Is an Electric Vehicle Right For You?
The answer depends on your lifestyle and priorities
With cost savings and performance, and environmental benefits, electric vehicles offer an exciting alternative to gasoline-powered and hybrid vehicles. Still, consumers should consider certain factors before making a purchase, as driving habits, living situation and the ability to pay upfront costs all affect whether an electric car is a convenient or budget-friendly purchase.
Electric vehicles (EV) are best for drivers with commutes of about 75 miles while longer drives can be planned for with different approaches.
“You might be surprised to find that you could easily use an EV for a daily commute, putting aside your gas-hungry SUV or truck for weekends and vacation drives,” according to Edmunds.com. “You also might find that you could easily rent a pickup or SUV for the few occasions each year when you really need towing capacity or increased cargo and passenger room.”
Access to Charging Stations
Homeowners with a garage will probably find EV ownership a little easier, since they can easily install charging stations in those garages — 240-volt EV charging stations are best (readily available and easy to install), and 110-volt stations also work, although they charge at a slower rate while apartment dwellers and homeowners without garages might have a more difficult time.
Still, public charging stations are becoming more common in many states and can be found on websites such as www.afdc.energy.gov/fuels/electricity_locations.html, a service of the U.S. Department of Energy.
Recharging concerns are also reduced with Partial Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV), which switches to a gasoline engine when necessary; however, the more one uses a PHEV’s gasoline engine, the more attractive a pure hybrid becomes. The PHEV Chevrolet Volt for example, gets an EPA-estimated 37 mpg when powered by gasoline, far less than the 50 mpg estimated for the all-hybrid Toyota Prius.
Upfront Price vs. Cost Savings
Electric vehicle detractors say that money saved at the pump during the lifetime of the car is offset by its upfront cost. On the surface, this is true. The 2013 Nissan Leaf, for example, starts at $35,200, well above the cost of the 2013 Toyota Prius (MSRP $24,200). However, federal incentives (and some state incentives) prove to be a great equalizer.
“California buyers of a Leaf or a $29,125 Mitsubishi i EV can knock down the ultimate purchase cost by $10,000 with state and federal incentives,” explains Edmunds.com. “But to finance a purchase, the buyer still would have to qualify for a loan based on the original purchase price. Lenders don't take future tax credits and state rebates into account.”
As for the energy savings, how long it takes for the upfront cost of an EV to be surpassed by savings at the pump depends on fuel and electricity prices.
“With the national average prices for gasoline at more than $3.75 a gallon and electricity at 11 cents a kilowatt-hour, the fuel cost for driving 15,000 miles in a Leaf is roughly 30 percent of what fuel would cost for a 30-mpg car or truck,” notes Edmunds.com. “It would take six years at these prices to erase an $8,000 price difference between the Leaf and an internal-combustion equivalent. But if you raise the cost of fuel to $5.00 a gallon for gasoline and 14.7 cents per kilowatt for electricity (an increase of about 33 percent for each), the EV earns back that $8,000 from fuel savings alone in just over 4.5 years.”
To many people, the facts and figures regarding costs and driving range are secondary to environmental concerns, and here, there is little debate about the benefits of an EV. As the U.S. Department of Energy states, EVs “emit no tailpipe pollutants, although the powerplant producing the electricity may emit them. Electricity from nuclear-, hydro-, solar- or wind-powered plants causes no air pollutants.”
Moreover, says the DOE, driving an EV reduces dependence on foreign oil, since electricity is a domestic energy source.
Need another reason to go electric? Drivers say that EVs can be more powerful and more fun while eliminating another type of pollution altogether—noise pollution.
“An electric car has fewer parts overall, and fewer moving parts,” explains TheStreet.com. “It gives you 100 percent of the torque right away. It doesn't require a transmission, and it doesn't make any meaningful noise. Pressing the accelerator simply has a very different feeling.”
Clearly, for the right person or family, an EV is the right choice. There are significant environmental and driving benefits, assuming one’s driving habits, access to charging stations and budget for upfront costs make purchasing an electric vehicle possible.