Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Electric Cars
Q: How much will it cost me to convert my car to electricity?
A: Using a standard DC system & components with average performance, you can expect to pay between $3000 and $6000 US. The price varies substantially depending on how fast and far you wish to drive. Some have converted cars for under $1000 US by using second-hand parts.
Q: How far can I drive in an EV?
A: Range is limited by budget. While a typical conversion may offer 60 miles on a charge, you will generally never get beyond 100 miles (160 km) using Lead-Acid batteries. The larger the Lead Acid battery pack the heavier it gets until the weight of the battery pack reaches the car’s limitations.
If you can afford Lithium batteries coupled with an AC system, range can be anywhere from 100 to 400 miles. Lithium batteries are not cheap however. A typical set with about 200 miles range might cost upwards of $20,000 US.
When calculating range, it may be helpful to consider that approximately 9.5KwHrs of usable battery capacity is approximately equal to 1 gallon of gas in the same car at the same gross weight (based on real-world observations of builders on this forum). That works fine for the "first gallon," because there are weight savings on the engine and associated components, but since batteries weigh between 30-70 times more than gasoline (in 2011, subject to change) you will quickly find your gross weight exceeded when adding a bigger "tank." Also, don't forget that other factors (Peukert effect; maximum safe discharge levels; maximum "c" discharge rates) can further degrade the theoretical range of your pack.
Q: How fast can an Electric Car go?
A: As fast as you like. Just like a gasoline powered car, you can modify and tune your EV until it leaves super-cars in it’s wake. While most EV’s are commuter cars, there are a handful that offer staggering performance. The most talked about would be the Tesla Roadster; an all-electric sports car with a 0-60mph time of 3.6 seconds and 245 miles of driving range between charges.
Q: How long does it take to charge?
A: On average, a home converted car will charge fully overnight. With Lead Acid batteries, 70% of the charging is done in the first 40% of charging time. The rest is the “topping up” stage of the charging process.
Technology is changing constantly however, and with new battery technology comes faster charging times. The newly released AltairNano Lithium batteries are supplied in the upcoming Phoenix SUT which can fast-charge completely in under ten minutes.
Q: Can alternators/generators be used to recharge the car while driving?
A: Unfortunately (other than making your EV a hybrid, or capable of regenerative breaking - see below) this is impossible, because it would violate one of the fundamental laws of physics. Basically, it means that you cannot get more energy out of a system than you put in. You will always use more power to turn the alternator or generator (eg, wind, or drive-shaft) than you could get back from the alternator or generator.
-> Using a generator while slowing and stopping your car (aka Regenerative Braking) is one option where you can recover extra range (up to 10% normally) by actuating a generator when your foot touches the brake pedal. Some Hybrids use this technology too.
Q: Are electric cars any more efficient and green than a normal car or do they just have a longer tailpipe (back to the power plant)?
Even when coupled with the standard fossil fuel burning power from the grid electric cars are substantially more efficient and better for the environment than their ICE counterparts. Tesla motors compares the efficiency from the source to the wheels of several efficient ICE and hybrid cars and found their electric car was twice as efficient as popular hybrids while producing a third of the emissions. Compared to a similar ICE roadster the Tesla was six times as efficient with a tenth of the emissions. The high efficiencies of electric power plants, batteries, controllers and motors means more of the power source ends up moving you down the road rather than heating up the air.