During the second half of the 19th century, French and English inventors began to build electric cars that were more practical—with the first U.S. electric car available around 1890. Invented by William Morrison, he built a six-passenger vehicle that could travel about 14 miles per hour. This caused other people to sit up and take notice, and New York City soon had 60+ electric taxis available for passengers.
Although electric cars are clearly in the news, they definitely aren’t new. The first electric vehicle was actually introduced more than a century ago, after a series of discoveries and innovations took place. In the early 1800s, innovators began to experiment with battery-powered vehicles, and they created some on a small scale in the United States, as well as in Hungary and the Netherlands. Plus, a British inventor, Robert Anderson, developed a “crude electric carriage.”
By 1900, electric cars accounted for about one third of the vehicles on the road; granted, there were far fewer cars than today and horses were used by most people for transportation, but this nevertheless was the electric car’s first “heyday,” one that lasted for about a decade.
In this era, people could choose among electric, gasoline-powered, and steam-powered cars. Advantages of electric ones were how quiet they were and how easy they were to drive, plus they didn’t smell bad, like the early gasoline-powered ones did. Women especially preferred electric vehicles.
Early models included one by Porsche—the 1898 P1—and a collaboration between Thomas Edison and Henry Ford in 1914 that didn’t come to fruition. But, the invention of the electric starter in 1912 made gas-powered cars more practical; and, because few Americans outside of cities had electricity yet—and gasoline was cheap—electric cars began disappearing from the road.
Soaring gas prices in the 1960s and 1970s revived interest and, in 1976, Congress authorized the Energy Department to begin research and development in electric and hybrid cars. Manufacturers also begin experimenting with electric models again, but they typically couldn’t go faster than 45 miles an hour, not practical for the growing highway system. Plus, they usually couldn’t go more than 40 miles without needing recharged.
Concerns about the environment spurred on additional investments in technology, though, and now there are more than 234,000 plug-in vehicles on the road today, along with 3.3 million hybrids. Thus, there is a growing need for electrical charging stations at home.
Perhaps you already have purchased—or you intend to purchase—an electric car or a hybrid model, and now you need a charging station. Or maybe you’re still trying to decide if you should switch from a gasoline-powered vehicle to an electric one. If you fall into the latter category, you may want to read the next section about how cost-efficient electric vehicles can be and the two main types of charging stations.
According to the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, drivers of electric cars typically do over 80% of their charging at home. They can manage their charging in their garages, taking advantage of stable residential electricity rates. By doing this, the annual cost of running a car can be less than that of running an air conditioner.
More specifically, the government site shares that the national average for electricity is 12.6 cents per kWh. This means you could charge the depleted battery of an all-electric vehicle for about what it would cost you to run your central air conditioner for six hours.
Since hybrid-electric models have smaller batteries, each charge would cost less Using a Chevy Volt as an example, the annual energy use is 2,520 kWh—less than what it typically takes to run a water heater for the year.
If you charge your car at night and your utility company offers lower off-peak rates, you could save even more money.
You can also benefit from even more savings if you qualify for electric vehicle tax credits or other related incentives. At the time of writing this post, 5 potential opportunities are being listed for North Carolina.
Energy.gov shares that, right now, the federal government and multiple states offer incentives to encourage people to purchase an electric car. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) tax credit ranges between $2,500 and $7,500 per vehicle intended for use in the United States.
How much you’ll qualify for depends upon the vehicle’s size and the battery’s capacity. You can find out the current tax credit amount for your vehicle of choice; note that these credits will be offered until 200,000 qualified EVs are sold by a particular manufacturer in the United States. Once that number is reached, the credit begins to be reduced for that manufacturer, but this has not happened yet for any brand.
To take advantage of a credit, you’ll need to:
There may be additional credits and incentives offered by your state, city, and/or utility company. These can consist of “additional tax credits, vehicle or infrastructure rebates or vouchers, vehicle registration fee reductions, loans, special low-cost charging rates, and high-occupancy vehicle lane exemptions.”
Here is more information about incentives and North Carolina laws related to electric cars.
When charging at home, you can use the “relatively simple” Level 1 electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) or the “slightly more complex” Level 2 EVSE. No matter which type you decide to buy, it’s important to:
Now, here are specifics about each choice.
The Level 1 EVSE uses a 120-volt AC plug. For each hour of charging, you should get about two to five miles of range, which makes it suitable for hybrid electric vehicles. In some circumstances, it could also be used for all-electric choices.
This level does not require special equipment, although you will need a dedicated branch circuit for plugging it in. It’s important that the outlet you use is not part of a circuit that supplies power for other appliances.
The Level 2 EVSE provides power through a 240-volt AC plus, and each hour of charging adds between 10 to 60 miles of range. This makes the Level 2 EVSE suitable for all electric cars. With this system, special charging equipment will need installed on a dedicated electrical circuit that provides 20 to 100 amps. This is the same type of outlet as ones used for electric ranges and clothes dryers.
Initial costs of this system can include upgrades to your electrical service, if what you currently have is not adequate, along with the price of the Level 2 EVSE, and installation charges. The price of the electrical upgrades, if needed, will vary based upon what you need done. The charging station itself ranges from $500 to $2,000 before any incentives, if available for you.
It’s important to work with a licensed electrical contractor when installing a Level 2 EVSE charging station, because you need to comply with local, state and national codes and regulations. Quoting from the site in the bullet points below:
You can have your EVSE installed in your garage, and there are also outdoor options. Units range from fairly simple ones to those with advanced features, including display enhancements, smartphone connections, keypads, charging timers and more. Your station should be certified for electric vehicle use.
Although no one can predict, with certainty, what the future will hold, electric vehicles are key to a more sustainable future. If all of the light-duty vehicles in our country were exchanged for all-electric or hybrid models, carbon pollution could be reduced by as much as 20 percent from transportation use.
We will be installing SAE-J-1772 chargers for Level 1 and Level 2 AC charging, to be used on e-tron vehicles, as well as SAE CCS (combined charging standard) for Level 3 DC fast charging, used for e-tron in fast charging applications. If we can help you, please contact us online or by calling 704-216-4301 today.