Everything you need to know before buying an electric car



As more automakers chase Tesla’s success and ditch internal combustion engines for lithium-ion batteries, it’s a great time to learn more about electric vehicles.

Recently, the UK announced its plan to ban the sale of new cars powered solely by gas or diesel by 2035. California wants to phase out gas-powered cars in the next 15 years. And the Biden administration promised to spend $7.5 billion on charging infrastructure.

To prepare you for this new world, here are the basics on electric vehicles.

What’s an EV?

Forget everything you know about internal combustion engine (ICE) cars. They take a fuel like gasoline and combine it with air. Then a spark ignites the compressed mixture, which causes a (small) explosion. The heat and expanding gas push down on the engine’s pistons which gets the car wheels moving. And repeat.

An electric vehicle, or EV, has two major components: an electric motor (or two for all-wheel drive) and a battery pack that powers it. You won’t find an internal combustion engine in a true EV, or a fuel pump, gas tank, or oil pan. No oil or smog checks necessary!

While Tesla dominates the EV discussion, there are different types of zero-emission vehicles, or ZEVs, and other fuel-efficient (but not completely gasoline-free) vehicles.

There’s the classic EV, known as a “battery electric vehicle” (or BEV) that you’ll recognize when a Tesla Model 3, Nissan Leaf, or Jaguar I-Pace drives by. There are 70 types of EVs available for sale right now in California alone. These rely solely on electricity, which they get by plugging into a power source.

A plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, or PHEV, still needs to be, well, plugged in to charge. But when the battery runs out, the car runs on gasoline.

Most of us were introduced to electric cars with the Toyota Prius, which most people call a hybrid. But technically it’s a hybrid-electric since it doesn’t need to be plugged in and still needs gasoline. There’s no charge port on a Prius, just a fuel tank for gas. The battery is charged through energy from driving and braking.

While Teslas are ubiquitous, fuel cell electric vehicles, or FCEVs, are a rare find. There are only a few carmakers that use hydrogen, which is mixed with oxygen in fuel cells to produce electricity.

The Toyota Mirai and Honda Clarity are the most common hydrogen cars in the U.S. But finding a hydrogen fuel station can be a challenge.

Types of EVs.

Types of EVs.
Credit: Bob Al-Greene / Mashable

Battery basics

Whether you have an Audi E-tron, Chevy Bolt, or Tesla Model Y, the lithium-ion battery works the same way.

Batteries usually contain lithium, cobalt, nickel, and aluminum, said William Crockett, vice president of bonding wire sales at Japanese semiconductor company Tanaka.

Often called li-ion batteries, they’re used to store energy. There are two terminals on the ends: the anode and cathode. In between is a liquid called the electrolyte. When connected to a circuit, lithium stored in the anode and cathode flows as ions, either charging or using up the battery energy. Different batteries have different voltage levels, meaning how much current it can take in. The Tesla Model 3 battery uses 300 volts.

Crockett calls li-ion the “mainstream” battery that we see in most EVs. But lithium isn’t the only metal used. He noted there are many cathode materials. Nissan Leaf uses the mineral manganese, while Tesla has a mixture of cobalt, aluminum, and nickel. It’s working to go cobalt free, since, as Crockett put it, “cobalt is nasty stuff,” and not just because of its environmental impact. It’s often mined using child labor in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Tesla says it’s committed to using “conflict-free” cobalt until there’s a better substitute.

Hybrid EVs still have an engine, but work with a battery.

Hybrid EVs still have an engine, but work with a battery.
Credit: Bob Al-Greene / Mashable

A Tesla Model S battery pack holds 516 cells in each of its 16 modules for a total of 8,256 cells that weigh over 1,200 pounds, or about a quarter of the car’s total weight. All those cells combined hold 100 kWh of energy which translates to about 300 miles of driving range.

When braking or going downhill you can recharge the battery with regeneration, which is when energy from the friction of braking or accelerating is put back into the battery. That’s how you can go from 78 percent battery back up to 79 percent over the course of a hilly drive.

Like a cellphone, your car battery only has so many charging cycles before it needs to be charged more often. The range also drops as time goes on.

The more you use your electric car, the more quickly the battery will wear down. Someone who commutes everyday will need to replace their battery sooner than a retiree who only takes their car out occasionally.

Even for a heavy user, it will take a lot of time and miles before you need to replace your battery. For reference, Tesla’s standard Model 3 battery warranty lasts for eight years or 100,000 miles. If you do have to replace it, usually after 10 years, it’ll cost about $10,000 for the battery itself — not including service and labor costs.


Gas stations are useless for fully electric vehicles. Instead, you’ll need to find a public charging station or plug in at home.

Most people, however, don’t need to charge their vehicle every day, explained Hannon Rasool, deputy director of the California Energy Commission’s fuels and transportation division.

These days, EVs can travel 200 to even 500 miles before needing a charge.

“The reality is most of us don’t drive more than 25 mile in a day,” Rasool said in a recent call. Still, some drivers have “range anxiety,” the fear that they’ll run out of juice far from a charging station.

Plug in to fill up.

Plug in to fill up.
Credit: Bob Al-Greene / Mashable

About 75 percent of charging takes place at home, estimated Jeffrey Lu, an air pollution specialist who also works at the California Energy Commission.

There’s Level 1 charging with a 120-volt plug that you’ll find around your house for everyday appliances. With this low-level charger, an EV can take anywhere from eight to more than 16 hours to reach a full charge.

Level 2 reaches 240 volts and is what your dryer outlet uses. With this faster charging level you can expect up to 20 to 30 miles of range added to the battery for every hour of charging. It takes up to eight hours to fully charge. You can have Level 2 charging installed at home.

Then, “when you’re out and about, there are public chargers,” Lu said.

Most chargers in public charging networks in the U.S., like EVgo, Electrify America, ChargePoint, Blink, and others, use Level 2 charging. PlugShare is a good resource to find charging stations wherever you’re headed. Google Maps also includes charging information. Most public charging is available in parking lots in front of grocery stores and shopping malls, or in sections of parking garages. Some cities have public parking spots dedicated to EV charging.

Both Level 1 and 2 chargers use AC power, which stands for alternating current. Plugging in at home is cheaper than using a charging network, which can charge based on time plugged in or how many kilowatt hours, or kWh, are used. That’s the amount of energy delivered to your vehicle. The rate is usually about $0.13 per kWh. For an EV with a 75 kWh battery, that’s about $10 to fill up. For faster charging that rate is closer to $0.40 per kWh, so that adds up to $30.

For a typical sedan — say, a new Honda Accord — to fill up with today’s gas prices (the national average is $3.18 per gallon), that would cost over $47.

“When people think about charging up really quickly, they’re thinking of DC (direct current) fast charging,” Lu said.

Also known as Level 3 charging, it usually takes about 40 minutes to get most cars to 80 percent.

But not all EVs can accept that level of power. Tesla has ultra-fast “superchargers” on its network, which cost more than Level 2 charging.

Once at a charging station, you need to be able to plug in. Different cars have different types of connectors, from the common J1772 to the fast-charging CHAdeMO.

Plug it in.

Plug it in.
Credit: Bob Al-Greene / Mashable

Tesla’s Supercharger network is exclusive to Tesla, but CEO Elon Musk announced plans in July to open up the network to any EV driver with the right adapter. Rivian and Jeep are also building their own fast-charging networks.

EV deals and discounts

Now that you know how EVs work, you need to do some research before buying. Federal tax credits are available up to $7,500 for plug-in hybrids, FCEVs (aka hydrogen cars), and EVs — but not for Tesla and General Motors vehicles. Those companies already hit the limit of 200,000 low-emission cars sold, so new purchases no longer qualify for the tax break. Nissan is likely to hit it next. Biden has proposed expanding the manufacturer limit to 600,000 cars, so more buyers could qualify for Chevy Bolts and upcoming electric Cadillacs. Tesla would still exceed the limit.

Via Giphy

Most states offer their own set of rebates and tax deals. It’s the same for your city, county, or local utility district. In the San Francisco Bay Area, the regional air quality management district has a $5,000 trade-in program to replace an old car with a zero-emission vehicle. So it’s worth it to dig around, and even call your electricity provider to ask about any EV programs.


I drove a hydrogen fuel cell electric car. EVs make more sense.

Look for another money-saver: complimentary public charging. New EV models like the Volkswagen ID.4 throw in three years of free charging at Electrify America stations. It’s the same deal with the Audi E-tron GT and upcoming Lucid Air. Mercedes EQS buyers will get two free years at EA. Other cars like the Ford Mustang Mach-E, Nissan Leaf, and Hyundai Ioniq 5 have other charging deals.

Charge on.

Article Source and Credit feeds.mashable.com http://feeds.mashable.com/~r/Mashable/~3/I3v6qfM6Hi8/everything-to-know-about-electric-vehicles Buy Tickets for every event – Sports, Concerts, Festivals and more buytickets.com

Discover more from Teslas Only

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading