moving to electric drive2What is a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV)?

A plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (otherwise known as a plug-in hybrid) is a vehicle with both an electric motor and a gasoline engine. It can be fueled using both electricity and gasoline. The Chevy Volt and Ford C-MAX Energi are examples of a plug-in hybrid vehicle. Most major automakers currently offer or will soon offer plug-in hybrid models.

What is an electric vehicle (EV)?

An electric vehicle, sometimes also called a battery electric vehicle (BEV) is a car with an electric motor and battery, fueled only by electricity. The Nissan Leaf and Tesla Model S are examples of an electric vehicle. Many automakers currently offer or will soon offer plug-in hybrid models.

What is a plug-in electric vehicle (PEV)?

Plug-in electric vehicles are a category of vehicles that includes both plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) and battery electric vehicles (BEVs) – any vehicle that has the ability to plug-in. All of the models mentioned previously fall into this category.

Why would I want to drive a PEV?

First and foremost, PEVs are fun to drive – more on that below. They’re also better for the environment. PEVs are able to reduce the total vehicle emissions through using electricity instead of gasoline. In most areas of the U.S., electricity produces fewer emissions per mile than gasoline, and in some areas, including California, driving on electricity is MUCH cleaner than burning gasoline. And, with the increasing shift toward renewable energy generation, the U.S. electricity grid is getting cleaner each year. Most of the time, its also cheaper per mile to drive on electricity versus gasoline.

Aren’t electric vehicles slow and boring, like golf-carts?

Nope! Many golf carts are electric, but an electric car doesn’t have to drive like a golf cart. Electric and plug-in hybrid cars are a lot of fun to drive because the electric motor is able to provide a lot of torque quickly, which means a fast, smooth acceleration. One of the most extreme examples of how fast an electric vehicle can be is the Tesla Roadster, which can accelerate from 0-60 mph in just 3.9 seconds.

How do you recharge a plug-in hybrid or an electric vehicle?

All electric vehicles come with a standard 120V charging cord (like your laptop or cell phone) that you can plug-in in your garage or carport. They also can charge using a dedicated charging station that operates at 240V. Many houses already have 240V available for electric clothes dryers. You can install a 240V charging station at home, and simply plug the car into the charging station. There are thousands of 120V and 240V public charging stations all over the country, and there’s a growing number of even higher power fast-charging stations around the country. Many, but not all, electric vehicles are equipped to accept a high power fast charge.

How long does it take to recharge a plug-in vehicle?

It depends on how big the battery is, and whether you charge using a regular 120V outlet a 240V charging station, or a fast charger. Plug-in hybrids with smaller batteries can recharge in about 3 hours at 120V and 1.5 hrs at 240V. Electric vehicles with larger batteries can take up to 20+ hours at 120V and 4-8 hours using a 240V charger. Electric vehicles that are equipped for fast-charging can receive an 80% charge in about 20 minutes.

How far can I drive on a charge?

Plug-in hybrids may drive for 10-50 miles using only electricity before they start using gasoline, and can then drive for about 300 miles (depending on the size of the fuel tank, just like any other car). Most early electric vehicles (about 2011 – 2016) were capable of about 100 miles of driving before they need to be recharged. Current electric vehicles travel about 250 miles on a charge, though there are some, such as Teslas, that can do about 350 miles on a charge. Many automakers have announced plans to bring to market electric vehicles that promise longer range and even faster charging.

How much do these cars cost?

The cost of today’s PEVs varies widely based on model and manufacturer. Many people choose to lease their PEV to take advantage of special pricing. Most PEVs qualify for federal tax breaks. Some states also offer additional purchase incentives, rebates, and tax breaks for these cars.

Are there any government rebates or tax breaks on these vehicles?

In short, yes. You can find more information on federal and state rebates, tax breaks, and other incentives on our Resources page.

What happens to the battery when it dies?

Batteries can be recycled, although there is still more to learn about recycling the lithium-ion (li-ion) batteries used in plug-in electric vehicles. Right now there aren’t very many companies that do recycle used li-ion vehicle batteries, because there aren’t many batteries to recycle yet. Here at UC Davis’ PH&EV Research Center, we’re also exploring the option of using the batteries in a “second life” application after they are no longer good enough for use in vehicles, and then recycling after the 2nd life.