Want to climb the clean power learning curve with healthy speed and limited pain? Here are some frequently asked questions when it comes to electric vehicles.
For electric vehicles, what kind of range is possible now?
Current plug-in hybrids, which have a gas engine as backup, range from 14 miles to around 53 miles of electric range, after which the car shifts to gas powered and you can keep driving as far as you need to. The range for 100-percent electric vehicles is typically from 80 miles to up to 400 miles.
What happens if I run out of charge?
The onboard computer systems will alert you well before you run out, and, on most models, help you find the nearest charging spot. If, for some reason, you do run out of power, the vehicle will stop operating—just like when you run out of gas. The need to plan and pay attention with an EV is the same as with a conventional gas-powered car.
Are there tips and tricks for getting the best range out of my EV?
Yes. Become familiar with the vehicle’s “eco modes” for using the power efficiently, and with the regenerative braking systems that can transform the mechanical energy of braking into electricity that feeds your battery.
How do EVs really compare to conventional cars economically?
From the Nissan Leaf at $29,990 to the Volkswagen e-Golf at $31,895 and the Chevy Bolt at $36,620, there are moderately priced EVs out there. Dealerships vary in their structures for down payments, installments, and discounts, and may be open to matching a competitor’s price. Maintenance costs for EVs are far below conventional cars, since there are no fuel costs, oil changes, tune-ups, or air filters to be replaced. What’s more, there are very few moving parts to break or that will need replacement.
Charging costs depend on the local electric rate, the charging station price structure, and the battery size in the car. For example, if the electric rate is $0.14 per kWh and the battery size is 24kWh, then $0.14 x 24 kwh = $3.36 cost to fully charge the battery. According to Plugin America, charging costs average the equivalent of $1 per gallon. Some EV dealerships, workplaces, and municipalities have low-cost or free public charging.
Some charger-finding apps will tell you how much energy is being put into the vehicle, the distance equivalent in miles, and the cost per charge. Fast chargers on the New York State Thruway cost $8 per charge.
What about the driving experience—speed and handling?
EVs get up to speed faster than conventional cars because they offer full torque available from standstill. The suspension and handling are as good as with any conventional car. In fact, due to the battery’s low center of gravity, many drivers feel an EV handles better than a gas-powered vehicle. EVs with all-wheel drive are beginning to appear on the market from companies including Subaru, Mini, Volvo, Audi, and BMW.
What kind of maintenance do electric cars require?
A plug-in hybrid needs the same kinds of maintenance as any hybrid car. For a 100 percent EV, you mainly need to add washer fluid and rotate the tires. The regenerative braking system may occasionally need a repair, and the transmission may eventually need to be replaced. In New York State, all EV makers have to provide a battery warranty for at least the first 150,000 miles.
What are the benefits of buying vs leasing?
It depends on your financial comfort, the incentives available, and your desire to keep a vehicle for a short or long period. If you prefer not to make the upfront investment, or you know you only want to keep the vehicle for two or three years, a lease will meet your needs. The federal tax credit of $3,750 only applies to purchases, but New York’s Drive Clean Rebate applies to both purchases and leases, with amounts that depend on the range of the car:
- Over 120 miles: $2,000
- 40 to 119 miles: $1,700
- 20 to 39 miles: $1,100
- Under 20 miles (or over $60,000 price): $500
Are there any downsides to owning and driving an EV?
Besides the need to stay on top of trip planning, the lack of noise sometimes takes getting used to. You need to be more vigilant of pedestrians because they may not hear you coming.
What about other kinds of EVs, like light trucks, bikes, and buses?
Many bicycles with electric assist are available, with prices starting at under $500 and rising to the sky. E-trucks are entering the marketplace with a Tesla splash that has led other companies to make big commitments; according to Reuters, “Tesla CEO Elon Musk and his spacy Cybertruck have ignited a frenzy over electric pickups, and at least seven other US automakers expect to build new battery-powered trucks by 2021.” Electric transit and school buses are already in use by some municipalities and school districts, while being tested by others.
What about the safety of EVs compared with gas cars?
Cars are generally getting safer. All-electric cars do not have the flammable gas tank of a conventional vehicle, an advantage in accidents. Lithium ion batteries can (rarely) overheat, so EV makers put in sensors to detect temperature increases quickly. Several EVs (Chevy Bolt, Tesla Model S and Audi E-Tron) have achieved the “Top Safety Pick” status from the International Institute of Highway Safety (iihs.org). Just research the safety features you care about most, in the cars that interest you.
I’ve heard that you can get great deals on used EVs. What should a shopper keep in mind?
Yes, even gently used electric vehicles can be steeply discounted in price because the technology is developing so rapidly. But these older EVs are likely to have less range than current models, so make sure that fits the uses you are planning.
How can I tell whether a car dealership is really committed to selling EVs and can give me good guidance?
Look at what is in their lot. If they have inventory, they h ave made some preparations to be approved to sell those cars. Ask if they are authorized to give the New York State Drive Clean Rebate of up to $2000 for electric vehicles. If they don’t know what that is, try someplace else. If they do, ask if they have an in-house EV specialist and what EVs they have onsite. If they find you an enthusiastic, knowledgeable person, you are in the right place.