Local Toyota and Mitsubishi dealerships are now selling plug-in electric cars in Southern Nevada. The 2012 Toyota Prius PHV, a plug-in version of the popular Prius hybrid, and the 2012 Mitsubishi i-MiEV, a battery-powered electric car, have been sold in neighboring states like California, Arizona, Oregon and Washington.
In recent months, local dealerships like Findlay Toyota, Fletcher Jones Toyota Scion, Centennial Toyota and Desert Toyota began selling the Prius PHV to local customers. Courtesy Mitsubishi Henderson in the Valley Automall has been selling the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, as well as installing three Level 2 electric vehicle charging stations on its property to provide free electrons to its electric car customers. Mitsubishi i-MiEV owners can use the dealership site to refuel their cars during their daily trips around the Las Vegas Valley. This equipment also is available around Southern Nevada at hotel-casinos and municipal government parking areas where electricity is provided free to vehicles like the Prius PHV and i-MiEV. Level 2 charging stations provide electricity to each vehicle at twice the rate as the Level 1 supply equipment sold with each vehicle. A Google locator map of these sites is on the website of the Nevada Electric Vehicle Accelerator task force, www.nevadaeva.org.
The Toyota Prius PHV exhibits the same basic performance characteristics as a standard Prius V model. However, the Prius PHV has a lithium-ion battery pack with a larger storage capacity and the additional plug-in port. A Level 1 cable assembly is included with the purchase of a Prius PHV. This device allows the vehicle's battery pack to be recharged in just three hours from any 110-volt outlet with 15 amps of current available. Public Level 2 charging stations, rated at 240 volts with 30 amps of current, can recharge the Prius PHV battery pack in one and a half hours.
The larger lithium-ion battery in the Prius PHV allows the electric motor in the vehicle to drive the wheels of the car by itself for as many as 11 miles and at a top speed of 62 miles per hour before the gasoline engine comes on. A standard Prius hybrid will travel only about one mile at a maximum speed of 45 miles per hour before the gasoline engine takes over.
The benefits of a Prius PHV become apparent if an owner drives on short trips around town, then plugs in at public charging sites and at home. If driven this way, the Prius PHV can achieve gasoline consumption efficiency as much as 90 miles per gallon. However, if a Prius PHV owner drives farther than 10 miles on an average trip at highway speeds, then additional electric-only battery savings are not as beneficial for the added cost of the vehicle, reverting back to the efficiency of a standard Prius hybrid mode that traditionally exceeds 50 miles per gallon.
Prices may vary with dealerships, but the Prius PHV has a manufacturer's suggested retail price of about $33,000, less a federal tax credit for the 4.4 kilowatt-hour lithium battery pack of about $2,500, bringing the cost down to about $30,500. A standard Toyota Prius hybrid without the plug is priced around $25,000.
By comparison, a 2013 Chevrolet Volt is priced at about $42,500. However, the Volt's larger 16 kilowatt-hour battery pack is eligible for a $7,500 federal tax credit for a final cost of about $35,000.
The Mitsubishi i-MiEV is a battery-powered electric car similar to the Nissan Leaf. It does not use gasoline at all and must rely on the electric energy stored in its battery pack to propel its electric motor for a range of 70 to 80 miles before needing to be recharged. The Mitsubishi i-MiEV is smaller and lighter than a Nissan Leaf. The i-MiEV also uses a smaller 16 kilowatt-hour battery pack compared to the Nissan Leaf's 24 kilowatt-hour battery pack, which means that it can be recharged more quickly. However, the Nissan Leaf has a greater range because of the larger battery pack, extending about 80 to 100 miles.
The suggested price for the 2013 Mitsubishi i-MiEV starts at about $33,000, less the $7,500 tax credit, for a final price of about $25,500. The 2013 Nissan Leaf starts at $35,200, less the $7,500 tax credit that brings the cost down to about $27,700. Nissan also may be offering a stripped-down version of the Leaf at a lower cost that will be introduced to selected areas of the country during 2013.
Stan Hanel has worked in the electronics industry for more than 30 years and is a long-time member of the Electric Auto Association and the Las Vegas Electric Vehicle Association. Hanel writes and edits for EAA's "Current Events" and LVEVA's "Watts Happening" newsletters. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.