Electric Vehicles in Virginia

Electric Vehicles (EVs) still generate greenhouse gas emissions, since the electricity they use is not carbon-free
Electric Vehicles (EVs) still generate greenhouse gas emissions, since the electricity they use is not carbon-free
Source: US Department of Energy, Emissions from Hybrid and Plug-In Electric Vehicles

In 2020, most of the over 400,000 cars and trucks sold annually in Virginia were gasoline-fueled and diesel-fueled vehicles with internal combustion engines. These included hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) which recaptured some energy during regenerative braking, where rotating wheels turned the motor and created electricity stored in the battery. In basic hybrid vehicles, that battery could not be recharged with electricity from an external source.

Those vehicles were in competition with plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs, also known as Extended Range Electric Vehicles or EREVs) and all-electric vehicles (EVs, also known as Battery Electric Vehicles or BEVs). As a group, PHEV's and EV's were also known as Plug-In Electric Vehicles (PEVs) Those batteries could be charged up by connecting to the electrical grid for as little as 20 minutes or as long as 10 hours.

At the time, one-third of Virginians were considering purchase of a PHEV or EV as their next vehicle, and another 28% were considering some form of electric vehicle for a future car purchase. Consultants warned:1

These cars will seize a third of the market by 2025 and 51% by 2030, surpassing sales of vehicles powered purely by internal combustion engines (ICEs).

Calculating the life-cycle costs of a car includes estimating both initial purchase costs and annual operating costs for fuel and repairs, to determine total costs of ownership. In the early 2020's, traditional vehicles fueled by gasoline/diesel typically had a lower initial purchase price, even when governments provided special subsidies and tax benefits. Annual operating costs were significantly lower for vehicles which used electricity, either partially or completely.2

Buyers also had to consider the range of their trips when choosing what type of vehicle to purchase. An EV with a 100-mile to 200-mile range was adequate for most trips, on most days, but might not be suitable for long-distance travel.

The network of refueling stations for cars burning gasoline/diesel was ubiquitous, while EV charging stations offering a fast recharge were far less common. Drivers of EVs could plug into any outlet offering 120 volt, alternating-current, known as a Level 1 recharge station.

In 2020, powering up a battery for an EV to recover full driving distance site at a Level 1 station required 8-12 hours. That created no issue for workers commuting to a job within 40-50 miles; they could recharge the EV at home overnight. A slow recharge was no issue for drivers with a destination within the range of one charge, and the driver was staying overnight at the destination. Linking to a 120-volt outlet at a hotel or friend's house was relatively simple.

There are also Level 2 and Level 3 recharge stations. Level 2 sites use a 240-volt recharge from a dedicated 40 amp circuit, with a standard cord attachment. A typical EV can be fully recharged in 6-8 hours at a Level 2 station.

A Level 3 station relies upon a 480V, direct-current (DC) connection to provide most of a recharge in just 30 minutes. In the early 2020's different models of cars used different cord attachments, complicating the ability of Level 3 charging stations to service all customers. In addition, the Tesla Model S used a unique Supercharger, designed to bring a depleted battery to full power in just 20 minutes.3

Potential buyers of Plug-In Electric Vehicles (PEVs) in Virginia anticipated recharging most often at home. While traveling, they desired the ability to plug in at grocery stores, restaurants, shopping malls and warehouse clubs, recreational areas such as parks, and at entertainment locations such as movie theaters.4

Climate Change in Virginia

Electricity in Virginia



1. "Who Will Drive Electric Cars to the Tipping Point?," Boston Consulting Group, January 2, 2020, https://www.bcg.com/publications/2020/drive-electric-cars-to-the-tipping-point; "Statistical Reports," Virginia Automobile Dealers Association, https://vada.com/media-statistics/statistical-reports/; "Electric Vehicle Survey Findings and Methodology: Virginia," Union of Concerned Scientists, November 2019, p.3, https://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/2019-11/Virginia-EV-Survey.pdf (last checked April 2, 2021)
2. "Comparing the total cost of ownership for EVs and gas cars," PlugInAmerica, October 10, 2019, https://pluginamerica.org/comparing-the-total-cost-of-ownership-for-evs-and-gas-cars/ (last checked April 2, 2021)
3. "Levels of Charging," EVTown, http://www.evtown.org/about-ev-town/ev-charging/charging-levels.html (last checked April 3, 2021)
4. "Electric Vehicle Survey Findings and Methodology: Virginia," Union of Concerned Scientists, November 2019, p.6, https://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/2019-11/Virginia-EV-Survey.pdf (last checked April 2, 2021)

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