Right now, it seems that hardly a day goes by without a new electric car hitting the market, and the trend isn’t likely to stop anytime soon. On the contrary, as the age of the EV is upon us, and battery power will only become increasingly prevalent in our lives from here on out. For as much as we try to resist change — stubbornly clinging to the old ways — electric cars are undoubtedly the way forward if we care about the future of our planet. The time has come, then, to take charge and embrace what’s next.
But should you buy an electric car yet? Is there even enough infrastructure in place to support more EV ownership? If you find yourself asking similar questions, know that you’re not alone. Far from it. Buying into battery power is a frightening prospect for many consumers, as there are countless lifestyle changes that come with ditching gasoline for good. However, that’s not to say that you should be put off by the thought of making the switch. Rather, by researching the market and understanding what’s best for you, it’s completely possible to make a seamless transition. Bearing this in mind, we’ve looked into some of the considerations faced by today’s EV owners. From variety and incentives to charging, range, and maintenance, we cover it in all in an effort to answer: should you buy an electric car yet?
A Shock to Your Spending
In this section, we’ll go over some of the various price considerations you have to take into account when thinking about buying an EV.
Variety: Electric cars are dominating the news right now, and that couldn’t be better for you as the consumer. Around the world, the market is continuing to grow, as more and more people take the plunge and add an EV to their garage. In the U.S. alone, electric car ownership has risen by over 300% since 2016, with some 1.8 million vehicles registered just last year. Whether by government mandate or in response to profit potential, automakers are finally seeing the writing on the wall. As such, more EVs are coming out now than ever before, with compacts, crossovers, sedans, SUVs, and even pickups all getting the 21st-century shock treatment. And here’s the thing: as the segment has expanded, the average price for an electric vehicle has come down considerably.
With that being said, the EV market is going to get larger over the next few years, as manufacturers will have to round out their lineups if they want to meet upcoming sustainability requirements. That is, many municipalities have banned the sale of new combustion vehicles after 2030, so we’re bound to see more options added every year. With only a handful of electric cars selling in the U.S., then, it’s safe to say that the best has yet to come. And that’s not all; as EVs come to replace their gas-powered counterparts, the sale of secondhand vehicles will inevitably increase as well. While they’ll obviously still cost more than a 20-year old junker, buying used makes electric cars a much more accessible value proposition. So, if variety is one of your biggest hangups, now is not the time to buy an EV (you pretty much take what you can get).
Incentives: It’s worth noting, though, that electric cars are heavily incentivized these days, meaning you have the potential to save some serious money. In California, for instance, all residents who buy or lease an EV are eligible for as much as $1,500 in rebates. The federal government, too, offers a pretty enticing tax credit, with between $2,500 and $7,500 available based on battery size. And the benefits aren’t limited to financial assistance alone; EVs also come with many practical incentives to make day-to-day driving easier. With access to HOV lanes, preferred front-row parking, and local allowances for installing home chargers, there’s a lot of good that comes in owning an electric car.
Just one problem. Once a manufacturers’ EV sales exceed 200,000 units, the federal tax credit enters what is known as a phase-out period for the following quarters. In practice, this means that the available rebate is cut in half for the next two quarters, after which it’s halved once again and eventually nixed altogether. Put another way: as EVs continue to become more popular, you won’t be compensated as much for your decision to go green. On the other hand, there’s also the possibility that governments could introduce even more attractive incentives –if they ever take effect, that is. The EV tax break is notoriously slow to materialize, with some buyers receiving a check long after the initial sale of their vehicle.
Removing the Road Noise
Here, we’ll look into some of the daily performance realities of buying an EV, including charging, range, and maintenance.
Charging: More often than not, customers’ biggest concern when considering buying an EV has to do with charging. But let’s face it. With some careful planning and a bit of diligence, you can easily minimize the inconveniences of topping up your battery. Whether that’s by charging at night or keeping your car plugged in between errands, there are plenty of ways to make the most of your range without whiling away your day. And besides, being able to refuel at home is an added convenience now more than ever. Between crowded service stations and unsanitary pump handles, you’re saving yourself from a lot of exposure. Assuming you do have to go out, however, the ever-growing network of fast-chargers means that you can juice up in as little as 20 minutes.
Of course, owning an EV does have its limitations, and electricity access is chief amongst them. That is to say, if you live in a multi-family or apartment-style residence, your ability to keep your car charged is entirely dependent on your parking situation. If you’re stuck on the street or you’re without a nearby outlet, it may not even be possible to maintain enough battery for day-to-day driving. Sure, you could make do by using public charging points, but they come with their own challenges. With many out of order and others exclusive to Tesla, they’re not nearly as plentiful as their gas-pumping counterparts. And, when you can’t charge your car at night, there’s no getting around the fact that filling up is far less time-efficient.
Range: Second to charging, naturally, comes range, as you’ll want enough juice to get wherever you need to go. While it’s an easy figure to get hung up on, the reality is that most Americans don’t commute more than 35 miles per day. So, for everything but the longest of road trips, chances are pretty good that there’s an EV that can handle your requirements. After all, battery range standards have come a long way in recent years, with many cars now offering 300 miles of driving or more. When the Tesla Model S debuted in 2012, for instance, it topped out at a mere 265 miles. The latest Long Range edition, however, currently boasts an industry-leading 405.
Even in spite of such improvements, though, battery power does have its problems. For one, performance is dramatically affected by the weather outside, meaning that colder days will cause your range to suffer. What’s more, your battery will inevitably degrade over time (much like a smartphone), resulting in increasingly ineffective charges. And, finally, let’s be honest: no matter how conservative you are in your accelerator input, battery range is ultimately only an estimate. In real-world applications — like cruising on the freeway or sitting in traffic around town — you can’t always bank on an EV being good down to the last mile. It’s not without good reason, then, that range anxiety is an ever-present reality of owning an electric car. If you can’t stomach that much commitment, buying a hybrid made be the better way to go.
Maintenance: While there’s no denying that owning an EV does take some getting used to, maintenance is one area in which you’ll save yourself a lot of hassle. That’s because, with fewer moving parts and an engine-free drivetrain, electric cars require far less frequent servicing than their fossil-fuel-burning equivalent. You won’t have to worry about oil changes, for example, and timing belts, too, will be a thing of the past. As an added bonus, this also means that EVs tend to be much more reliable in the long run — apart from replacing your usual wear items, there’s not nearly as much that can malfunction. Keeping this in mind, AAA estimates that driving an EV can save customers as much as $949 annually when switching from a gas-powered car.
Unfortunately, when things do go wrong with electric cars, they don’t tend to be cheap. Instead of simple fixes or quick parts swaps, most problems will necessitate complete systems overhauls. To make matters worse, rechargeable batteries are finite components; at some point, you’ll have to drop at least a good $4,000-$5,000 (some models cost as much as $10,000) to get it replaced. Though many manufacturers sell their cars with some form of 8-year 100,000-mile limited warranty, there’s no guarantee that your battery will be completely covered. Given that some automakers — like Tesla — require all maintenance to be performed in-house, this can quickly add up to be quite the hefty expense.
The Bottom Line
Is It Time to Go in on an EV?
The thought of buying an electric car can be frightening, for sure, but the good news is that the infrastructure is on its way. For many people, it may be a bit premature to take the plunge — even if it’s just for want of options. However, if you can find a car you like (and live in an area with adequate charging support), by all means, go electric. You’ll have a leg up on the rest of us when we’re all forced to make the switch anyway.
What We'd Buy
A Sampling of the Market Selection
The Nissan Leaf is a true EV OG, one of the earliest models to make battery power mainstream. Though its range is — admittedly — a little bit lacking, the sub-$30k base price is pretty hard to beat. Between the lively acceleration, the spacious interior, and the compact footprint, it offers an ideal option for those who need an electrified A-to-B city commuter.
Max Range: 226 miles
Max Power: 214hp & 250lb-ft of torque
Kia Niro EV
Kia is making big moves in the EV space, and the Niro is a case in point. With a practical interior and a respectable 239-mile driving range, it provides ample utility for most buyers. So, while it’s not an especially lively example of what a battery-powered car can be, the plush ride and high-speed stability compensate up for any of its setbacks.
Max Range: 210 miles
Max Power: 201hp & 291lb-ft of torque
Ford Mustang Mach-E GT
While some will discount the Mach-E as Mustang heresy, that’s not giving the vehicle enough credit. Sure, a crossover is a little different than the pony cars of the past, but this is an EV that stands to push Ford into a whole new automotive era. At any rate, with 480hp and 634lb-ft of torque on tap, it more than lives up to its iconic name.
Max Range: 270 miles
Max Power: 480hp & 634lb-ft of torque
Tesla Model Y Performance Edition
Tesla has dominated the EV market over the years, building a brand that’s synonymous with speed, style, and state-of-the-art technology. As the most recent offering in the automaker’s lineup, the Model Y represents over a decade’s worth of innovation. Pairing the practicality of its bigger Model X sibling with the punchy drive of the platform-sharing Model 3, it’s a car that caters to all kinds of drivers whilst undercutting more expensive alternatives.
Max Range: 303 miles
Max Power: 456hp & 497lb-ft of torque
Porsche’s first foray into electric cars demonstrates just how performance-focused battery power can be, rocketing to 60mph in a mere 2.4s and completing the quarter-mile in a blistering 10.5. It won’t wow you with its driving range (a scant 278 miles), but there are few better options when it comes to overall driver engagement. With its responsive steering and its low-slung driving position, the Taycan manages to provide that classic Porsche feel whilst still bringing something unto its own.
Max Range: 278 miles
Max Power: 750hp & 774lb-ft of torque
The 8 Best Affordable Used Electric Cars
As EVs become increasingly prevalent, so too will their secondhand sales. If you’re looking to buy into battery power without breaking the bank, be sure to check out our guide to the best affordable used electric cars.