Information for the General Public

If you are in the market for a new or used car, perhaps you have been thinking about buying an electric vehicle (EV). EVs are different from traditional hybrid-electric vehicles (HEVs) because they are powered by electricity from the grid instead of generating electricity internally from regenerative braking and an internal combustion engine. Several configurations of electric vehicles are commercially available today:

  • All-electric vehicles (AEVs), which only use an electric motor for propulsion and have a battery that charges solely by plugging into an external source (e.g., the electrical grid). A current example is the Nissan LEAF or the Ford Focus Electric.
  • Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), which use both an ICE and an electric motor with a battery that recharges by plugging into an external source. A PHEV operates as an AEV until the battery has been discharged, at which time the vehicle continues to operate as an HEV. A current example is the Toyota Plug-in Prius.
  • Extended-range electric vehicles (EREV), which are a subset of PHEVs. Like PHEVs, EREVs use both an ICE and an electric motor with a battery that recharges by plugging into an external source. However, once the battery of an EREV has been discharged, the vehicle's ICE powers an electric generator to add 'extended-range' driving. A current example is the Chevrolet Volt.

EVs are now readily available in southeastern Pennsylvania. For example, the Nissan LEAF and the Chevrolet Volt have been available since early 2011. In 2012 the Toyota Prius Plug-In and the Ford Focus Electric entered the market. For more general information about available EVs, visit the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) or the Alternative Fuels Data Center.

Costs and Benefits of EV Ownership

The costs of EV ownership include the cost of vehicle purchase and the cost of vehicle operation and maintenance.

Cost of Vehicle Purchase: Though EVs are currently more expensive than traditional vehicles, incentives (e.g., tax credits, rebates) can lower the initial price. You may qualify for a federal income tax credit between $2,500 and $7,500 for the purchase or lease of an EV. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania offers a rebate of up to $3,000 for the purchase of a new EV through the Alternative Fuel Vehicles Rebates program. Some private companies also provide incentives. A list of incentives available in the Southeastern Pennsylvania region can be viewed on DOE's Alternative Fuels Data Center. Table 1, below, summarizes the purchase cost of various EVs compared to their conventional counterparts.

EVMSRPConventional CounterpartMSRPFederal Tax CreditPrice Difference Without CreditPrice Difference with Tax Credit
Chevrolet Volt$39,995Chevrolet Cruze ECO$21,685$7,500$18,310$10,810
Ford Focus Electric$39,200Ford Focus Titanium$24,200$7,500$15,000$7,500
Nissan LEAF S$28,800Nissan Versa SL$18,590$7,500$10,210$2,710
Toyota Prius PHEV$32,000Toyota Prius Three$25,765$2,500$6,235$3,735
Source: Chevrolet, 2013; Ford Motor Company, 2013; Nissan USA, 2013; Toyota, 2013.

Cost of Vehicle Operation and Maintenance: EVs do not require petroleum when driving in 'all-electric' mode, although some forms of EVs, such as plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, are equipped with a conventional gasoline-powered engine. EV drivers will pay for the electricity to charge the battery, and for any petroleum used in EVs that use an on board ICE (such as a PHEV or an EREV), but the energy cost per mile of operation is typically much lower than a conventional vehicle. However, the cost savings realized from EV operation (approximately $0.06-$0.08 per mile for AEVs, as compared to conventional vehicles) may decrease as manufacturers improve the fuel economy of conventional vehicles. New utility rates, such as a dynamic pricing rate or time of use rate, may further decrease the cost of charging a vehicle. Additional savings may be accrued from complimentary charging offered by local businesses or employers. EVs also have lower maintenance needs than conventional vehicles and require fewer brake replacements, oil changes (or none at all), and air filter replacements. Table 2, below, summarizes the cost per mile of various EVs compared to their conventional counterparts

EVEV Cost to Drive 25 MilesConventional CounterpartConventional Cost to Drive 25 MilesCost Differential per 25 milesCost Differential per Mile
Chevrolet Volt$1.05Chevrolet Cruze ECO$2.91$1.86$0.074
Ford Focus Electric$0.96Ford Focus Titanium$2.91$1.95$0.078
Nissan LEAF$1.02Nissan Versa SL$2.58$1.56$0.0624
Toyota Prius PHEV$1.47Toyota Prius Three$1.80$0.33$0.013

DVRPC has developed an EV Cost of Ownership Model, an Excel-based tool designed to help prospective EV buyers in the region compare the cost of EV ownership to a conventional vehicle. This tool can be accessed here. [0.1 MB xls]

Environmental Benefits of Electric Vehicles: The tailpipe and well-to-wheels emissions of EVs are less than conventional vehicle emissions. EVs are considered zero- to low-emission vehicles because they produce low levels of tailpipe emissions (if any) per mile, as compared to a conventional vehicle powered by an internal combustion engine (ICE). The life-cycle emissions reduction associated with an EV as compared to a conventional vehicle depends on the sources of electricity used to charge the battery. EVs using electricity produced from renewable energy sources (e.g., hydroelectric, wind, or solar) provide greater emissions reductions than EVs using electricity produced from fossil fuels. Southeastern Pennsylvania is ranked among the best regions in the country for EV deployment because of the relatively clean mix of resources used to generate electricity use in the region.

Electric Vehicle Charging Equipment

If you decide to purchase an EV, you will need to consider your options for charging the vehicle. There are several options for EV Charging Equipment, also known as Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment, or EVSE. According to The EV Project, most EV drivers charge their vehicles primarily at home. The average EV driver occasionally supplements his or her home charging with public or workplace charging. There are two primary methods for residential charging:

  • Level 1 chargers use a standard 120-volt (V) outlet. Level 1 chargers can plug into a standard three-prong electrical outlet and do not require any electrical service upgrades or equipment at your home. Depending on the vehicle, Level 1 charging may take 7 to 17 hours to fully recharge a depleted EV battery.
  • Level 2 chargers use a 240V electrical supply and require additional electrical safety features. If 240V service is not available at the appropriate location, additional conduit and possibly an upgraded electrical circuit will need to be installed. Depending on the vehicle, Level 2 charging typically takes 4 to 6 hours to fully recharge a depleted EV battery.

For more information about residential charging equipment, see the DOE's, "Plug-In Electric Vehicle Handbook for Consumers," [pdf] or the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources "Installation Guide For Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE)". [pdf] For more information about the availability of public charging, go to DOE's Alternative Fueling Station Locator.

Costs and Benefits of Residential Charging Equipment

If an equipment incentive program is not available in your area, you may incur all of the initial costs to install charging equipment at your home. EV owners with access to dedicated parking and an outdoor or garage outlet may have minimal installation costs. If the user obtains new equipment, costs will include the basic hardware costs, installation costs, and permitting fees. The cost of hardware, obtaining permits, and installing a Level 2 charger typically ranges from $900 to $2,300 depending on the level of complexity of the installation and incentive availability. You may also get a small rebate from PECO Energy's (PECO) utility notification incentive by registering your vehicle(s) online.

If you do not live in a single family home or have access to dedicated parking and an outlet proximate to your home, installing residential charging units may be more difficult. In addition to the expense of installing equipment, the location of the charging equipment may be a significant barrier. For example, if you live in a condominium or other multi-unit dwelling (MUD), you may run into issues related to ownership of the system and shared access. Some homeowners' associations may also restrict charging unit installations. Since so many Philadelphia-area residents live in MUDs, DVRPC convened a group of stakeholders in 2012 to identify solutions for these challenges. Those recommendations are included as part of Ready to Roll! Southeastern Pennsylvania's Regional Electric Vehicle Action Plan. A presentation by SFEnvironment [pdf] also provides recommendations for installing charging equipment at MUDs.

An installation checklist from PECO can serve as a reference when you begin the installation process. For more information, please see the Resources section.

Electricity Rates for Residential EVSE Customers

PECO will soon be introducing a dynamic pricing rate for customers who currently have smart meters (also known as advanced metering infrastructure) installed at their homes. The dynamic pricing rate will charge you more during actual "on-peak" hours, when electricity is the most expensive for PECO to produce. During "off-peak" hours, PECO will charge a lower rate, which may lead to significant savings. Before selecting this rate, you should assess your energy consumption patterns to ensure that you do not use significant electricity during on-peak hours. Another option is the PECO standard residential rate (Rate R), which charges the same rate regardless of when you use the energy.