Honey, Did You Remember to Plug in the Car?

     This phrase is likely to be heard a lot more in households across the country.  Thanks to technological advances, government incentives, soaring gas prices and a growing demand, electric vehicles (EV's) have becomes much more popular.  This year major automakers have jumped on the bandwagon - Ford, Chevrolet and Nissan to name a few.
So what does the coming EV boom mean for us?  Should we be ready to "charge-up" our vehicles this year?  Will they be making ERV's?
     If you have visions of Star Wars hovercraft and cringe at one more 21st century need to worry.  No special skills needed to drive and enjoy a modern EV.  The biggest change will be the lack of time and money wasted at the gas pump.
Ford Transit Connect
     One other difference is that they operate almost silently.  They actually ADD noise for safety purposes.  Also, pure EV's - vehicles whose only energy source is a battery - deliver a much shorter range before 're-fueling/recharging.'  The standard range is anywhere from 40-120 miles before needing a recharge-depending on the vehicle.
     Still, for many this can cover the daily commute to work, dropping off the kids at school, and a stop at H-E-B for groceries.  Just remember to plug your EV into the garage wall socket so you can do it all again the next day.  But what does that mean for RVers whose average travel to their next stop is 250 miles?
     Already we are beginning to see ads for charging stations at gas stations, convenience centers and yes, even RV Parks.  The Department of Energy is funding over 20,000 home, public and commercial charger installations in selected major metropolitan areas around the country.  Many of these will be so-called fast chargers along major transportation corridors, which will allow drivers to charge in 30 minutes or less.
     Charging EV's in a 120V home outlet takes at least eight and up to 12 hours.  A Level 2 charger can be professionally installed at your home to cut the time in half, but these are pricey, $1000 to $2000.  Level 3 chargers, because of their prohibitive cost to install and purchase will probably only be found at refueling stations, malls and commercial stops, perhaps our local Walmart.  These recharge in as little as 15-30 minutes.  The 50 amp outlets at RV Parks can also be used with an affordable adapter and take about 4 hours to recharge.

 Many parks, including Hidden Valley RV Park have already made this service available.  You can either incorporate your charge during your stay or stop by for a 4 hr. rest from driving and sit by the creek or under the trees or take advantage of other  park amenities.
     A variation on the theme is the 'plug-in hybrid vehicle,' or PHV or HEV.  They incorporate a small gasoline engine as a range extender, firing up to recharge the battery as needed.  The Chevy Volt is one of these.
     The greatest advantages, of course, are the lower cost per mile and the ability to refuel at home.  Pure EV producers claim that 5 cents per mile charged to your electric utility bill will cover the cost whereas at least 11 cents per mile is required for a gasoline-powered vehicle.  As gasoline prices rise the low EV cost per mile will be more and more attractive.
     Another plus is the reduced maintenance costs.  Because the EV engines are so much simpler, oil changes and tune ups will be thing of the past.
     Safety wise, there are two opinions.  Since there's no gas tank, EV's are less likely to catch fire in an accident.  Some Fire Rescue Departments have initiated Fire Rescue Training for these new vehicles claiming their high voltage batteries could leak dangerous amounts of fluid if damaged.  While these vehicles are still in their early stages, this claim and many others have been addressed and either solved or proven unfounded.  (Read this Fire Rescue Report, Electric and hybrid vehicle response safety: Myths and Facts.)
     Another good idea is to research, in advance of a purchase, the fuel economy ratings and tax incentives, other EV info,  and lists of charging stations near you.
    The sad part is, that our kids will have one more thing NOT to know about and experience and the time will shortly come when they ask, "Gas station?  What's that?"
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