Electric Vehicle FAQ:

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Electric Vehicle Classifications:

Q: What is an Electric Vehicle (EV)?

 An EV is an Electric Vehicle, typically a car, or bus or bicycle – meaning it is driven at least in part by an electric motor using electricity supplied by on-board batteries.  There are two types of EVs: pure, and hybrid.

Q: What is a Pure EV?

A pure EV is an electric vehicle (car) which is only driven by battery-power.

Q: What is a Hybrid?

A hybrid vehicle is driven by both electrical and gasoline-power.  For older (“conventional”) hybrids, the electric component is only charged by regenerative-braking (think Prius taxi), and they only have 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) utilizes the gasoline engine to drive a generator only – 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: Is an Electric Car safe?

“A lie will get half-way around the world before the Truth gets its’ pants on.” (Mark Twain).  Although it is possible an electric car will catch fire if it is in an accident, it is much more likely your gas one will.  Nonetheless, fear-mongering abounds, and there are many lies, rumours, misunderstandings and half-truths about electric cars which you can safely ignore.  As the saying goes (sort-of): “The most dangerous thing about any car is the Nut behind the steering wheel.” 

Q: I heard Electric cars will bring down the power grid and cause chaos.

Barely worth commenting on, but no.  Even if 100% of all vehicles were electric, most will be charging at night, when demand is very low (charging an electric car uses less power than running a dryer, for example).  And you can be sure that if there is a demand, the utilities will find a way to provide.  One change may be to incentivise off-peak charging by reducing the rate.

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: I thought electric cars were slow...

 Specialty electric cars now hold most pure speed records on land and water, but in general, electric cars have a top speed of about 150 km/hr. Acceleration is great for city and highway driving:  instantaneous, strong and steady.  Electric Cars have maximum torque available from a stop – unlike ICE vehicles, which have to reach a certain RPM to reach their “power band” (and so shifting gears is necessary).  All electric cars are only single-speed, and operate from 0 to about 16,000rpm.

Q: How far can an Electric Vehicle 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 electric cars we sell have a range of 80-100 km in the winter, and 100-200 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 electric car 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 Electric Car 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, electric cars have excellent traction, you will be amazed.  There is very little not to like about an electric car, and especially if you are a two-vehicle family, one of them should be electric!

Q: What special maintenance does an Electric Car require?

 None.  The only scheduled maintenance on the drivetrain of a pure electric car 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 electric cars in their “Brand” if a serious problem were to arise.

Typical savings owning an electric car 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 battery failure and a > 30% loss of range are almost unheard-of).

Most used electric cars carry the balance of the original manufacturers’ warranty.

Q: What kind of damage is done to the Electric Car 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 Electric Car battery be overcharged?

 No.  The Battery Management System (BMS) in the electric car 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 which may cause some damage is to Quick Charge your battery very frequently.  It is fine to do-so occasionally (for longer trips), and we have now seen an electric taxi which was quick charged 2x /day for 2 years, and the battery is still almost like new!

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

 Electric car batteries last longer in cold climates than hot ones.  All are guaranteed for 8 years, or 150,000km.  Most will last longer, depending on the mileage, charging habits, type of use, geographic location (temperature), and driving habits.  We have experienced several electric cars which have lived their entire life in a cold climate, and after 100,000+kms are still virtually brand-new.

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

 Recycling facilities for Lithium batteries have been in operation since the 1990s!  Although most electric car batteries are still in service, “depleted” electric car batteries are increasingly targeted to serve a valuable “second life” as stationary-storage for home or commercial applications powered by wind or solar, before eventually being recycled.  

Q: Does my Electric Car 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 – but  most people (including us) call an EVSE “the Charger.”  An EVSE is a box with a long cable and a connector on one end to plug into the car, which safely connects it to AC power for charging.  The EVSE does not really charge the vehicle, it just supplies power; the actual Charger (and Battery Management System which controls it) are built-into the vehicle!

Q: Does an Electric Car come with a Charger / EVSE?

 All electric vehicles come with a “Level 1” EVSE which can simply be plugged into any wall outlet (see “How long does it take to charge an electric car?” below).  For more than half of our customers, this is all they need to meet their daily driving needs. These “Chargers” are reliable, compact, lightweight, and can easily be stored in the back of your electric car.  We recommend you leave it in your car just in case, and buy a second one for home: either Level 1 or Level 2.  We sell select Chargers, including an inexpensive combination of both Level 1 & 2.

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 at your own risk and:

 1) only if you absolutely have to,

 2) with a good quality cord, 

3) with care – check to see if it is damaged before you use it, 

4) After you have plugged it in, check to make sure it isn’t getting hot at either end or at connection points if more than one extension cord is being used (definitely NOT recommended).

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 Electric Car?

 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 electric cars will charge to 100% in under 4 hours.  A Level 2 EVSE will range in cost from $250 (8 hour charge; lower amperage) to over $1,000.  Installation cost will vary with your home wiring situation (from $100 to $1,500).  We can help you find the best price on a quality installation.

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

 Electric cars have onboard chargers with different capacities/ratings. The capacity is measured in kW. All electric car 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 electric car 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 stand-alone roadside charger, typically at a cost of about $20. Quick charging bypasses the onboard charger and sends DC power straight to the electric car battery, typically providing a full charge in 30-45 minutes.  Not every electric car is equipped for QC, nor are there a lot of DCQC stations available, but they are coming, and some are FREE!

Q: How much does it cost to charge an Electric Car 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 electric cars 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….

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 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, there is a network of charging stations currently being installed in Southern Alberta, and at the time of writing this, Petro Canada and Shell are installing them at many locations as well.

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

 In most cases, you can simply plug the connector into your electric car 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 Electric Cars?

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 Electric Car 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 electric car.

Q: Can I charge my Electric Car at my condo?

 It is possible you can access a 120V plug and this will suit your needs.  electric car 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 electric cars, 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.