Jun 20, 2016
Electric car charging bay

Electric cars are growing in popularity, and we’re not complaining. These swift and silent green machines emit less pollution and have lower operating costs than their conventional counterparts. So how do you know if you’re ready to ditch the pump and plug in your very own electric car? Ask yourself these seven questions first to find out.

Electric car exploration

1) What are the overall benefits of electric cars?

Electric car
Before deciding if an electric car may fit your lifestyle, it helps to first understand how much of an impact driving electric cars can actually have on the planet and on your wallet. Image Credit: andrea lehmkuhl / Shutterstock

Before deciding if an electric car may fit your lifestyle, it helps to first understand how much of an impact driving electric cars can actually have on the planet and on your wallet.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, electric cars can help reduce emissions, and they can also help increase energy security by reducing our dependence on imported fuel. In addition, while purchase prices for hybrids and electric cars are often higher than conventional cars, owners can see an overall savings in fuel costs, maintenance costs, and tax credits. Indeed, there was a time when electric cars were sold at significant price premiums relative to comparable internal-combustion models. However, in recent years that situation has shown signs of change, and electric cars are now more affordably priced. Furthermore, pretty much all electric cars (except for those made by Tesla) are deeply discounted on the used market.

According to InsideEVs, an industry site that tracks the latest news and trends for electric vehicles, electric car sales in the first four months of 2016 have shown an increase year over year. This suggests electric car sales growth is once again gathering momentum, so it seems our love for these emissions-free marvels of modern technology is only getting stronger.

2) What’s your daily mileage?

Mileage is a consideration when choosing an electric vehicle, because you have to keep in mind how much ground you can cover in between charges. You may have a reasonably short trip to and from work, but if your lifestyle involves running lots of errands, your daily mileage could greatly exceed your commute. If you’re a parent who has to take kids to school and soccer practice, for example, you could wind up putting a significant number of miles on your car each day. The good news is that electric cars have made tremendous strides in recent years with the range they offer.

According to EPA estimates, the 2016 Tesla Model S has a range of up to 265 miles, while the more modestly priced Chevrolet Spark EV will travel for up to 100 miles between charges. Still, keep in mind the 476 miles of range you’ll get with a gas-powered Toyota Camry.

Take a look at the number of miles you travel each day and decide if your driving pattern fits within the range restrictions posed by electric cars.

3) Do you take lots of long road trips?

While in years past, going on a long road trip in an electric car might not have been an option, these days public electric charging stations put road trips back on the map.

  • Just know that your trip won’t be all that spontaneous: You’ll need to plan your route carefully and determine the stations you’ll visit along the way, as well as account for the time it takes to charge.
  • Level 2 (220-volt) stations – which are more prevalent – will still generally take three to four hours to charge.
  • A number of websites, including this electric car charger station locator from the U.S. Department of Energy, offer tools to help you plot your stops.

4) Do you have easy access to a charger?

Electric car next to street charger
Access to your charge source, whether public on installed in-home, is a big consideration when it comes to electric car ownership. Image Credit: Matej Kastelic / Shutterstock

Some electric cars can take as long as several hours to charge, but you can reduce the charging time by 50 percent or more by installing a home charger. This adds tremendous convenience to electric car ownership. Just keep in mind that if you rent your home, a home charger may not be an option. Before you buy, talk to your landlord about getting permission for a charger and how the electricity bill should be handled.

5) How’s the weather?

While frigid temperatures will result in a diminishment of range between charges, electric cars work just fine in cold weather. The electric car fleet management company Fleet Carma took a look at trips made in the Nissan Leaf in cold weather and found that the car’s range drops from 80 miles to 50-60 miles when it’s driven in icy conditions. However, it’s worth noting that gas-powered models also suffer a drop in fuel efficiency of up to 20 percent when the mercury plummets, due to factors such as cold engine oil.

6) What’s the terrain like?

Electric cars do best in the flatlands. Mountainous terrain is not a deal breaker for electric cars: Just note that this terrain will tax the cars and diminish their range, so it’s something to consider if you spend lots of time driving in the hills.

7) Is electricity expensive in your neck of the woods?

If you live in a region with expensive electricity, an electric car will be more costly to own. Still, this doesn’t mean you should rule these vehicles out. Electric cars tend to have a low cost of ownership due to the fact that they require less maintenance and repair. You won’t be taking your electric car in for an oil change anytime soon, for example. If you’re discouraged by steep electricity rates in your region, take the time to compare the total cost of ownership of an electric car with that of a gas-powered vehicle before making a final decision.

If you’re one of the fortunate car shoppers whose lifestyle supports electric car ownership, take a moment to celebrate. These whisper-quiet wonders of automotive wizardry afford you the opportunity to glide efficiently into the future.

About the Author

Warren Clarke is a consumer advice writer for CARFAX who prides himself on offering helpful advice regarding car shopping, car buying and car ownership.

Feature image credit: GlennV / Shutterstock

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