Is an Electric Vehicle Right for You
Electric vehicles (EVs) account for just 1.2 percent of the U.S. vehicle market, but sales are booming, growing 25 percent last year. The cars themselves are getting better and cheaper as researchers improve the batteries that power them. In the market for an EV? Consider these factors:
Daily Driving Habits: If you’re worried about the limited range of an electric vehicle, try keeping track of your actual daily use, advises Brian Sloboda, program and product manager at the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.
“The range on the electric cars you can buy today is perfectly sufficient to cover almost everyone’s daily commute,” he says. “For most people, even in rural areas, that number is under 40 miles a day. Most electric cars on the market today have between a 120-mile range and some of them are getting over 200 miles. That’s a lot of wiggle room.”
Charging options: Topping off batteries from a regular 120-volt outlet (known as Level 1 charging) is a slow process that adds 2 to 5 miles of range each hour. Drivers may want to upgrade their wiring and install a faster Level 2 charging unit ($1,000 to $1,600 including
installation) at home. Level 2 systems are capable of adding 10 to 25 miles of range per hour, a rate that can fully charge an EV battery overnight.
At public charging stations, drivers can use Level 3 DC fast chargers to bring an EV’s battery up to 80 percent of capacity in 30 minutes. Buyer beware: Not all cars come standard with the DC fast-charger port. Be sure to select this option if you want to take advantage of the fastest refueling option.
Cost of vehicle: Mass-produced electric cars like the Chevy Bolt, Ford Focus EV and Nissan
Leaf cost about $30,000 to $40,000, slightly higher than comparable gas-powered vehicles, Sloboda says, but electric-car prices are falling as more companies produce EVs for the general public. When offered, federal tax breaks for electric cars can reduce costs by several thousand
dollars, putting EVs in reach of more consumers. Some energy experts predict there will be little or no price difference between gas and electric vehicles by 2025.
Environmental impact: One of the main reasons drivers buy electric cars is for the reduced environmental impact. An electric car has zero emissions and “is cleaner than a gas-powered car, no doubt about it,” Sloboda says. Another advantage of an electric car? “You’re powering it with electricity from your local electric co-op.”
Features, style and performance: With the variety of EVs already on the market (and more on the way) most drivers should be able to find an electric car with all the features, performance and style they want. The one popular choice missing for the marketplace in 2018? Pickup trucks.
Sloboda says there’s no technological barrier to making an electric pickup. He even suggests possible advantages: a heavy battery in the bottom would lower the center of gravity for better handling, and at a remote worksite, the battery could run power tools.
“Within the next 24 months I believe there will be a credible pickup truck on the market,” says Sloboda. “It’s just a matter of time.”