There are more electric vehicles on the market than ever before. As more models go on sale, car shoppers have many styles and features to choose from. Advances in battery technology boost vehicle range and increasingly robust charging infrastructure are making electric cars more appealing than ever.
Sales are on the rise with a jump anticipated in the near future. Global electric vehicle sales are expected to reach 11 million units in 2020 and then surge to 97 million vehicles in 2025. Many reputable auto manufacturers are introducing electric models, giving shoppers more choices than ever.
Electric Vehicle Considerations
Many of the major automakers now feature an electric vehicle in their lineup, including Nissan, Kia, Hyundai, BMW, Chevy, Ford, Volkswagen, Audi, and Jaguar. When shopping for the ideal EV for a given driver, there are many things to consider.
Electric Vehicle Range
What are your transportation needs? Do you tend to go on long trips over the weekend or do you stick pretty close to home? This is important when purchasing an electric vehicle because it is ideal to have a car that serves your needs a vast majority of the time. There are now electric vehicles on the market with ranges above 200 miles.
Some EV owners rent a car occasionally when they need a longer range, or they find ways to charge while on the road. Some households have two or more cars and can swap around as needed to accommodate for range limitations.
Associated EV Costs and Emissions
Electric vehicles are now affordable to many car shoppers. Although the upfront cost is still typically more than a comparable gasoline-powered car, they do generally have lower operating costs because they run on electricity rather than gas. The exact cost per mile depends on the rate of your electricity and the efficiency of the car itself.
EV drivers will pay less in Louisiana, Washington, Arkansas, South Carolina, and Kentucky, for example, than drivers in Hawaii, Massachusetts, California, Alaska, and Connecticut because of the cost difference of the power. The price of gasoline also varies by location and tends to fluctuate more than the cost of electricity.
Keep in mind that some utilities offer lower rates at night. It is helpful to know if your utility charges variable rates and to charge up during off-peak times.
Also, the emissions associated with the electricity varies by source. EV owners who live in areas where much of their electricity is generated by fossil fuels may opt to install a solar system so they can run the vehicle with clean energy.
Federal Tax Credit for New Electric Vehicles
EV buyers can take advantage of a $2,500 to $7,500 tax credit for purchasing an electric vehicle. The size of the credit depends on the price of the vehicle and its battery capacity. Tax credits are more valuable to taxpayers than write-offs because they result in a dollar-for-dollar reduction in taxes owed. That means that a $5,000 tax credit reduces your tax liability by $5,000. Speak to your tax preparer to get more information on how to benefit from a tax credit on your taxes.
Keep in mind that used electric vehicles do not qualify for the tax credit. Also, the tax credit doesn’t result in instant savings. You will benefit from the credit after you file your taxes, which is probably months after purchasing the vehicle.
Driving an all-electric vehicle requires vehicle charging. Because home charging is so convenient, most EV owners do more than 80 percent of their total charging at home. This might change as more rapid chargers are available for EV drivers on the go, taking as little as 30 minutes to charge.
Knowing the charging options where you drive can help you determine what range you need from an electric vehicle, especially if you tend to drive longer distances.
It is possible to charge most electric vehicles with a 120-volt plug, but this takes many hours. Some EV drivers install a Level 2 charging station at home for faster charging.
Which Electric Vehicles Are Greenest?
When shopping for an EV, how can you determine which are the greenest choices among the leading cars on the market? There are a few criteria we can use to find the greenest EVs. Unfortunately, electric vehicles do typically produce more greenhouse gas emissions during the manufacturing process than gasoline-powered cars due to the batteries and the energy intensity of the manufacturing process. Plants that source materials from or operate in areas with cleaner power will, therefore, produce greener cars.
The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) puts out a list of the greenest cars on the market. The rankings consider the cost on human health from air pollution from vehicle manufacturing, the production and distribution of electricity or fuel, and vehicle emissions.
“Vehicles with some form of electrification, whether hybrid or battery electric, continue to take every spot on the Greenest List,” said Eric Junga, senior transportation research analyst at ACEEE. “Despite a few automakers’ cutting back on their car fleets to focus on crossovers and SUVs, the Greenest List shows that many consumers have a range of good eco-friendly options.”
Newsweek Green Rankings examines large companies based on energy, waste, water, and carbon productivity. Another criterion is how efficiently a given model uses electricity because this impacts the energy needed to operate the vehicle. This is a relatively difficult computation to make, but we partially ranked 2018 electric vehicles by the miles per kWh of electricity they consume, compliments of calculations by GreenTechnica.com.
Hyundai Ioniq EV
Hyundai has come out with an impressive line of green cars and the company got a high ranking from Newsweek Green Rankings, especially for energy production. The Ioniq EV is also considered the most efficient electric vehicle on the market, although it has a relatively limited range with its 38.3 kWh battery.
This small crossover SUV is known for its strong powertrain, excellent safety features, and sleek design. The Kona was introduced in 2019 and is rapidly gaining popularity partially due to its long range.
Tesla Model 3 – Long Range
Tesla is installing the world’s largest solar rooftop system at the Gigawatt manufacturing facility in Nevada. The battery manufacturing plant will be 100 percent solar-powered and have on-site recycling. The rest of the manufacturing takes place in California and uses relatively clean grid electricity. The Model 3 itself is equally impressive by combining both rapid acceleration and efficiency.
Kia Soul EV
With a Newsweek Green Ranking of #338 among the top 500 global companies, Kia is a moderately green company with some fuel-efficient vehicles. The company is also rolling out solar roofs on some models that can boost car efficiency. The Soul EV is an electric version of a popular compact car that has a decent amount of cargo space and a roomy cabin but also has a relatively short range. Drivers enjoy that it has very little engine noise and a moderate price. The battery life of this car will increase dramatically in the 2020 model, boosting its appeal.
Although Chevy is known for producing gas-guzzling cars, General Motors is producing some high-quality electric vehicles. The Bolt is manufactured in Michigan, where half of the plant is powered by solar energy or landfill gas. The company received a Newsweek Green Ranking of #253 among the top 500 global companies and high scores in its water productivity. The Chevy Bolt is also a very impressive car due to its long range which increased somewhat in the 2020 model with its new 66 kWh battery.
Nissan has an impressive lineup of efficient cars. The company is also known for being relatively efficient with waste but needs to make some water conservation improvements. The new and improved 2020 Leaf has a range of 150 miles, making it more practical than previous year’s models.
As news about the BMW diesel emissions cheating grows, trust in this brand as a green leader has waned. The i3 scores points for looks and interior but had been criticized for its limited range, which has nearly plateaued between the 2019 and the 2020 models. The vehicle has four seats, making it less than ideal for some households.
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Editor’s note: Originally published on November 23, 2018, this article was updated in November 2019.