Whether you’ve fully embraced it or are still hopelessly in denial, there’s no rejecting that the automotive industry is electrifying now faster than ever.

With lower-than-average ownership costs, increased driving ranges and the latest advanced safety features, AAA sees a strong future for electric vehicles, with 20% or 50 million Americans likely to go electric for their next vehicle purchase. That’s up from 15% in 2017

To help “green” car shoppers make an informed choice, AAA conducts independent, rigorous test-track evaluations of plug-in hybrids, hybrid and fuel-efficient, gas-powered vehicles.

“Today, electric vehicles have mainstream appeal,” said Greg Brannon, AAA’s director of Automotive Engineering. “While concern for the environment is still a major motivator, AAA found U.S. drivers are also attracted to the lower long-term costs and advanced technology features that many of these vehicles offer.”

Perhaps fueling American’s desire for electric vehicles, AAA’s survey found that “range anxiety” is beginning to ease. That’s because newer electric cars are getting an increased range, and with the hybrid models, there’s an internal combustion engine inside that’s got your back.

What’s Out There

The market for electric cars is divided into three categories: Full electric cars, hybrid electric cars, and plug-in hybrid cars. The truly electric vehicle is pretty simple. There’s no Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) inside. These models, like Teslas, run totally on electricity, and more companies are beginning to introduce totally electric cars to their line.

Most manufacturers now offer a hybrid model. But you need to make sure you know which kind of hybrid you’re getting. A traditional hybrid or a plug-in hybrid. While most people understand the concept of a hybrid car having both an internal combustion engine (ICE) and electric motor running on a battery, the majority can’t identify what makes one a “conventional” hybrid or classifies another as a plug-in. The difference lies in the way in which they use those two power sources as well as how they’re recharged.

While a traditional hybrid vehicle has both an ICE and electric motor, it derives the majority of its power from the engine. It can run solely on electricity at very low speeds, but the electric motor is mostly there to complement the engine when extra propulsion is needed. In this way, electricity is used to take some strain off the engine while improving fuel economy.

A plug-in on the other hand is much more similar to a fully electric car. The vehicle relies solely on the electric motor for all speeds until the battery level drops to a predetermined point at which it can no longer sufficiently power the car. Once this occurs, the ICE steps in to either serve as the vehicle’s primary source of propulsion or to act as a generator running to charge the car’s batteries, thus powering the motor.

These two types of electric vehicles also differ in how their batteries are recharged. Traditional hybrids do so while the vehicle is running on engine power and through reclaiming energy with a process called regenerative braking where kinetic energy created by both braking and “coasting” is stored and utilized by the vehicle’s batteries.

A plug-in hybrid’s battery or batteries are charged by doing exactly what the name suggests – plugging it into the electric power. Although regenerative braking can help battery life to a certain degree, you’ll need either a wall outlet or charging station to fully charge it up. Charging time varies according to the power source, type of charger used as well as the PHEV model itself.

So which is the better option? Besides having the edge in both fuel efficiency and range, plug ins also make a great fit for both types of car owners. Those who take a more hands-off approach and are either too lazy or forgetful to plug it in, still have a gas engine to rely on, making it a fully functioning car at all times. On the opposite end of the spectrum, more diligent EV only owners have the ability to not only drastically increasing their car’s range, but can even attempt to “hyper-mile” and maximize their time running on EV only.

Charging Away From Home

Although Americans may be more eager to buy an electric vehicle, having the right infrastructure will be critical to its widespread adoption. The newer model electric cars have longer ranges, up from 50 to 75 miles per charge to 200 to 300 miles. But still, what to do if you want to take your EV on a long distance trip?

In 2018, the availability of charging stations had grown to more than 16,000 in the United States and, although anxiety over range has reduced, AAA’s survey found consumer expectation for charging time while on the road may not align with reality. Seven-in-ten Americans feel that while out driving, a charging time of no more than 30 minutes is a reasonable amount of time to wait.

“Today’s drivers are accustomed to a quick fill up at the corner gas station, but electric vehicle charging can sometimes take several hours,” said Brannon. “With a little planning, electric vehicle owners can avoid a roadside inconvenience and, as technology improves, charging times will too.”

We found seven charging stations listed online in the Wichita area, nine in the Kansas City market, two in Hutchinson and one in Topeka. The Topeka station, and a few of the others were for Tesla charging only, cutting down further the number of available stations.

More stations are coming, potentially making things easier. Tesla is tripling its fleet of fast-chargers by the end of 2018, Volkswagen is spending heavily on new stations, and the U.S. government is backing new infrastructure plans, among many other investments.

Volkswagen’s emissions scandal turned out to be good news for electric-car charging. The German automaker agreed to invest $2 billion over 10 years in U.S. electric-car infrastructure, including new stations and educational initiatives, as part of a federal settlement over its diesel emissions scandal.

Mark McNabb, CEO of the VW-funded Electrify America program, said the company is spending $500 million apiece in four 30-month cycles. The first round of investments is focusing heavily on installation of stations in 17 metro areas, including six in California. The terms of the settlement prevent VW from favoring its own technology.

Home charging will remain critical for electric car owners, with the Department of Energy projects that more than 90% of charging will take place in a residential setting. Most of the cars can be charged slowly on a 120V outlets — possibly 8-12 hours. The next level of home charging operates on 240 V and will power up a car in 4-6 hours. It will require owners to install a charging station at a cost of a few hundred or thousand dollars.

The next level of charging operates at 500V and will mostly be limited to commercial locations. These outlets will charge your car in 15-30 minutes, with smart drivers timing their recharging with comfort breaks.

Drivers can access charging station locations through AAA’s Mobile app or TripTik PlannerDrivers can access charging station locations through AAA’s Mobile app or TripTik Planner.

Operating Costs Good

On average, the cost of an electric vehicle, whether all-electric or plug-in hybrid is higher than that of a conventional gas powered car. However, there are a number of federal tax credits and some additional tax credits in certain states (not Kansas or Missouri) other incentives that can lower the upfront cost so EV drivers can take advantage of fuel savings and reduced emissions.

The Federal Qualified Plug-in Electric Drive Motor Vehicle Tax Credit is the main federal incentive program for electric cars available in the United States. Under this program, the purchase of a new electric vehicle is eligible for a tax credit worth $7,500 as long as it meets some basic criteria:

While you don’t have to buy gas, you still have to pay for the electricity used to charge your car. The eGallon price represents the cost of fueling a vehicle with electricity compared to a similar vehicle that runs on gasoline. For example, if gasoline costs $3.60 a gallon in your state and the eGallon price for your state is $1.20 that means that for $1.20 worth of electricity you can drive the same distance as you would for $3.60 worth of gasoline. Based on current electric rates in Kansas, the eGallon rate is $1.17 compared to current gas prices of around $2.79 per gallon.

The current egallon rate f price is calculated using the most recently available state by state residential electricity prices. The state gasoline price above is either the statewide average retail price or a multi-state regional average price reported by EIA. The latest gasoline pricing data is available on EIA’s webpage. Find out more at www.energy.gov/eGallon.

For most drivers, a trip to the fuel pump is an easy reminder of the day-to-day cost of gasoline or diesel. But for electric vehicle (EV) drivers, who typically charge their car at home, there isn’t a similar measurement to determine the cost of driving on electricity. To help both current and potential EV drivers better understand the cost of driving an EV, the Energy Department created the eGallon.

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