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Explaining charging stations for EVs, debunking myths

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Posted on April 11, 2016 |
By Angelo Lynn



So, you’re thinking of buying a new Chevy Volt, or a GM Bolt, a Nissan Leaf or even, if you can find a dealer around these parts, a Tesla Model 3. But how do you charge it? Where do you find the charging stations, and how much does it cost?

Good questions.

The answers aren’t as easy as just telling you to go around the corner and gas up at one of any dozens of places located throughout your community, but it’s getting easier and easier to charge-up as electric vehicles become more plentiful.

Here’s the lowdown:

• There are 127 charging stations in Vermont as of early April, 2016. More will inevitably be coming online each month. To find a charging station near you, go to http://bit.ly/1SFcWU2 or visit Drive Electric Vermont.

• Vermont’s major utility, Green Mountain Power, has xx charging stations throughout the state under their Plug’n Go program. With that program, GMP customers with electric hybrids (like Toyota’s Prius) or electric vehicles can take advantage of the utilities lower “off peak” rates by charging their vehicles at night. On hybrid vehicles, customers benefit from the charged electric battery in the vehicle, which increases regular gas mileage.

• GMP is also partnering with NRG’s eVgo division to develop and roll out an expanded, interconnected network of electric vehicle charging stations throughout the state, including several charging package options. Both “Level 2” and DC Fast Chargers will be installed in commercial and workplace locations. These Freedom Stations will help move towards environmental sustainability and reduced dependence on foreign oil.  

• Because today’s commercially available electric vehicles require multiple hours to fully charge. Most of the charging stations are located in publicly visible and easily accessible parking spaces where people are likely to spend time.

• At the GMP stations, most are equipped with Levels 1, 2 and 3 charging capability.  There are many options depending on your driving habits to provide flexibility with pay as you go or charging memberships starting at $1 an hour to operate.

• Some of the public charging stations are currently free to use, but many require payment. EV drivers are encouraged to check one of the alternative sources of information below before planning a visit, particularly for EV charging equipment on the ChargePoint or EVgo.

• If saving on gasoline cost is not the driving force behind your purchase, perhaps it’s important to know that driving an electric car removes about 8,000 pounds of carbon dioxide from the air over a person’s lifetime. Now, if everyone did that….

And here are a couple of myths about electric cars as debunked by the Sierra Club:

Myth: Switching to an electric vehicle will just mean that the same amount of pollution comes from the electricity generation rather than from the tailpipe — I'll just be switching from oil to coal.

Reality: According to a range of studies doing a ‘well to wheels’ analysis, an electric car leads to significantly less carbon dioxide pollution from electricity than the CO2 pollution from the oil of a conventional car with an internal combustion engine.[1][2][3] In some areas, like many on the West Coast that rely largely on wind or hydro power, the emissions are significantly lower for EVs. And that's today. As we retire more coal plants and bring cleaner sources of power online, the emissions from electric vehicle charging drop even further. Additionally, in some areas, night-time charging will increase the opportunity to take advantage of wind power -- another way to reduce emissions.

A caveat to consider is that when coal plants supply the majority of the power in a given area, electric vehicles may emit more CO2 and SO2 pollution than hybrid electric vehicles. Learn where your electricity comes from, what plans your state or community has for shifting to renewables, and whether you have options for switching to greener power.

Myth: My electricity bill will go way up.

Reality: While you'll spend more on electricity, the savings on gas will more than cover it. If you drive a pure battery electric vehicle 15,000 miles a year at current electricity rates (assuming $.12 per kilowatt hour though rates vary throughout the country), you'll pay about $500 per year for the electricity to charge your battery, but you'll save about $1900 in gas (assuming $3.54 per gallon, a 28 miles per gallon vehicle, and 15,000 miles driven). So $1900 minus $500 equals $1400 in savings - a 74% reduction in fueling costs. Some utilities are offering EV owners lower off-peak/nighttime rates. The more we successfully advocate for these off-peak incentives, the lower your electricity payments will go.

Myth: My battery will run out of juice.

Reality: It is true that fueling an electric vehicles takes a different type of planning than for longer range conventional cars. However, using a 220-volt outlet and charging station, a plug-in hybrid recharges in about 100 minutes, an extended range plug-in electric in about four hours, and a pure electric in six to eight hours. (Newer charging stations can topped off a EV battery at 80 percent in about 25 minutes for a range of over 200 miles on the Tesla Model 3A or the new Chevy Volt. A regular 110-volt outlet will mean significantly longer charging times (usually used when charging all-night from home.)

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