For many people, when they think of an electric vehicle (EV), they think of something that is slow, plodding, and maybe a tier above a golf cart when it comes to design and functionality. The truth, however, is quite a bit more complex and deep. EVs have dramatically improved over the last 20 years, to the point they might be a viable used car for you. Here’s a look at why you should consider an EV for your next ride.
First, however, there’s a couple of obvious differences between an EV and what you are used to buying. Pop the hood, and there’s no engine block, cylinder heads, or intake manifold there. An electric car has no internal combustion engine, but relies on a powerful electric motor and large capacity battery for motivation. The upside as a commuter vehicle is reduced operating costs, zero engine noise, and zero at-vehicle emissions. The downsides have typically been limited range, less-than-impressive interiors, and all the speed of a kid’s Power Wheel. However, times have changed…
Leading the Charge
Tesla dominated automotive headlines with neck-snapping acceleration on every new model released. As of this writing, the current leader is the Model S P100D, with a super car crushing 2.3 seconds in 0-to-60 testing, according to a recent test in Motor Trend. Keep in mind, this is a 5-seat electric sedan, not a 2-seat high-end Ferrari.
“It is smooth, quiet, and very responsive,” said Doug George of his 2013 Tesla Model S. “And also stupid fast.”
The Nissan Leaf is seven seconds slower to 60 mph, but that’s on par with other cars in its class, such as the Toyota Corolla. The Chevy Bolt splits the difference between race car and slug, at a very acceptable 6.5 second run. That’s dead even with the much sportier Honda Civic Si.
Potential owners often cite range anxiety as a concern, as the Nissan Leaf can travel just over 100 miles per charge, while the new Chevy Bolt can travel 238 miles. This doesn’t stack up well compared to a similarly sized, gas-only car like the Honda Fit, which can hit 370 miles on one tank. EV owners say “range anxiety” is really a thing.
“The car gives you really good information on available range in the current driving conditions,” said George. “If you run out of charge, you probably weren’t paying attention. [With electric vehicles] these days, long distance travel is very easy.”
Range anxiety should disappear entirely as the number of public charging stations increases. According to the Department of Energy, there are currently over 15,000 electric charging stations in the U.S., and over 40,000 public outlets available at hotels, restaurants, and stores. Those numbers are increasing every year, but the main benefit of not hitting the gas station is being able to charge at home.
“It’s a mindset shift to think about filling up, or charging up, in a different way,” said Zachary Lefevre, President of Meo Electric, an EV infrastructure company. “We’re looking at a future where you never have to go to a dedicated fueling station. The whole equation of gas stations just disappeared because you’re going to have to eat at some point, and if you charge while you eat, you can continue on your road trip.”
Jigawatts of Savings
Great, so electric vehicles are now convenient enough for everyday use, but do they really save you money? Let’s do the math. The average cost of gas in the United States currently hovers at an unusually low $2.00 per gallon, and the average mpg vehicle on the road in the U.S. runs 23.6 mpg, according to the Washington Post. That means $2.00 will get you 23.6 miles on gas.
For an EV, fuel is a bit cheaper. The average cost of electricity in the U.S. is $0.12 per kWH. This doesn’t mean much until you figure that the Leaf has a 30 kWH battery, so “fill-up” costs just over three and a half bucks. Granted, you can’t drive as far compared to a gas car, but the cost savings are still there. Since that $3.60 buys you 107 miles of range, your $2 of “fuel” from the comparison above will buy you just over 58 miles of travel on electricity. Just in fuel costs alone, the EV is less than half the price per mile, and there’s no spark plugs, oil, filters, and associated maintenance costs. Factoring ongoing costs, you can’t afford not to buy an EV.