Let’s buy an electric car: A guide to finding the electric car that is right for you.–by Brett Landau

Cars a part of most Americans’ lives, so sooner or later you’ll probably be buying one. Maybe buying an electric car crosses your mind, but you think, “Aren’t they expensive? Will this make my electric bill increase? Where am I going to be able to charge if I’m not at home? How will I take an electric car on the cross-country road trip I’ve been thinking of?”

Well, there are many city and state policies that make electric cars more practical.

 

Are electric cars expensive?

Policies called purchase incentives are in place to make electric cars more affordable than comparable gas-powered cars. (Unfortunately, these opportunities do not extend to used car owners.) Nationally, there’s a $7,500 federal tax credit offered at the end of the year after the purchase of a new electric vehicle. At the state level, 17 states offer either tax incentives or rebates. California, for example, offers rebates of $2,500 for full electric vehicle purchases and $1,500 for plug-in electric vehicle purchases. The difference between the federal tax credit and state-level rebates is that you’ll receive the rebate right after your purchase but will have to wait for the credit.

For you policy makers out there, studies show that people prefer a $2,500 rebate right away than the $7,500 rebate at the end of the year.

Also, as battery technology is increasing, the price of electric cars is dropping. Tesla started with  high end, over $100,000, models, but it’s finally created the $35,000 Model 3. When you add on the incentives, electric cars are becoming more affordable.

If that’s still out of your price range, try a used plug-in hybrid. That’s what I did. I bought a used Chevrolet Volt for around $17,000 with only 13,000 miles on it. (Plus, there are cheaper options out there).

 

Will my electric bill increase?  

Your electricity bill will increase, but less than your gas bill decreases.

For example, at the moment, the national average price for electricity is $.12/ kWh. My Chevrolet Volt will go about 50 miles on a full charge, which uses about 13 kWh of energy. With some simple math, that comes out to $1.56 for 50 miles. To drive that same 50 miles using gas, I’d pay $2.94 (at a national average gas price is $2.35/gallon at 40 MPG).

So, this means that traveling using electricity is about half as expensive as traveling using gas. My last point is that electricity prices remain fairly stable over time and gas prices fluctuate often ($2.35/gallon is fairly low for recent prices).

 

Where will I charge my car without a house?

Many cities are investing in electric car infrastructure to incentivize their use. (Research proves that e-vehicles reduce urban pollution). Often, cities will partner with private companies like ChargePoint. This does mean, however, that to turn a profit these stations can charge you significantly more than if you were to charge at home.

Screenshot of ChargePoint stations in North America.

Plus, several apps exist to help you find the right charging station for yourself. They even filter for free stations near you. Lastly, many people who’ve installed home charging stations will let you use them if you’re driving through. This creates a sense of community within the electric car community.

Finally, as private companies invest in faster chargers, cities will see more reason to invest in infrastructure helping you to know where to charge. Currently, several private companies have bought into the charging market. Most chargers take about 5 hours to get 50 miles of electricity for your car (like my Chevrolet Volt). Tesla, though, has developed a system that allows you to charge 250 miles in 20 minutes.

 

How will I take that cross-country trip I’ve always wanted to take if my electric car needs to charge?

Photo Credit: Brett Landau

People do it all the time. While they’re mainly in Teslas for now (due to their long-lasting battery life, a complex network of charging stations, and the speed at which those stations charge), long trips can be done in other battery electric vehicles. Recently, two Teslas did a 76-hour road trip from California to Manhattan using only the Tesla Supercharger network.

Plug-in hybrid experience

If you’re really worried about a range on a long drive, the purchase of a plug-in hybrid could be your route. These vehicles run mostly on gas and partly on battery. They function as perfect ‘around the city’ electric vehicles that you charge overnight, and you can take one on a long road trip while getting great mpg.

 

The future of electric cars is promising.

Remember all those fears you had about whether or not to buy an electric car? Well even if this blog hasn’t reassured you that electric is the way to go, the future will.

Battery technology is advancing incredibly quickly. Proterra has just made a bus that’s been recorded as traveling 1101.2 miles on a single charge. In 2015, that same bus was only able to travel as far as 258 miles.

Tesla Roadster. Photo credit: pistonudos.com

Tesla has also claimed that by 2020, its new roadster will be able to go 620 miles on a single charge. Not only will it last longer than a gas powered car, but for all the speed junkies out there, it will be the fastest production car ever made, with a 0-60 of 1.9 seconds. These feats would well exceed the range of gas-powered vehicles, making them obsolete.

Charger technology and infrastructure are also increasing. Electrify America is a $2 billion program that started in 2018 and will finish its fourth phase in 2025. Its goal is to provide a complex network of fast-charging electric stations to rival Tesla’s network.

 

How do I know which car is right for me?

Now that you know that your basic needs as a driver are covered, all that’s left is to decide on the car you want to buy.

For an interactive state map of incentives, click this link https://www.chargepoint.com/drivers/incentives/

For an up-to-date list of EV prices, incentives, and ranges, click this link: https://insideevs.com/compare-plug-ins/

For another list of vehicles and their purchase incentives, visit: https://fueleconomy.gov/feg/taxevb.shtml.

Good luck!

 

About Brett Landau

Brett Landau is an aspiring sustainability professional. He is currently enrolled in the MS for Environmental Policy and MBA in Sustainable Business program at Bard College. His interests include business resilience, sustainability strategies, and green technologies.