Q: I see TV ads showing people plugging in their EV at home. Does that charger come with the vehicle? What is the cost of charging a vehicle?
A: There are two parts to this: the cost of the charger and the price of electricity. Electric vehicles (EVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) come with a Level 1 home charger. Many EV owners are able to meet their daily driving requirements by charging overnight with a Level 1 charger and a typical residential 120-volt outlet, requiring no additional cost or installation. Level 2 charging equipment can be purchased separately and installed for drivers with longer commutes or EVs with large batteries that require more than overnight to fully charge. The Level 2 charger requires a dedicated 240-volt circuit.
The fuel efficiency of an EV is measured in kilowatt hours (kWh) per 100 miles. If electricity costs 16 cents per kWh (the average cost in Minnesota) and the vehicle consumes 27 kWh to travel 100 miles, the cost is $4.32, or 4.3 cents per mile. To compare the fuel costs of individual vehicles, see the U.S. Department of Energy's Vehicle Cost Calculator.
Q: I just switched my car insurance to a company that tracks your mileage and charges you accordingly. I plugged the device into the OBD (on-board diagnostics) compartment, but now that door won't close. So I removed the door. Is there a better solution?
A: When I began reading your message, I was expecting a pitch to switch my car insurance. Whew. Find the two retainer tabs on either side of the OBD II connector socket. If you unlock the tabs, you can push the connector and accessory deeper into the dashboard.
Q: No offense, but the person who wrote in three weeks ago about their serpentine belt said it looked shiny. You might have suggested they replace it because serpentine belts aren't supposed to be shiny.
A: I stand by my answer. The back of a serpentine belt often rides a tensioner pulley and sometimes drives an accessory. That keeps the back (as opposed to the ridged side) smooth and usually shiny.
Q: It used to be that when the car was off, you could turn the key back one notch and listen to the radio. On my latest car, you can't do that. If you want to access the radio with the car off, you need to turn it up one notch. Does this result in the use of more battery juice than back in the day?
A: Other than going up rather than down, the accessory switch works the same way as before. But back in the day, radios consumed much more power. Modern systems sip juice.
Bob Weber is a writer, mechanic and ASE-certified Master Automobile Technician. His writing has appeared in automotive trade publications, Consumer Guide and Consumers Digest. Send automotive questions along with name and town to firstname.lastname@example.org.