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 will probably be buying a car. 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 that across the 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. However, these opportunities do not extend to used car owners. In the United States, there is a $7,500 federal tax incentive offered at the end of the year after the purchase of a new electric vehicle. California 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 incentive and the rebate is that rebates can be received right after your purchase and you have to wait for the incentive,


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 are dropping. Tesla started with its high-end, over $100,000, model S and X, but they have finally created the Model 3 which drops the price down to $35,000. With those rebates, electric cars are becoming more affordable.


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

Photo Credit: Kristin Adamson


Will my electric bill increase?  


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


For example, The national average for electricity is $.12/ kWh. My Chevrolet Volt will go about 50 miles on a full charge. This uses about 13 kWh of energy. With some simple math that comes out to $1.56 for 50 miles. Conversely, the national average gas price is $2.35/gallon at 40 MPG, which the average over the lifetime of my car. So, to go 50 miles on electricity it takes $1.56 and to go 50 miles on gas it takes $2.94 for 50 miles using gas.


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 and $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. This is known to reduce pollution within a city. Often cities will partner with private companies like ChargePoint. This does mean, however, that to turn a profit these stations can charge you well more than if you were to charge at home.

Screenshot of ChargePoint stations in North America.


There are also many apps to help you find the right charging station for yourself. They even filter for free stations near you. Lastly, there are many people who have installed a home charging station and will let you use them if you are driving through. This creates a sense of community within the electric car community. Screenshot from Charge Point’s interactive map.


Private companies have bought into the charging market, but no charging system is as complex as Tesla where you can charge 250 miles in 20 minutes. Most chargers may take 5 hours to get 50 miles of electricity for your car (like my Chevrolet Volt). As private companies invest in faster chargers cities will see more reason to invest in infrastructure helping you to know where to charge.


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. These are mainly Teslas for now due to their long-lasting battery life, a complex network of charging stations, and the speed at which those stations charge, but can be done in other battery electric vehicles. Recently, two Teslas just did a 76-hour road trip from California to Manhattan using only the Tesla Supercharger network.


Plug-in hybrid experience

If you are really worried about a range anxiety 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. These function as perfect ‘around the city’ electric vehicles that you charge overnight and as a car you can take on a long road trip while getting great mpg.




The future of electric cars is promising.


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


Battery technology is increasing incredibly fast. Proterra has just made a bus that has 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. This is a testament to the speed at which battery technology is advancing.


Tesla Roadster photo credit: (pistonudos.com)

Tesla has also claimed that by 2020, the new Tesla 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 station 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, it is time to decide on the car you want to buy. Remember you can always buy a used car for much cheaper, but you will lose the incentives.


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.




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.