Explore the fundamentals of electric vehicles
Frequently asked questions
From the mechanics of electric vehicles to their environmental benefits, there is a lot to know. Take some time to study up so you can make the choice that's best for you.
Electric vehicle basics
How does a plug-in electric vehicle work?
A plug-in electric vehicle is a vehicle that can be plugged into an electrical outlet or charging device to recharge its battery. There are two types: battery electric vehicles, which run only on electricity, and plug-in hybrids, which run mainly or solely on electricity until the battery is depleted and then are powered by an internal combustion engine.
How does a battery electric vehicle work?
A battery electric vehicle is fueled only by electricity, essentially replacing gasoline, diesel or other types of combustible fuels. It is purely electric, utilizing an electric motor to propel itself. A battery electric vehicle must plug in to a power source to recharge its battery.
Examples: Nissan Leaf, Tesla Motors Model S
How does a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle work?
A plug-in hybrid electric vehicle is a vehicle that uses both gasoline (stored in a gas tank) and electricity (stored in a battery).
Plug-in Hybrid electric vehicles can be categorized by the way they manage their gasoline and electricity:
A parallel hybrid uses both a combustion engine and an electric motor to deliver power to the wheels. The use of these two forms of power varies from vehicle to vehicle: the vehicle can be powered by just the electric motor, just the combustion engine, or a combination of both depending on driving conditions.
Examples: Toyota Prius Plug-In, Ford Fusion Energi
A series hybrid is directly powered only by the electric motor. The combustion engine is only used to recharge the battery, acting as an electric generator that converts gasoline to electricity. The three are aligned in-series: the combustion engine, then the electric motor, then the wheels. The market has commonly termed this as an extended-range electric vehicle because of its similarity to an all-electric battery electric vehicle, with the exception of using gasoline to "extend" its range.
Example: Chevrolet Volt
What should I consider before purchasing an electric vehicle?
Similar to selecting a gasoline-powered car, choosing the electric vehicle that’s best for you depends on a number of different factors including your driving habits and personal preference. Here are some factors to consider:
- Total Range: How far will you travel? The total range of current electric vehicles vary greatly—anywhere from 40-350 miles.
- Gasoline Use: How much gasoline do you want to use? The battery capacity of an electric vehicle determines how far you can go without using a drop of gasoline.
- Charging: Where will you charge? Where you drive and how you'll charge your vehicle can help you decide which electric vehicle will meet your needs.
If your daily commute is less than 40 miles, many electric vehicles—hybrid or battery electric—will be able to handle your daily driving without the need for gas. If you want the ability to drive much farther, several battery electric vehicles can travel 100 to 200+ miles on a charge. If you need to drive farther without charging, consider an extended-range hybrid like the Chevy Volt.
Learn more with our EV Savings Calculator
What are the typical maintenance costs of an electric vehicle?
Plug-in electric vehicles typically have lower total cost of ownership and, in particular, lower maintenance costs. This is because they have fewer moving parts, reduced oil changes (or none for a full electric) and fewer brake jobs—battery regeneration absorbs most of the energy. Hybrids and plug-in electric vehicles can go 100,000 miles before receiving a brake job.
Learn more with our EV Savings Calculator
What will happen to the battery after it has exceeded its life expectancy?
Benefits of electric vehicles
Are there conveniently located charging stations where I can charge my electric vehicle?
Yes, public charging stations are located in supermarket parking lots, city garages, gas stations and many other locations across the country. Some public charging stations are free and others require a fee or membership.
Visit our EV Charging Station Map
PG&E is also supporting installations of charging stations at workplaces and multi-family residences through the EV Charge Network Program. Visit EV Charge Network
What are the environmental benefits of an electric vehicle?
Electric vehicles reduce the amount of gasoline we burn and are less costly to maintain, among many other benefits:
- Reduced Operating Emissions: The emissions associated with the electric drivetrain of plug-in electric vehicles come from power plants generating electricity to charge the batteries and not from tailpipe emissions. Additionally, from well to wheel, electric vehicles emit approximately 66 percent less carbon dioxide (CO2) compared with internal combustion vehicles. CO2 is the principal gas associated with global warming.
- Water Quality Preservation: Decreased use of petroleum gasoline and motor oil means fewer spills and pollution to oceans, rivers and ground water.
- Reduced Noise: In addition to being cleaner, electric vehicles are quieter than gasoline-powered vehicles, resulting in less noise pollution.
Additionally, more than two-thirds of the electricity PG&E provides comes from sources that are either renewable or emit no greenhouse gases. That’s why by choosing to drive an electric vehicle, you are helping to reduce pollution.
Calculate the environmental benefits of an electric vehicle. Select a specific car using our EV Savings Calculator.
What are the driving benefits of an electric vehicle?
- Laws and Incentives: California has adopted several laws to accommodate the use of plug-in electric vehicles, including the qualification of select plug-in electric vehicles to use the HOV lane.
View the Qualifying Vehicles for Clean Air Vehicle Decals
- Safety: Many electric vehicles receive top National Highway Safety Traffic Administration safety ratings.
To date, findings have shown that several electric vehicle features maximize safety. For example, electric vehicles tend to have a lower center of gravity that makes them less likely to roll over, electric vehicles have less potential for major fires or explosions and the body construction and durability of electric vehicles enhance vehicle safety in a collision.
Learn about more benefits and incentives. Use our EV Savings Calculator.
What are the financial benefits of owning an electric vehicle?
- Lower Operational Costs: The estimated cost of electricity needed to power a plug-in electric vehicle is about one-third of the cost of gasoline.
- Lower Maintenance Costs: The electrical components of plug-in electric vehicles require little to no regular maintenance due to far less moving parts. In hybrids, this leads to less wear and tear of gasoline components.
- Rebates & Tax Credits: Many government agencies and local and regional entities offer rebates and tax credits, upwards of $7500, to encourage the adoption of plug-in electric vehicles.
Visit the EV Savings Calculator
Rates and costs
If I try the EV-A rate and don't like it, can I change to another rate?
Yes, customers have the option of PG&E's tiered rate (E-1), tiered, time-of-use rate (E-TOU) or our separately metered EV rate plan, EV-B. It is important to note that EV-B customers will be losing the less costly off-peak rates formerly applied to home power use. The EV-B rate also requires the installation of a separate meter, which may come at a significant cost to the customer.
Learn More about Charger Installation
What vehicles are eligible for PG&E's EV rate?
PG&E's electric vehicle (EV) rate applies to all PG&E customers who have a currently registered battery electric vehicle (BEV) or plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) charged via a charging outlet at the customer’s residence. PG&E's EV rate is not available to customers with a conventional hybrid electric vehicle (HEV), low speed electric vehicle or electrically powered motorcycles or bicycles.
View Full Rate Schedule and Applicability (PDF, 133 KB)
How do I get billed for electricity if I plug in at home, work, a public charging station or a friend's house? What if a friend charges his/her vehicle at my house?
Electricity used when charging an electric vehicle at home will appear as a charge in the customer's normal monthly utility bill. When charging at a friend's house, that electricity usage will appear on the friend’s bill. We anticipate that billing systems for vehicle charging outside the home will evolve over time in ways similar to how customers today pay for gasoline. If your place of employment has a charging station, ask your employer how the electricity from the charger is billed.
How does paying for kilowatt hours compare to buying gasoline?
The U.S. Energy Department has created a website to determine an eGallon, or the cost of fueling a vehicle with electricity compared to a similar vehicle that runs on gasoline. On PG&E's electric vehicle rate, during off-peak hours electricity costs the equivalent of around $1.25 per eGallon.
View eGallon Info
Visit the EV Savings Calculator
Will electric vehicles drive up the price of electricity?
The effect of plug-in electric vehicles on electricity rates will be determined in large part by the California Public Utilities Commission. The CPUC is currently investigating rates, charging infrastructure and other policies to prepare for the expected growth of plug-in electric vehicles.
Charging and installation
Who do I contact to set up a charging station for my car?
Work with your electrical contractor to evaluate your home's wiring, electrical outlets and other hardware that can support the charging requirements of your new electric vehicle.
Your dealer may offer a home assessment as part of the electric vehicle purchase price. Some automakers offer a consultation with an electrical contractor as part of the electric vehicle purchase.
PLEASE NOTE: PG&E can only perform work outside the home at your meter/electrical panel location to enable the necessary utility service to the house.
What does it cost to get plug-in ready?
Total cost varies depending on current electrical design, local code requirements, the rate and charging options you choose and other factors. Potential costs include the following:
- Charging equipment installation: This cost can be provided by your licensed electrical contractor.
- Second electrical meter installation: You'll need to budget for the installation of a second electrical meter and service panel if you decide to switch to PG&E's EV-B pricing plan. This allows your home's electric load to be measured on the existing meter while a second meter and dedicated breaker is used to measure your electric vehicle’s energy usage. PG&E charges a one-time $100 fee to residential customers for any new meter installation—in addition to any service upgrade costs.
- Electrical panel upgrade: This applies to customers who choose the faster charging Level 2 option, which utilizes 208-240 volts. This adds significant load to you electrical panel, resulting in an electrical panel upgrade. The upgrade cost can be provided by a licensed electrical contractor.
- Utility service upgrade: Your home may require utility electrical system upgrades in order to charge the vehicle and/or accommodate a second meter. This cost can be determined by PG&E after an on-site assessment.
What do I need to do if my situation changes?
- If you're Moving: If you move to another residence you will need to contact us and follow the process for getting your new home ready for your electric vehicle.
- If you're Purchasing a second vehicle: Please contact us if you are considering purchasing a second vehicle so that we can evaluate the utility side of your service to ensure you have adequate capacity to charge both vehicles. You may want to hire your own qualified electrical contractor to evaluate your load capacity, including accommodating your new Level I and Level 2 charging requirements.
- If you no longer own an electric vehicle: If you no longer require the electric vehicle rate, please call us to request that the electric vehicle service be turned off. There is no charge for disconnecting the EV-B meter panel or cancelling the rate.
Can PG&E shut off my vehicle charging?
Only a power outage or failure to pay your electric bill will interrupt vehicle charging without your permission.
Can I sell back electricity from my electric vehicle battery through vehicle-to-grid technology?
This technology is not currently available. However, PG&E is currently researching the future feasibility of vehicle-to-grid applications.
How do I charge my electric vehicle when I’m not at home? Where else can I charge it?
If your vehicle is capable of charging at 120 volts, you will be able to plug your vehicle into any standard outlet for charging while away from home (assuming you can get permission to plug your vehicle from the outlet owner).
Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles have gasoline engines, so you can always buy gasoline as you ordinarily do to extend the range of your vehicle.
With battery electric vehicles, to avoid inconveniences you will want to fully charge your vehicle before you leave home, especially if the round trip you are taking is close to the range of the vehicle. If the trip is longer than the range of the vehicle you will need to plan where you will be able to recharge your vehicle.
Solar power and electric vehicles
I have a rooftop solar-power system. What are my rate options?
PG&E customers who have a solar generating system are eligible to enroll in the electric vehicle rates.
How will having solar panels impact the cost of charging an electric vehicle?
The electricity generated from a solar generating system could help offset the costs of electricity used to charge an electric vehicle. The net effect of the solar generating system will depend on the system's efficiency, the weather, the amount of energy used to charge the vehicle and other factors.
Will charging an electric vehicle affect my solar power agreement?
If I add solar panels to my existing solar generating system to compensate for charging an electric vehicle, are those new panels eligible for a rebate?
If you already have installed a solar generating system and have received a rebate for the system, you are eligible to receive a new rebate for any additional solar panels that are added to the system. The rebate will be directly proportional to the size of the new installation.
PLEASE NOTE: PG&E will not energize a new service until the completed work passes inspection and PG&E has been notified of such by the city or county.
The Clean Fuel Rebate
WHAT IS THE CLEAN FUEL REBATE FOR ELECTRIC VEHICLE CUSTOMERS?
The Clean Fuel Rebate comes from the State of California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) program. The goal of the Low Carbon Fuel Standard is to reduce transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions by encouraging the adoption of cleaner fuels, like electricity.
The Clean Fuel Rebate is a one-time rebate available to PG&E residential customers who have adopted cleaner transportation methods by fueling their vehicles with electricity.
WHO CAN APPLY FOR THE CLEAN FUEL REBATE?
PG&E residential customers who own or lease a plug-in electric vehicle are eligible to apply for the Clean Fuel Rebate. A PG&E account holder may also apply on behalf of a vehicle owner in their household (or tenant in a multifamily household) with the vehicle owner’s permission. Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) customers are also eligible to apply.
WHAT ARE THE ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS?
- The applicant’s PG&E account must include active residential electric service.
- The vehicle, identified by its unique vehicle identification number (VIN), must be an eligible plug-in electric vehicle and must not have already received a Clean Fuel Rebate under the current owner or any previous owner.
- The applicant must have paid the vehicle's current registration fees and the vehicle must be registered in California to the address on the applicant’s PG&E account.
HOW DO I APPLY?
Receive information about EV events, money-saving incentives and more.
Interested in electrifying your company's fleet? Find out about our EV Fleet program, designed to support medium and heavy-duty fleets.
Purchase solar electricity generated within California without needing to install private rooftop solar panels.