Most Frequently Asked Questions About Electric Vehicles

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Lower prices and improved technology are making electric vehicles increasingly popular. If you're considering buying an EV, here's what you need to know.

Once a niche product reserved for the wealthy, electric vehicle (EV) sales have greatly increased over the past eight years. Even with the pandemic, data from the International Energy Agency (IEA) shows worldwide sales of 10 million plug-in EVs of all types (cars, vans, light duty trucks) in 2020, a 43 percent increase over 2019 and up from less than 15,000 in 2010.

According to EVAdoption, independent consultants to the EV industry, sales forecasts show the numbers will continue to grow. Their data shows sales of 525,000 EVs in the United States in 2021, with expected sales of 4,700,000 in 2030 — an average annual increase of 27 percent.

Due to emerging technologies to extend battery life, tax incentives and many other factors, all major domestic and import original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) have embraced electric vehicles. Several of the world’s largest OEMs announced they will reconfigure entire production lines to produce only electric vehicles. Beginning in 2030, Volvo will only sell electric cars.

With the purchase prices coming down and driving range increasing, the future for EVs appears bright.

How Long Does It Take to Charge an Electric Vehicle?

On average, it takes roughly 10 hours to fully charge a drained 60 kilowatt hour (kWh) EV battery with a Level 2 240-volt charger.

Your EV probably comes with a Level 1 120V charger, which may take almost 40 hours to charge the same battery (here’s all you need to know about EV charger types). The actual time depends on several factors, including:

  • Battery size: Larger kWh batteries take longer to recharge.
  • Max charging rate of onboard charger: These vary by OEM.
  • Battery level: Charging speed slows after the battery reaches 80 percent charge.
  • Speed and power level of the charger: Chargers with higher kWh output recharge faster.
  • Climate: Hot and cold temperatures affect battery efficiency and increase charge times.

How Far Can You Go On One EV Battery Charge?

On average, EVs can travel 200 to 300 miles on a fully charged battery. That’s typically enough to meet the needs of the average commuter. Various factors can influence that range, including:

  • Speed: The faster you go, the harder the electric motor works, drawing down the battery.
  • Payload: More weight (passengers and cargo) places a larger load on the motor.
  • Tires: Low air pressure and worn tires reduce traction, lowering miles per charge.
  • Driving conditions: Just like their fossil fuel counterparts, stop-and-go driving, hard acceleration, extreme temperatures and severe weather conditions affect range.
  • HVAC: Running the air conditioning, heater, defroster or heated steering wheel will quickly drain the battery.
  • Battery degradation: An EV’s battery slowly loses capacity as it ages.

How Long Do Batteries Last in Electric Vehicles?

According to the U.S. Department of Energy Alternative Fuels Data Center, new EV lithium-ion batteries may last 12 to 15 years in moderate climates. In reality, EV batteries should outlast the life of the vehicle.

Federal regulations mandate batteries in all EVs sold in the U.S. be covered by warranty for at least eight years or 100,000 miles. Many OEMs cover the battery up to 150,000 miles, while guaranteeing it will retain 70 percent capacity during the warranty period.

In the U.S., on average, we hold onto new cars for almost nine years. If you buy a new EV, you’ll likely never pay to replace the battery while you own it. If the battery does fail, it will almost certainly be covered under the OEM warranty. For optimal battery life, keep it between 20 and 80 percent charged.

Can an EV Battery Be Recycled?

Yes. But the process is slow, complex, expensive and environmentally unfriendly.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funds “new electric vehicle battery recycling technologies and second-life applications” that should make recycling more economical and ecologically responsible.

Are EVs Expensive?

Yes. According to Kelley Blue Book, in September 2022 the average EV cost $65,291, almost $17,000 more than a comparable internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle.

However, EVs require less basic maintenance, like oil changes and other engine services. According to the Automobile Association of America (AAA), that could save EV owners $1,300 a year compared to a midsize ICE vehicle driven 15,000 miles a year.

Plus, many new EVs qualify for up to $7,500 in federal tax incentives. Typically, electricity cost less than fossil fuels, decreasing the overall cost of EV ownership. Buying a brand-new electric vehicle isn’t the only option. With an e-bike conversion kit, you can turn your existing peddler into a motorized workhorse.

Do Electric Vehicles Use Oil?

No. The electric motor powering an EV doesn’t need engine oil. If your EV’s gearbox takes transmission fluid, consult your owner’s manual for the recommended service interval.

Are EV Charging Stations Rare?

It depends on where you live.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), there are more than 45,000 EV public charging stations in the U.S., mostly in larger cities. But charging stations are now surfacing in the suburbs, as well as at apartment buildings, schools, commuter parking lots, shopping malls and other locations.

Apps such as ChargePoint and PlugShare are popular for locating charging stations. Look for an app that displays charging stations along your route, cost and payment options, charging speeds and connector type. If you live in a small town or work in an out-of-the-way location, consider carrying a Level 1 charger in your EV.

Are Electric Cars Better for the Environment?

Yes, according to the EPA, electric cars are better for the environment.

EVs don’t burn fossil fuels and produce no car smog, though they do generate measurable emissions. However, they leave a much smaller carbon footprint.

Even when accounting for all the factors connected with EV manufacture and use, total greenhouse gas emissions remain significantly lower over an EV’s lifetime when compared to ICE vehicles.

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Bob Lacivita
Bob Lacivita is an award-winning ASE and General Motors auto technician, educator and freelance writer who has written about DYI car repairs and vehicle maintenance topics. His work has been featured in The Family Handyman, a Reader's Digest book and Classic Bike Rider magazine. He has been a career and technical educator for 25 years teaching automotive technology, as well as writing state, federal and organizational foundation grants. He also helped design a unique curriculum delivery model that integrates rigorous, relevant academic standards seamlessly into career and technical education.