Should you buy an electric car?
Consider these six things before making the switch to electric.
There are certainly advantages to plug-in electric cars, but there is at least one glaring reason to give pause: They cost more than their traditional gas-powered cousins. Is that initial expense worth it in the long run? Consider these things before buying an electric car.
Most of today's electric vehicles (EV) can travel over 200 miles on a full charge, when driving lower speeds such as city driving. Highway driving consumes battery reserve faster and may result in a range that is significantly less than what is advertised. And there are still some models that prioritize performance over range. Extended-range electric vehicles (EREVs) can increase mileage even more, and a plug-in hybrid, with a gas tank for backup, increases range, too. Remember: Adding an engine means adding gas costs and engine maintenance, including oil changes, which regular EVs don't require.
There are a few options for charging an electric vehicle at home, but the up-front cost can range from $0 to $1,200 or more, depending on what features the charging station is equipped with. While you can get by with a level 1 charging station, most homeowners choose to invest in a level 2 station. Some EV owners also invest in solar panel charging, for environmental and monetary reasons.
- Level 1 – Typically, these chargers are included with the car and use 120-volt outlets. They can take up to 24 hours to charge a car fully.
- Level 2 – Homeowners usually select this type of charging station. These require a 240-volt outlet and can be portable or mounted.
- Level 3 – This is the commercial type you see in public.
Charging station availability
According to the Associated Press, there are currently more than 26,000 public charging stations across the United States, and counting, though availability varies widely depending on where you live. Visit afdc.energy.gov to check the availability in your area.
Cost to power
The average EV requires about 30 kilowatt hours (kWh) to travel 100 miles. Assuming the national average of 12¢/kWh, that's $3.60 per 100 miles — $540 annually for the average 15,000 mile-per-year driver, mainly charging at home. Compare that to $1,320 a year for a gas-powered vehicle, assuming 25 mpg at $2.20/gallon. Plug in your local energy costs to personalize those numbers.
Tax and other incentives
Federal tax credits for new EV and plug-in hybrids typically range from $1,000 to $7,000, depending on the vehicle model and battery size. Some utility companies provide special rates, and many states offer their own incentives, too.