Electric Vehicles: Time to charge ahead?

Charging your vehicle overnight is easy and convenient.
Photograph provided by Madison Gas & Electric

Have you been thinking about buying an electric vehicle (EV)? With lots of models to choose from, now could be a great time to take the leap. Let’s learn a little bit more about the why and answer that burning question that might be holding you back from an EV purchase.

Reasons to Consider an EV
There are many reasons why an EV could make sense for you.

Lower fuel costs. Although we haven’t seen gas prices in the $4 per gallon range for a number of years, an electric fill-up is still cheaper than a comparable amount of gas—roughly $1 per gallon at today’s costs.

Lower maintenance expenses. Buy an all-electric vehicle and say goodbye to oil changes. Plus, with EVs you’ll have less wear and tear on your brakes because the electric motor helps bring the vehicle to a stop.

Lower emissions. Driving an EV reduces greenhouse gas emissions. And, as a bonus, MGE’s public charging network is powered by wind energy, so you’ll really be driving green!

A quieter ride. EVs are very quiet. In fact, it’s not uncommon for people to restart their cars because they’re convinced it can’t possibly be running.

Fun to drive! EVs run smoothly and accelerate quickly.

Numerous options. There are currently about 40 vehicles to choose from ranging in size from subcompacts to SUVs, including a minivan; motorcycles; and, coming soon, pickup trucks. Experts predict there will be more than 100 model options within the next five years. Investigate your choices and find available incentives at goelectricdrive.org .

PLUG-IN HYBRID VERSUS ALL-ELECTRIC

Electric vehicles come in two basic flavors.

• Plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV). Uses a combination of batteries to power an electric motor and another fuel, like gasoline/diesel, to power an internal combustion engine. The PHEV battery can be charged by wall outlet/charger. The vehicle will run on the battery first (roughly 10 to 50 miles), and then automatically switch to the internal combustion engine.

Your range between fill-ups is usually 300 to 600 miles. Want to learn more? You can find a great overview at afdc.energy.gov/vehicles/how-do-plug-in-hybrid-electric-cars-work .

• Battery electric vehicle (BEV). Runs on electricity only and has an electric motor. You recharge the battery by plugging it into an electrical outlet or charging station. Range on these vehicles averages 100 to 240 miles. Automakers predict they’ll soon be able to deliver vehicles that can travel 300+ miles on a single charge.

Which one is right for you? Consider your driving habits and daily commute. If you have a long daily commute or like to spend your weekends on road trips, a PHEV might be a better option.

As attractive as all these benefits may be, for many people they’re trumped by a worry: am I going to get stuck somewhere? Sure, you could, just like you could run out of gas. But there are some things to keep in mind.

Vehicle range is improving. As mentioned in the sidebar, some all-electric vehicles can now deliver at least 200 miles without needing a charge, and we’re close to having vehicles that can reliably deliver 300 miles on one charge.

It’s easy to charge at home and getting cheaper to charge fast. At-home chargers are available in two models: Level 1, which uses a standard 120-volt household circuit, and Level 2, which uses a 240-volt circuit—this is the type that’s typically used for things like an oven or electric dryer. As you may have guessed, Level 1 chargers are slower than Level 2. Although the speed at which you’ll be able to charge your vehicle depends on a number of factors (see sidebar below), in general a Level 2 charger is about six times faster than a Level 1. You can expect to get two to five miles of range per hour if you’re charging on a Level 1 charger and 10 to 20 miles on a Level 2 charger.

There are more places to charge than ever before. In the Madison area alone, there are currently about 50 public charging stations—MGE owns nearly 30 of them—and they’re located at convenient spots around town, including Willy Street West, Henry Vilas Zoo, the Princeton Club, and HyVee. And this doesn’t include local organizations that are providing charging stations for employee use.

Need to find a charging station when you’re out and about? According to the Alternative Fuels Data Center, there are currently 24,730 public alternative fuel stations in the United States. Two apps that can help you find one are Alternative Fueling Station Locator and Plugshare.com .

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO CHARGE AN EV?

It depends. Factors that come into play:

• The current charge level on the battery.

• The power provided by the charger.

• The size of the battery.

• The battery temperature—a cold battery charges more slowly.

There’s also something known as a DC Fast Charger (MGE currently has two)—these can deliver 60 to 80 miles of range in about 20 minutes.

Generally speaking, a Level 2 charging system will charge an EV battery up to six times faster than a Level 1. The U.S. Department of Energy suggests the following to get a rough feel for charge time.

Type of charger/Miles of range per hour of charge
Level 1/2–5
Level 2/10–20

How much does a charger cost?
A Level 2 charger will typically run about $600 plus the cost to install. Consult a licensed electrician to learn more. Another alternative is to join MGE’s Charge@Home pilot program. Most MGE electric customers will qualify to participate, and there’s no up-front installation fee, though you will be charged for the cost of electricity. To learn more, visit mge.com/chargeathome .

Live in an apartment? MGE also has resources to help multifamily property owners evaluate and install systems. Just refer your property manager or building owner to mge.com/multifamily .

ALEXA CHARGE MY CAR

Add charge your EV, plus check your range, charging speed, and more, to the ever-growing list of things you can do without ever leaving the comfort of your home.

Interest piqued? Have more questions?
Check out EV Rider.
MGE has created an easy-to-understand site that’s chockfull of tips and insights into buying and maintaining an EV. It’s updated regularly. Check it out at energy2030together.com .

This article was contributed by Madison Gas & Electric.

Madison Gas & Electric
mge.com

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