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PHOTO CAPTION: Electric cars like the Volt typically can be charged for pennies; a full 10kWh charge might cost $1.20.

What You Need to Know Before You Ask to Plug-In Your Electric Car

Chevrolet Volt owner Armen Hareyan provides some practical tips on how to ask people to let you recharge your electric using their power outlet.

Published: 17-Dec-2013

One of the best features of driving a plugin electric car is that you don’t have to go to the gas station to fuel your car. Instead you can fuel your car at home. But plugging in away from home can be a little tricky and may need some extra explaining.

I have driven a 2011 Chevy Volt range extended electric car for the past 3 years. I love my Volt. After decades of owning BMWs, the Volt is the best car I’ve ever had the pleasure to drive. It’s also possibly the most misunderstood car. The Chevy Volt is a unique plugin serial hybrid electric vehicle. “Yeah, what’s that?” you may ask. Let me explain.

The Volt’s advanced lithium-ion battery first allows you to drive gas-free for about 40 miles. Then the onboard gas-powered generator provides electricity so you can drive a total of 380 miles on a full charge and a full tank of gas. But, if you routinely recharge your Volt before the battery runs out, you can drive the Chevy Volt forever without using gasoline. That’s right. As long as you keep its 16 kWh battery charged, the gasoline range extending generator won’t need to come on and use gas. So the Chevy Volt is both, at best, a 100% electric car or at worst, a high-mileage 40 MPG gas car. You can choose. If you drive 40 miles or less a day (as most Americans do) one charge per day will do. If you drive 80 miles a day, you can charge it twice and avoid using gasoline. When it’s parked, just plug it in and top it off. The Volt is an electric car that you can use with no trade-offs. You can drive it with or without plugging it in.

But once you get a Volt, plugging in becomes an addictively fun game.

Most plugin car owners charge their cars at home for most of their miles. I drive 98% of my miles on cheap electricity from my home. But there will be times when you might want to take advantage of an opportunity to charge “in the wild” to avoid using gas, especially when you are visiting relatives or friends on longer trips.

“May I plug in my car, please?” can be an uncomfortable request for those unfamiliar with EVs. They have no idea how much electricity your car will use and most people have no idea even how much they pay for their electricity. So here are some useful tips from this Chevy Volt plugin car owner that I find helpful.

First, don’t ask this question “cold”. Introduce your host to your car first. Most notice that you are driving a new car and ask how you like it. This is your opportunity to explain its many advantages, including its superior power usage.

For me it’s simple: “I love my Chevy Volt and its unique driving experience. Quiet, smooth, comfortable and powerful, it is fun to drive. And for less than $2 for each charge, and I can go for months without purchasing gasoline.”

Second, show them the car. Have them sit in the driver’s seat and turn it on. Ask them if they want to take it for a spin.

Finally, ask them if they would like to see how easy it is to charge. Let them plug it in. This is your opportunity to educate them on the ease as well as the affordability of powering an electric vehicle.

The national average electricity cost is 11 cents per kWh. It takes about 12 kWh to fully charge my Volt. That’s $1.32. Compared to the rest of your household electricity expenses, it’s surprisingly cheap. I find that once someone understands the true cost of charging my Volt, they are happy to let me do so.

On a trip to San Diego from my home in Santa Monica, CA, I stayed at a local hotel there. I asked the hotel manager if I could plug in my car and charge it. At first, he said “No.” Then he agreed but said I’d have to pay him $100! After some further discussion about my car, he came down to $10. After 2 days, he liked the idea of having my car plugged in at his hotel so much (as many guests were asking about it) that by the time I left, he waived the $10 and told me he now wanted to get a plugin car too. He also said he was now going to install more plugs in the hotel garage so more guests could plugin. He realized EV charging is a value added service, just like free Wi-Fi.

So here’s my advice. Ask! Take every opportunity to educate more people about the advantages of driving on electricity. After I started plugging in my Volt at work, my boss made the observation that he doesn't mind my plugging in as I drink more in coffee than the cost of electricity to charge my car. In my experience, the electrification of the automobile is a no brainer as they are simply better cars all around. Take it from me. One test drive and you will be hooked. Oh, and my boss now drives a Tesla.

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