Electric Vehicles (EVs) like the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt are becoming more and more popular because of their high MPG ratings, their convenient ability to be plugged-in and recharged, and the frustrating and unpredictably wild increases in the price of a gallon of gasoline. The cost of “filling up your tank” for $30 dollars or more is decreased to under $5 dollars though charging your vehicle’s batteries with electrical energy, and the savings are even more dramatic when that energy comes from your own solar panels. Click here to see Driving Cost Comparison : Electric Cars vs. Gasoline Cars vs. Solar Powered Cars.
Frequently Asked Questions
I live in an apartment. How will I charge my car?
Have your apartment complex manager or owner contact Solar Energy USA to see about installing an EV charging station where you live.
You will also be able to use public infrastructure as it becomes available.
How will I be able to find public charging stations?
The Department of Energy (DOE) is maintaining a database on their website with all known charging stations. The major automakers are updating their own databases from the DOE website. Each EV will have a map display which shows charging station locations.
In addition, third-party smart phone apps are being developed which will locate a charging station in your vicinity.
Is the home charging station safe?
Yes. The charging station is designed so that no electricity flows through the cord or coupler until after it is connected to the vehicle. As a further safety feature, once connected, your EV will not allow you to move while the charging station is plugged in.
Will the charging station work with any electric vehicle (EV)?
Yes, the home charging station’s coupler is standardized (SAE J1772) and compatible with 99% of the EV models from large automakers.
Will my house require additional wiring?
Yes. A Level 2 charging station requires a dedicated 240 volt circuit.
What is the difference in charging time between a Level 1 EVSE and a Level 2 EVSE?
A Level 2 charging station will reduce the charge time for a Nissan Leaf from 25 hours down to 7.3 hours. Charge time for a Chevrolet Volt will go from 11 hours to 3.2 hours (see table below).
|Charging Level||Chevy Volt||Nissan Leaf|
|Level 1 charging time||120 V/8 A = 11 hours1||120 V/8 A = 25 hours1|
|120 V/12 A = 7.3 hours2||1120 V/12 A = 16.6 hours2|
|Level 2 charging time||240 V/20 A = 3.2 hours!3||240 V/20 A = 7.3 hours!3|
1 Electricians recommend charging at no more than 8 amps unless on a dedicated circuit.
2 The National Electrical Code (NEC) limits continuous charging to a maximum of 12 amps on a 15 amp circuit.
3 Charging time is based on the maximum capability of the on-board charger of the vehicle.
Range – The Chevy Volt has a 40 mile battery-only range. The Nissan Leaf has a 100 mile range.
Why purchase a Level 2 EVSE if a Level 1 EVSE is included with the PEV?
Reduced charging time (up to 60% in most cases) and increased safety – no dangerous plugs for prying little fingers.
What is a Level 2 charging station?
A charging station using a 220 volt/15-110 amp electrical circuit. Usually hard-wired, it requires a dedicated electrical circuit.
What is a Level 1 charging station?
A Level 1 charging station (also called an EVSE – see Glossary here) uses a 120 volt / 15 amp circuit. The EVSE plugs directly into a standard home outlet. Most PEVs from major car manufactures will have a Level 1 EVSE included with the car. These are considered to be “trickle” chargers by manufacturers of battery-only Electric Vehicles.
What is an EVSE?
EVSE stands for Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment. This is the industry name for an Electric Vehicle charging station. The terms “EVSE”, “EV Charging Station”, and “Charging Station” all mean the same thing and are interchangeable.
What will I need to operate a plug-in electric car?
You will need a way to charge the vehicle in your home or at another charging facility. Although some vehicles will be provided with a Level 1 charging system that can be used from a standard household outlet, it is recommended that prior to purchasing an all-electric vehicle a potential owner investigates the purchase and installation of a Level 2 charging station for home use.
How much will all-electric passenger vehicles cost to operate?
Using the national average electric rate of $.12 per kWh, the 100-mile Nissan Leaf would cost about $2.88 to fully charge, that’s less than $0.03 cents per mile. By comparison, that same distance in a gasoline car that gets 25 miles per gallon (the 2008 national average MPG) would cost $15.40 or $0.154 per mile. Compare the costs to operate your traditional fuel car against the costs to charge an electric vehicle here.
Electric vehicle owners also may be able eligible for additional savings on electricity costs associated with their car. Georgia Power, for example, offers a rate specifically for Plug-in electric vehicle owners. Owners should ask their utility company to find out more information.
What is the climate impact of the electricity that will power the electric automobiles?
Both all-electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids have the ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. One of the major greenhouse gases is carbon dioxide (CO2). When emissions from electric power generation are considered, an all-electric vehicle reduces CO2 by over 30% compared to a conventional gasoline vehicle. See the DOE website for further information and for comparisons in your area.
How many miles can plug-in electric vehicles travel before needing to plug-in?
Vehicle range will vary depending on: battery capacity, ambient temperature and driver habits. The Nissan Leaf, for example, is advertised to have a range of 100 miles. Nissan has conducted extensive research and determined actual mileage will vary between 62 and 138 miles depending on temperature, speed and the use of heat or air conditioning.
Wheego is about the same at 100 miles.
The Chevrolet Volt will have an anticipated range of 40 miles in all-electric mode. The Volt will have an additional 330 miles of range when the gas engine kicks in.
Can an electric vehicle be powered by solar?
Just like a solar energy system atop a home or business can provide power for light bulbs, appliances, and other devices needing electricity, so too can an automobile be powered by solar energy. Solar panels (also called photovoltaics) absorb energy in sunlight form. This energy from the sun is then converted into traditional electricity which can then be used to provide power to anything, even an automobile! And while EVs like the Leaf and Volt are not the first of their kind (Toyota introduced an electric Rav-4 in 1997 that was later discontinued), they are surely an innovative step in the right direction.
Using solar photovoltaics (PV) at your home or business makes even more sense with a plug-in EV. The investment in solar panels pays off faster when the solar power is not only replacing grid electricity but replacing much more expensive gasoline. EVs typically can travel 3-4 miles (or more) per kWh of electricity. If you drive 12,000 miles per year, you will need 3,000-4,000 kWh. Depending on where you live, you will need a 1.5kW-3kW PV system to generate that much power using about 150-300 square feet of space on your roof. And utility credits for the daytime solar power that you sell back to your power company can offset the cost of charging the car at night.
What is a plug-in electric vehicle?
There are three types of plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs); plug-in hybrids, extended-range electric vehicles, and battery electric vehicles.
Plug-in hybrids, such as a converted Toyota Prius, are powered through a combination of gasoline and electricity.
The Chevy Volt is an example of a plug-in extended-range electric vehicle and was introduced in the fall of 2010. The Volt uses an electric motor to power its drive-train. Once the Volt’s battery pack is fully discharged, a separate gasoline engine starts up and powers a generator which then supplies the electricity to the electric motor drive-train.
Battery electric vehicles have no gasoline engine and run exclusively on the energy stored in the on-board batteries. The Tesla Roadster, Nissan LEAF and Wheego Life are examples of highway-capable, battery electric cars.