Automakers are ramping up their investments in electric vehicles both to help meet emissions and fuel economy rules and to prepare for future demand as battery range goes up and costs come down. Electrified rides are expected to account for around 30 million sales by 2030 and 50 million by 2040.
But in the meantime, the market segment is still uncharted territory to most consumers. Here’s a checklist of what you'll need to consider before you go shopping for your first EV:
Even with gasoline prices remaining affordable, it costs less money to run a car on electricity than gasoline. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, it would cost an owner $1,200 a year to drive a gas-powered Ford Focus for 15,000 annual miles with fuel at $2.45 a gallon, but just $600 to cover the same distance in a battery-powered Focus Electric.
What’s more, an electric car generally costs less to maintain. Because they utilize an electric motor and a simple single-speed transmission, EVs eliminate over two-dozen mechanical components that would normally require regular service. Driving an electric car means being able to avoid oil changes, cooling system flushes, transmission servicing and replacing the air filter, spark plugs, and drive belts.
Though prices are expected to drop significantly over time, you’ll still pay an up-front premium to own a vehicle that runs on electricity. For example, the Nissan Leaf is priced at nearly $31,000 to just over $37,000, depending on the trim level. The Chevrolet Bolt EV starts at nearly $37,500. By comparison, a comparable small gas-powered hatchback model like the Chevrolet Sonic is sticker priced at between $18,000 and $22,400, depending on the trim level.
Most new EVs are eligible for a one-time federal tax credit of $7,500. (PHEVs are eligible for between $3,500 and $7,500, depending on the size of its battery.) That effectively drops the price of a Nissan Leaf to $23,500. Some states dole out added incentives that can sweeten the deal even further. Unfortunately the federal credits are not permanent, and are scheduled to phase out during the calendar year after an automaker sells 200,000 full electric and/or plug-in hybrid models.
Tesla has already reached that milestone, which means its federal tax credits are being phased out during 2019 and will be eliminated on December 31. General Motors is likewise hitting the 200,000-unit mark and will see its subsidies shrink over the course of 12 months beginning in 2019.
A boon for used-EV buyers but a bane for original owners, resale values are way below the norm because of a combination of factors, including limited demand and the $7,500 federal tax credit given to new EV buyers. What’s more, because of their inherent range limitations pre-owned electric cars tend to be driven fewer miles than the norm, which means they’ve typically endured less wear and tear.
Having accounted for only a slim percentage of new-vehicle sales over the last few years, used EVs are not especially plentiful. Also, only a handful of models were sold in all 50 states when new, with many only offered in California (and perhaps one or more other states) to fulfill state regulations regarding zero-emissions vehicles. You’ll find them most plentiful on used-car lots in California, Georgia, Washington, New York, and Florida. And, of course, you'll find them listed for sale here on MyEV.com.
EV makers are leveraging the latest in battery technology to make them practical as both daily drivers and road-trip warriors. For example, the Tesla Model S can run for as many as 335 miles on a charge in its top model, with the smaller Model 3 able to reach 310 miles. The Chevrolet Bolt EV is rated to run for 238 miles, while the new EV version of the Hyundai Kona boasts an operating range of 258 miles. Tesla claims its 2020 Roadster will be able to go for 620 miles without needing a charge.
No matter which EV you drive, you’ll still need to keep a watchful eye on the state-of-charge meter. An older EV might only be able to travel 75-100 miles before needing a charge, though that’s sufficient for to cover the average commute, which the U.S. Department of Transportation says is 15 miles each way.
Plus, an EV’s real-world range can be adversely affected by external factors. These include driving in extremely cold or hot weather. This is both because of the adverse effects of high and low temperatures on a battery’s charge, and the drain caused by operating the heater and air conditioning. Also, full-throttle acceleration, driving at higher speeds, and improper maintenance will also reduce an EV’s operating range.
Unlike a gasoline engine, an electric motor produces 100% of its available torque instantly. Power reaches the wheels immediately for quick off-the-line launches and brisk passing abilities. And, without a throaty exhaust note, it all takes place with eerie silence, save for some wind and tire noise. The 2019 Jaguar i-Pace actually pipes in some faux engine sounds during spirited acceleration to add some aural excitement to the driving experience.
Unlike gas and diesel-powered vehicles, EVs produce zero tailpipe emissions. That means they won’t spew smog-forming pollutants and greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, oxides of nitrogen, particulate matter, formaldehyde, non-methane organic gases, and non-methane hydrocarbons into the atmosphere.
An EVs actual overall effect on the environment depends on the local sources of electricity. According to a report issued by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), they tend to fare best in parts of California, New York, and the Pacific Northwest, where renewable energy resources are prevalent, and less so in central U.S. states like Colorado, Kansas and Missouri because of their greater dependence on fossil fuels to produce electricity. Still, the UCS determined that EVs are generally responsible for less pollution than conventional vehicles in every region of the U.S.
Most EVs are charged at home. You’ll avoid the weekly visit to the gas station and will perhaps even save a few extra dollars by avoiding impulse buys for snacks and lottery tickets. Depending on the power company, an owner may be able to qualify for discounted off-peak rates by charging his or her EV in the middle of the might. Fully charging an EV using standard (Level 1) house current can take as long as 24 hours, depending on the model. Spending a few hundred dollars to have a dedicated 240-volt line and a Level 2 charger installed in your garage can slash that time to as little as four hours. Some states offer financial assistance to install a home charging unit.
The infrastructure for EV public charging units is growing, but they’re still not as common around town as are gas stations. As of this writing there’s about 20,000 charging stations up and running in the U.S. and you’ll most usually find them at retail parking lots, public parking garages, and new-car dealerships in areas where EVs are most prevalent. Also, a number of companies have installed charging stations for their employees and some urban apartment buildings maintain them for their tenants’ use.
Level 2 is the most prevalent type of pubic charging, and it’s best for minor replenishments while running errands. A better alternative is to seek out a Level 3 charging station, also called DC Fast Charging, which can bring a given EV’s battery up to 80% of its capacity in around 30 minutes. Plotting a course and picking a destination that’s dotted with Level 3 chargers can enable an extended road trip in all but the shortest-range EVs.
Depending on where you live, if you own an electric vehicle you may be able to drive in the carpool lane on the highway without having to carry additional riders. You might also be able to garner perks like free street-parking, and specially reserved spots in municipal and/or airport lots.
Check back frequently for the latest buying and ownership tutorials here on MYEV.com, your free online marketplace for buying and selling used electric vehicles.
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