The lowdown on electric vehicles

On Earth Day 2014 Governor Malloy plugs an EV (Electric Vehicle) into a charging station outside the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) offices.

Officials who are present declare that Connecticut is an ideal state for EVs, because it’s a small and urbanized state with short distance work commutes and short distance trips to the grocery store

90 percent of Connecticut’s citizens are within 20 miles of an EV car charger and officials claim the electricity here is more green than in other parts of the country. Use of EVs in Connecticut is 60 percent less polluting than vehicles with a combustion engine.

So far, Connecticut is rated #6 in the nation for hybrid car adoption, and U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz says Connecticut is “leading the way” on EVs.

But let’s cut to the chase. Most people’s biggest problem with EVs is range anxiety. Maybe answers to the following basic questions will help you achieve range confidence.

How far can an EV go on a charge? That depends on the EV. The four best-selling reasonably-priced plug-in EVs are, in order: The Chevy Volt, the Nissan Leaf, the Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid, and the Ford C-Max Energi.

Of these, only the Leaf is fully electric. The Volt uses gas “cleanly” to power a generator for extending the charge on its battery, as opposed to the Prius and C-Max, which use gas to power their drive-trains. The Volt has electric/total miles range of 38/378; the Leaf 80; Prius, 11/540; C-Max, 21/620.

How long does it take to charge an EV? Charging stations are rated as level 1 (120 volts), which provides 2-5 miles per hour of charge; level 2 (220/240 volts), 10-20 per hour; and level 3 (480 volts DC), 60-80 per 20 minutes. Most EVs can handle levels 1 and 2; level 3 requires special equipment. Charging times vary widely.

At levels 1 and 2, a Volt can be charged in 10 hours/less than 3 hours; at levels 1, 2 and 3, a Leaf takes 8 hours, 4 hours or half an hour; at levels 1 and 2, a Prius takes 3 hours or one and a half hours; at levels 1 and 2 a C-Max takes 7 hours or two and a half hours.

Range and charging information can be googled or found through Wikipedia. A quick-and-easy comparative site is plugincars.com.

How many charging stations or are publicly available? Connecticut currently has 209 outlets at 122 stations, many at auto dealerships. You can find maps and a spreadsheet for them at www.ct.gov/deep/EVConnecticut.

Milford has a level two outlet at Napoli Nissan on Bridgeport Ave. The DEEP site as well as www.cl-p/ev both link to a US Department of Energy map where you can locate all the charging stations in the US. Certain national charging networks have locator maps available, too, with apps for any mobile phone. Examples are PlugShare, ChargePoint, and Blink. Google Maps and MapQuest can also be queried for charging stations.

Finally, you can buy your own home charging station for $600-$900, depending on whether it’s Level 1 or 2.

Still not range-confident? Just wait for the next lean and green advance: hydrogen fuel cell powered vehicles.

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  • PLC Fischer

    You left out the Ford Fusion. It is priced about the same as the Prius and has the same specs as the C-Max.

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