Increased Efficiency: 3 Tips To Lower Electric Vehicle Charging Costs

electric vehicle chargingWhen pitted against each other in the arena of powering costs, the battery power of a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle demolishes the fuel life of a gas-powered vehicle, hands down. If we compare the cost of a battery charge to the cost of a gallon of gasoline, powering a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle equates to about 75 cents per gallon of petroleum-based gasoline. But as electric vehicle owners know, the name of the electric vehicle game is not price per gallon, but rather kilowatts per hour — and electricity costs vary greater than that of gasoline.

Yes, electricity is cheaper than gas in general. But just like a fuel-powered vehicle, you have to work at maintaining — and even try to lower — costs to get the most out of it. How do you do this with an electric vehicle? Here are three methods of lowering your electric vehicle charging costs even further.

Increase Efficiency

One method to lowering charging costs in an electric vehicle is by increasing its fuel efficiency, which can be done in several ways. The first recommendation is to check your tires. Maintaining proper inflation and alignment reduces the level of drag your engine must combat against, therefore boosting your vehicle’s efficiency. But choosing tires with reduced rolling resistance is a smart place to start. These types of tires cut back on rolling resistance, or the energy lost during engine drag, and reduce this phenomenon by an average of 10 percent.

Understand Utility Rate Options

While utility companies help set the cost of electricity, the costs you see on your monthly utility bill are ultimately determined by your level and time of use. In essence, if you use more, you pay more. In addition, these rates can vary greatly from state to state, while peak-hour use changes based on location and seasons. Since peak-hour energy use can be exponentially more expensive than off-peak hours, electric vehicle owners must be aware of their utility rate plan and anticipate changes. With the national average being about 12 cents per kWh, naive electric car owners may find themselves paying double if they’re not well-informed.

Some utility companies are sensitive to the needs of electric vehicle owners and may offer special plans, like Southern California Edison. The California utility provider offers residential users four different rate tiers based on usage, though rates can range between 9 cents up to 31 cents per kWh. Southern California Edison’s optimal utility plan for owners of electric vehicles allows for the lowest costs between midnight and 6 a.m., at a rate of 9 cents per kWh. But consumers have to request this plan. In this case, knowing really is half the battle.

Get Your Perks

As Americans continually warm to the idea of electric cars and the benefits they bring to society, more and more incentives will become available to electric vehicle owners. For those current owners looking to charge in public rather than at home, there are a few networks that offer access to electric charging stations while you’re on the go. Though each network is designed slightly different, they can be broken down into three subscription categories: monthly, pay-as-you-go and free. Though free is always a bonus, some of the subscription networks are worth checking out.

Electric and gasoline vehicles may be in two different classes, but they share the same road — and all drivers should be able to save a little dough.

Real Time Map Of EV Charging Stations For The Dallas / Fort Worth Area

Are you in the Dallas / Fort Worth area and need to charge your electric vehicle?  Use the map below to find a charging station near you.



6 Of The Greenest Electric Cars of 2016

Electric Car FobVehicle-related air pollutants have decreased by 98 percent since the 1960s in Los Angeles, despite its residents burning three times as much gasoline and diesel fuel, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The study credits greener cars as the catalyst behind improved air quality. This goes to show that going green can absolutely make a positive impact on the environment. Furthermore, the U.S. Department of Energy says that, on average, it costs about half as much to drive an electric vehicle as it does its gasoline-fueled counterpart.

Fortunately, there are plenty of green vehicle options on the market, ranging from hybrid to full-electric options. Here’s the scoop on some of the greenest cars of 2016 and their environmentally friendly features.

A3 Sportback e-tron

This sporty plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) is part of Audi’s energy program. Its features include a carbon offset program, residential solar panel installation availability and a home charger. After running out of electric power, drivers can use auto mode to recapture energy and help recharge it while relying on its hybrid gas function.

Fiat 500e

With a single-speed transmission and 83-kilowatt electric motor, the Fiat 500e gets an impressive 87-mile range and 4-hour recharge time. The downside is that the vehicle is currently only sold in California. However, green enthusiasts can check out a site like DriveTime to find a used vehicle dealership in their area to find the model they’re looking for.

Chevrolet Volt

The Chevrolet Volt has made the cut for one of the greenest vehicles since its debut in 2010. It was one of the first modern hybrid vehicles and has helped usher in the mainstream eco-friendly car options. The earliest Volts had a 35-mile electric range with today’s model boasting 50 miles. Consumer Reports tested the latest Volt and found it made a smooth transition from electric to gas mode with an increased battery capacity compared to previous versions.

Toyota Prius

The Toyota Prius made an appearance in this year’s Super Bowl lineup of commercials. Like Chevrolet’s Volt, the Toyota Prius was a founder in the modern hybrid vehicle movement. The Prius gets an average of 50 mpg and reports indicate a smooth ride with solid acceleration.

Nissan Leaf

The Nissan Leaf debuted its 2016 model with a stronger battery that increased from 24 kWh to 30 kWh of capacity. This year’s model also comes with NissanConnect, which has Bluetooth phone and text messaging capabilities. For drivers who are going to be away from their cars for a while or are eager to check in on its charging status, the Leaf also comes with a remote monitoring capability to check its charging status.

Hyundai Sonata

This hybrid plug-in comes in at 50 mpg and can run 24 miles on its electric battery before needing a charge and switching over to its fuel engine. Its combined hybrid battery and fuel tank get about 40 mpg on the road. The Hyundai Sonata also has a reputation for its quiet ride and improved fuel efficiency.

Cars are becoming greener and more affordable than ever. Drivers should check the U.S. Department of Energy website to learn more about tax credits of up to $7,500 for all-electric and plug-in hybrid car purchases in or after 2010. Credit amounts vary on the battery capacity required to power the vehicle. Green drivers may also qualify for state or local incentives just for driving eco-friendly vehicles that are sporty, fun to drive and less damaging to the environment.

EV Sales Up In 2014, But Electric Cars Face Two Major Challenges

electric vehicleIt’s heartening news for the green crowd: Sales of electric vehicles were up another 23% in 2014, selling almost 120,000 units. The Nissan Leaf led the pack, followed by the Chevy Volt, the Tesla model S, the Toyota Prius PHV, and the Ford Fusion Energi. Plug-in electric vehicles ended the year with a 0.39% share of annual U.S. sales, which may sound piddling, but overall the trend is upward. However, before sales can significantly increase, EVs have to overcome a couple of serious obstacles.

Although sales in 2014 increased over the prior year, they did not continue the incredible trajectory represented by the 85% jump between 2012 and 2013 sales, which was spurred on in part by high gas prices. In 2014, gas prices began to plummet, and although sales of EVs haven’t declined, the lower prices could prove to be a major stumbling block. It has already affected hybrid models, whose market share dropped to 2.2% in December, the lowest since October of 2011. Electric models were at .5% in December–well in the throes of the oil-price slump–which was higher than their average annual share.

What makes cheap gas attractive isn’t necessarily inertia or an anti-green sentiment on the part of potential buyers: it’s the difference in the price of the cars themselves. Because batteries are extremely expensive, electric models, like hybrids, are priced significantly higher than their run-of-the-mill, gas-guzzling cousins.

Traditionally, there have been two main selling points for these cars: The environmentally friendly, helping-the-planet factor, which is a good feeling but rather intangible financially; and the money-saving angle: Spend a little more money on the green model, the thinking goes, and you can laugh all the way past the pump, where the poor slobs fill up their tanks yet again at usurious prices while you charge up your EV in the comfort of your own garage, for pennies. However, the extra several thousand dollars on the sticker becomes harder to justify when gas prices are so cheap that making back your investment might take a couple of decades, which is a bit past a typical car’s average lifespan. There are gas models out there now that get high mileage already, so it’s even harder to justify the extra expense.

The other major hurdle is infrastructure. While there are 125,000 gas stations in the United States, there are only 151 Tesla Superchargers. EV buyers are understandably bothered by “range anxiety”, the fear that they may get stuck somewhere if they run out of battery power. There are some very useful websites and apps like Plugshare, which maps the closest plug-in stations, including private chargers that can be shared by members, public chargers, and even superchargers. In some areas, this can still be a concern, though: According to Plugshare.com, the city of Greensboro, North Carolina, for example, with a population of 277,000, has only four public charging stations. One is at the airport, and the other three are at car dealerships. How confident would you feel driving your Prius into the BMW or Nissan dealership for a charge?

Fortunately, strides are constantly being made to improve infrastructure and battery technology, as well. Tesla, one manufacturer who has enjoyed a consistent sales boom (its high-end models are purchased by people who are less concerned about price and can afford to go for a vehicle based solely on its environmental friendliness, or simply for the fact the Tesla makes snazzy, high-performance cars that are fun to drive), is building its Gigafactory plant in Nevada to improve battery efficiency and to reduce production costs. And engineers continue to pursue the ultracapacitor, a lightweight power storage and discharge unit that would alleviate the need for a cumbersome, expensive battery. The technology is out there, and it’s coming soon. And with no guarantee that gas prices will continue to fall, especially since oil rigs are liberally shutting down, reducing supply to get more balanced with demand, electric vehicles are still a good bet for the future.

Texas Offers Incentive For Electric Vehicles – Excluding Tesla

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has announced details of the state’s new alternative fuel vehicle rebate program.  The state will offer $2,500 for the purchase of light duty vehicles powered by electricity, compressed natural gas (CNG), or propane.  Consumers can also receive up to $2,500 for leasing these vehicles.  In order to get the full rebate, however, the lease must be at least 4 years.  Shorter leases are eligible for lesser rebates.

Authorized by the Texas State Legislature last year, the program is relatively modest.  The program will last until June 2015 or until the $7.7 million in funding is exhausted; whichever comes first. The maximum number of vehicles allowed in the program is 2,000 electric vehicles and 2,000 propane or CNG vehicles.

The rebates could be combined with other incentive programs including federal electric vehicle incentive programs.  In order to be eligible, the vehicle must be purchased through a franchised dealer in the state of Texas.  If the vehicle is purchased from an out-of-state dealer or directly from the manufacturer it will not be eligible for the rebate program.  That means would-be Tesla owners will not be eligible for rebates since the Tesla sales model doesn’t include franchised dealers.

To Apply for the Rebate Call 1-800-919-TERP.

See Also: Far From A Burdon, Electric Vehicles Will Assist The Grid



Go Green With An Energy-Efficient Car In 2014

The average miles per gallon (mpg) for all new cars purchased from October 2007 to February 2014 in the U.S. was 25.2, according to the University of Michigan’s Transport Research Institute. That number represents a near 5 mpg increase from February 2008.

Average mpg will need to increase substantially more in the next 10 years to reach the Obama Administrations goal of 54.5 mpg for all new 2025 models. But fuel efficient automobiles are still fast becoming the rule, as opposed to the exception. Here are reviews of three of the most energy efficient cars for 2014.

Mitsubishi i-MiEV

The i-MiEV is one of the least expensive electric vehicles on the market, but as the saying goes, you get what you pay for. The electric and gas combination gets the i-MiEV an astounding 111 MPGe, a measure that indicates how far the car can travel electrically on the energy produced from one gallon of gas with a full battery. The battery has a range between 56 and 62 miles before the engine kicks in.

Photo by David Villarreal Fernandez via Wikimedia Commons

San Antonio residents will enjoy free metered parking downtown with this and other hybrids, while those in Austin can receive a rebate up to $1,500 on the purchase and install of a charging station at their home. But the i-MiEV battery takes nearly 24 hours to charge completely with a 110-volt apparatus, seats fewer people than most other electric hybrids and is not known for its speed. Still, its $22,995 MSRP makes it an attractive option.

Toyota Prius C Models

There are four Prius C models for 2014, with the C One being the least expensive. Prius Cs have more interior space and cargo room than the i-MiEV due primarily to the fold-down rear seats. Though the Toyota website boasts a 53 city mpg, Consumer Reports put the number at 43.

Photo by Mariordo via Wikimedia Commons

The Prius became the first mass produced hybrid in 2000, which means there are plenty of used models out there to help you save even more. Those with less-than-perfect credit, however, should beware of unsavory dealerships trying to take advantage of your situation. DRIVETIME recently pointed out how several Dallas-area dealerships not only force buyers to bring cash payments to them as often as once per week, but are also known to repossess if a payment is 24 hours late.

The $19,080 MSRP for the 2014 Prius C One makes it the least expensive on the market, but higher processes and handling fees in Texas will boost this number a bit.

Nissan Leaf

The Leaf is the best-selling electric hybrid worldwide due to its speed, quiet engine and of course fuel efficiency. Its “Eco” driving mode extends the battery range and mpg. The 2014 model also features a visualization program that assists you when parallel parking or backing into a parking space.

Photo by Tennen-Gas via Wikimedia Commons

The Car Connection gave the 2014 Leaf a 7.6 (out of 10) overall rating, but a perfect 10 for fuel efficiency. The Leaf gets 115 MPGe and comfortably seats five. The 4-door hatchback model starts at $28,980 MSRP.



Far From A Burdon, Electric Vehicles Will Assist The Grid

As electric vehicles have slowly began to transition to the mainstream, some have worried about their impact on the electric grid.  As more real world use data becomes available, it’s looking more and more like those concerns were over blown.  This leads to the next question, since EV’s are not quite the power grid burden we expected, can we somehow create a system that allows electric cars to benefit the larger power structure? This has become the next big endeavor for EV proponents, and up to this point, we are seeing a great deal of promise from emerging technologies.

The most promising of these is certainly vehicle to grid technology. Otherwise known as V2G, vehicle to grid presents a mechanism to meet key requirements of the electric power system by designating the EV’s to act as a form of demand response. When communicating with the power grid as an ancillary service, EV’s can provide frequency regulation by selling electricity through either delivering this power into the grid or throttling their charging rate. This can be looked at as a version of battery to grid power, but applied to vehicles.

In essence, when the grid requires more power to withstand a surge, that power will be tapped from EV’s, rather than traditional power plants. Considering that a car is parked, on average, 95% of the time, the flow of electricity to power lines could bring considerable value per car to utilities over the course of a year.

The key to realizing economic value from V2G is creating a symbiotic relationship with the larger power structure. Once the future smart grids are sophisticated enough to do this on a large scale basis, electric vehicles could help make the system even more reliable. Beyond ancillary services, the future of V2G also includes using the vehicles as a dispersed energy storage for intermittent, but renewable resources, such as wind and solar.

For this to happen though, EV batteries must improve, along with our centralized grid structure. V2G presents complications for the individual batteries, including degradation due to constant cycling, costs related to implementing bidirectional power flow capability (energy storage that can both feed and take power from the grid), metering issues, and complication related to energy guarantees The service life and reliability of batteries could be reduced under such strain, so drivers need an incentive to provide supplementary power to the grid.

Because of the cost premiums related to electric vehicle ownership and power systems interaction, lower EV operational expenses will be a major market driver for innovation and growth. Fortunately, with the gains we are making in energy storage tech, this will likely become less of an issue when V2G reaches the point where it becomes a viable, widescale option.

Electric vehicles are expected to make up close to 7% of all global automobile sales by 2020 (an estimated 6.6 million units sold in that year alone), so the future of EV is bright. Vehicle-to-grid is not only an important supplement to this growth, it is essential.

Along with the ability for technology to provide very fast regulation, it also contributes to environmental protection, system reliability, and oil independence. EV, combined with V2G technology, can provide a more seamless transition to the emerging sustainable energy economy, and by doing so, greatly increasing energy security benefits for the entire population.

See Also: Texas Clean Energy Coalition Report Provides Incentive For Renewable Energy
See Also: Texas Tops States in Grid Modernization