It's Electric

By Chelle Cordero

August 11, 2017 4 min read

Mpgs are so last century. With more and more automobile manufacturers offering electric vehicles, the conversation has turned to mpcs -- miles per charge -- along with plug-in opportunities and solar-powered equipment. A 2016 ORC International survey confirmed that electric is trending upward: 36 percent of respondents expressed interest in owning an electric car in 2016, with young adults (ages 18-34) reporting the strongest interest.

With nine full-electric vehicles on the market so far, more than 10 hybrid models (which combine a conventional internal-combustion engine system with an electric propulsion system) and many more designs in production, electrical vehicles are becoming more accessible.

Volvo has announced that as of 2019 all new Volvo models launched will be fully or partially electric: At least five all-electric models will be produced between 2019 and 2012; the other models will be produced as hybrids and "mild hybrids" (meaning a traditional battery is replaced with a more powerful one to assist the internal-combustion engine).

The Chrysler Pacifica plug-in hybrid, America's first hybrid van, offers a total range of 566 miles, with the first 30 miles being totally electric. It also has enough seating for eight people, making it a great family vehicle. Yearly maintenance cost for an electric vehicle is low. (Just think: No more oil changes!) The most expensive maintenance item is replacing the battery, which has a 10-year lifespan on average.

Assuaging the concerns of many traditional motorists, electric vehicles can go far on a single charge, with the Tesla Model-S going 315 miles. The Chevy Volt, a popular hybrid, can go 53 miles on electric power before switching over to an efficient gas-powered engine that delivers about 370 additional miles with a 42-mpg average. Most electric vehicles are more than capable of delivering a driver to and from daily work and errands between charges saving hundreds of dollars in gas every year. Professional charging stations are available throughout the country, and optional accessories often include portable cords or inverters that will charge the battery using any electrical outlet.

A growing number of municipal lots, shopping centers and hotels offer public charging stations or outlets for portable plug-ins at low fees. To make finding a high-speed charging station even more convenient, a number of smartphone apps are available: PlugShare, Open Charge Map, Green Charge and Recargo. Additionally, personal electric vehicle service equipment can be installed at your home for overnight charging. The time it takes to charge a battery depends on the strength of the outlet and any inverters used. Plugging in at home may add an average of $20 to $30 a month to your electric bill -- but it will be a lot less expensive than filling up a gas tank every week.

To be even more environmentally friendly, some drivers are using solar power to charge their electric vehicles. In order to use your existing home solar system to charge your car, you'll have to make sure that you have enough power to run both your home and your vehicle, and you should install an inverter, since the energy coming from solar panels can fluctuate. Tesla and Panasonic are experimenting with installing photovoltaic modules along the roof of a car so it can continue to charge the battery just by being in the sunlight: Even if the roof doesn't offer a full charge, it will be helpful in supporting other electronics in the car without draining the main battery. The 2009 Toyota Prius was offered with an optional solar panel for its roof that brought energy to the car's ventilation system.

Currently the federal government allows a tax credit up to $7,500 for the purchase of an electric car -- and even more tax credits are available if you install a solar system on your roof. In the long term, it pays to be green.

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