Electric Vehicle FAQ:

NOTE: Our staff is more than pleased to expand upon any of the below. As well, please let us know if you find any errors or omissions. You can either email us directly at [email protected] , or make a comment on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pg/goelectricyyc/posts/?ref=page_internal perhaps we can get a conversation started there!

Q: What is an Electric Vehicle (EV)?

An EV is an Electric Vehicle – meaning it is driven by an electric motor using electricity supplied by on-board batteries. There are two types of EVs: pure, and hybrid.

Q: What is a Hybrid?

A hybrid vehicle is driven by both electrical and gasoline-power. In older (conventional) hybrids, the EV component is only charged by regenerative-braking (think Prius taxi), and has a very small battery. More modern ones (a PHEV, or Plug-In Hybrid EV) can be charged from the wall to provide electric-only propulsion for up to 150km, and are thus much more economical than a conventional hybrid. In some cases (a “parallel” hybrid), a gasoline engine may still also drive the wheels, while the more efficient PHEVs (a “series” hybrid) only utilize the gasoline engine to drive a generator – never directly powering the wheels.

Q: What is an "ICE" vehicle?

I.C.E. stands for Internal Combustion Engine. IE: gas, diesel, etc…. Usually pronounced like the word for frozen water. Some sources will refer to an ICE vehicle as just an ICE, or a GV (Gasoline-powered vehicle).

Q: What is all the fuss about electric cars?

The short answer is they are just the right thing to do: electric cars are great to drive, cost much, much less to drive and maintain than an ICE, and can offer significant reductions in GHG emissions. Purchasing a used EV as your daily-driver is about as smart a driving choice as you can make.

Q: There is a lot of jargon about EVs I do not understand...

Yes, there is.  You don’t need to understand all that stuff to drive them, but it can make buying an EV intimidating.  The main terms which may be unfamiliar are: 1) kWh (equivalent to fuel capacity = range) and 2) kW ratings for motors (semi-equivalent to horsepower in a GV).  We can help, then you can forget them and just enjoy impressing your friends! 

General Questions About EVs.:

Q: Are electric cars slow?

Specialty EVs now hold most pure speed records on land and water, but in general, EVs have a top speed of about 150 km/hr. Acceleration is great for city-driving: instantaneous, strong and steady. EVs have maximum torque available from a stop – unlike ICE vehicles, which have to reach a certain RPM to reach their “power band” (and shift gears as they speed up).

Q: How far can an EV go in an day?

That depends on the size of the battery, it’s condition, and driving conditions. Current range varies from 60 km to 500 km on a single charge. Most of the EVs we sell have a range of 80-100 km in the winter, and 130-180 km in the summer. Daily range is double that amount if destination charging is available; thus, Joe Public is six times more likely to purchase an EV if he or she has access to charging at work.

Q: Is "Range Anxiety" still an issue?

Range-Anxiety should not be an issue any more than the fear of running out of gas is; it’s a matter of purchasing the right vehicle from the start – and we will help you do that.

If you are the forgetful-type or someone who already who runs out of gas a lot, then maybe an EV is not for you.  But owning an EV means you don’t have to go somewhere to fill-up; your home is your filling-station!  There are very few people for whom a 100+ km vehicle will not suit their daily-driving needs (if you are one of those, or if you own a single vehicle, a longer-range EV or a hybrid should be your choice, and it will still pay-off in spades). 

Electric cars are coming.  Massive public charging-infrastructure is just around the corner.  Range-Anxiety is a small part of owning an EV – yes – but the advantages of a (well-chosen) EV outweigh the disadvantages by a country-mile.

Q: How do I avoid running out of power?

Every EV has a display which provides an estimate of how much range you have left.  The calculations made behind the scene are enormous; taking into account temperature, terrain, driving style use of accessories and more.  Normally, you can just drive your car and forget it, but until you get a feel for your car, the read-out will help you avoid range-anxiety (actually, it can be a lot of fun – watching your range go UP when going down a hill for example). 

Yes, there will be those rare situations when you have an unexpected trip on the way home, AND you decided not to plug in the night before, so use your range display.  The good news is the LESS range you have, the MORE accurate they become (a lot like predicting the weather), so you can make a 2 km trip on 3 km range with 100% confidence.  

Q: What if I actually do run out of power?

You will get plenty of warning beforehand, but if you underestimate your destination and reach 0 km, your car will go into “Turtle Mode:” limited power, but you can go 60 km/hr for another 3 km or so until you get there (hopefully).

If the worst happens, you will need a tow (or get some to bring a generator out to you).  The good news is the battery is not reallllly empty – some capacity is kept in reserve so as not to damage individual cells: plug it in again, and you are good-to go!  

Q: Is an EV practical?

For most people, yes. Although we do more than just commute (average Canadian commute – 42 km), driving more than 100 km a day is pretty unusual. Wintertime range loss can be moderated by parking your vehicle inside and leaving it plugged in – the battery will heat itself, kind-of like a block-heater. As far as winter driving goes, EVs have excellent traction, you will be amazed. There is very little not to like about an EV.

Q: What special maintenance does an EV require?

None. The only scheduled maintenance on the drivetrain of a pure EV is to test and/or replace the motor/battery coolant every 3-5 years – the same as the radiator-fluid in an ICE. Some manufacturers recommend replacing the gear-oil in the single-speed gearbox after 150,000km. Due to regenerative braking, brake-pad wear is minimal, only needing to be replaced after 100,000-150,000km. 

Plug-In Hybrids require periodic maintenance on the gasoline motor – typically an oil change every 12-18 months will be all that is required for 3-5 years! 

Otherwise, maintenance is pretty basic: tires, steering and suspension upkeep, wiper blade replacement, wiper fluid top-up, bulbs, lubrication of door hinges, cabin air filter replacement, etc…. These service items can be carried out at any competent mechanical facility, and – as of the last year or so – virtually all Dealerships will perform recalls and service EVs in their “Brand” if a serious problem were to arise. 

Typical savings owning an EV are $1,000 – $2,000/year on fuel alone.

Q: What is the warranty on an electric car?

Japanese manufacturers typically offer a 3-year comprehensive and a 5-year powertrain warranty. European manufacturers typically include a 4-year comprehensive warranty. Most carry a separate “loss of capacity” warranty – meaning if the battery fails, or falls below 70% capacity within 8 years, they will replace it (both failure and > 30% loss of range are almost unheard-of).

Most used EV’s carry the balance of the original manufacturers’ warranty

Q: What kind of damage is done to the EV battery if it is run completely down?

None. The Battery Management System shuts-down your vehicle at a point where there is still enough charge left in the battery to avoid damaging individual cells. Leaving your vehicle for a period of weeks or months with a very low “State of Charge” will lead to a small amount of degradation, but battery management will otherwise protect your batteries from harm if you just run out of juice.

Q: Can an EV battery be overcharged?

No. The Battery Management System (BMS) in the EV monitors voltage, controls the rate of charge, and shuts off the Charger when the battery is charged to a “maximum” level: one which will not damage individual cells. As with discharging your battery however, you do not want to leave your vehicle fully-charged for long periods of time (weeks, months). Lithium cells will safely maintain an intermediate charge for up to 5 years.
The only thing you can do in normal operations is to Quick Charge your battery very frequently. It is fine to do-so occasionally (for longer trips).

Q: How many kms will the battery in my EV last?

EV batteries last better in cold climates than hot ones. In general, they are engineered to last ten years of normal operations with at least 70% battery capacity remaining. Most are guaranteed for 8 years, or 150,000km. Some will last longer, some will expire earlier, depending on the mileage, charging habits, type of use, geographic location (temperature), and driving habits.

Q: What happens to an EV battery at the end of its lifecycle?

Recycling facilities for Lithium batteries have been in operation since the 1990s. Although most EV batteries are still in service, “depleted” EV batteries are increasingly targeted to serve a second life as solar back-up in home or commercial applications before eventually being recycled.

Q: Does my EV have a regular 12v battery?

Yes, a 12V battery is used to power the computer and accessories, such as the lights, audio and heated seats, power windows, and heater. The 12V battery will need to be replaced every 3-5 years, just like in an ICE.

Electric Vehicle Charging:

Q: What is an EVSE?

EVSE stands for Electric Vehicle Service Equipment. An EVSE is the interface which safely connects your EV to AC power for charging. Although it does not really charge the vehicle (the actual Charger and Battery Management System are built-into the vehicle), most people (including us) call an EVSE “the Charger.”

Q: Does an EV come with a Charger?

All electric vehicles come with a Level 1 120V EVSE (see below). These are slow but reliable, compact, lightweight, and can easily be stored in the back of your EV, just in case…. For some people, Level 1 charging is all they will need to meet their daily driving needs.

Q: Can I use an extension cord?

Regular extension cords are a bad idea, even for Level 1. Every manufacturer warns against using extension cords due to the risk of a damaged cord or bad connection overheating and causing a fire. 

Do so:

 1) only if you absolutely have to

 2) with a good quality cord 

3) with care (check to see if it gets hot at either end) and 

4) at your own risk.

Q: What are Destination and Opportunity charging?

Destination charging means using public charge stations when you and your vehicle have reached your destination, like your workplace, or a hotel, airport, etc…. 

Opportunity charging is using public charge stations at parkades, movies, rest stops, the mall, etc.

Q: How long does it take to charge an EV?

A level 1 EVSE will take from 18-24 hours to charge your vehicle from empty (depending upon the size of your battery). This amounts to from 5-8 km of range per hour, so an overnight charge on Level 1 will suit the commuting needs of some (if not most) owners, but Level 2 is recommended for more general use.

With Level 2 (240V) most EVs will charge to 100% in under 4 hours. A Level 2 EVSE will range in cost from $350 (8 hour charge; lower amperage) to over $1,000. Installation cost will vary with your home wiring situation (from $100 to $1,500).

Q: Why are some EVs able to charge faster than others?

EVs have onboard Chargers with different capacities/ratings. The capacity is measured in kW. All EV Chargers (the one IN the car) can handle a Level 1 supply (120V/12amps): about 1.4kW. They can also handle 240 Volts (Level 2) but at 3.3kW (12 amps) or 6.6kW (32 amps) depending upon the vehicle. Most common is 6.6kW Level 2 charging, which will – on average charge your EV in < 4 hours. Tesla chargers can handle 9.6kW or 19.2kW, but have a battery 3-4 times larger as well.

Q: What is "Quick Charging"?

Level 3 (Quick Charging) refers to Direct Current Quick-Charging. This is done using a very expensive stand-alone roadside charger, typically at a cost of about $20. Quick charging bypasses the onboard charger and sends DC power straight to the EV battery, typically providing a full charge in 30-45 minutes. Not every EV is equipped for QC, nor are there a lot of DCQC stations available, but they are coming.

Q: How much does it cost to charge an EV at home?

Lightweight electric vehicles like the LEAF and i3 cost about 2.5¢ per km to operate, based on 12.8¢ per kWh. Heavier and more powerful EVs like Teslas cost around 3-3.5¢ per km driven. Filling a 24kWh car like a Nissan Leaf costs about $3.00 from empty, and will typically provide 80-160 km range (range varies by up to 50% with temperature and use). Of-course if you own solar, your charging cost will be significantly less!

Q: What is the fee for public charging?

Most Level 2 public stations are free of charge. You may have to pay for the parking-spot but not for the use of the Charger. DC Fast Chargers do have a minimum fee (as above). For the luxury of time saved, expect to pay up to $20 for an 80% charge (the last 20% takes longer, so timewise it is not worth it).

Q: How do I find charging stations?

There are new Apps coming out all the time. Tried-and true are the website www.plugshare.com, their smartphone app, or…. you can now search for “EV Charging Stations” on Google Maps. In general, you should not require public charging very often – just charge at home! However the City of Calgary is installing 42 public charging stations in 2019, and other municipalities are not far behind.

Q: How do I charge at a public charging station?

In most cases, you can simply plug the connector into your EV to begin charging. Some stations (“Flo”) are commercialized, and require users to have an account (phone app). The user can then “unlock” the station using an app or a charging fob.

Q: Can all charging stations charge all EVs?

Yes, they all use the same plug (J1772) for Level 2 (except Tesla – see below) and Level 3 has two types of plugs – with most Charging Stations providing for both.

Q: Can I charge my EV at a Tesla charge station?

Tesla has thousands of charge stations around the world. Some are called Superchargers, and use DC
power through a proprietary system, and can only charge Tesla vehicles. Others are called destination
charge stations, and with an adaptor ( $350), you can charge most any EV.

Q: Can I charge my EV at my condo?

It is possible you can access a 120V plug and this will suit your needs. EV owners/condo Strata typically settle on a flat-rate of $30/month to do so. Otherwise, we can advise you on how to approach your Condo Board; typically an installation will involve one or more Level 2 EVSEs to future-proof your building. More and more drivers will be switching to EVs, and adequate charging will increase real estate value.

Other Sources of Information:

GoElectric would like to send a big “Thank You!” to Julian from Motorize.ca for his help with creating and publishing this FAQ.