The Electric Power Research Institute has released a comprehensive consumer guide for understanding the ins and outs of the electric car and more.
Today’s electric car market is growing steadily, offering U.S. consumers more affordable, efficient, high-performance transportation options each year. Buyers can find an electric car in almost every vehicle class, with about 41 new models available today and about 132 projected by 2022.
Nationwide, a public charging network is expanding as well, enabling more consumers to consider purchasing an electric car. Most drivers still prefer to charge at home, however, due to convenience and savings over time. They plug in and charge their cars overnight, just like their smart phones. At the U.S. national average price of 12.5 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh), electricity is roughly equivalent to gasoline at $1 a gallon. Plus, many electricity providers offer special electric vehicle rates. Displacing gasoline with domestic electricity cuts petroleum use and emissions, which benefits public health. Electrifying the transportation sector can reduce greenhouse gas emissions in 2050 by 57% relative to 2015 levels. Consider your driving needs. An electric vehicle might work for you.
ELECTRIC VEHICLES DEMYSTIFIED
This guide focuses exclusively on plug-in electric vehicles, which have batteries that are recharged by plugging into the electricity grid. There are two main types: battery electric or all-electric vehicles, and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. All-electric vehicles use no gasoline and are powered solely by an electric motor (or motors) and battery. Battery technology is rapidly advancing, costs are declining, and vehicle range is increasing. Plug-in hybrids are powered by an electric motor (or motors) and battery paired with an internal combustion engine. Most drive solely on electricity using battery energy until the battery is discharged, thereafter continuing to drive on gasoline like a conventional hybrid. Conventional hybrids have smaller batteries and do not plug in. These hybrids, and cars with technologies designed to maximize gasoline fuel economy such as start-stop or mild hybrids, have electrified drivetrains but are not electric vehicles that can travel on electric power alone.
ELECTRIC VEHICLE AVAILABILITY
The new-car market is transforming. Although electric cars today comprise a fraction—roughly 2%—of U.S. light-duty vehicle sales, the market is projected to grow due to a global shift toward vehicle electrification. U.S. sales of new electric cars increased by 81% in 2018 over 2017. Cumulative sales topped 1 million nationwide and 4 million globally. Today, U.S. consumers can buy an electric car in almost every vehicle class, as shown in Figure 1. Automakers are offering more choices in trim levels and body styles. Some offer different powertrains—gasoline, battery electric and plug-in hybrid—for the same car. Some electric vehicle models are available nationwide. Some are available only in California and states that have adopted zero emission vehicle (ZEV) regulations. Still others can be ordered online from the manufacturer and delivered through a local dealer, even if that dealer is in a non-ZEV state or does not stock electric cars on the lot. Used electric cars are also available. As people who bought the first generation of electric vehicles trade up to new models, their previous cars are now for sale in the used-car market as affordable electric vehicle options. In addition, several ultra-luxury or limited-edition models priced over $150,000 are available. They are listed in Table 2 on page 15 but not featured with photos on the following pages of this guide.
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