If you’re buying a new vehicle, do your homework. Here are some excellent resources to help you narrow down your choice for a cleaner, energy efficient vehicle:
- Drive Clean Buying Guide from the California Air Resource Board
- The Green Vehicle Guide from the US Environmental Protection Agency
- Motor Trend Alternative Fuels Information Center
- Alternative Fuels Information Center from the US Department of Energy (DOE)
- For incentives and rebates check out Drive Clean or Tax Incentive Information Center from DOE.
Choosing an Electric Vehicle
Hybrid Electric Vehicles
Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEVs) are powered by conventional or alternative fuels through an internal combustion engine and electrical energy stored in a battery. The battery is charged through regenerative braking and the internal combustion engine and is not plugged into an electric power source.
Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles
Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs) are powered by an internal combustion engine and electrical energy stored in a battery. The vehicle can be plugged into an electric power source to charge in addition to regenerative braking and the internal combustion engine.
All Electric Vehicles
All Electric Vehicles (EVs) run completely on electricity stored in a battery that powers the motor. EVs are charged by regenerative braking and by plugging the vehicle into an electric power source.
If you decide that an electric vehicle fits your driving needs, contact your electrical utility. Most California utilities have checklists, rate calculators and other resources just for EV owners. Links to some of these sites are provided below.
What Level of Charger Do You Need for Plug-Ins?
Start with the vehicle: Look at the manufacturer websites for the charging requirements for their vehicles (Nissan, GM). Find out what special equipment you will need for charging at home, at work or while out on the road. Vehicle and component manufacturers are working with utilities to develop an effective, integrated and streamlined home infrastructure installation process. Most cars and smart chargers will allow people to set timers for their chargers so they won't be required to actually get up during off-peak hours to plug in.
While some electric vehicles can be charged using a standard 3-prong cord and outlet (120 volts), industry experts agree that most EV drivers will want the convenience of charging more quickly with a home 220-volt outlet like those powering an electric dryer. Using faster charging devices requires a utility service upgrade - installing a dedicated circuit, the charger appliance and electrical upgrades in the home.
Level 1 charging takes advantage of existing home 120-volt wiring and connects through any three-pronged outlet. Be prepared for a long wait – charging most electric cars can take anywhere from 8 to14 hours.
A faster way to go is Level 2 using a purpose-built electric vehicle charging station. Twice as fast as Level 1, Level 2 is expected to be the choice of most consumers, despite the need to modify home wiring and obtain necessary permits. Typical costs are $500 to $1,800 per home.
Your utility company also needs to know that you’re planning to install a 220V charging station so that they can ensure reliable electrical service for your neighborhood. California utility companies continue to develop creative ways to redistribute energy demand through various load management programs like utility rate options, consumer education programs and installing smart meters at the point of use.
Will your Home Need an Upgrade?
- Your utility company can tell you if your home requires an electrical utility upgrade and will explain the process, advising you about costs, equipment installation and local building department permitting and inspection details. Some will send an installer out to your home. An industry-wide effort is being made to simplify and streamline these processes.
- Visit your local electrical utility company’s website to research utility rate options and how your new car might affect your utility bill. Many utilities offer discounted rates for consumers charging EVs. You’ll want to know the most cost-efficient time for charging your car. Learn about on- and off-peak charging to determine which rate plan is the best option for you. On- and off-peak hours vary by utility, so it is important to check with your utility to take advantage of reduced rates. For example, in San Diego, the most expensive rate applies between 12 PM to 8 PM while in Sacramento, these times vary by the season. It’s best to be safe and check specifics with your own utility. A list of all California utilities is at Additional Resources.
- Consider installing a second meter dedicated to tracking your electric vehicle charging activity.
- In some cases, consumers may want to enlist the services of a licensed electrical contractor. Guidelines for hiring a state licensed electrical contractor can be found at the Contractor State Licensing Board.
- The actual time it takes to complete the installation of your charging system can vary from a few days to several weeks depending upon how much upgrading is needed and if the neighborhood requires a transformer load increase.
Incentives for Home Recharging
- Information about vehicle charging, equipment and installation can be found at Drive Clean.
- Incentives may be available to offset the cost to install your charging system at Go Electric Drive.
- If you live in a multi-residential complex, talk to your building manager about plans for installing charging stations.
Charging on the Road
All electric car-charger connectors now conform to the recently released Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) J1772 standard for electric vehicles. Electric vehicles currently on the assembly line or the drawing board also conform to this standard.
Charging equipment and vehicle manufacturers are working with local and regional agencies to provide coordinated infrastructure networks of publically accessible charging locations. Use Google Maps to find electric vehicle charging stations along your route.
You can find additional information at:
- Information on Electric vehicles and rates from these California utilities at the Sacramento Municipal Utility District
- Southern California Edison
- Pacific Gas and Electric
- San Diego Gas and Electric
- Los Angeles Department of Water and Power
- Answers to some of your questions and links to other resources can be found at the California Air Resources Board’s Drive Clean website.
- Find federal, state, and local rebates and other benefits from EV ownership
- For an overview of charging options, visit Plug In America. Select Level 1 or 2 chargers to narrow the list.
- Alameda Municipal Power
- Anaheim Public Utilities
- Azusa Light & Water
- Bear Valley Electric
- Burbank Water & Power
- California Pacific Electric Power
- City of Palo Alto Utilities
- Colton Public Utilities Glendale Public Service Department
- Gridley Electric Department
- Healdsburg Municipal Electric Department
- Los Angeles Department of Water and Power
- Mountain Utilities
- Pacific Gas & Electric
- Pasadena Water & Power
- Riverside Public Utilities
- Sacramento Municipal Utility District
- Silicon Valley Power
- San Diego Gas & Electric
- Southern California Edison
- Southern California Public Power Authority
- Surprise Valley Power
- Vernon Light & Power
- Valley Electric Association