We’re here to debunk the myths around buying, owning, and driving electric vehicles. Husdon Valley experts Chrisso Babcock, Lizette de Alem, Alyssa Rivera answer the most common questions on EVs from charging and range to incentives and tax credits.
Q: What is the difference between a battery electric vehicle and a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle?
A: Battery-electric vehicles, or BEV, are powered entirely by electricity from the battery. Battery electric vehicles currently on the market can be driven between 200 and 330 miles on a full charge. “Refueling” times can vary with 30 minutes for fast charging and four to six hours with Level 2 charging. Plug-in hybrids, or PHEV, are a hybrid between a gas engine and an electric motor. Some plug-in electric hybrids will evenallow you to choose which drive train you want to use.
Hybrid vehicles tend to be initially cheaper to purchase or lease than all-electric vehicles. However, EVs don’t require oil changes, and overall maintenance costs are less than a hybrid, meaning that EVs are cheaper in the long run.
Q: What are the safety standards of EVs when compared to traditional vehicles?
A: Electric vehicles meet the same safety standards as traditional combustion vehicles. That includes safety standards set up by the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, as well as electrical and safety standards set by the Society of Automotive Engineers, the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Working Council, and many others. Charging equipment is tested independently and certified by safety labs, such as Underwriters Laboratories, CSA international, and Edison Testing Laboratories. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, data collected from insurance claims between the years of 2011 and 2019 shows that injury claims for drivers and passengers of electric vehicles were more than 40 percent lower than traditional vehicles.
Q: What type of maintenance do EVs require?
A: Electric vehicles have far fewer moving parts, so they generally require a lot less maintenance than gas powered vehicles. However, one can expect similar routine maintenance as with any other car, like refilling wiper fluid when it’s low or tire rotations once a year. To sell EVs, a dealership must be certified to repair them, and generally it’s the dealership rather than a private repair shop that will be able to service your EV.
Q: How long do EV batteries last before they have to be replaced?
A: The average EV battery pack’s lifespan is around 200,000 miles, which is around 17 years of typical use at 12,000 miles per year. Battery warranties are included with an EV purchase. Many manufacturers also reuse or refurbish batteries.
Q: Will supply of EVs continue to be erratic due to availability of materials?
A: The industry has been sobered by supply chain issues such as shortages of lithium, not to mention human rights issues in some lithium-rich countries, so a major aspect of research and development is finding more reliable alternatives. But in the near term, some uncertainty is likely to continue.
Q: Can I buy an EV without breaking the bank?
A: EVs are still more expensive upfront than comparable gas-powered vehicles, but prices are falling and some automakers are strategically making deep cuts (e.g., Tesla in the fall of 2023). However, when you consider the lifetime costs of a vehicle, EVs are already cheaper in the long run, and costs are offset by federal and state rebates.
One of the most affordable ways to get an electric vehicle is to buying a used one. Consider the maintenance history of the vehicle, the battery health (you can get a battery health report from a dealer or manufacturer-certified technician), and the battery warranty, which should be transferable. Be aware that EVs that are just a few years old may have a significantly lower range than newer models.
Q: What about leasing?
A: Recent research by New Energy Innovation found that leasing an EV is actually now the lowest cost option for US drivers—cheaper than leasing a gas vehicle, and cheaper than buying an EV or gas vehicle. These monthly savings can add up quickly, with some leased EV models being between $5,000 and $7,500 cheaper to operate per year than a comparable gas-powered vehicle. Many dealerships have the authority to offer low-cost leases, but fewer make them known unless you ask.
Q: What incentives are available?
A: Depending on the make and model (and whether it is assembled in the US), you can receive up to a $7,500 tax break through the Inflation Reduction Act tax credit. In New York State, through NYSERDA, you can expect to get up to $2,000, after purchase, through the Drive Clean Rebate Program. Certain states, utility companies, and automakers offer incentives to offset the cost of installing home chargers. There are also programs that can help with the cost of installing a home charger, depending on where you live.
Q: Where can I buy an EV, and what should I look for in a dealership?
A: In a 2023 review of Mid-Hudson auto dealerships, the most common EVs were: Jeep/Dodge/Ram/Chrysler, Mercedes-Benz, Ford, Toyota, and Nissan. Some counties also had more readily available EV stock at dealerships, such as Dutchess, Orange, Ulster, and Westchester, which all have an abundance of both 2023 and 2024 models on numerous lots. Rensselaer, Schenectady, Greene, Columbia, and Sullivan counties had far fewer.
When choosing a dealership, consider looking for one that has an abundance of EVs in stock. This suggests interest and trained salespeople. When talking to a salesperson, ask them questions to assess their EV knowledge. For example, you could ask how various EV options on the lot compare.
Q: Will charging my EV at home make my monthly electric bill really high? How does EV charging compare to the price of gasoline?
A: On average, charging an EV at home will only add $30 to $60 to your monthly electric bill. In fact, charging for electric cars is much cheaper than gasoline; owners can expect to pay between $13.22 and $22 to recharge a fully depleted battery, which will provide 200-300 miles of driving or more. In 2020, for instance, the average vehicle in the United States went about 24.5 miles per gallon of gas, or approximately $50 for 300 miles. The same distance of 300 miles can be achieved by an EV at a charging cost of roughly $16.50. Should your utility company offer off-peak charging rates, charging at night may allow for additional savings. In other words—the price of fueling your vehicle will most likely be cut by more than half.
Q: Is it hard to find public EV charging stations?
A: The charging landscape is slowly getting better, but the availability of fast-charging stations needs to improve a lot more. According to Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress, in September 2022 there were 400 public charging stations within the nine counties surveyed, 349 were Level 2 Stations, which provide 25 miles of travel for every hour of charge. Most EV navigation systems can guide you to charging stations, and there are also phone apps like PlugShare available to help locate them. This is likely to change in the next one to three years, as fast-charging stations are being installed all around New York by both government (NY Power Authority) and industry (for example, BP is investing $100 million in fast-charging stations at gas stations nationwide). As automakers commit more fully to electrification, the charging landscape will evolve rapidly.
Q: Are EVs better for the environment than gas-powered cars?
A: Yes, though they are not without their own environmental impacts. EVs produce zero emissions while driving and an average of 60-percent less lifetime emissions than traditional gas-powered vehicles. This includes emissions both during production of the EVs and electricity to charge the batteries. EVs are also much quieter than traditional vehicles, so they don’t contribute to noise pollution either!
Q: I am considering buying an e-bike—what should I be thinking about?
A: E-bikes are powerful. You need good cycling skill. They are diverse. Low-price ones are fine for recreation, but you may need a more sturdy and fast one for a regular commute. It is worth studying your community and your route in terms of the streetscape, traffic, and backdrop of safety issues. Many local governments are figuring out rules of the road for e-biking now. It is not a bad idea to study before investing.
Q: What are the fine points of eligibility for the IRA tax credit for EVs?
A: Vehicles must have undergone final assembly in the United States in order to be eligible for the Clean Vehicle Credit. Consumers can use a vin decoder to determine a vehicle’s build plant and country of manufacturing. The US Department of Energy’s website is a good bet for maintaining this data. Vehicles purchased before August 17, 2022, are not required to have final assembly in North America, and the vehicles are eligible for tax credits.
Learn more about EVs via the Clean Power Guide Resources page at Sustainhv.org/cpgresources.
Chrisso Babcock is outreach coordinator for Sustainable Hudson Valley. Lizette de Alem and Alyssa Rivera are organizing and outreach interns with Sustainable Hudson Valley.