How Much Does It Cost to Charge an Electric Car?

October 31, 2012

With so much in the news about gas vs. electric, the obvious question is: how much does it cost to charge an electric car? It's not hard to understand why so many people are interested in electric car technology. The hybrid cars and electric autos are one of the new sources for a lifestyle that doesn't revolve around potentially harmful resources.

Understanding the Cost Per Charge
Batteries require an external power outlet for charging. Because there are different kinds of batteries and each of them has different capacities, it may be hard to give an average cost per charge. The standard outlet is 120v and can produce around 1.5kw an hour for charging. If you use a 240v circuit you can get around 6.6kw an hour. This can cut your charge time by half.

Ask your electricity provider how many kilowatts you receive an hour and what your average cost of kilowatts per hour is. Also ask your car manufacturer how many kilowatts are required to fully charge your batteries and how many miles the car will travel on a full recharge. You may find out very quickly that the cost is considerably less expensive per mile than conventional technology. It can be as low as the equivalent of 75 cents per gallon of gasoline.

Electric Car Technology
Electric cars are vehicles that get their power from rechargeable batteries, and use an electric motor as their means of propulsion. Conventional cars are powered by an internal combustion engine that uses either a gasoline or diesel engine. Electric car technology is more energy efficient, environmentally friendly and has performance benefits. 75 percent of the battery's electric energy is converted to deliver power to the wheels when driving. Internal combustion engines deliver the energy to the wheels at a percentage of only 20 percent. Electric car technology does not produce or emit any tailpipe pollution.

Batteries or battery packs used in electric car technology should be a key focus when understanding the electric car. There are five different types of batteries used in most electric cars, and each one varies in specifications and abilities. Battery packs are very bulky and take up space. They can weigh between 600 to 1,000 pounds. They're often very expensive and you might have to replace them several times throughout the car's life. Batteries have a recharge time of roughly four to eight hours. A full recharge on average will give you the driving range of about 100 to 200 miles.

How an Electric Car Works

When compared to gasoline powered vehicles the electric car is fairly simple. There are really only three main components that power the vehicle: the electric motor, the speed controller and the batteries.

The Controller
Essentially an electric car takes power from its batteries and uses that power to move the vehicle. The voltage is regulated by the motor's controller. As the accelerator pedal is pressed down the controller increases the amount of electricity that is being sent to the motor. At zero volts the car will be stopped. As the voltage is ramped up, the speed of the vehicle increases. In many ways this controller functions like a dimmer switch on a light.

One way in which this controller is different than a dimmer is its redundancy. For safety's sake there are two controls sending power to the controller. If they are both at the same power level the controller sends power to move the vehicle. If there is a malfunction in one or both of them causing an imbalance the controller will send no power, thereby immobilizing the vehicle.cp

The Motor
Electric motors in cars can be either DC (like any battery operated device) or AC (like anything that plugs into a wall outlet for power). There are varying voltages and the DC operated motors tend to be less expensive and simpler. Overall an electric engine works by using the motor in the same way that any other electric motor works—like the one in a fan, or driving the wheels of a radio controlled car. It's the same thing only on a larger scale.

The Battery
The biggest impediment on the path to getting electric cars on the road has historically been the battery. The type of battery needed to consistently deliver the needed power for a car is heavy and very expensive. They tend to have a fairly short (at least in terms of a car) life-span. For this reason the battery is likely to be the main thing that will require replacement on electric cars. The lifespan of most is thought to be in the range of four years and the cost is in the neighborhood of $2,000, making it a planned expense that needs to be weighed against the savings of otherwise minimal maintenance costs and decreased fuel expense.

Regenerative Braking
One of the biggest problems with electric car technology is that all the time the car is on, the battery is being depleted. This is distinctly different to the conventional gas engine where a charge is continually being generated by the alternator. However, there's a method that does recapture some of the energy.

With a normal engine, the forward energy is converted to heat and friction when the driver applies the brakes. Regenerative braking in a car with an electric motor is a way to recapture and store some of the energy that would otherwise become friction and heat.

Electric Car Conversions
Electric car technology has developed to the point where there are a number of electric car conversion kits available. Several companies convert vehicles and offer them for sale as well as selling parts for those wanting to attempt their own conversions.

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