Monday, October 15, 2012

Sick of High Gas Prices? 3 Steps To Decide If An Electric Vehicle Is Right For You

Given the gas price spikes in California and uncomfortably high prices elsewhere, many people are considering all electric or plug-in hybrid electric cars more than ever.

There is an awful lot of info all around the web on EVs, costs, requirements and capabilities and sometimes that info is outright awful and even outdated or misinformed! PlugWiz hopes to “Make Cents of Clean Technology” and provide simple and actionable information to help your decision to use or not to use clean technology.

In researching various checklists from utilities, automakers and others, and through discussions with a few of our friends with EVs, we have come up with the following checklist for those considering an electric vehicle:

1. Determine Your Lifestyle & Charging Needs

Does your daily driving exceed the range of the EV. If so will you be able to charge elsewhere, like at work? Will you have a gas tank back-up (plug-in hybrid) if you need extra range quickly? Do you have another car for longer trips if needed?

2. Check Out The PlugWiz EV Tool (beta) & Compare EV Fuel Costs To Your Current Car

You may even find money saving rate options from your utility. Also note the state and federal incentives for the car you are researching.

3. Consider a test drive or use an EV through a car sharing service
As with any other car, you'll of course want to take one for a spin!

Let us know what you decided and why!!

Special thanks to John Addison, editor of, for his input to this post.

Monday, October 8, 2012

The PlugWiz "explainer video" is complete! 
Let us know what you think!

Monday, August 6, 2012

The PlugWiz EVInformation Tool Beta Test

Welcome to the PlugWiz beta test. The tool below has been designed to help you estimate the costs and benefits of owning an EV. We know purchasing a new car is a big decision and this tool will only present the facts based off of your vehicle and utility selection.

If we don’t yet have your utility info, we will soon as we are updating and refining the tool daily. If you don’t see your utility listed, let us know and we'll get on it. Also, please help us refine this tool so that it brings the most value to you.

As an early user, your feedback is extremely valuable to help improve and bring the tool to the masses to help everyone and anyone make an informed decision about owning and driving an EV.

Thanks for your time and please complete the survey at the end of the tool and/or leave a comment to help us refine the tool for the growing EV community. Leave us your email and we'll keep you updated on our progress.

Thank you,

The PlugWiz Team

Monday, July 30, 2012

3 Questions: Will EV Range Be A Problem For You?

Let’s get right to it:
1. How much do you drive per day today?
2. Where do you spend most of my time?
3. Where do you charge?
Range is one of the biggest concerns people have when considering a full electric vehicle. Two of the most common concerns are highlighted and explored below:

“I won't be able to drive my EV as far as I can drive my car now.”
First off, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles like the Chevy Volt also feature a gas tank so it can fuel and operate like a normal car. If you don’t exceed the EV range of about 37 miles, you may never burn a drop of gasoline, but will also not be slowed down during those longer trips. But what about the numerous fully electric cars in and coming to market like the Nissan Leaf, Ford Focus EV and others?
The real question is, “Do I really need to drive that far on one charge?” According to the US Department of Energy, in 2009, the average household vehicle was driven 11,300 miles. What does this mean for you? As an average driver, including commuting, shopping, errands, joy rides, and vacations, you're likely to drive only 31 miles per day.
The Nissan LEAF's range is EPA estimated at 73 miles per charge, which is likely more than enough to get you around for a couple days without worrying about a recharge. The Mitsubishi MiEV's range is EPA estimated at 62 miles per charge, so again, LIKELY no need to worry about getting to work and back and getting a few errands done before you have to worry about “running out of juice.”  The Toyota RAV4 EV is designed for 100 miles per charge and some of the Tesla S models feature several hundred miles of charge. Drivers should keep in mind that their actual range will vary depending on driving/charging habits, speed, conditions, weather, and temperature, use of A/C and heater and battery age. In addition, new public charging infrastructure is being installed all over the US to help ease this anxiety and allowing recharging or “topping off,” while running errands. Employers across the nation are also considering and installing charging infrastructure or are simply providing 110v outlets to allow employees to recharge while at work.

“The range is fine, but charging my car is going to be a hassle.”
This big question here should be; where do I spend most of my time? Think about recharging your other ubiquitous device, the mobile phone. If you are reading this, it is highly likely you have a mobile phone, maybe in your hand right now. Do you plug it in just before going to bed at night? If you are like most Americans, you will be at home at LEAST 6-8 hours at some point in the day.
Sometimes even during the day we might have to recharge our high-powered smart phones, tablets, and laptops. It's part of our routine that we have developed to accommodate these devices. In time recharging your electric vehicle can become part of a routine. Come home at night, and plug it into the 240-volt charging system installed in your garage or driveway, and your fully electric vehicle will be fully charged before your coffee is done in the morning. As most of us spend many hours a week at the office, some businesses and universities are installing charging stations for their employees, faculty, students, and even local EV drivers.
“Wait, what if my commute is longer, or I'm out of town? How will I charge my car?” There are charging stations popping up across the country and are available that can charge your car's batteries, some to 80% capacity in as little as 30 minutes.  
The following charging maps have pretty slick interfaces:
Over time these charging stations will become more common. Should you require a charge on a longer trip or vacation, Recargo and CarStations have mobile apps that can find a local charging station, it's availability, and how to get there. Some of these charging stations are even free to use.

So Again We Should Ask Ourselves:
1. How much do you drive per day today? 
2. Where do I spend most of my time? 
3. Where do I charge?

            The Author, Benjamin Jerew, has been a ASE, Toyota, and Lexus, Master Certified Technician for over ten years. Branching out now, he's been investigating alternative fuels and how they impact the vehicles, their drivers, and the environment. Wherever the wind takes him, his heart will always be in upstate New York.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

How Do Electric Vehicles Perform Compared to Gas Powered Cars?

          With very few electric vehicles in the marketplace, there are many presumptions about how they stack up compared to “regular cars,” which many refer to as gasoline powered internal combustion engines or hybrids.  Through walking into various dealerships we have found the sales reps say, “They are great off the line,” and of course, their EV is the best on the market… Through various conversations we have heard many things about EVs and investigate some of the most common statements:

 “I Wouldn’t Want to Go on the Freeway, Electric Cars Are Wimpy and Have No Power!”
Driving feel is related to torque, which is the turning force available at the tires. Take for example a vehicle powered by a standard internal combustion engine. When you step on the accelerator, the engine needs time to increase speed to generate torque and power, and then that has to go through a transmission to the wheels. All through this drive-train, energy is lost as heat, friction, and noise, meaning that you, the driver, will have to wait for that power. Who wants to wait?
Consider the 2.0 liter internal combustion engine in a Ford Focus, which reaches it's peak torque of 146 pound-feet at 4,450 rpm, while it's electric counterpart has available torque of 181 pound-feet at zero rpm. What it means for you – It IS great off the line! In the electric model, there is no waiting for the engine to get up to optimal speed and torque, and since there is no transmission, none of that energy is lost, meaning that as soon as you step on the accelerator, there's no wait, no lag time, instant torque, instant fun. Unlike the compact 35-mpg Chevy Sonic with 148 pound-feet of torque, the Chevy Volt's 273 pound-feet at will put you in your seat, without a drop of gasoline.
“OK, fine, I can get a bigger engine that has the same or more torque than the electric motor.” Yes, and you'll pay for it, too. If you want similar performance to the electric motor in Ford Focus' EV, but in an internal combustion engine, then you'll have to upgrade to the Fusion's 2.5 liter engine with 172 pound-feet torque available at 4,500 rpm, sacrificing 24% of your fuel economy and the time lag waiting for the engine to get up to speed. Want to match the Chevy Volt's torque? Prepare to upgrade to the Impala's 3.6 liter's 262 pound-feet at 5,300 rpm, and experience the 40% drop in fuel efficiency.
 “What about speed? Won’t I get creamed merging onto the highway!”
As we've just discovered, given the benefits of the highest torque available at a dead stop, instant acceleration isn't an issue with an electric vehicle. What about top speed, though?  
One of the benefits of an electric motor, besides it's low-end torque being so high, is that the motor itself has only one moving part, so it can be dynamically balanced finer than an internal combustion engine with hundreds of moving parts. The Mitsubishi I MiEV electric vehicle motor can run up to 9,900 rpm with no discernible vibration while gasoline vehicles have their rpm limited by a device called a rev limiter. Electric motors achieve their peak power, measured in Kilowatts (KW), not horsepower (HP), at half their maximum rpm, so as peak torque is starting to fall after initial acceleration, it's just starting to reach it's peak power. Only requiring a one-speed transmission means very little energy is lost. 
The EV’s excellent torque characteristics and high running speed means that electric motors offer the best of both worlds, good acceleration and good highway speed. Nissan LEAF boasts speeds up to 90 mph, and the Chevy VOLT and Toyota RAV4 EV up to 100 mph, which means that even if you have a commute on the highways in New Jersey, where the speed limit seems to be a quaint notion, or California, where freeway speed limits are sometimes more like guidelines, you'll have no trouble keeping up, even in the fast lane. However, although there is instant torque, not every EV is a Tesla Roadster when it comes to 0-60 acceleration (The Tesla Roadster model does 0-60 in under 4 seconds):
 How about overall horsepower?
           “What's all this talk of kilowatts? Isn't car performance measured in horsepower?” Kilowatts and horsepower are both just measurements of power, in scientific terms, the amount of work done in a given time. The Watt has generally been reserved for electrical systems, such as a 100-watt bulb or measuring the output of a generator, while horsepower has generally been reserved for engines, probably since horses pulled the first wheeled vehicles and equipment. 
            Still, power, or work over time, can be expressed as watts or horsepower, which we will use since we are more likely to comprehend horsepower. To avoid trying to compare kilowatts and horsepower, we used the conversion factor of 746W per 1 hp to get a better idea of how the electric vehicles compared to the gasoline vehicles. Comparing the overall horsepower of three vehicles in the Chevy line-up, note that while the Impala has twice the horsepower of the Volt, it has less than a third the available torque accelerating from a dead stop. The Sonic has about the same horsepower as the Volt, but notice less than a quarter the available torque on acceleration.

How does this stack up to what you expected?
The Author, Benjamin Jerew, has been a ASE, Toyota, and Lexus, Master Certified Technician for over ten years. Branching out now, he's been investigating alternative fuels and how they impact the vehicles, their drivers, and the environment. Wherever the wind takes him, his heart will always be in upstate New York.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Charging Your EV at Home: The Choice Between Level 1 & Level 2 Charging

Charging Your EV at Home:
The Choice Between Level 1 & Level 2 Charging

Not many people realize it, but one of the main factors that should be considered when choosing an electric or plug-in hybrid electric vehicle is charging level. In the United States, you have your choice between Level 1 charging (Typical 110 Volt shown on the left)  and Level 2 charging(Higher Powered 240 Volt such as a dryer socket shown on the right).

“So what?” you may ask, “What’s the big deal and difference?”

evel 1 (Level 2dasasdsdasaasdsadsadasdasdsaadsddeewd Level, but may also allow you to charge quic
electric vehicle rates tLevel 1 vs. Level 2:

Using higher powered L2 charging generally means the car will be charged faster, sometimes more than 2x as fast as L1. 

L1 is nothing more than a typical wall outlet wired to provide the required voltage and the L2 is a dedicated charging station connected to an open 240V socket or hardwired directly to your electrical panel. When it comes to a regular 110V outlet, it ideally should be on a dedicated circuit with no other appliances plugged in to ensure maximum power quality.

What Are Other EV Drivers Doing?

In May 2012, OEMs made remarks saying 50% of hybrids such as the Chevy Volt fuel on L1 while 25% of all electric vehicles such as the Nissan Leaf fuel on Level 1. If you don't plan on completely depleting your battery during day with a short commute or have a regular alternate way to charge such as your workplace, L1 may be fine if you are driving an all-electric vehicle. In addition, many cities and retailers are considering or have installed L2 charging stations available for free or a fee. Some states such as CA, TX, OR and WA are seeing installations of DC “Fast” chargers, which can quickly fuel your EV at a very high power, greater than L2.

Details About L1 vs. L2 Set-Ups

Will Faster Charging Ruin My Battery?

All auto manufacturers offer attractive warranties on their cars and batteries to ensure we feel secure about our decision to drive an electric vehicle. However, technically, charging a battery faster generates more heat, which causes parts of the battery to break down more quickly. This means that the battery system that once allowed you to drive 100 miles before needing a recharge will slowly lose its ability to maintain the charge it held brand new. HOWEVER, this is not likely to noticeably occur for many (some estimate 10+) years to come. Most customers will not keep their cars that long, and hey, we can always lease the car!

Charging Station Considerations

When considering a L2 charging station, upfront cost is the biggest consideration. All auto manufacturers offer the option to purchase the L2 equipment and installation as part of the price of the vehicle, however some EV owners choose to buy their own equipment and install with their own licensed electrician.

The Home Depot and Lowes sell several different charging stations from Siemens, GE, Legrand and Leviton that range in price depending on the bells and whistles and aesthetics. Level 2 equipment typically ranges from $749 to $999 before installation. Installation costs tend to vary widely depending on your existing wiring and layout, but can generally range from $1,000 to $2,000. Additionally, some utilities offer special electric vehicle rates that require a separate meter. It will be more cost efficient to install all equipment at the same time. Installing  L2 charging will not only charge your car faster, but may also allow you to fully charge during the cheapest time periods if your utility offers such programs. (Stay tuned for an upcoming article and interactive tool!)

Your EV charging decision will require some thought. 
  • Do you have an outlet or circuit available that can be dedicated to EV charging? If not, how much is it going to cost to have one installed? 
  • Do you use the automaker recommendation, or your own equipment and electrician? 
  • Is there a possibility that you might move in the future? If so, you may consider of the L2 charging stations that are portable instead of a hard-wired solution. 
Also, some utilities offer rate discounts for owners of EVs. You’ll need to speak with your electric provider to see what sort of cost benefit the two charging levels can give you and what works for you!

What are your charging experiences and costs? We’d love to hear them!

Next Article: How Much Power Do EV’s Have Compared to Other Cars?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

What is PlugWiz?

What is PlugWiz? 

We are creating PlugWiz as an objective site where customers interested in electric and alternative vehicles can go to learn about their options and determine if the new clean technology is right for them.

Although we love new technology, it may not be for everyone!

At PlugWiz we do our best to make sense of all the information floating around into concise and actionable information so you can make your decision either way, after reviewing validated information.

Thanks for taking the time to visit us and we look forward to engaging with you soon.

Stay Tuned!

Andre and Chris