Electric vehicles (EVs) used to be few and far between. Nowadays, there’s so much demand for fuel-efficient cars, SUVs and mini-vans that every automobile manufacturer is making at least one model (and usually more). But just because they’re making them, are you ready to make the switch?
EVs do more than save energy, of course. Because they run on electricity and not gasoline, they release no carbon dioxide or air pollution from their tailpipes. With climate change increasing and air pollution a constant concern, those benefits are hard to beat.
Nevertheless, EVs raise a host of questions – as the purchase of any vehicle should. Here are 8 I’ve been asking that might help you, too, if you’re considering an electric vehicle.
What difference does it make if my car uses electricity rather than gasoline?
A lot! The U.S. is the world’s second largest producer of greenhouse gases, and transportation accounts for the largest share of pollution of any sector of the economy. Cars that burn gasoline and diesel fuel generate air pollutants that can cause asthma, bronchitis, cancer, heart disease, and premature death. Producing the oil for gasoline pollutes the water and takes a heavy toll on Mother Nature. “Electric vehicles…are far less polluting than their combustion engine counterparts,” Forbes explains here.
Does an EV cost more than a gas-powered car?
EVs run the gamut from compact models to luxury sedans and standard-sized SUVs. Chances are you can find one in your price range. And even if an EV does cost more, in all likelihood the difference is made up quickly in money saved not buying gasoline or paying for oil changes as you would with a conventional car (see next question).
Is an EV more expensive to operate than a gas-powered car?
Usually not, since EVs do not require oil changes, spark plugs, or timing belts, and their electric motors require no routine maintenance. Plus, many utilities offer lower rates during “off peak” hours when your vehicle is likely to be recharging. You could save hundreds of dollars a year using electricity rather than gasoline, depending on where you live. (NOTE: When I had to replace the battery on my Prius hybrid, it seemed expensive – until I realized that, even after I paid for a new battery, I still saved over $3,000 in gasoline!).
Do I need a special plug or outlet to recharge my EV?
All EVs include a charging unit that you can plug into any standard “Level 1” 110v outlet. Plugging in for eight hours or overnight will get you 30-40 miles of battery range. For a faster charge and more range, you can install a “Level 2” 240v outlet, like the kind an electric clothes dryer uses. When traveling, charging stations may offer faster chargers, though it still could take 40 minutes to an hour or more to charge up.
I have “range anxiety.” Will an EV get me as far as I need to go?
The average range of a fully electric vehicle is 181 miles per battery charge, with some cars, like the Tesla and Bolt, getting significantly more. To make sure drivers can cover longer distances, thousands of charge stations have been installed at restaurants, shopping malls, highway rest stops, and hotels. Of course, we need more, as Dominique Browning explains here. Still, you can use an app like this one from PlugShare to find more than 300,000 charging stations in the US.
How well does an EV work when it’s really cold or hot outside?
Both the heater and the AC deplete the battery on most EVs. That means, the car still works just fine in hot or cold temperatures, but the battery needs to be charged more often.
Can I buy a used EV – or sell mine when I’m ready?
Finding a used EV might be a challenge, given their popularity. But that also makes them easier to sell. This site will give you an idea of what to look for when buying a used EV.
What if I mostly want to drive using electricity, but still want the convenience and security a gasoline-powered vehicle offers?
Many families use an EV for local commuting, and then either rent a vehicle for longer trips or have a plug-in hybrid as their second vehicle. Plug-ins differ from regular gas-electric hybrids in that the first 25 or s0 miles comes from the electric battery. If you mostly use your car for daily commuting, in all likelihood, you could do all that driving using your electric battery only. Your gas engine would only kick in after you expend the electric battery range. For long trips in remote areas where you might not be able to recharge your battery but where you can find a gas station, a plug-in hybrid could be what you’re looking for.