Must-Ask Eco Questions: Buying an Electric Vehicle

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electric vehicle

Nissan's all-electric LEAF can run up to 73 miles on a single charge. Photo: Nissan

If you’re shopping around for a new car, you may be considering one of the many electric vehicles (EVs) currently on the market. But will an EV really cut your fuel costs? And which type of EV works best with your driving habits: an all-electric car like the Nissan LEAF or a plug-in model like the Chevy Volt?

Earth911 rounded up seven questions that will help you determine if an EV is a right fit for your lifestyle and budget.

1. How many miles do you drive each day?

Figuring out your regular driving habits will not only help you decide if an EV will fit in with your daily routine, but will also give you insight into what type of EV you should purchase.

If you drive no more than 60-75 miles a day – whether for your roundtrip commute or because you’re chauffeuring the kids around – one of the all-electric cars on the market might just work for you. According to the EPA’s estimates, the Nissan LEAF can run up to 73 miles on a single charge, while the driving ranges of the Mitsubishi i (MiEV) and the Ford Focus Electric are 62 and 76 miles, respectively.

You may be able to squeeze out more miles from a single charge than what the EPA approximates; driving range can increase if you turn off the car’s climate controls, decrease your driving speed and avoid frequent braking and steep inclines.

But if your daily travels fall under the driving ranges listed for any of these all-electric cars, it’s a safe bet that you can make it through your day without the need to recharge the car’s battery.

What if you drive more than 60-75 miles a day? If you’re using your EV for your commute to work, find out if your employer has an EV charging station for employees or is planning on getting one installed. Or look for public charging stations near your office and check their prices; electricity rates are often higher during the day during peak energy demand.

If you find that your local options for charging on-the-go are limited, choosing a plug-in hybrid EV may be a better alternative. The Chevy Volt can travel for approximately 35 miles, powered by its electric battery alone, before switching into its extended-range mode that runs on gasoline, according to the EPA. Toyota’s plug-in Prius can run for up to 11 miles in EV mode, but it’s not available for sale in every state yet.

The plug-in EV’s flexibility with fuels makes them a great choice for individuals who drive long distances and don’t have access to public charging stations: You get the benefit of driving gas- and tailpipe emissions-free for several miles, but you don’t have to worry about the car dying if the battery runs out of power.

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Homepage image: ECOtality

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