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Electric Vehicle Charging

Consumer comfort with the traditional internal combustion engine and its need for gasoline or diesel fuel is hard to displace. With a gas station on every corner, drivers feel secure in their mobility.

Conserving fossil fuels and reducing environmental impact are key reasons to choose an electric vehicle (EV). However, concerns about the availability of charging stations may be holding consumers back. Before dismissing the possibility of EV ownership, consider these points.

  • Driving habits: If you have a short commute or most of your driving is in local trips, an EV that you charge at home could be a viable option. Most moderately-priced EVs can go 80-120 miles on a charge. New mainstream models that have 200-mile ranges are just now coming to market, although longer drives with any electric car, including premium models with extended ranges, requires careful planning to match charging station locations to battery capacity.
  • Charging networks: There are now nearly 5,700 public-access EV charging stations in the U.S. and more than 300 in Canada. EV in-vehicle electronics will typically provide location information for nearby charging stations. AAA makes this information available through its online TripTik Travel Planner and the AAA Mobile app. In addition, the U.S. Department of Energy has a charging station locator on its website, as do most other online/wireless mapping tools and vehicle navigation systems.
  • Time: Recharging an electric vehicle from “empty” can take 10 hours or more using household current, but high-power 240-volt home and public charging stations can cut that time by more than half. During local trips, a “top-up” charge at a public station can often be accomplished in less than an hour.
  • Safety: EV charging protocols are set by the Society for Automotive Engineers and experts on fire protection and other safety systems. All vehicle and EV charging equipment manufacturers in North America adhere to these standards, making EV charging as safe as charging your cell phone.
  • Cost: EV owners typically join a charging network to gain access to charging stations when away from home. Plug In America estimates that it costs $2 to $4 to fully charge an EV, and on an energy-adjusted basis. Operating a vehicle with electricity typically costs less than half as much as with gasoline.

Projections vary, but studies indicate there could be 14 million electric vehicles on the road by 2020. Battery improvements, increased competition and economies of scale are all likely to drive down EV prices. While motorists still have a lot to learn about the benefits of EVs, including significant savings on fuel and maintenance costs, many motorists have already discovered that at least one “car of tomorrow” can be parked in their garage today.

Fueling Change

As the world gradually turns toward greener technologies, electric vehicles (EVs) stand out as an environmentally friendly solution. Early adopters of EV technology speak highly of how their cars save energy, reduce emissions and offer zippy performance. However, even the most ardent EV fan will admit that the limited EV charging infrastructure is concerning.

Most EVs today can travel 80-120 miles before recharging, compared to more than 300 miles per tank with a gasoline-powered car. While the EV industry is focused on improving charging technology, it can still take 12 hours or more to recharge an EV with traditional 120-volt household current. While special high-power 240-volt chargers can cut that time significantly, recharging a fully depleted EV battery still takes hours.

The development of a public charging infrastructure is critical to the success of electric vehicles. Even though current EVs meet the daily range requirements of most drivers – 16 commuting miles one way, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation – range anxiety is seen as a deterrent to broader acceptance of EVs. Motorists want to be able to charge their EVs at home and have the convenience and security of easily accessible public charging stations.

The U.S. Department of Energy reports there are now nearly 5,700 public charging stations available for use, and the agency has aggressively promoted expansion of the EV charging infrastructure using funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. As the charging network grows, it will help fuel a smooth transition to EVs as they increasingly fit the needs of motorists.

As joint efforts by government, private groups and the EV industry bring the charging picture into perspective, a better understanding of consumer driving habits, coupled with more education on EV benefits, is expected to increase adoption rates and lead to as many as 14 million electric vehicles on the roads by 2020.