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Range Considerations

Plug-in hybrids are intended for consumers who most frequently drive only short distances. For this reason, they are designed to run on electricity stored in a battery for a limited range—such as 35 miles—before the gas-powered internal combustion engine takes over and provides the primary power for the vehicle. After the full electric mileage range of the vehicle is met, the battery needs to be recharged and/or gasoline needs to be utilized. These vehicles commonly make use of deep cycle lithium-ion batteries that can be discharged and recharged regularly.

Battery-electric vehicles, on the other hand, only accept electricity as the fuel source and therefore have a greater electric range than plug-in hybrids. Various rating agencies have assigned ranges between 70 to over 200 miles for today’s commercially available battery-electric vehicles. The range of battery-electric vehicles—like all vehicles—varies depending on conditions such as driving habits, terrain, weather, accessory use, and battery age. In particular, cold temperatures can significantly reduce electric battery ranges and exposure to extreme hot or cold temperatures can inhibit proper battery operation.

Charging Considerations

Both battery-electrics and plug-in hybrids can be recharged using a standard (home) 120-volt plug or a 240-volt plug. Using a 120-volt plug (level 1 charging), two to five miles of range per hour of charging time can be added. In this scenario, an electric vehicle plugged in overnight (12 hours) will gain 24 to 60 miles of charge by the morning.

Using a 240-volt plug (level 2 charging) requires installation of a home charging station or access to a public charging station. Based on the battery type and circuit capacity, 240-volt charging adds 10 to 20 miles of range per hour of charging time. In this scenario, an electric vehicle plugged in overnight (12 hours) will gain 120 to 240 miles (or the maximum range) of charge by the morning. A home charging station requires a 220/240V, 40 amp dedicated circuit connected to a breaker. It should be hard-wired directly to the circuit by a certified electrician. Some utilities may offer rebates for the installation of home EV charging stations, particularly if you put the station on a time-of-use electric rate.

Certain battery-electric vehicles have a 480-volt direct current (DC) charging option as well. This level 3 fast charge can take 30 minutes or less to fully charge a depleted 24kWh battery. It should be noted that frequent use of level 3 charging may result in shortened battery life.

Public Charging Stations

According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), as of late 2017, there were 474 public electric vehicle charging stations in Colorado, stretching throughout all but the far northwest corner of the state. In 2011, by contrast, there were only 10 public EV charging stations in Colorado, exclusively in Denver and along the Front Range. A database of electric vehicle charging stations by state and zip code is available at DOE’s online Alternative Fuels and Advanced Vehicles Data Center.

Last updated: October 19, 2017 at 14:02 pm