Electric cars are coming and coming quickly.
A conference on electric cars and charging stations took place at the Hilton Garden Inn in Rockville April 13.
There are three basic kinds of electrically-powered vehicles. First, there are standard hybrids such as the Prius and its many competitors, which take gasoline and have no plug-in apparatus.
Second are plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (“PHEVs”). They take gasoline and also have plug-in capability. There already are 20 PHEV brand/models in the marketplace.
Third are all-electric EVs. They have plug-in capability only. Both the Bolt and the Leaf, the best-selling model nationally in this category, are EVs, as are Teslas. There are about 15 brand/models of EVs.
All three types generate and save electric power while operating, and that extends their gas mileage. Of course, EVs don’t have “gas mileage.” Most EVs do, however, use fossil fuels because they power up at stations connected to the overall electric power grid, which is largely powered by fossil fuels.
An example of a vehicle not using fossil fuels would be an EV charging at a solar-powered station. A few such stations are popping up in Maryland and nationally, noted Robert Bruninga of the Naval Academy faculty in Annapolis. Bruninga has been driving electric vehicles for 30 years.
Joe Inglisa of Bowie-based SemaConnect, one of two leading companies supplying commercial charging stations in the Washington area, recalled that as recently as 2011, there were two PHEV/EV models on the market. In contrast, he noted, there now are well over 30.
Mike Jones of the Maryland Energy Administration said Maryland has about 9,000 EV/PHEVs in use. The state government’s forecasts are for 100,000 by 2020, and 1.4 million by 2040. The April conference was sponsored by three Maryland agencies: the Energy Administration, the Department of the Environment, and the Department of Transportation.
Jones said Maryland has about 1,100 outlets at about 450 public charging stations. It forecasts about 2,200 public charging stations by 2020, and 33,000 by 2040. Maryland has relatively high ozone and nitrogen oxides in its air, he added, and so stands to benefit from cleaner air.
Federal and state tax incentives for both EVs and charging installations are substantial, Jones noted. Federal income tax credits run up to $7,500 per vehicle purchased, and Maryland cuts auto purchase excise taxes by $100 per kilowatt hour of the car battery. For a charging station, federal tax credits run up to $1000, while Maryland has a proposed credit of 50% of the equipment and installation cost.
There are three kinds of charging outlets. According to data from the Electronic Vehicle Association of Greater Washington DC, Level I outlets, primarily for home charging, run on regular 120 volt alternating current. These outlets enable EVs to run about five miles per hour of charge. Inglisa said that to obtain one, an EV buyer would normally contact an electrician, or buy the outlet in a store or online and have an electrician install it. Carrie Giles of marketing firm ICF, who organized the conference, said survey data shows that the most common kind of charging is still Level I charging at home. Some public charging stations offer Level I outlets, too.
Level II outlets, the kind most commonly found at public charging stations today, run on 240 volt alternating current. They enable EVs to go from 15 to 60 miles per hour charge.
Fast Charge outlets, also found at charging stations, run on 480 volt direct current. They take 25 to 60 minutes to fully charge an EV.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy Alternative Fuels Data Center website, Montgomery County has 81 public charging stations, with 160 Level II outlets, and 18 Fast Charge outlets. At present, such stations are commonly found in public parking lots, some retail and large-employer lots, and auto dealer lots. There are many non-public stations and outlets, for instance in apartment and office buildings.
Giles cited survey data showing that potential EV buyers were six times more likely to actually buy an EV if there is charging available at work. As a result, both EV auto sellers and charging station firms strongly advocate workplace charging, and that was a key theme of the April 13 conference.
SemaConnect manufactures its outlets in Bowie, MD, Inglisa noted. The other leading Maryland charging station company is Clinton Electric Co., which sells and installs “-chargepoin+” stations made in California. Chargepoint is a national maker/seller of charging stations.
Inglisa emphasized that when deciding to install a Level II or Fast Charge station, the property owner or manager cn choose what access it will have. For instance, it can be free, or have a cost, to residents of apartment buildings, and be inaccessible to others. Similarly, he continued, it can be free, or have a cost, to office building occupants, and be inaccessible to others. In parking lots, it can be generally available if the owner wants, with charge or without.