We’ve compiled a list of commonly asked questions and answers. We also have many resources throughout the site, and have linked to these resources in the answers. You can email us firstname.lastname@example.org.
What is an EV?
EV stands for electric vehicle and is the umbrella term for all vehicles that run on all or part electricity. Included within this category are battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs). If the car plugs in, then it’s considered an EV.
Do EVs qualify for a carpool/HOV decal?
Yes, in many states. In California the Clean Air Vehicle (CAV) decal is valid for 3 full years. Visit the California DMV website to apply for your HOV sticker.
Note: If you rely on the HOV lane for commuting, you may want to lease rather than purchase your EV since the decal lasts for 3 years. When it expires, you can lease a new EV and apply for a new decal. Visit your state’s department of motor vehicles (or equivalent) to learn more.
What are the typical maintenance costs of an EV?
EVs require less scheduled maintenance, as there are fewer moving parts than in a gas vehicle, which means no more oil changes, transmission maintenance, fluid changes, or emissions tests. In addition, most EVs have regenerative braking, which slows the car down when you’re not accelerating and extends the life of the brakes. A 2021 study confirmed that the maintenance costs for a BEV are 40% the cost for a gas, hybrid, or plug-in hybrid.
What if there’s a PSPS (Public Safety Power Shutoff), how can I charge my EV?
During a power outage, gas stations are not available because they require electricity to pump gasoline into cars. EVs can actually provide an electricity source during a power shutdown. You can plug an inexpensive 300w inverter into the accessory port of an EV and power up small appliances like cell phones, laptops, and LED lights from your EV battery.
How do I charge my EV at home?
People worry about charging but for many people, 90% of charging happens at home. There are two options for charging at home: level 1 and level 2 charging.
Level 1 Charging
The first is an easy, no-cost solution and it is ample for most people. Just plug the charger that comes with your vehicle into a standard 120V outlet. It charges between 25-40 miles in 8 hours (usually overnight), just enough to replenish your battery from your daily driving.
Level 2 Charging
If you drive more than 50 miles a day, a good option is to see if you can charge at work. If not, you may want to purchase a home charging station, for level 2 charging. You’ll get about 25 miles of charge an hour, so you can easily get a full charge overnight. The first step for installing a home charger is to consult with an electrician.
How do I charge my EV when I’m away from home/at public charging?
There are many public charging options and new stations are being installed regularly. The best way to know where to access public charging is by using an app such as PlugShare. Here is a quick summary of the options:
Level 2 Public Charging
If you want to charge around town or when running errands, you can plug into one of over 100,000 public EV charging stations. You’ll conveniently pick up 20 – 25 miles of charge.
Level 3 Fast Charging
When you’re on a road trip, you’ll want to fast charge, with a Level 3 charger, the fastest charging available. It’s important to note that different EVs charge at different speeds. On average, fast charging will get you about 70% battery charge in 30 minutes so on the road charging is often a 20-30 minute stop. With an ever-growing national network of EV chargers, you are always just a short drive to your next charge. Most EVs have built-in navigation systems to help you find charging nearby or when you’re planning a road trip.
How do I locate charging stations?
A must-have for all EV drivers is the PlugShare App, free in the App Store. The app maps out nearby charging stations, as well as stations across the US. You’ll find Level 2 and Level 3 stations and learn if there are available ports. The filter on the app helps you customize your search. It’s simple to use and is an indispensable part of taking a road trip.
How long does it take to charge an EV?
There are three levels of charging/speed:
Level 1 = 3-6 miles per hour or 25-50 miles overnight (just enough for most people to replenish their battery from daily driving)
Level 2 = 20-25 miles per hour
Level 3/Fast Charge = most EVs fast charge from 10% to 80% in 30 minutes or less
Will my electricity bill increase?
While it’s true that your electricity bill will increase, your overall savings will be substantial as you’ll no longer be paying to fill your tank with gasoline. Driving an EV can save you money since gasoline typically costs two to five times more than electricity. And your fuel costs will be more predictable since the price of electricity tends to be more stable than gasoline.
Does the DC (direct current) charging degrade the battery faster than level 2 or level 1?
There is little information available from that provided by manufacturers about battery degradation with fast charging, but some studies suggest that level 3 charging degrades EV batteries faster than level 1 or 2 charging. When possible, the best practice is to charge regularly and not to the full amount to preserve the battery’s lifetime. Check out this article for more information.
How long will a battery last? And what are we going to do with all the batteries once they have ended their useful life?
Current electric vehicles have driving ranges approaching 300 miles and can go over 120,000 miles with just a 10% reduction in maximum range. For EVs, when the battery degrades the range is reduced, which is not catastrophic – you can still drive your EV, just not as far on one charge.
And then there’s the second life of EV batteries using them for stationary storage, which is something our utilities are pursuing. We produce a lot of solar energy in the US and if we don’t use it or store it while the sun is shining, when the sun goes down, it’s gone. There is a lot of research in progress now to transition EV batteries for stationary energy storage. With proper usage, an EV battery can last many years with minimal degradation.
Finally, after being used to store energy, 95% of the battery materials can be recycled – even rare minerals like cobalt can be purified and reused.
What about the problems with mining the metals for batteries (lithium, cobalt, others)
It’s true that mining for metals like lithium and cobalt has an effect on the environment. However, many companies are already taking steps to combat these issues. One of the major ways they plan on mitigating the effects of mining is through recycling programs (see FAQ question above). By recycling metals like lithium and cobalt, the demand for new mining can be significantly reduced. EV manufacturers aren’t just looking at recycling, they are also working on sourcing these rare metals in responsible ways. By creating standards for responsible sourcing practices, EV manufacturers are putting pressure on mining operations to improve the safety and working conditions of their mining sites as well as prevent pollution and environmental destruction. Check out this article about lithium mining projects coming to California.
What happens when the car runs out of battery, and I get stuck somewhere?
An EV won’t just stop without advanced warning. Drivers get plenty of warnings when the battery runs low, and if it’s low enough, the car will reduce propulsion power. When running low on battery power, many EVs will display the closest public chargers and guide you there.
If your EV completely runs out of charge, AAA has a mobile electric vehicle charging program (trucks with built in EV chargers) in many areas.
It's only one car, will driving an EV really make a difference?
It’s imperative that we stop relying on fossil fuels in the near future and every vehicle counts. In the US at least 30% of our individual carbon footprint comes from driving gas cars, so switching to an EV has a big impact on our climate. Driving electric not only reduces greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change, but with EVs there are no tailpipe emissions that cause air pollution, so you and the people around you can breathe easy.
Reducing our consumption of fossil fuels can improve the quality of life for everyone. People who live in communities of concern, close to freeways and polluting industries, suffer disproportionately higher rates of asthma and heart disease, as well as shortened life expectancy, due to air pollution in their communities. In addition, these vulnerable populations tend to experience the impacts of climate change, such as sea level rise and extreme heat, sooner and to a greater extent. Driving electric helps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and contributes to cleaner air!
Isn't it better for the environment to keep driving my existing car instead of buying a new EV?
Not typically. If you drive a significant amount every day, the best choice is to replace your gas car with an electric vehicle. By acting now you can help to move us all forward in the shift away from fossil fuels. While it’s true that it currently takes more GHGs to build an EV than a similar gas car, a recent study showed that after driving an EV approximately 12,000 miles, we break even, the overall environmental benefit is outweighed. The chart below shows that total emissions for an EV vs gas powered vehicle is overall much less over the lifetime of the vehicle.
I don’t have rooftop solar, can I still get renewable energy to fuel my EV?
While it is ideal to charge your EV from rooftop solar, most states offer options for consumers to source their electricity from renewable sources However it may be up to the consumer to select this option from your electricity provider and/or it may not always be available. Check with your local utility provider to understand your options.
Rebates and Discounts
What rebates and tax credits are available to me when I purchase an EV?
When you purchase or lease an EV, you may qualify for up to $10,250 in rebates and tax credits and if your income qualifies, additional grants are available and need to be applied for before purchasing your car.
Note: incentives change on a regular basis, so be sure to research current offers.
Learn about which rebates and incentives you qualify for with savings calculators.
What is the Federal tax credit?
The federal tax credit up to $7,500 is available for the purchase of many electric vehicles. Some manufacturers will pass on this tax credit to its leasing customers. For more information visit: https://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/taxevb.shtml.
Are there State rebates available?
Many states offer additional rebates when you purchase or lease an EV. In CA, the standard rebate for an EV is $2,000 and $1,000 for many plug-in hybrids, but income and vehicle price restrictions are in place. Learn more about and apply for the state CVRP rebate here.
Is there a rebate for installing a charging station at my home?