Healthy Living

What You Should Know About Electric and Hybrid Vehicles

When buying an electric or hybrid car, it is easy to get caught up in the environmentally friendly zero-emissions claim and advertised mile ranges. Underneath those arguments, though, lies an assortment of truths and half truths.

Here's the fine print:

Two Types of Electric Cars

There are two types of electric cars: all-electric and plug-in hybrids. All-electric cars are exclusively powered by large battery packs charged from the grid. If the batteries run out of life, there is no other power option but to charge it. The Nissan LEAF is an example of an all-electric vehicle. It typically offers an 80-mile range per charge, with rumors circulating that the 2013 model will offer 25 percent more range and better winter performance.

Plug-in hybrids utilize both electric and gasoline as power. After a plug-in hybrid's smaller battery pack is drained, it can revert to being a normal fuel-fed hybrid or it can recharge its batteries while driving. The Chevy Volt is an example of a plug-in hybrid. It has a 16-kWh lithium-ion battery, equaling about a 40-mile range on electric power. With a full battery and gas tank, the Volt's range increases to about 300 miles.

Three Ways to Charge

There are essentially three levels of charging support for electric vehicles. The amount of time it takes to charge your car's battery is significantly greater than gassing up a conventional car, and it's an important factor to consider when shopping in Phoenix for used cars because of the size of the city.

Level one charging uses a standard three-prong household outlet. Every electric car comes with and supports this type of cable charging — but it is slow. Level one charging adds about five miles of driving range for every hour of charging, according to Nick Chambers of The Daily Green.

Level two charging uses a higher-level charge, utilizing pedestal-mounted equipment unique to electric cars. According to Chambers, it's like using a household dryer outlet to charge your car. This type of charge is faster than level one, adding about 15 to 30 miles of range per charge hour.

Level three charging is the fastest of the three, adding about 80 miles of driving range in a half hour of charging. DC fast charging uses industrially-rated, gas pump-sized stations to load your car's battery with electrons. Not all cars support this type of charging, and it is usually a pricey option, Chambers said in the article.

Cost and Incentives

Although the sticker prices for electric cars may be higher than their gasoline powered counterparts, federal and state government incentives bring prices down by the thousands. U.S. tax payers with a one-year tax liability exceeding $7,500 are eligible for a federal tax credit of that amount when buying an electric car. For those who don't, there is the option of leasing the car from the manufacturer and using the entire $7,500 to pay down the lease in the beginning.

Now that you know the basics about EVs and hybrids, it's time to graduate to the next level. Research which car is best for your situation and seek help online or otherwise to help you make an informed decision.

Lance Moncada does freelance writing and consulting; his specialty is the auto industry. He's pretty sure he's the only person who loves both Formula 1 and NASCAR.

Karla Urwitz
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