Woman using a public electric vehicle charger

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43 Most Common EV Questions Answered

(Almost) Everything you wanted to know about EVs

If just thinking about owning an electric vehicle fills your head with questions, maybe plugging into these insightful answers can help you find what you're looking for. From the costs of owning an EV to its environmental impact, here's what you need to know before shopping for your own electric vehicle.

EV Basics You Were Afraid to Ask

There is no dumb question when it comes to EVs. We're all learning about them so let's dive in.

  1. Do electric cars have engines? No. Instead of fuel tanks and internal combustion engines, EVs have rechargeable batteries and electric motors.
  2. What is an ICE vehicle? This is your standard gasoline-powered vehicle. An internal combustion engine (ICE) provides power to a traditional car by means of the heat produced after a fuel, like gasoline or diesel, is oxidized and ignited in a combustion chamber.
  3. What does MPGe mean? To make it easier to understand its testing results, the EPA doesn’t just report range. It also provides a miles-per-gallon equivalent measurement, or MPGe, that you can compare with the EPA MPG estimates given for ICE vehicles that you're probably already familiar with. You might also hear the term miles-per-kWh or kWh/100, which are designed to help you understand how efficient your EV is and help you compare it to a similar-sized gas car.
  4. What are the standard features on an EV? Since EVs don’t require big gasoline engines, transmissions, and other components, they are often more spacious inside than their gasoline vehicle counterparts. More storage is often available as well, with some EVs providing both a traditional trunk in the rear and a frunk, or front trunk, in the space where a gasoline vehicle’s engine would be. They also tend to take advantage of the latest technology, such as cruise control, lane-centering assist, blind-spot monitoring, and much more.
  5. How long do EVs last? With an EV, the full bumper-to-bumper warranty applies whether you lease or buy. There's also the benefit of an 8-year/100,000-mile battery warranty (or 10-year/150,000-mile warranty in California and Zero Emission Vehicle states), which also applies to related components like the cooling system. 
  6. Is a hybrid an electric vehicle? Strictly speaking, no. It's a different animal. While an EV relies solely on battery power to drive its electric motor, a hybrid uses a combination of electricity and conventional fuel for power. There are other kinds of cars that call themselves electric cars but they are not pure battery EVs; you can learn more about those here.
  7. Do electric cars use gas? No, strict EVs do not have an internal combustion engine (ICE), so of course also no fuel tank, so no gas is necessary. You might be thinking of a hybrid EV, which uses a combination of gasoline and electricity to produce power.
  8. Are electric cars better than gas cars? Contrary to some popular misconceptions, EVs typically offer superior performance to gasoline vehicles in a lot of aspects. While EV performance varies between different makes and models, all EVs benefit from the fact that they use drivetrains that are fairly simple compared to gasoline vehicles. Additionally, EVs are much quieter in operation, which is another byproduct of using battery-powered motors instead of gas-powered engines.

A Few Answers About EV Batteries

EV batteries are big, heavy, and seem a bit scary to think about. In reality, they are getting smaller and lighter every day (although they are still quite heavy), have longer and longer warranties, and manufacturers are finding new ways to build them.

  1. What kind of batteries do electric vehicles use? There are four main types of batteries that are used by EVs today: lithium-ion batteries are the most common, followed by nickel-metal hydride batteries (this type is used more often in hybrid vehicles, but they also power some EV vehicles), lead-acid batteries, and ultracapacitors.
  2. Don't EV batteries wear out really fast? Actually, no, not these days. In fact, some electric vehicle batteries are guaranteed to deliver a promised range of up to 10 years or 150,000 miles. The latest battery technology is pushing 300,000 miles in laboratory testing. That’s over 20 years of (generally) emissions-free driving.
  3. Can EV batteries be replaced? Yes, usually, but if you think swapping out the battery in your EV is as easy as it is for a handheld gadget, think again. Depending on the vehicle make and model, it’s expensive and occasionally not possible. The good news is that even older EV models don’t typically require battery replacements as today’s batteries can last for hundreds of thousands of miles.  
  4. Can EV batteries be recycled? Once your EV battery’s components are well and truly dead, maybe another 10 years down the road after use in a second life, it’s time for recycling. Currently, about 50 percent of the typical battery is recyclable. Eventually, new processes are expected that could push upwards of 90 percent EV battery recycling, minimizing as much environmental impact as possible.
  5. How much does an electric battery weigh? Today's typical electric vehicle batteries tip the scales at around 1,000 pounds each.

Smart Questions About EV Range and Performance

If range or performance worries have been holding you back from looking at an EV, it's definitely time to take another look. EVs are actually giving gasoline-powered cars a real run for their money and manufacturers are producing new EVs with longer ranges than ever.

  1. How far can an electric car go? There are a lot of short-range EVs designed primarily for in-city driving, but you can also find EVs that are capable of traveling 300 miles or more on a single charge. Range has always been one of the biggest advantages that gasoline vehicles have over EVs, but that gap has closed fairly rapidly given improvements to the charging infrastructure in the United States. Taking an EV on a long road trip still requires more advanced planning than driving a gas-powered vehicle, but even that is far easier than it was in the past.
  2. How much range would I really need? The answer all depends on your driving habits, the type of geography you live in, and how far you typically go on a daily basis. For example, a leadfoot driver needs a bit more range than someone who accelerates slowly. EV owners living in flat areas like the Plains, too, can go farther than those living in mountainous areas with the same type of EV. Drivers who carry lots of cargo or many number of passengers in an EV would need more range than a solo driver, for instance. Read more about how to think about and determine the range you might need.
  3. Can an EV really perform as well as a gasoline-powered car? Actually, yes. Performance is a bit of a tricky subject to compare both types of vehicles in but EVs can and do perform quite well in several key areas. They have impressive acceleration, for instance, with some EVs hitting 0 to 60 in about two seconds. On the other hand, gasoline cars still take the lead in producing top speeds (EVs top out at around 200 mph while gas-powered cars have top speeds around 300 mph). Overall, however, acceleration, torque, and speed are convincing more people to switch to EVs.
  4. Can EVs and gas-powered cars both deliver both torque and power at the same time? No. EVs actually perform better than gasoline vehicles in this area. That's because electric vehicle motors, usually called motor-generators (MG) deliver torque and power but don’t need to get up to speed to do it. This is because MGs deliver all their torque at zero rpm, right off the line, then keeps on pushing through about half its maximum speed. Conventional internal combustion engines (used in gasoline-powered cars) generate torque and power based on displacement and speed, but you can’t get both high torque and high power with those. 

EV Charging Concepts to Know

Charging an EV battery isn't the same as gassing up a traditional car, but once you know how it's done, it's just as easy.

  1. Where do I charge an EV? It all depends on your situation and where you are. It's important to know the difference between Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3 charging. While EV drivers can access Level 1 and Level 2 charging in many residential and work settings, you might need an app to help find the nearest super-fast Level 3 charging station.
  2. Can you charge an EV with solar panels? Yes, but the practicality of charging an EV with solar panels depends on many factors, like average daily sunlight and solar panel setup. For those with sufficient sunlight and willing to make the initial investment, a home rooftop solar panel setup with appropriate charging equipment is one solution. Unfortunately, solar panels don't yet produce enough energy to be installed on an EV itself and used to continuously keep it charged.
  3. Will charging an EV at home raise my electricity bill? Currently, the average residential cost for electricity is under 14 cents per kilowatt-hour. To fully refuel a car with a 90-kWh battery, then—among the largest batteries available today—would add less than $13 to an average electric bill. Thirteen dollars to travel 200 to 300 miles is very inexpensive, especially compared to the $25 to $38 it would cost to fuel a gasoline car (with an avg. 25 MPG efficiency and gas at $3.20 per gallon). Get the facts vs. myths about electric bills and EVs.
  4. Are there ways to reduce the cost of charging an EV? Yes! Charging at home is usually less expensive than at a public charging station, unless you're lucky enough to have frequent access to a free charger, common in some cities. Many utilities also have lower electricity rates during the night when demand is lower, which can be especially advantageous for EV owners since that's when charging typically occurs. These rates can be half as much as during day, or even less, but you may need to sign up for these programs. There are other factors to consider, too, but overall charging costs tend to be much less expensive than people think.
  5. How long does it take to charge an EV? That depends on the type of charging station you use, your EV's battery capacity, and how much you drive. Regardless of the type of charging station, the speed at which an EV battery charges is always limited by the maximum amount of power it can handle. If an EV has a charger that can handle 350kW, it will charge much faster at a DC Fast Charging station than a vehicle that can only handle 50kW. Learn more about charging times and factors that impact it.
  6. Is it better to charge an EV at home or at a public charging station? You need both home and public charging to live comfortably with an EV. If you don't have a home charger, you'll could be relying on a potentially spotty and sporadic public network. Conversely, if you don't have access to public chargers, you won't be straying too far from home. Ideally, you need both. However, you don't need to use them equally. Here's why.
  7. Do I need a special outlet at home to charge my EV? It depends on the type of charger you plan on installing at home. A level 1 charger, which charges your EV the slowest, uses as standard 110V outlet, the same kind that you plug your phone charger or TV into. Many people use this type of charger overnight while they sleep. A level 2 charger, which charges your EV faster, requires a 220V outlet, the same kind of outlet that your electric range or dryer uses. You can purchase those chargers and have them installed by an electrician for a few hundred dollars, depending on the type of charge you buy.
  8. Do all electric cars use the same charger? No. Electric vehicle charging receptacles currently come in several forms, just as the home videocassette market saw warring VHS and Betamax formats vying for supremacy in the 1970s and 1980s. These are still relatively early days for EVs, so what’s hot today may be passé tomorrow. Far from a universal one-size-fits-all approach, there are three distinct charging levels, as well as four competing plug standards, most of which are incompatible with each other. Here's a look at every EV charging standard and connector type.
  9. Should I charge my electric car every night? Maybe. What's best for you depends on many factors like daily use and personal driving habits. However, Level 1 and Level 2 home chargers (unlike super fast Level 3 chargers) are designed to safely charge an EV overnight. Once you're done using the car for the day, letting it charge overnight is fine, often less expensive than charging during day, and is a pretty common practice. Using a few best practices (like sticking with home charging) can help you extend your battery's life, by the way.
  10. How do I know how much charge is left on my battery? Much like a fuel gauge warning light, an EV will tell you how much charge is left on its battery and warn you well in advance before the next charge is needed. Many EVs also have apps that can keep you informed of charging levels when away from your vehicle, too.

Costs and Fees Associated With EVs

Yes, EVs can be a bit spendy to purchase but did you know there are a variety of state and federal tax incentives, credits, and rebates that might apply to your purchase? Plus the costs of charging aren't really as high as you might think. In fact, charging an EV can often be less expensive than fueling up a traditional car.

  1. Can you buy a used EV? Yes! Used EVs are available across the U.S. There are a few things to consider before you buy one, though. Be sure you know what to look for before you go shopping.
  2. How do EV tax credits work? While it’s true that buying an EV is often more expensive than buying a similar internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle, taking advantage of tax credits and rebates can make many EVs very affordable. Electric vehicle (EV) tax credits are available at the federal level, and a number of states also have their own EV tax credits and rebates. 
  3. Do electric vehicles pay road tax? If by road tax you mean a tax based on tailpipe emissions, then a pure EV with zero emissions would typically pay nothing. However, there are other fees like sales tax and vehicle registration to consider, although tax incentives and rebates could reduce some of those fees.
  4. Who pays for electric car charging stations? While some charging stations are free and subsidized by businesses or cities, most charge a time- or charge-based fee which is paid by the EV owner after charging, much like gas at a gas station. Charging stations can be more expensive than charging at home (which costs whatever your home electricity costs) but charging your EV away from home isn't always as expensive as some people think.
  5. How do I pay for electric vehicle charging? Home charging costs are usually paid through your residential electricity account, while public charging is paid via credit card or a prepaid account at the point of charging.
  6. Does insurance cost more for EVs? Insuring an EV works the same as insuring any vehicle. Since insurance costs are based largely on how much it will cost the insurer to repair or replace your vehicle in the case of an accident, EVs typically cost a little more to insure than gasoline vehicles. This isn’t a universal rule though, and some EVs can cost less to insure than the national average.
  7. How expensive are home EV chargers? Level 1 chargers often come with the purchase of an EV and since they use standard outlets, usually don't cost anything to install. Level 2 chargers can cost anywhere between $300 and $1,200. You’ll want to consult with an electrician for installation of a Level 2 charger if you’re not already pre-wired for a 240 volt connection. This can add anywhere from $250 to $2,000 for professional installation and parts.

EV Maintenance Tips

There are some things about maintaining an EV that are just like maintaining a gasoline-powered car (like adding windshield wiper fluid regularly). Then there are a lot of things that EVs just don't have so you don't need to repair or maintain those kinds of parts (think: no more oil changes).

  1. Who fixes EVs? Trained EV technicians perform maintenance and repairs and these can happen at the dealership or at an independent repair shop, just like with gasoline powered vehicles.
  2. Do EVs have transmissions? No. EVs don’t require big gasoline engines, transmissions, and many other components. Because of these differences, they are often more spacious inside than their gasoline vehicle counterparts.
  3. Do EVs use oil? No. Without the pistons, valves or other moving parts that require lubrication in an internal combustion engine (ICE), EVs do not use oil, have an oil pan, or require oil changes.
  4. Do EVs have alternators? No, an EV doesn't need an alternator converting mechanical energy to electricity in the way a gasoline powered vehicle does to keep its 12-volt battery charged. Instead, a simple DC-DC converter does the trick in an EV.
  5. Do EVs require special maintenance? Battery checks are more extensive in an EV for obvious reasons, but in general, no. In fact, quite the opposite. Due to the fact that EVs are more simple machines in general, and don't have traditional transmissions or engines, there's less to maintain, break down, and fix. Lower maintenance and repair costs are actually one of the primary reasons to choose an EV.
  6. I heard EVs don't last as long as gas cars. Is that true? Actually, it's not true. To help encourage confidence in EVs, federal rules now require automakers to cover major components, like the battery and electric motor, for eight years or 100,000 miles, while California extends that to 10 years or 150,000 miles. Some EV automakers even offer a lifetime guarantee to help convince prospective buyers that EV lifespans are as long as (or better than) gas cars.

EVs and the Environment

  1. Are EVs better for the environment? For the most part, yes. Instead of a gas-powered engine that emits various greenhouse gases as byproducts of combustion, EVs have electric motors that produce no emissions. However, the manufacturing of EVs can create emissions due to the materials involved in production.
  2. Do electric cars cause pollution? No. EVs often score above 100 MPGe (the electric equivalent of miles per gallon) and electric motors are more efficient than the best engines, which means less energy is expelled as waste (exhaust and heat) and more energy is used to propel the vehicle.
  3. But some EVs still produce emissions, right? Well, sort of. Pure EVs only generate emissions if the power plant used to to charge them isn't environmentally friendly. And yes, electric vehicles actually generate more emissions during their construction than gasoline-powered cars due to the use of materials that must be mined and other manufacturing issues. But when actually driving down the road, EVs don't produce emissions at all while gasoline-powered cars can produce 6 tons of more of emissions during a similar drive.