You’ve seen them pass you on the road, or perhaps charging at an electric station at the edge of the gas station parking lot. Electric cars have been available for more than a decade, but now they are even more common, comfortable, reliable – and affordable. Moving from a traditional gas-powered vehicle to one powered by Edison’s currents is a great way to save money and reduce your environmental footprint. An electric vehicle is also a great way for your household to save money – up to $1,400 a year based on average use. Plus, everybody’s doing it: in 2018, sales hit near 234,000 (up from just 1,900 cars sold in 2010). Consumer Reports indicates that 63 percent of prospective car buyers in America are interested in going electric.
There are numerous models to choose from, including models by Chevrolet, Nissan, Honda, Ford – and, of course, Tesla. Electric vehicles come in all shapes and sizes, from tiny hatchbacks to large SUVs and family-sized mini-vans. Some are electric versions of cars you’ve already heard of; some are all-new and designed strictly for electric power. There are basically two kinds: plug-in hybrid electric vehicles that run on electricity for a while before switching to gas or gas/electric hybrid mode; and battery electric vehicles that run on electricity only—choosing which one is important.
Plug-in vehicles operate on electric power for anywhere from 10-50 miles. Once their battery power is depleted, they shift to consuming gasoline. Because of this, they can drive about as far as a regular car and can refuel at a traditional gas station. These cars are a great choice for drivers who travel mostly around town, with short distances.
Battery vehicles are different. Most new models have a range equal to a typical car (400-550 miles on a single charge) and can drive multiple days without a recharge. This means a typical driver can charge up with a simple 110-volt outlet without buying a special charger. These cars also require less maintenance as they have fewer components overall.
Each type of car has big advantages: lower operating costs, lower pollution and each can charge at home. They are generally very quiet as well. Another advantage is the $7,500 federal tax credit (plus various state and city tax credits and cash rebates in California, Colorado, Texas, and New York), which balances out the base price of $30,000 for the least expensive models (on the other end, some Teslas cost six figures). It pays to do your homework on the tax credits available in your area, as it has a direct impact on the sticker price.
There are a few things to consider if you decide to take the electric vehicle leap – most importantly, make sure you have access to an outlet and a parking spot for overnight charging (if you’re planning travel, check out PlugShare.com for a list of charging stations across America). Planning where and when the car will be charged is important because most cars take at least 30 minutes to fully charge, and that time can be affected by extreme cold or hot weather. The Toyota Prius Prime takes two hours to charge. It’s important to note, however, that a basic household plug (110-volt) can triple that time. Want to fix that problem? Most retailers (Amazon, Home Depot, and Costco included) sell Level 2 chargers, which can be used at home after a professional electrician installs a 240-volt receptacle in your garage or home exterior. It’s also smart to learn where charging stations are located around your local city and state.
Though those steps may take extra time at first, the pay-off is significant. Not only is fuel cost cut significantly, owning an electric means there is no traditional combustion engine to service. That’s right – no oil changes, no tune-ups, and very few general repair issues – even the braking system is based on electric energy. You’ll want to keep an eye on tire wear, but other than that, expect savings on repairs.
You will also want to make sure you get the right size vehicle. Many electric vehicles are compact, so make sure there’s cargo space for shopping, sports equipment, and if needed, family gear. And, of course, always give every car you consider a thorough test drive to see if it’s comfortable and easy to operate – and contact your insurance company for a quote on the new car coverage.
To save even more money, you may want to consider buying a pre-owned certified electric vehicle. These cars have similar warranties, including a battery pack coverage that generally extends eight years/100,000 miles – double check on this as battery packs are the most expensive component to replace. Leases are also available (in fact, more than 80 percent of all-electric vehicles on the road are currently leased) – a great option for those who want to try it out before making a full purchase commitment.
Ready to make the change to electric? You can compare and contrast all of the latest models here.