and abundant torque to help you accelerate away from traffic lights and merge effortlessly into traffic.
Traditional internal combustion engines and transmissions have thousands of moving parts. An electric motor has three.That means less maintenance and fewer repairs. There’s no oil to change. Regenerative braking means longer brake life.
Let’s begin by exploring the difference between an electric car and plug-in hybrid.
Fully Electric Versus Plug-in Hybrid
EV stands for “electric vehicle.” To many people, it applies to any car with an electric motor as part of the drivetrain. In some cars, like the Toyota Prius, the motor is just there to help the gasoline engine do its job. Those cars are called hybrids and they never get plugged in. Some include them underneath the EV, but some people don’t since they can’t plug in and can’t run 100% on electricity.
Then there are plug-in hybrids. They also have an electric motor in the drivetrain, but they can operate on electricity exclusively coming from battery power part of the time. Some, like the Audi A3 e-tron, have as little as 15 miles of range; others, like the Chevy Volt, can drive 53 miles on battery power alone. Plug-in hybrids have a gasoline engine as well. In some cases, it can drive the wheels; in others, it’s just there to make electricity for the electric motor.
Then there are fully battery-powered electric cars like the Chevy Bolt, Nissan LEAF, and Tesla Model S. They have a range of 150 to 300 miles on a single battery charge and must be plugged in to recharge the battery. Recharge times vary from 30 minutes to 12 hours, depending on the size of the battery and the type of charger being used.
Which is Better for You?
Which is better? The answer to that depends on your driving habits. On average, Americans drive fewer than 30 miles a day. That means if you buy a battery electric car with 100 miles of range or more, you will be able to drive your car the way you normally do without running out of power..
But on those rare occasions when you drive further than normal, you may have to plan to spend extra time during your journey to recharge. With a plug-in hybrid, you never have to worry about a dead battery. As long as there is gas in the tank, you can keep driving. For some people, that’s an important consideration.
If you drive a solid 70 miles a day, a fully electric car could help you to drive them all on electricity. A plug-in hybrid may have to use some gas every day, but you also don’t have to worry too much about running out of electricity or being delayed if your daily planning is off.
Which one is better for you is a question only you can answer. A plug-in hybrid uses electricity most of the time, which means you get all the advantages of a fully electric car without ever having range anxiety. A fully electric car never burns a drop of gasoline and can go further on electricity than a plug-in hybrid.
Charging at Home
It is common to recharge any plug-in hybrid or fully electric car every night from home. That way, you begin each day with a full battery and all the range your car is capable of. There are three types of chargers available and you should be aware of the difference before you choose which car to buy.
Level 1 is nothing more sophisticated than a standard wall outlet. Charging time for a full charge is often 8 hours or more. Level 2 uses a 220 volt charger similar to an electric dryer. It cuts charging time by 50% or more. Installing a 220 volt outlet in your garage may require the services of a licensed electrician who will likely need to obtain a building permit from your local building inspector before doing the work. Some states and utility companies offer incentives or rebates to help defray the cost of installing an electric car charger.
Level 3 is often referred to as DC fast charging. This can reduce charging times even more, but will require an electrician to connect. Homes and businesses in the US do not have DC electricity readily available, but many employers are installing Level 3 chargers at work.
Not every car is capable of using high-capacity charging equipment. High-power charging is an extra cost option on some models. For instance, adding DC fast charging to a Chevy Bolt is a $750 option that must be ordered with the car. The extra equipment cannot be retrofitted to the car after it leaves the factory.
DC fast charging can cut charging times dramatically, but whether you need it depends on how you use your car. If you plan to charge solely overnight at home, Level 3 charging will not have any benefit for you. But it would be beneficial on long trips so you can get a quick charge. If you will be charging most of the time away from home, Level 3 charging may be worth the extra cost to you.
Charging Away From Home
When you are away from home, finding a charger that works with your car can be difficult, but it is getting easier all the time. Charging networks like ChargePoint and PlugShare have apps available for their customers that show where available chargers are located and whether they are in use. Some even allow you to reserve a charger remotely so you know it will be available when you get there.
Tesla operates its own network of Supercharger locations. These are high-power chargers that work only with cars manufactured by Tesla. The company has more than 1,000 locations in the US and foreign countries and is adding more every week.
SmartCharge New York
FleetCarma has partnered with Consolidated Edison to help New York customers lower the cost of charging their electric cars through the SmartCharge New York program. In general, the electricity needed to charge a battery costs about half the price of gasoline. But utility rates vary depending on time of day. Charging your car during off-peak hours can save you a lot of money compared to peak rates and it helps the utility company to balance grid demand.
The SmartCharge New York program pays you cash bonuses for charging during off peak hours and also reduces the cost of electricity you use below the already favorable time of use rate other customers pay.
People who buy or lease an electric car are eligible for state and local tax incentives. Currently, a $7,500 federal tax credit applies to many electric car models. That means if you buy a qualifying electric car, when you file your federal tax return next year, you could eliminate up to $7,500 in tax liability.
There’s something to be aware of, however. The credit only applies for the year you bought your car and there is no carryover of any unused portion. That means if you owe $5,000 in taxes, you will get a credit in that amount and no more. Any unused credit cannot be applied to your taxes in future years.
The New York State Drive Clean program provides up to a $2,000 credit on certain qualifying electric and plug-in hybrid models.
The Clean Pass program allows certain New York EV drivers to use the HOV lanes on the Long Island Freeway even if there is only one person in the car. Many insurance companies also offer discounts on insurance to electric car owners. Check with your local insurance agent.
There is a lot of information available on the internet for those considering an electric car. ChargePoint owns and operates the largest private EV charging network in the North America. Its website has a treasure trove of information about electric cars. It also has an app for its customers that shows them where the nearest charging facilities are located.
PlugShare is another useful website. Its business model is simple. It connects people who have electric car chargers available with those who need access to a charger while away from home. Setting up an account is easy and comes with a convenient-to-use online app.
The oldest electric car information website is Plug In America. It offers a wide range of advice about how to choose an electric car that is right for you, the different charging options available, and tips about driving an electric car. It also sponsors an annual event called Drive Electric Week, which brings together EV owners and prospective purchasers for a free and open exchange of ideas about living with an electric car.
And don’t forget to visit the SmartCharge New York website to learn how to save money on EV charging in the Empire State. The savings are real and include monthly rebates that can further reduce your cost of driving.
The best benefit of driving an electric car is knowing you are reducing your carbon footprint every mile you drive. We are all responsible for helping the environment. Driving green is an important way to reduce carbon emissions, which is a good feeling any time.
This post is sponsored by FleetCarma.
Charging image from FleetCarma; New York street image by Dorothee Hübner on Unsplash
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