Things To Know Before Buying An Electric Car
With demand ramping up, there are car buyers preparing to buy an electric car (i.e. EV or electric vehicle) for the first time. EV are green and more economical to drive (e.g. zero emissions, less carbon footprint, fuel cost savings, etc.), which are part of the benefits and also used as the marketing hype.
Some buyers are happy with their purchase, but others have a case of buyer’s remorse. It is not that EV are a bad idea, but more about unexpected consequences. We won’t go over whether the marketing is what is truly advertised, but some basic information that interested electric car buyers might want to know.
Welcome To Electric Cars
The first and most obvious reason to buy an electric car, is no more need to go to the pump. You can skip the trip to the gasoline station because now you are driving an electric car that is powered by a battery. You just need to charge your EV battery in order to drive it. Charging increases the amount of power the battery can hold to increase the number of miles (or kilometers) you can travel (based on distance gained per hour of charge).
With electric cars since gas is not used, you measure capacity in terms of the battery size (measured in kWh or kilo-Watt hours). For example an EV can have a battery capacity of 100 kWh, which could reach a range of up to 300 miles (these are just estimates). The actual range depends on the specifications of the EV, that is set by the automaker.
The battery holds a charge that is depleted over time, as the EV is driven. When the battery power is low, that means it has to be recharged, akin to smartphones and laptops. The bigger the battery size in capacity (higher kWh value), the longer the range it can cover in theory. In reality, the battery design is really what will determine its performance in terms of efficiency, reliability and actual range.
The truth is, it is faster getting gas at the pump compared to charging an EV at home (as of 2022). You may save money by not getting gas, but the tradeoff is the amount of time it takes to charge an EV. Charging an EV battery can take a long time, which is not as fast as most people have tolerance for. It is like how you charge other battery operated devices like a smartphone. It is best for most to charge over night or best to do it at a charging station.
The Charging Gotcha
Some EV owners, who have done their research, are proud of their electric cars and have no regrets about their decision. Some do have an issue, but did not realize it until after buying their EV. This has to do with problems related to charging.
The problem is not all EV owners may have a garage that has a typical 110V (220V recommended) outlet. They might live in an apartment complex where they park their car along the street (i.e. no dedicated garage). If it is an apartment complex with a designated parking spot, EV owners would have to check with the management to see if they can have access to an electrical outlet for charging.
Some parking spaces do have an outlet for charging. The problem here could be whether it is safe to do so. If there is security, it should be fine. However, if it is near public access from the street, the charging cable could get stolen by a random passerby.
Charging also takes time. It can take hours to reach the full capacity of the battery. The battery does not always need to be 100% fully charged, like being able to use a smartphone that is 30% charged. The point is that you will need to charge for at least 1 hour to get 3 to 5 miles of range (depending on the car model and battery) using a regular 110V outlet. For speed, it is much faster charging from a 220V outlet. Regardless of which outlet you have available at home, charging an EV overnight is highly recommended.
For the fastest charging time use a DC Fast Charging or Supercharging station where, depending on your battery design, the battery can be charged close to 80% (of rated miles) in under 30–40 minutes (fees do apply depending on the station). Do make sure that your EV battery can support this type of charging first (consult with car dealer agent).
A more serious concern among potential EV owners is called range anxiety. This is the fear of not having enough miles available in the battery to reach the next destination. It can also be fear of not knowing if there is access to a charging station along the way. If your EV battery is rated at 200 miles on a full charge, but your destination is 250 miles, you will need to charge at some point to be able to get there.
To prevent range anxiety while on the road, EV automakers like Tesla provide features in their app for users to locate the nearest charging stations. They can do this from the EV dashboard screen or by using a mobile app (i.e. smartphone).
Keep your eye on the battery charge available for the EV. This can be found in the battery level indicator on the dashboard or from an installed mobile app. When it reaches a critical level below a certain threshold, then that means it is time to recharge.
For long driving, plan your route accordingly. Plan a route where there are charging stations available. It is true that EV charging stations are not that common yet (as of 2022), but they are increasing in number. There are now more charging stations available, especially if you live in North America. It is just a matter of finding one along your route, and this can help reduce any type of anxiety.
EV are unlike conventional cars, and this should be obvious. It may not be the case since it looks just like any modern car, but there are differences. One thing that electric brings to the automobile is quiet or silent driving.
There are no engines, which is why EV are silent. An engine is noisy because it undergoes a compression of the fuel in a chamber to force combustion to produce locomotive force (i.e. this is what drives the car). EV use electric motors, so it drives as soon as you step on the accelerator.
The problem is that EV can be so silent, pedestrians may not realize that there is a car approaching. This can be a public safety concern, so be alert always when driving in city streets or school zones.
Hidden Cost Of Maintenance
A good reason to buy an EV is it requires less maintenance than conventional cars. There is no need to get an oil change, spark plug replacement or tune up. An EV is a zero emission vehicle, so you also don’t need to get a muffler check (EV have no exhaust system like gas cars) or catalytic converter installed.
Maintenance requirements in EV include brake checks, windshield and coolant fluid changes and the a/c (air conditioning) system. Some minor lubrication of moving parts might be required, but not on a regular basis. Since EVs do not have an engine, maintenance costs drop significantly.
With that being said, it does not mean that no maintenance is required. The problem here is if there is damage to the EV battery or malfunction in the charging system. Problems with the EV computer system can also be costly since it is a vital component. Any accident involving an EV can also cost more in order to replace damaged parts. Take note that the battery can easily be the most expensive component to have to replace (up to $10,000).
Tire maintenance is also required just like in regular cars. There are reports that replacing tires on an EV can be more frequent and thus expensive. EV are heavier than conventional cars, so this puts more wear and tear on the tires.
EV Are Not Cheap
According to a report (Electrek), the average price of an EV in the US is $66,000 (2022). That is $18,000 more than an average price of a conventional gas-powered car. This is based on data from Kelley Blue Book. Be prepared to pay even more for an EV as prices have also increased due to inflation (among some factors) in 2022. At those prices, it is just like buying a gas-powered luxury car. Perhaps that was never the car buyer’s intention.
If you still prefer alternatives to a gas-powered car, there are hybrids and plug-in hybrids. A hybrid combine a battery that uses renewable energy (e.g. regenerative braking) and gasoline engine, with an average price of $39,000. With higher gas prices and toxic chemicals from car emissions, hybrids are that step above gas-powered cars that address reducing costs and emissions. Hybrids are more efficient, which is why they can help car owners save in the long run. The Prius from Toyota is a good example of a hybrid (also called series parallel hybrid car).
Plug-in hybrids on the other hand combine electric battery with a gasoline engine. The plug-in hybrid requires charging the battery while full hybrids do not. This requires an external electric power source, just like an EV. This can be an option for budget conscious car buyers who want to save money on gas and also drive a more efficient and eco-friendly vehicle.
Owners of EV can get special tax credits, depending on the laws of the country where you live in. Tax credits allow you the consumer, to be incentivized for your purchase of an EV which promotes greener technology. In the US tax credits between $2,500 to $7,500 can be offered to consumers. EV tax incentives can further be explained by a tax expert, so it is best to consult with one regarding this matter.
Prepare For Higher Insurance Costs
Owning an EV may lead to higher car insurance costs. According to a Forbes Advisor report, the national average premium for an EV was $2,280 per year. This data could change at any time, but will depend on how insurance is assessed for EV.
Some reasons why EV insurance is more expensive has to do with some of the following:
- Battery — This is quite expensive to replace.
- Car Repairs — The cost to fix damage to EV is not something all car repair shops are familiar with. It is a specialized skill that requires experts, thus costing more.
- Parts Replacements — The cost to repair and replace EV parts is also more expensive.
You Have Other Options Besides Tesla
There are now more options to EV than just Tesla. In fact it has always been that way. There were electric cars before Tesla even launched its own line of EV. Not many people are aware that electric cars have been around for a long time (e.g. since the 1800's).
They are now less rudimentary and more utilitarian by design. They are not just glorified golf carts on the road, like the first generation of EV. Automakers have figured out ways to improve range, increase battery capacity and incorporate features (e.g. AutoPilot). Not all EV are the same, so it is best to check the dealer and take a test drive to get the feel of the EV while on the road.
If you are just looking for a car that takes you from point A to point B, perhaps you don’t need to buy an EV. They would be more expensive if your primary concern is just having a car to drive. A regular car would serve that purpose.
If you are for environmental concerns, an EV does help reduce the carbon footprint but not entirely since it still requires fossil fuels in the supply chain and manufacturing process. EV also generate heat, which is a form of carbon emission. The good news is that it reduces harmful emissions, including toxic chemicals that are hazardous to humans.
For cutting costs, EV offer a tradeoff. You pay a higher up-front cost to purchase the EV. Over time it reduces your costs in terms of gasoline expenses, car maintenance and costs associated with conventional cars (e.g. smog checks).
An EV might be more appropriate for those who are ready to make a change in adopting a different type of technology that will affect their lifestyle. Whether it is to help reduce costs from gas or fossil fuel consumption or for an eco-friendlier mode of transportation, an EV can serve many purposes. It is just important to understand what you are getting before making that final decision to buy one.