For those relatively few times your EV won’t go the distance, you can rent an ICE car or use a car-sharing service such as Zipcar or Car2go (see Carsharing.net).
Like any other battery-powered device, an EV’s battery will need to be recharged regularly—depending upon how much the EV is used. The table below shows the EV charging options available now—and those coming in the future.
For levels 1 and 2, the Society of Automotive Engineers J1772 standard connector is the norm. Level 3 and DC fast-charging connector protocols have yet to be standardized. Inductive (wireless) charging, where a vehicle need only be placed near the charging unit for the batteries to be recharged, is also under development.
With an EV, there is no regular scheduled maintenance needed for the battery, electric motor, and associated electronics. Fewer moving parts means less maintenance and replacement. Only after many charge/discharge cycles will the propulsion battery need to be replaced. But even the batteries in the earliest Prius models regularly go beyond the warranty period, achieving 100,000, sometimes 150,000, and occasionally even 200,000 miles, with little significant deterioration.
Regenerative braking not only recovers energy that would be lost in braking, but reduces brake wear. With HEV and PHEVs, the ICE isn’t running all the time, meaning longer intervals between oil changes and other engine maintenance.
It was widely reported in the media that, three weeks after a side-impact test conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a Chevrolet Volt’s crystallized battery coolant ignited from current in the battery. As a result, General Motors has upgraded the steel structure and cooling system surrounding the battery.
But there have been no real-world battery-related Volt fires. NHTSA closed its investigation saying, “Based on the available data, NHTSA does not believe that Chevy Volts or other electric vehicles pose a greater risk of fire than gasoline-powered vehicles.” Crash safety information for all vehicles can be obtained from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (iihs.org/ratings) and the NHTSA (safercar.gov).
As plug-in vehicles are quiet, they can be a danger to hearing- and/or sight-impaired pedestrians. A new government standard is intended to be in place by the summer of 2012 that requires an alert mechanism.
Yes, an EV pollutes less—even if you’re recharging with electricity from a utility that offers the dirtiest portfolio of mostly coal- and oil-fired electricity generation. Of course, you can reduce your EV pollution if more of your energy comes from CO2-free wind, solar, hydro, and/or nuclear sources. Plugging various ZIP codes into the U.S. EPA’s power profiler, we find that California’s electricity mix includes the least coal (1%) and the most nonhydro renewable energy (10%). In contrast, West Virginia generates most of it electricity with coal (69%), with negligible contributions from renewable sources (see 1.usa.gov/EPAPowerProfiler).