Electric vehicles have exploded in popularity recently, and for good reason. The technology has advanced to a point where many electric car models are now affordable for the average person. In addition, the operating ranges of these vehicles are steadily increasing, making them a practical investment for on-the-go families.
As with any big purchase, there are a host of ideas to study and consider before making a final decision. The first thing you’ll need to decide on is the type of electric vehicle you want to purchase. There are three general categories of electric cars to explore: hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and battery electric.
Electric Vehicle Types
Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEV)
Hybrid electric vehicles (HEV) are a popular choice of car, as they combine the convenience of gas with the sustainability of electric motors. HEVs operate primarily on an internal combustion engine. Additionally, they have electric batteries that charge through the combustion engine and regenerative braking. The battery system will assist with driving and power the vehicle’s lights and other electrical systems, but HEVs are still essentially a gas-powered vehicle.
Plug-in Hybrid EVs (PHEV)
Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) integrate the best of both worlds: the ability to drive exclusively on battery power, but with the option to use gas for longer trips. Most PHEVs will draw power from the battery motor first, before switching to the internal combustion engine when needed. PHEVs can be charged at home or public EV charging stations.
Battery Electric Vehicles (BEV)
A battery electric vehicle (BEV), also called all-electric vehicles, is what most people imagine when they hear “electric car.” These vehicles run exclusively on battery power and require recharging at home or via public EV charging stations. There are no internal combustion engines and no option for filling up with gas. The Tesla Model 3, Nissan LEAF, and BMW i3 are popular examples of BEVs.
What Else to Consider?
Each type of electric vehicle has a different operating range, with each serving a different purpose. Hybrid electric vehicles essentially have an unlimited operating range, as they just need to be quickly gassed up to keep on driving.
Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles have this same ‘unlimited’ operating range—however, to use the vehicle to its full potential, it should be charged up whenever the battery begins to die. The electric range of a PHEV will depend mostly on the battery size. For instance, the Toyota Prius Prime only offers 25 miles of all-electric range, while the Chevrolet Volt boasts around 53 miles of range. In any case, don’t expect to utilize the battery on a PHEV for long road trips—you will mostly be operating on the internal combustion engine.
All-electric operating range is where battery electric vehicles really shine. The Tesla Model S has an estimated operating range of over 400 miles, a feat that no other manufacturer comes close to as of yet. The Volkswagen ID.3 Pro S has an estimated operating range around 300 miles (but with a drastically lower price tag than a Tesla Model S). The Smart EQ Fortwo is on the low end of the spectrum with a range of about 57 miles.
Leasing vs. Buying
As with any car acquisition, there is always a decision to be made of whether to lease or purchase the vehicle. An argument could definitely be made for both sides, but the general consensus seems to lean towards “lease” when possible.
Due to the rapidly-advancing technology surrounding electric vehicles, many drivers opt to lease their car. This allows them to upgrade every year or two to the newest technology, giving them longer ranges, faster charge times, and an overall newer vehicle.
If you are happy with the current electric vehicle offerings and want to commit to one model for years to come, purchasing is not a bad idea.
New vs. Used EVs
If you end up choosing to purchase an electric vehicle, then you will need to consider whether you want a new or used car. This is a never-ending argument amongst car enthusiasts. On one hand, a new electric vehicle will lose a portion of its value as soon as you drive it off the lot. However, you get the peace of mind that comes with a new car—a manufacturer’s warranty, the newest safety technology, and the knowledge of where and how the car has been driven. Interested in buying an EV? Compare EVs by range, price, and maintenance expenses in our Electric Vehicle Marketplace.
That being said, purchasing a used electric vehicle can provide massive amounts of savings. Without the moving parts of an internal combustion engine, electric cars will generally have less maintenance issues than their gas-powered counterparts. It’ll be up to you whether the costs savings are worth the associated risks of purchasing a used car.
Can't decide between a gasoline powered car and an electric car? Compare vehicles to understand total cost of ownership.
Do you have the necessary means to charge your new electric vehicle? Homeowners have the luxury of installing Level 2 charging stations (often with a rebate, to boot). This will provide reliable fast charging sufficient for most people’s usage.
However, apartment dwellers may have a tougher time with reliable charging. If your complex or parking area has a charger, then you’re in luck! Some city dwellers without access to an at-home charging station will need to account for the time and costs associated with visiting remote charging stations on a regular basis.
Many workplaces have charging stations in their parking lots—this may be all you need if your car spends 8 hours a day parked at work.
EV Tax Credits & Incentives
The sticker price on an EV is not always what you pay. The Clean Vehicle Rebate Program offers up to $7,000 to California residents to reduce the purchase price of a new electric vehicle. The state currently leads the U.S. in total number of electric vehicles on the road due to programs like this.
Depending on the battery size of an electric vehicle, new owners are eligible for up to a $7,500 price reduction through a Federal Tax Credit. HEVs and PHEVs may only be eligible for a portion of this credit, as their batteries are generally much smaller than an all-electric vehicle. This program is a tax credit (not a rebate), so the savings will come off of your tax bill at the end of the year. Other incentives are also available, especially through state and local programs.
Furthermore, some manufacturers have already maxed out their allotted tax credits. For instance, the Federal Tax Credit is no longer able to be used on Tesla electric vehicles, as they reached the maximum of 200,000. However, popular EV models are still eligible, including the NIssan LEAF, BMW i3, and the Volkswagen ID.3.
How Much Electricity Do You Need?
Each electric vehicle has an efficiency rating, similar to the idea of miles per gallon. Electric fuel efficiency is usually measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh) per 100 miles. If you know the price you pay for electricity, plus the efficiency of your vehicle, you can estimate the amount of electricity you need (plus the corresponding costs).
For example, the Tesla Model 3 Standard Range has an estimated fuel efficiency of 26 kWh per 100 miles. If your home electricity costs $0.10/kWh, then you will pay around $2.60 for every 100 miles you travel (much cheaper than the current price of gas). With a 54 kWh battery onboard the Model 3, a full charge would run you about $5.40.
Electricity Plans for EV Owners
In order to maximize the sustainability of their electric vehicles, many owners are making the switch to renewable energy plans when possible. Although charging your vehicle at home seems like a drastic departure from gas-powered cars, our power grid still relies heavily on fossil fuels. Only 20% of the United States electricity generation comes from renewable sources like solar, wind, and hydro.
States like Texas, California, and Michigan offer their residents the option to choose their own energy provider. Companies like Rhythm offer solar and wind-powered plans to dramatically increase the sustainability of owning a home and electric vehicle. Texas residents can choose between Texas-produced wind power, Texas solar, and other green energy plans to solidify the transition towards a sustainable lifestyle. Check out our EV electricity plans today!