With more and more electric vehicles – or EVs – hitting the showroom floor, many Americans are wondering if an EV might be right for them. While the idea of plugging into a power outlet instead of pulling up to a pump sounds appealing, there are still some important factors to look at before making the leap from gas to electric.
“There’s a lot to consider,” says Lauren Fix, The Car Coach and author of three automotive books. “You really need to think about the reasons you’re buying it. There are certain limitations, so it’s not for everyone.”
Access to electric car charging stations
For starters, she points out, a car charging station is a must to keep your EV moving. That means apartment dwellers aren’t good candidates for ownership unless they happen to have a charging station in their parking garage.
“You have to have a garage because you have to be able to charge your car,” she says. “And you need to factor in the cost of having a charging station installed in your house because that’s something you have to have done by a professional electrician.”
Access to a charging station is important beyond the house, too, so Fix advises taking note of where you might be able to charge your car when you’re away from home.
“People who buy electric cars often develop what we call ‘range anxiety,’ because they’re constantly thinking about how far they can go on the charge they have left,” she says.
Although the range of electric cars is improving, currently the range varies from around 50 miles on a single charge to more than 200 miles for a Tesla S.
“One thing you need to ask is how many actual miles are you driving every day? Also, are you ever in a situation where you might have to drive past your car’s range and, if that happens, what are you going to do about it?”
Unlike gas stations, which are easy to find and never seem to be far away, charging stations are virtually non-existent in certain areas. That’s an important issue to address before making a purchase.
Questions to ask yourself before buying
Of course, there are many other factors that go into buying any new car, and the EV is no exception. It does, however, come with its own unique set of questions, including:
What’s your motivation for buying an EV?
If it’s purely for “green” reasons, Fix says that a fuel-efficient gas-powered model might actually be a better choice. “At some point, the battery will be completely depleted, and as of now, there’s no end solution for disposing of those batteries in an environmentally friendly way.” And, she points out, when electricity is made from power plants that run on fossil fuel, it isn’t as green as we’d like to believe.
What will it be used for?
If it’s for quick trips around town and a commute to and from work, no worries. But for the time being, long road trips are best left to gas-powered models.
Do you need towing capacity?
While the day will likely come when EVs are equipped for heavy-duty work, that day is not yet here.
Where do you live?
Remember that extreme heat or extreme cold will affect the life of the car’s battery and can reduce performance by as much as 50 percent, according to Fix. Anyone living in places with extreme weather conditions needs to take that into consideration.
Make and model considerations
If, after careful evaluation, you decide that an EV fits your lifestyle, Fix advises putting extra thought into the make and model. While Tesla might be leading the way in sales and innovation, she points out that automakers like Ford, Chevy, Volkswagen, Mercedes, BMW and others are also entering the market – and that represents a certain advantage to consumers.
“You need to think about what you’re going to do if your car needs repairs,” Fix says, noting that if you purchase a car from a specialty automaker, you’ll have access to fewer repair centers. “But if you buy from an automaker like Nissan or Audi, they’re all over the place.” That means when your car needs to be repaired, it should be easier to get it serviced and to get a loaner car from the dealer.
If you’re still torn between an EV and a gas-powered model, Fix has a sure-fire way to get your final answer: Call your insurance agent.
“Find out the cost to insure it. Even if the cost of the cars is the same, the cost to insure them may not be. That should make the decision for you.”
Learn about the auto insurance options and discounts Nationwide has to offer to keep you and your EV protected.