Five Things To Consider When Buying an Electric Car

The electric vehicle might seem like the newest thing to hit the road, but its history actually stretches back as far as the late 1800s. In fact, the first speeding violation was attributed to a New York City Taxi driver, in 1899, who was brazenly speeding through an 8 mph speed zone at 12 mph. Of course, we've come a long way since those days, and electric vehicles are the most-advanced vehicles on the road. electric car electric vehicle lithium-ion emissions fuel economy

If you're in the market to buy a new car, have you considered an electric car? If so, here are five things that you should keep in mind if you are looking at electric vehicles…

Graph charting average price of gas across the United States over the last year.

  1. Refueling Costs
    As suggested by the name, electric vehicles are recharged with electricity from the power grid. Interestingly, fuel prices fluctuate wildly, averaging from over $4 per gallon to just under $2 per gallon in the last year. Electricity prices, on the other hand, remain relatively stable, having increased by a mere 2.5 ¢/kWh in the last decade. What does this mean for electric vehicle owners? In a conventional vehicle, or even a hybrid car, the price you pay will fluctuate, year in and year out, sometimes drastically. On the other hand, electric vehicle owners are consistently saving money, paying the equivalent of $1.28 per gallon, recharging at home, at work, or even public-access charging stations.electric car electric vehicle lithium-ion emissions fuel economyGasoline-free zero-emissions 100-mile-range electric vehicle

  2. Range Anxiety
    One of the first things that comes to mind regarding electric vehicle ownership is limited range. The Nissan Leaf, currently the world's most-popular electric vehicle, has a range of just 84 miles, and the top-of-the-line Tesla Model S has a range of 265 miles. When considering that the humble Toyota Corolla has a range of 436 miles, some drivers begin to suffer from what is known as "range anxiety," partly because it takes between one and eight hours to recharge, and partly because electric vehicle charging stations aren't nearly as widespread as gas stations. What some fail to take into consideration is that the average American only drives 36 miles per day, well within the range of even the Leaf, and that they can recharge overnight. The Union of Concerned Scientists estimates that, without making any significant changes to driving habits, some 45 million Americans could switch to an electric vehicle, the equivalent of eliminating about 14 million conventional vehicles from the road, which leads us to our next caution…

  3. Emissions
    Because electric cars have no tailpipes, they are touted as "zero emissions vehicles." Still, they have to recharge from the power grid, which means that emissions are just shifted upstream to the power plant. That being said, electric vehicle emissions depend entirely on where you charge, that is, how dirty the power plant is. Recharge in Beverly, Ohio, for example, and the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the Nissan Leaf is accountable for 230 g CO2/mi (grams of carbon dioxide per mile). You might be better off driving a Toyota Corolla, which generates just 178 g CO2/mi. On the other hand, drive the same Nissan Leaf in Burlington, Vermont, which is powered by 100% renewable energy, and it truly is a zero-emissions vehicle.

  4. Expenses
    Take one look at an electric car, in comparison to a conventional version -- perhaps the Ford Focus Electric and the Ford Focus, you end up spending a good deal more for the electric version. You'll also need a professionally-installed home charging station, which can usually be worked into the financing deal. For some, it might be hard to justify spending $12,000 more for a "special" powertrain. On the other hand, don't overlook tax incentives at the state and federal levels, exceptional savings in fuel (see point number one), as well as reduced maintenance costs. Because the Ford Focus Electric's motor has basically a single moving part, it requires no maintenance, reducing annual maintenance costs to tire rotations and balancing. Regenerative braking means that the physical brake system, such as the pads and rotors, wear out far less often.

  5. Perks
    In addition to tax incentives, there are some other perks that come with electric vehicle ownership. Some states allow access to the HOV (high-occupancy vehicle) lane in an electric vehicle, even if there's only one person driving. What a stress-free and delay-free commute! Driving an electric vehicle is also very different; smooth and noiseless acceleration making for a tranquil ride. Some places even offer priority parking for electric vehicles.

There are probably many more reasons to drive an electric car, and more than a few reasons not to buy one. The key to making a wise purchase is to involve your budget, driving habits, and power grid. All things considered, could you make room for an electric car in your garage?

Image courtesy of Don O'Brian, used under CC license.

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