Are Electric Vehicles Ready for Prime Time?

Okay, so you are ready to do your part to reduce fossil fuel usage and you are considering an EV (Electric Vehicle). Several manufactures are marketing EV’s, but which one is right for you? Everyone has different driving styles and needs. How far can you go on a 100% EV? How reliable are they? Are there any savings? Some of these questions will be answered below to help you determine if this technology is ready for you.

There are three types of EV’s available. But, are they ready for prime time? You decide.

  1. Dedicated EV- Electric only
  2. Extended EV Electric with gasoline engine
  3. Plug-in hybrids

Dedicated EV is an electric only vehicle. There are four models available or expected out by 2012.

  1. Nissan Leaf is a four-door five-passenger hatch back pure battery electric vehicle. It has an expected range of 100 miles between charges, which Nissan says is sufficient for 90% of Americans. It takes eight hours or more to fully charge with a 220-volt outlet and longer with a 110-volt outlet. The starting price is estimated at $33,600. The warranty on the battery and related hardware is eight years or 100,000 miles. The estimated cost to replace the battery is $18,000. Expected availability is December 2010.
  2. Mini E Cooper is a two-door two-passenger pure battery electric vehicle. It has an expected range of 156 miles under ideal conditions. Most drivers get about 100 miles between charges. It takes approximately 3 hours to charge with a 240 volt 48 Amp outlet or 4.5 hours with a 32-amp outlet. If using a 110 volt 12 amp outlet it takes approximately 26.5 hours to charge. This is a two-passenger vehicle because the battery takes up the entire back seat. The regenerative braking takes a little getting used to, the system kicks in as soon as the driver lifts his foot off the accelerator pedal. This causes the vehicle to begin slowing before the brake pedal is applied. BMW is leasing these vehicles as part of a special program. They are developing a replacement based on the BMW 1 Series, which is due out in 2011.
  3. Ford Focus EV is a four-door sedan based on the redesigned 2012 Focus. The prototypes have a 23-kilowatt hour lithium-ion battery pack with an estimated range of 100 miles. Charge time is approximately 6 hours on a 220-volt charger.
  4. Tesla Roadster first started selling in 2008. It has a price tag of $111,000, it is a two-seater sports car. It is based on the Lotus Elise with a fiberglass body. This car is a rocket, it can accelerate from zero to 60 in under four seconds. It has a range of 245 miles with a massive 53-kilowatt-hour battery pack. Full charge takes 3.5 hours on a proprietary 240-Volt 70 amp charger. It has a very stiff and jarring ride with a very basic interior. It is awkward climbing into the cockpit because of the tall wide sill. The loud battery-cooling fans emit a constant roar behind you. Tesla is developing a lower cost $50,000+ model S sedan expected to be released in 2012.

Extended EV electric with gasoline engine

The Chevrolet Volt is the only model that falls within this category. It is a four-door four-passenger sedan. The Volt does not have a rear bench seat like most vehicles because of the T shaped battery pack. It has a range of 40 miles on electric power. GM states this is sufficient for 75% of commuters. Once the battery level drops below a certain level, a small gas engine kicks in to provide enough electric power to run the electric motor. The overall range is 300 miles before filling the gas tank or charging the batteries. GM says the Volt can run with never being plugged in. However, it will impact the fuel economy. Charge time for the Volt is four hours on 220 volt or eight to 10 hours on 110-volt outlets. The Volt charges faster than the dedicated electric vehicles because it has a smaller battery. The battery warranty for the Volt is the same as the Nissan leaf. The warranty on the battery and related hardware is eight years or 100,000 miles. The starting price for the Volt is $41,000. The replacement cost of the Lithium-ion battery is approximately $8000, which is $10,000 less than the Leaf. The electric motor produces 149 horse power and 273 pound-feet of torque. Those torque numbers are about the same as a V-6 engine.

Plug-in Hybrids

There are no manufactures producing plug-in Hybrids as of this writing. However, there are some aftermarket companies producing aftermarket add on batteries for the Toyota Prius. The extra cost of these add on batteries is approximately $11,000. This added battery boosts the gas mileage by approximately 50% for the first 35 miles. Once the battery is depleted, the Prius reverts back to its regular hybrid operation at which time the fuel economy drops slightly below that of a standard Prius because of the added battery weight. Toyota is field-testing the plug-in Prius for commercial use. There are no expected models for retail customers until 2012.

Some things to consider before purchasing an EV

What are your driving habits? What are the longest distances you will be traveling? When driving a pure electric vehicle; if the battery runs out completely with no charging stations available you will be stranded. With the long charge times, it will take some time to make the vehicle usable again. This is where the extended range Volt becomes more practical. Filling up the gas tank is faster than waiting for the battery to charge.

Using other electrical features like the Air Conditioning, Heating, Lights, Wind Shield Wipers and playing Music; engineers say this can consume approximately 50% of the battery power which will reduce the vehicles range.

Lithium-ion technology battery life is undetermined, however, the eight year 100,000 mile warranty on the Chevrolet Volt and the Nissan Leaf do give some piece of mind.

Cost savings

An EV costs about.04 cents per-mile (depending on the electric rates in your area). You can compare that to a Toyota Corolla at 30 mpg paying $2.80 per gallon, the per-mile cost is.09 cents.

Government incentives

The first 200,000 EV buyers from each automaker are eligible for $7,500 federal tax credit. There are also some regional incentives; for instance, California will offer an additional $5000 tax credit for “zero emission” vehicles. Check your area for local incentives.

To conclude, there are four 100% electric vehicles available by 2012. One extended range vehicle, which could be zero emission if your driving range is within the available battery level. And there are the more common Hybrids, like the Prius which runs mostly on regular gas but with great mileage and with the future pilot of the Prius as a plug in, this vehicle will eventually fall within the extended range category.

Is the EV ready for prime time? Your driving habits and needs will tell. How far do you drive daily, can you plugin at work? Are most of your driving needs around town? This is where the greatest benefits will be realized. What part of the country do you live in? Will an EV work in your environment? Parts of the country with extreme heat or cold will require more battery usage to heat or cool the vehicle, which will reduce the range. Will this reduce your cost savings?

With government incentives, the cost of one of these EV’s can be reduced to a more acceptable range, keeping the cost closer to a conventional gas vehicle. There are also reduce maintenance costs with an EV, no oil changes and the electric motors are mostly maintenance free.

The Dangers of DIY

Many people enjoy indulging in DIY tasks in their homes. It is usually a big boost to their egos whenever the task goes well. Many people may also perform tasks personally to save the cost of hiring a professional. When it comes to DIY , there are many dangers and risks involved. The task is better left to professional electricians. Some home owners are equipped with tools for electrical purposes. However, it is still not advisable to experiment with electrical connections. The results could be hazardous and at times fatal. The risk involved is not worth it. You had better incur some costs of hiring an electrician and be safe.

There are several dangers that come with DIY . The most common one is electrocution. You will be at a risk of being electrocuted if you touch live wires. Electrocution could also result if wrongly cut through cables. This could result to serious burns that could render you being disabled for the rest of your life. It could also lead to heart failure leading to death. Should a friend or family member try to save you from being electrocuted, he will face the same risk.

Poorly installed electrical cables could lead to fires. A fire could result if the wiring is incorrect, badly insulated or loose. A fire could start in the electric socket and spread to other parts of the house. Why risk burning your house down if you can hire an electrician? You could be doing the installation to save the extra cost. However, after burning up your home, you will incur much higher costs of replacing your belongings. Apparently, the DIY installation is not worth it.

Conducting unlicensed could cost you high fines. Unlicensed electrical work is illegal. Should any damage result, you could face a penalty of as high as two hundred thousand dollars. You may also be legally charged and suffer a jail term of up to three years. Damages in your home resulting from unlicensed electrical work may not be compensated by your insurance company. Thus, if any loss occurs, the home owner will bear it.

The DIY homeowner may not understand the correct size for wires and cables. Electric wires come in many sizes and types. The type and size of wire will determine the manner in which it is used. If the wrong size is installed, overheating may result. The wires should match the appliances with which they are used. The wires used for appliances like television are different from those used for electric cookers. Many homeowners are not armed with this kind of knowledge.

While doing electrical installations, the power boards should not be overloaded. DIY electrical installations could result to overloading of power outlets and power board. This could lead to straining of the circuits. The same case applies for electrical box connections. Electrical boxes are meant to give protection against external elements. Inexperienced people may overload the electrical box. This will in turn result to overheating and short circuiting. By seeking the assistance of a qualified electrician, such scenarios can be avoided.

It doesn’t matter whether you are dealing with a minor or a major one. You still need to hire a qualified electrician. Mistakes can be made even when performing simple tasks such as installing light bulbs. You may put a bulb with a higher wattage than a socket. There will be a risk of overheating. The socket will burn and cease functioning. You are likely to keep replacing bulbs and sockets every now and then. This is not economical at all. In fact, the risks and costs of DIY exceed the cost of hiring an electrician by far.

Tips to Finding the Best Course

Choosing an course is a big decision. You want to ensure you don’t only choose the right course, but also the right trainer. You want to ensure that the training specialist you choose has the experience in the industry to provide you with the best learning experience. This means that there are certain factors you are going to want to take into consideration to ensure you choose the course that is the best match for you in terms of certifications and budget.

You want to start your search for courses online. The internet is brimming with useful information, enabling you to find training centres in your area, identify what courses they provide and whether they specialise in any particular industry. When it comes to courses, you may want to look for an electrical training specialist, a company that focuses on one industry to provide the best quality training courses that you can rely on and trust.

Don’t choose the first course provider you find online. Ensure you do your research and review each company in detail to ensure that they meet your requirements. Reviewing the training company is actually easier than you may have thought, though it will take you a little bit of time. You can start by typing the company name into your search engine and then go through the results looking for independent review sites and online forums. This way you can read honest customer reviews from past and current customers, this one step can help you narrow down your search considerably.

Take your short-list and go through each training company to identify what and training courses they provide. Try and look at companies that provide a range, this way you can go back to them throughout your career as you build up your knowledge and advance your career moving forward.

With all the information you have gathered, you will be able to compare the companies against each other. When comparing look at the electrical courses they provide, where they offer their training and whether you can get to the training centre with ease and the cost. Of course, you also want to know the size of classes that they teach, so you know you will receive top quality training with personalised care to help you achieve the best end result.

Identify with the company and ask them about their trainers. Trainers should be highly experienced in the electrical industry and bright valuable insight to the class room. They should be patient in their teaching style, helping all their students achieve the best success in the long run.

Always take a few minutes and go through the dates provided by the company. Each company will conduct their courses on different dates and over a different period of time. Based on your availability you will be able to decide which one is the best match based on your own availability and where the course is being held.

One of the final considerations when choosing an course is to choose a course that is affordable in price. Price should never be your only deciding factor, but at the same time, you don’t want to find yourself paying such a low price that you receive poor quality training. Compare the prices among the training centres, prices should be very similar, so you can choose based on the course, the company reputation and the length and location of the course.