Electric Vehicle 101


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Electric Vehicle 101

The Electric Vehicle 101 article originally appeared on Save On Energy by Caitlin Ritchie

What is an EV & how does it work?

Electric vehicles (EVs) are powered by a battery and electric motor instead of a gasoline tank and internal combustion engine. EVs (sometimes referred to as battery electric vehicles, or BEVs) have surged in popularity as manufacturers have expanded their lineup of sustainable, battery-powered vehicles.

EVs are powered by electricity from the power grid (similar to other household appliances, like a refrigerator or a TV) and store that energy in rechargeable batteries. These batteries power the electric motor, which turns the wheels and moves the car forward.

Why choose an EV?

There are several reasons why more consumers are choosing to drive electric vehicles. Here are a few of the most popular benefits of EVs:

  • More environmentally friendly. EVs run on electricity, so they don’t emit exhaust from tailpipes or rely on gasoline, a fossil fuel that produces carbon dioxide when burned. Carbon dioxide and other fossil fuels contribute to climate change and harm the environment. 
  • Lower maintenance requirements. EVs require very little routine maintenance compared to traditional gas-powered vehicles. They don’t need oil changes, the breaks wear out much slower, and there are fewer moving parts in need of routine repairs or replacements. 
  • More affordable fuel costs. With an EV, you fuel your car with electricity from home or a public charging station. You can skip the gas station entirely and will be less susceptible to spikes in gasoline prices.

Learn more about EVs

Comparing EVs to Gas Cars

Different types of EV connectors

How to Handle EV Range Anxiety

Electric Vehicle Maintenance Guide

What are the different types of electric vehicles?

When it comes to EVs, there are a few different options to choose from. Some EVs are completely electric — these are the ones that are also referred to as BEVs. There are other types to know about if you are considering an electric vehicle.

  • Plug-in electric vehicles: These vehicles are powered entirely by a battery and electric motor. You plug this vehicle into an outlet or charging station for it to receive the electricity it needs to run. Electricity is the only fuel source for EVs. 
  • Plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs): With a plug-in hybrid, the vehicle’s main fuel source is electricity. However, it also has a traditional fuel engine that can use gasoline if the electricity supply runs low. Having a backup fuel supply can be a huge benefit for drivers who experience EV range anxiety.
  • Hybrid vehicles: Hybrids are similar to plug-in hybrids, but their main fuel source is gasoline. They do have a smaller electric battery, which is charged through regenerative braking. Hybrids let you switch between a regular gas-powered vehicle and “EV mode,” which will normally only work at slower speeds or short distances. You cannot plug these vehicles into a charging station — the battery receives a small charge when you brake.

How to charge your electric car at charging stations

One of the primary benefits of EVs is the variety of charging options. Consumers can charge their vehicles at home or use public charging stations. Here is a breakdown of the different charging methods available.

What are the different levels of charging

There are three levels of charging: Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3. The higher the level, the faster the charge time because more electricity is flowing into the vehicle.

Level 1 charging (120-volt). Level 1 charging uses a household outlet, which is why this is the slowest charging level. With Level 1 charging, you can expect your vehicle to receive between three and five miles of range per hour. If you own a hybrid vehicle, Level 1 charging might work fine because hybrid vehicles have smaller batteries that hold less charge. But for people with a fully electric vehicle that they drive daily, Level 2 or Level 3 charging are better for everyday use.

Level 2 charging (208-volt to 240-volt). Level 2 charging is the most common form of charging for EVs driven daily. Consumers can purchase and install a Level 2 charger at their home. Many public charging stations also use this type of charger. With a Level 2 charger, a vehicle can charge between 12 and 80 miles of range per hour. For drivers charging their EV at home, this means you can plug your car in at night and it will be fully charged by morning. 

You can shop for Level 2 chargers through SaveOnEnergy.com. We partner with top-tier energy, solar, and EV companies to bring electricity solutions to your home.

Level 3 charging (400-volt to 900-volt). This is the fastest charging available, delivering between three and 20 miles of range per minute. Level 3 chargers (often called DC Fast Chargers) use direct current (DC) electricity instead of alternating current (AC) electricity and deliver a much higher voltage than Levels 1 and 2. Tesla refers to its Level 3 chargers as Superchargers. These chargers are rarer than Level 2 chargers due to the high price tag and high-voltage requirements.

Learn more about EV chargers

How to Find the Best EV Charger

Juicebox Charger Review

Which Chargers Are Compatible with My EV?

AC vs DC Fast Chargers

What Factors Affect EV Charging Speed?

EV Public Charging Stations

How to Install an EV Charger at Home

Electric Vehicle Charging Guide

What are the different types of connectors

You will need to use a charging station with a connector that is compatible with your EV. Level 1 and Level 2 chargers use AC connectors to power vehicles. There are two types of AC connectors:

  • Type 1 — a single-phase plug that allows you to charge your EV up to 7.4 kilowatts (kW) and 25 miles per hour of charging.
  • Type 2 — a triple-phase plug that allows you to charge your EV up to 22 kW and 75 miles per hour of charging. Type 2 connectors are most common for new cars.

Unlike Levels 1 and 2, Level 3 chargers use DC connectors. There are three types of DC connectors:

  • CHAdeMO — This is the original DC connector developed in Japan and is only sold by Nissan and Mitsubishi in the U.S. Because it is compatible with Level 3 chargers, this connector allows you to charge up to 100 kW and 150 miles for every 30 minutes of charging.
  • Combined Charging System (CCS) — CCS connectors are more common in North America and are used by most auto manufacturers, including General Motors, Ford, Jeep, Dodge, and many others. This connector enables up to 350 kW and 525 miles for 30 minutes of charging.
  • Tesla/Type 2 — Tesla Superchargers are currently the only chargers compatible with Type 2 connectors. These connectors result in up to 250 kW and 375 miles for 30 minutes of charging.

EV charging cost

EV charging

The cost to charge an electric vehicle will depend on several factors, including your electricity rate, how many miles you drive on average, and the time of day. The average EV gets between three and four miles per kilowatt-hour (kWh) of electricity. To calculate the cost to charge your vehicle at home, you’ll need to do some math. 

The average American drives 1,202 miles per month. In September 2022, the average U.S. electricity rate was 16.32 cents per kWh. If we assume an EV receives four miles per kWh, we know that the EV will use about 300 kWh in a month. This will cost $49.05 to charge at home each month.

Electricity rates vary greatly by state, as do the average miles per kWh for various EVs. In general, charging an EV at home overnight will usually be the cheapest option, although the cost to charge at public charging stations remains lower than the average cost to fuel a gas-powered vehicle.


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