Should You Buy an Electric Car?
When it comes to technology, having the latest gadgets makes you look both smart and cool, but does that strategy work with cars? Automakers say that electric vehicles are the future of the industry, but even with many EVs on the market, they may not be the perfect choice for you.
So first, let’s look at the basics.
WHAT IS AN ELECTRIC VEHICLE?
However, the speed in which a battery recharges is dependent on the type of charger used. Level 1 chargers are the slowest and use a 120-volt outlet, just like what’s available throughout a house or garage, while level 2 chargers provide more power and faster charges, but use a 240-volt outlet. Many EV buyers purchase a Level 2 charging station for their home in order to enjoy faster recharge times, and automakers encourage this.
Finally, there’s Level 3 charging, which is also called DC Fast charging. This speeds up charging significantly, but Level 3 chargers aren’t available at home and you’ll only find them at dedicated public charging stations.
Level 2 charging is twice as powerful, so expect charging times to be at least half as long. If you want a quicker level 2 charge, some automakers provide an optional charger that provides a bit more juice to the car. The Nissan Leaf is one example that has multiple Level 2 charging options – a 3.6 kW charger is standard and can charge the car in 7 hours, while the optional 6.6 kW charge can do it in 4.
Furthermore, there are different standards for DC fast charging, meaning that some DC fast charge stations won’t work with some vehicles. First on the scene is the CHAdeMO system, which is available in most EVs like the Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi i-MiEV. Then there’s the new SAE Combo Coupler system, which is now being set as a global standard and is gaining acceptance with a broader spectrum of automakers.
Finally, there’s Tesla’s proprietary set-up, with fast-charging only available at Tesla’s own Supercharger stations. Only Tesla vehicles can charge at supercharger stations.
WHY GO ELECTRIC?
Since EVs don’t have any emissions, they’re considered safer for the environment. Unfortunately, while EVs don’t have harmful greenhouse gas emissions, much of our electrical grid is powered by fossil-fuels like coal.
There’s even an advantage to those who like to get going in a hurry – electric motors don’t have to rev up like an internal combustion motor. The torque is instantly available from the moment you touch the throttle. They’re responsive, peppy and some would even say fun.
…AND WHY NOT?
However, range on EVs is quite limiting and public charging stations are not nearly as abundant as gas stations. Pair that with the long recharge times and it’s easy to see why an EV isn’t the perfect car the majority of drivers.
Longer trips may exhaust an EVs range and have you searching for public charging stations along your route. This means that EVs are typically ideal for those who dwell mainly in cities where there are shorter commutes and more local charging stations. However, if you live in a condo or apartment, having your own dedicated outlet for charging your vehicle or even a level 2 charging station might not be possible.
BUT DOES IT WORK FOR YOU?
According to a recent census, American drivers commute, on average, 37 miles a day. That means that even the Mitsubishi i-MiEV should be enough for the average commute. For those not convinced, many EVs on sale today offer more range than the i-MiEVs and on average offer about 76 miles. Specialty EVs like the Tesla Model S and RAV4 EV are among the very few pure-EVs which can get over 100 miles on a single charge.
IS IT WORTH IT?
Recent studies from both the Electric Power Research Institute and the Union of Concerned Scientists have shown that over the lifetime of a vehicle, an EV can be cheaper to own than a conventional gas car. While gas-powered vehicles need maintenance and fuel over their life, EVs are far cheaper to run, even when you take into consideration the cost of electricity.
Buying an electric vehicle can liberate you from some of the additional costs that come with a gas powered car. About the only added cost is a Level 2 home charging station, which can range from $450 to $900.
On the plus-side there is also hefty cash incentives for EV buyers depending on where you live, making it that much easier to swallow the higher up-front cost.
Unfortunately, not every EV is available to buy. Some vehicles are lease only, like the Honda Fit EV. Fortunately, lease pricing for electric vehicles are quite attractive, with some EVs like the Nissan LEAF costing just $199 a month for 36 months.
If you haven’t looked at buying an EV in the past year, then you’ll be surprised to learn that pricing has come down quite a lot since the introduction of modern electric cars. Most compact electric vehicles now cost about $29,000 before government incentives. That means that with incentives you’re looking at a car that’s about $21,500. Compare that to the price of a fully loaded compact or subcompact gas-powered car and EVs can begin to seem like a pretty good bargain.
LESS LIMITING CHOICES
Electric vehicles are a perfect way to say ‘bye-bye’ to the gas station forever. If you do indeed live in the city and have access to public charging stations and can live within the limited range of an electric vehicle, then you may never need to see a gas pump again. However, those who do have longer commutes and limited access to charging checkpoints will either have to wait for greater advancements in electric vehicle technology or opt for an extended-range electric vehicle or plug-in hybrid.
Extended-range electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids can operate without plugging them in, thanks to their secondary fuel sources, but that of course means that you’d have to fill them up with gas like every other car. Their average range is 20.4 miles, which is less than the average commute. Fortunately, thanks to that other fuel source, these cars can keep on going. They’re perfect for those who do short commutes regularly, but long-distance trips over the weekends, or on holidays.