FAQs About Electric Vehicles

Your House and Electric Vehicles

In light of current events affecting the fuel supply in our area, many of Root Electric's customers have expressed interest in purchasing an electric vehicle.  As such, we thought it would be helpful to publish the answers to a few of the most commonly asked questions about electric vehicles.

1.  What is the best EV out there?  

It's difficult to say which vehicle is best, as there are many factors in evaluating EV quality, which include price, battery range, reliability, and power.  If there was a single factor that I could give customers that would prove helpful in evaluating the "best" EV, I would say that it would be battery range.  The battery range will dictate how far you can drive the car before charging.  Drivers of electric vehicles can be susceptible to something called "range anxiety" which is the fear of running out of electric battery power before reaching a destination or the next charging station.  This is something that we don't deal with when we drive traditional gasoline or diesel powered vehicles.  Since there is a well-established fuel infrastructure for gas and diesel powered cars, drivers don't think as much about range, because they know that they can find fuel somewhere nearby if they found themselves "running on E".  Electric vehicles have very limited options for charging stations, and sometimes these stations are few and far between.  The owner of an EV with a large battery range will suffer far less anxiety over whether or not they will make it to their destination or to the next charger without their car running out of power.  

2.  Why are EV's so expensive?  

All cars are expensive to own and operate, however, we just spend money on them in different ways.  An electric vehicle and gasoline powered car of comparable quality and trim may have as much as a 20% difference in purchase price, with the electric vehicle being more expensive.  One thing to keep in mind is that the purchase price of a gasoline vehicle is only part of the ownership equation.  Gasoline and diesel powered cars have many more moving parts than an electric car and require significantly more maintenance, especially as they age.  The fuel for them can also be very expensive, depending on the performance level of the gas or diesel powered car.  An EV on the other hand requires very little maintenance.  Most only require periodic adjustments to the wheel alignment and replacement of tires on a regular basis.  Service intervals for many EV's don't occur until you are well over 100,000 miles.  A typical gas or diesel powered car typically needs to go in for service every 5,000 to 10,000 miles.  Fuel is also a constant expense for gasoline powered cars.  Even a Toyota Prius can consume as much as $150.00 a month in gasoline if used as a commuter car.  A Tesla being driven at a comparable mileage may only cost between $30.00 and $70.00 a month to charge, and unlike the Prius, the Tesla can smoke a Corvette.  (On a race track, of course.) 

3. Does my house have enough available electricity to charge an EV? 

This is a very broad question, but it gets asked frequently.  I wish I could say that if your house was built after, say, 1975, it should have enough available electricity to safely and quickly charge your EV.  However, I have seen homes built in the 1950s that have plenty of available power to charge an EV, and newly built homes that require a service upgrade (or an increase in service amperage) to charge an EV.  The biggest factor that I see that determines whether or not your house can charge an EV without significant modifications is the type of heat that you have.  Homes with gas or oil heat tend to have enough electric service capacity left over to charge an electric vehicle.  In many cases, homes with electric heat do not have enough available service capacity to charge an electric vehicle.  This is because the heat pump and heat coils can take up a significant amount of service capacity to run when the weather gets cold.   Please keep in mind that this is merely a "rule of thumb" and cannot be trusted to officially determine whether or not you have enough service capacity to charge an EV.  In order to truly determine if your home can safely handle an EV, you should have a licensed electrician perform load calculations on your home to verify.  

4.  I don't have a garage on my house.  Is it safe to install a plug or power connector on the outside of my house?  

Installing an outlet or EV charging equipment on the exterior of your house is completely safe.  Almost all EV power connectors are NEMA 3R rated.  This means that they can withstand wind, rain, snow, and ice without failing.  They are not submersible, however, so installing a power connector or EV outlet in a place that can be flooded is not advisable.  

Read also about our EV Charging Station installation service.

5. Is an EV really fast enough to beat a Corvette in a drag race? 

Oh yeah.  Even a "slow" EV is fast enough to out-accelerate most performance cars.  This is because electric motors make 100% of their available torque and horsepower the instant they start to turn, whereas gasoline and diesel engines do not start making significant power until they reach a certain RPM.  

I hope that you have made it through this recent interruption in fuel delivery safely and without too much inconvenience.  If you have any questions about electric vehicles, or how your electrical system needs to be modified to charge one, please do not hesitate to reach out to Root Electric!

ev charger installation Woodbridge VA

6. Five Things to Consider Before Buying an Electric Vehicle

1. The advertised battery range for many electric vehicles is more than the real world range.   The advertised range is based on EPA estimates, which can differ from the real-world use of the vehicle.  Before purchasing an electric vehicle, know how many miles you drive per day, and speak with current owners of your prospective vehicle to obtain a more realistic battery range.  

2. High powered fast chargers, such as the ones found at shopping malls and rest stops will accelerate wear on the battery if used in excess, causing the battery to lose capacity at an accelerated rate.  Charging at home using a 120 V or 240 V outlet is the best charging solution for long term battery health.  

3. For most owners, a 120 V outlet on a dedicated circuit is sufficient to charge your electric vehicle on a regular basis. However, it can take up to 36 hours to fully charge a battery that has been drained. If you intend to drive over 30 or 40 miles per day, the best solution for home charging is a 240 V outlet or a high power wall connector. 

4. Plan carefully when traveling in an electric vehicle during the holidays. The number of available fast charging stations is not sufficient to service all of the electric vehicles currently on the road during the holidays.  Fast charging stations can fill up causing long wait times for a charge. 

5. When shopping for a new electric vehicle, pay careful attention to the lifespan of the battery and the long-term resale value. Cars with better batteries will have a longer service life and will have a higher resale value when you choose to sell.  

If you have any questions about installing a circuit or wall connector for an electric vehicle, please give us a call.

7. Hidden Costs of Owning an EV 

  1. Insurance. Some electric vehicles cost more than others to insure. In most cases the added cost is due to the limited number of body shops currently qualified to work on them. Technology such as advanced cruise control and autopilot also has an effect on insurance costs. Before you sign on the dotted line to buy your first electric vehicle, it might be a good idea to contact your insurance carrier for a quote. 
  2. Tires. The electric motors on electric vehicles generate 100% of their torque and horsepower at ZERO RPM’s. This means, if the motor in your new EV is rated at 300 horsepower, it makes all 300 horsepower as soon as you touch the accelerator.  Traditional gasoline or diesel cars make a small amount of power at low RPM’s (where people drive most frequently) and do not generate their maximum output until higher RPM’s (which might only be seen when accelerating or merging onto the interstate). This difference in horsepower at low RPM’s makes electric vehicles accelerate much faster than gas or diesel cars. There are also other factors at play, such as the forces generated by increased curb weight and regenerative braking. All of these combined effects create more wear on the tires. 
  3. Taxes. Most states use tax revenue from gasoline sales to pay for road maintenance. As electric vehicles have become more popular, some states have begun to charge a special surcharge on top of standard registration fees for electric vehicles to make up for lost tax revenue. The cost can range anywhere from $50.00 to $200.00 depending on which state you live in. 
  4. Electricity.  While calculating the total cost of ownership for an EV, most people figure in savings in gas or diesel. Remember to check your power company’s cost per kilowatt/hour to calculate the increase in your electric bill. Be sure to subtract this projected monthly cost in electricity from any fuel savings that you had calculated into your budget. 
  5. Installation. While many EV owners can get by with simply plugging their new car into an existing 120 volt wall outlet, most owners will quickly find that they need a larger circuit to charge the car quickly enough for daily usage. A 15 or 20 amp, 120 volt wall outlet can charge an EV battery from near empty to full in 24 to 36 hours, but a 30 to 60 amp, 240 volt outlet can charge the same battery in as little as three or four hours.  If you use a significant portion of your battery’s power in a day, it will be worth the expense to hire an electrician to install a 240 volt circuit. There are many factors in determining what circuit size is best for your car, but for the purposes of this article, it is best to first talk with an electrician to determine potential costs of installing a new charging circuit. 

8. How to Get The Most Out of Your Electric Vehicle’s Range

  1. Get the big battery.  When buying your new electric car, first look at the battery options.  Spend the extra money to buy the model with the greatest available range.  Depending on your budget, it may seem like a large pill to swallow for a premium battery, but the convenience of not having to charge frequently on long trips or in your daily routine will make up for the added cost.  
  2. Use heat sparingly.  Traditional gasoline or diesel powered car generate a tremendous amount of heat as a result of the combustion process and internal friction of traditional car engines.  To heat your car during the winter, the HVAC system uses coolant from the engine to radiate heat into the car.  Because of this, heating the cabin of an internal combustion car has no effect on gas mileage.   Electric vehicles generate very little heat because of their simplicity and lack of combustion.  As a result, electric vehicles must employ either a heat pump or resistance heat (think about the heating elements inside a toaster) to make the cabin comfortable on cold mornings.  Because it takes extra battery energy to run the heat pump or resistance heater, manufacturers such as Tesla recommend limiting use of the central HVAC system and instead turning up the seat heaters to keep you comfortable.  
  3. Avoid hard acceleration.  This one almost goes without saying since the same rule applies to gasoline and diesel cars.  There is an added component to electric vehicles though since they are known for unusually strong acceleration.  Sometimes the temptation to “pull some G’s” at a stop light or entering the interstate can be fun, but it will drain your battery more quickly if you do it too frequently.  
  4. Keep your tires properly inflated.  As with the last rule, keeping up with your tires also applies to traditional cars, but again, with electric vehicles there is a difference.  Many people have their tire pressure checked and adjusted when they bring their gasoline or diesel car in for regular oil changes and maintenance.  Most electric vehicles do not require regular oil changes, and service intervals for wear items like brakes might be over 100,000 miles.  Since your car isn’t being checked over by professionals as frequently, make sure to make a habit of checking your tire pressure on a weekly or monthly basis.  Properly inflated tires give gasoline or diesel cars good gas mileage, and they will also help conserve your battery.  
  5. Keep your junk out of the trunk.  I am guilty of this myself.  I put something in the trunk that I intend to use in the near future, but never take it out of the trunk when I am finished.  Remember that if you are carrying 100 to 300 pounds of cargo in the trunk, your motors are using extra electricity to accelerate and cruise. If you aren’t currently using the items in your trunk.  Take them out and keep them in the garage.  Keeping your car light and lean will preserve its battery range.  
  6. Keep your battery warm during the winter. The temperature of the battery has a large effect on your electric vehicle's range. Cold winter temperatures affect your battery's ability to charge and to discharge. If you park your car outside, leave it plugged in while not in use and follow the owner's manual's recommendations for cold weather storage. If possible, park your car in a garage where the heat from your house will keep the temperature of the battery warmer than it would be if simply parked outside.