A Chevy Bolt battery electric vehicle charging at home in Winchester
Walking, bicycling and taking public transportation are the most environmentally-sustainable modes of transportation. However, for those who need a personal vehicle for some or all trips, driving an electric vehicle is far less polluting than driving a gasoline powered vehicle (as this entertaining video makes clear, and as this report from the Union of Concerned Scientists also makes clear).
Understanding Electric Vehicles
There are a few different types of electric vehicles (EVs), and understanding the difference between them can help you choose which type makes the most sense for you:
Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV). This is the most sustainable option, because it uses only electricity - no gasoline. BEVs do not have a gasoline backup system like PHEVs and HEVs (see below) - they rely 100% on their batteries to provide propulsion and power electronics and heating / cooling. There are a wide range of BEV models from numerous manufacturers, from small passenger cars to large SUVs and pickups, and with driving ranges on a single charge from around 100 miles for some vehicles to well over 300 miles for others.
If you own or rent a home where it is possible to install an EV charging station, you can charge your BEV at home. While traveling long distances that exceed your battery's range, you can charge at public charging stations along highways and increasingly throughout cities and towns. More information about EV charging is available further down on this page.
Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV). A PHEV is a vehicle with a battery that powers an electric motor, just like a BEV, except the battery is smaller (typical battery packs on PHEVs provide about 12-50 miles of driving range). PHEV batteries are charged using EV charging stations, just like a BEV (see additional information about EV charging below on this page). For those with short daily commutes, daily charging may make it possible to drive for days or weeks at a time without using any gasoline. The gasoline motor is available for occasional long-distance trips, which addresses the "range anxiety" felt by some who consider purchasing a BEV. PHEVs are a less environmentally-sustainable option than BEVs, but they are still far more sustainable than vehicles powered exclusively by internal combustion engines.
Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV). A HEV has a small battery that is recharged when the driver breaks to decrease speed. There is no plug and no way to charge the battery except by driving. While a less sustainable option than a BEV or PHEV, HEVs do typically achieve fuel efficiency that is about 20 percent better than a straight internal combustion engine vehicle, and for this reason are a good choice if no BEV or PHEV vehicles are available or practical for a desired vehicle type.
Shopping for an Electric Vehicle. Prices for EVs have steadily dropped over the years, even while batteries have improved. In addition, EVs are typically less expensive to maintain and fuel than comparable internal combustion engine vehicles - there are many fewer moving parts in an EV (no oil or spark plugs to change, for example), and the cost per mile driven is typically 30-50% less because EVs are so efficient and gasoline is expensive compared to electricity. Finally, generous federal and state tax incentives exist that can lower the ultimate purchase cost of an EV by as much as $11,000 in Massachusetts. For a current list of vehicles that are eligible for federal tax credits, see this page from the Green Energy Consumers Alliance. For information on federal and state financial incentives for purchasing EVs, see this page from the Green Energy Consumers Alliance.
Speaking of the Green Energy Consumers Alliance, it is a Massachusetts-based nonprofit that hosts an excellent website dedicated to educating prospective EV owners. The Drive Green website also contains a shopping guide with pre-negotiated EV purchase discounts at several participating Massachusetts car dealerships. We encourage you to visit the Drive Green website by clicking on this link.
Charging Electric Vehicles. Plug-in EVs (BEVs and PHEVs - see above) have a charging port that accepts charging cables. EV owners can charge their vehicles at home if they have or install a home charging station (more on this below), or at public charging stations located in Winchester, throughout Massachusetts, and throughout the country. PlugShare, which has both a website and smartphone app, provides a map showing public charging stations and their status (open, occupied, cost to use, repair status, etc.).
Public Charging Stations in Winchester. The four public EV charging station ports in Winchester are shown on PlugShare's map (search for Winchester MA). However, the two charging ports on Laraway Rd. are currently unavailable during the Winchester Center Commuter Rail Station reconstruction project, scheduled to be completed by the summer of 2024. The two public charging ports located on Skillings Rd. in the Winchester High School parking lot are open to the public as follows: from September 1 through June 15: 4 p.m. to 12 a.m. Monday-Friday and 6 a.m. to 12 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. From June 16 through August 31: 6 a.m. to 12 a.m. every day. There is no use allowed between 12 a.m. and 6 a.m. year-round.
More public EV charging stations are planned for Winchester. Two Direct Current Fast (DC Fast) charging stations are planned for installation in the Jenks / Town Hall parking lot along Mt. Vernon St. (click here to learn more about the three types of EV chargers, including DC Fast). Winchester also plans to install more Level 2 public charging stations in Winchester, although there are no specific locations or installation timelines at present.
Charging at home. Some residents live in homes where it is feasible to install home EV charging stations. Typically these include detached single- and two-family homes with garages (charging station installed inside) or driveways (station installed on the home's exterior). EVs come with their own charging cable for "Level 1" charging, which adds about 4 miles of driving range per hour of charging and can be plugged into a standard 120 volt electrical outlet. Many EV owners install "Level 2" charging stations, which add about 25 miles of driving range per hour of charging. Level 2 charging stations range in price from about $400 to $1,000 depending on the model (a perfectly good Level 2 station can be had for about $500). Level 2 stations typically require a dedicated 240 volt, 40-amp circuit (cost may range from about $300-$1,000 for an electrician to perform this work depending on how far the charging station will be from your electrical panel). There is a federal tax credit of 30% of the cost of a charging station or $1,000, whichever is smaller. You can claim the tax credit the following year on your income taxes using IRS Form 8911. There is also an Eversource rebate for the installation costs associated with an EV charger (not the charger itself). The rebate is $700 (more if you are on a discounted electricity rate). Eversource details and application are here.
You may even be able to use your electric vehicle to provide backup battery power to your home, which is called bidirectional charging. A few models can already do this, and more are coming.
We encourage you to check out this website from the Green Energy Consumers Alliance, which contains a wealth of helpful information about EV charging and charging stations.
You may also be interested in joining a Facebook Group for Winchester residents interested in electric vehicles. Click here to visit the Winchester EV Facebook Group.