By Zack Hurst
If you're one of the millions of Americans that are thinking about an electric vehicle for your next car, there are some things you may want to consider before pulling the trigger on your purchase. We've put together a small checklist of factors to keep in mind before becoming a brand new EV owner.
1) Does it have enough range?
While most newer EVs have a range of 200 miles or more on a full charge, many of the older models will barely reach 100 miles of range on their best of days. This may be perfectly fine for you depending on your needs and how you will use your EV. Most daily commutes in the US are less than 40 miles and nearly every EV can handle that in any road or weather condition. Keep in mind that weather, air temperature, and how fast you drive are all variables that affect the range of an EV. You will want to make sure that you choose a car that will easily handle all of your regular daily activities. It's always a good idea to overestimate your needs and have range left over at the end of the day.
Most current EV owners charge their vehicles at home, overnight. However, there are a number of people who either don't want to charge at home, or are unable to do so. For these people, public chargers are the only option. For those who are able to charge at home, there are basically two options available to choose from: slow and slower. Now, that may sound inconvenient, but if you consider that you are usually charging overnight, it really is everything that you would ever usually need. Let's talk about slower charging first. Most EVs come with it the ability to charge from a 110/120 volt electrical socket. Using this method is convenient because you are rarely far from a wall outlet. However, this is also the slowest method of charging and might not give you a full battery in time to drive the next time you need to. It is for this reason that we recommend the "slow charging" or level 2, option. Using a 220/240 volt charger, most EVs will fully recharge their batteries overnight in just a few hours. Public chargers are also available in level 2 charging for when you are at a destination or while doing some other activity like shopping, dining, etc. Fast charging, or DCFC, is available in many areas to recharge your EV as quickly as possible, sometimes adding a hundred miles of range or more in as little as 10-15 min. DCFC speeds vary from charger to charger as well as from car to car, so if you are the type who wants to get back on the road as quickly as possible, keep this in mind when choosing your EV and ask about it's fast charging capabilities.
3) New or Used?
Just like with their fossil burning counterparts, new EVs can offer you many benefits over buying a used car. They will have the full manufacturers warranty, come with that new car smell, and be fresh right out of the box. However, some people take pause at the initial price tag. New EVs typically will cost around $30,000 on the low end and upwards of $200,000 for some of the luxury sports car models. EV Supercars and Hypercars will fetch millions (just like gas powered ones). Price is one area where buying used has its advantages. Depending on the model, many used EVs can be bought for less than $10k.
4) Cost of Ownership
Cost of ownership can easily be wrapped up into ongoing costs like maintenance, fueling, and insurance. This is one place where EVs excel over their gas and diesel powered rivals. Not only will you be spending a lot less to keep you car fueled with electrons, EVs require very little maintenance, and in some cases will even cost less to insure. However, not all EVs are built the same, require the same maintenance, or require the same insurance coverage. In order to be able to accurately calculate how much your EV will cost on a monthly basis, you have to account for how many miles you drive, and sometimes, that can make all the difference.
5) How long will you keep your EV?
The average person in the US keeps their vehicle 6yrs or so and the average lifespan of vehicles on the road is 11yrs. So, when considering an EV to buy, it's important to understand your own ownership history and habits, keeping in mind a few important pieces of information about EVs: 1) EVs require much less maintenance. Because there is no engine, and much less to break, EVs have the potential to outlast their fossil fuel burning counterparts. 2) EV batteries will usually last 10yrs or more, but the battery degradation will vary and depend a lot on how the vehicle was driven, charged, and if it has active thermal management. If you are not likely to keep your EV for long, it is not likely to become an issue to worry about. However, if you keep your cars ten years or more, you may want to plan out what you will do when your car needs attention. But you probably do that anyway, don't you?
6) What about road trips?
Most EVs are perfect for lower milage trips, commuting to and from work, and handling the errands around town. The options become limited when looking to go on longer trips. Not all EVs are built the same in this arena. If the alternative of renting a car for road trips is out of the question, then you'd want to make sure that you have an EV with at least 200 miles of range on a full charge to get you from charger to charger along your route. Once again, it's important to point out that not all EVs will charge at the same rate. Some fill up very quickly adding a hundred miles of range or more in 10-15 min, and others will charge much more slowly. When going on road trips, charging speeds can mean the difference between a few hours or an extra day on your trip.
7) Full EV, or Plug-in Hybrid
Plug-in Hybrids (PHEVs) may be the best choice for you if you have any worry about the range of your car either for daily driving needs, or for long road trips. They are a "gateway plug" to the EV world. Keep in mind though, that because PHEVs retain a gasoline or diesel engine, they also have the cost of maintenance and repairs that a conventional fossil fuel burning vehicle has. Because of this, they will be more costly to own, over time, compared to full battery electric vehicles, but still likely save money in fuel costs over non-EVs. PHEVs can be considered a perfect blend of electric power for around town and fossil burning on longer trips, without having to stop for charging... just refueling the tank.