Why buy an electric vehicle? 10 things you must think about first

Why buy an electric vehicle?

Try as they might, car companies and supporters haven’t convinced many new-car buyers to purchase electric vehicles.

But that hasn’t stopped them from trying.

EV sales rose 81 percent last year compared to 2017, supporters point out, which sounds remarkable. And a recent survey found that 74 percent of American drivers think EVs are “the future of driving.”

The numbers seem to suggest it may be time for car shoppers to jump on the EV bandwagon.

Kia Soul
Photo: Kia via Newspress USA
Kia putting its heart and Soul into electric vehicles.

But EV sales from Honda to Tesla, Kia to Mercedes-Benz totaled only 361,307 (including plug-in hybrids) in 2018, accounting for just over 2 percent of more than 17 million new vehicles sold in the United States. However, more than half of the EVs sold were Tesla models.

Meanwhile, a report on the survey, conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of EV-maker Volvo, steered clear of stating how long Americans think it will be until that electric future arrives.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy an EV, just that you probably haven’t bought one yet.

“With several new models debuting for the 2019 model year offering extended operating ranges and affordable sticker prices, there has never been a better time to own an electric-powered vehicle,” wrote Jim Gorzelany in 10 reasons why you should buy an electric car at insideevs.com.

“While they still account for a razor-thin percentage of new-vehicle sales in the U.S., there’s still a compelling case to be made for consumers to consider a full-electric model.”

Here is the case Gorzelany makes and alternative views that survey respondents and others expressed:

10 reasons to buy an EV?

  1. The selection has never been greater.

This may be true, but car shoppers still say there’s not enough variety in appearances – although 23 EV models are listed at plugincars.com – and believe performance is suspect.

  1. The latest models virtually eliminate range anxiety.

The ranges of new EVs may be increasing, but that doesn’t mean drivers have stopped worrying about it. The survey indicates that 58 percent of respondents still worry about running out of power. Nine of the top 10 EVs are Teslas, reports wattEV2Buy, with the Model S 100D ranging up to 335 miles.

  1. This could be your last chance to grab a tax break for buying an EV.

It’s possible that this will be eliminated altogether by 2020 or 2021, according to the Trump administration, but, stay tuned, there also are efforts in Congress to expand availability of tax breaks.

  1. EV resale values are rising.

This depends on exactly what EV you’re talking about: Costlier EVs with longer ranges, say 200-plus miles, tend to hold their values better than electrics that have shorter ranges.

  1. Electricity is still cheaper than gasoline.

Average annual fuel costs are less than half as much for electrics ($485) compared to gasoline-powered vehicles ($1,117), based on a 2018 study by University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute.

  1. Public charging stations are becoming more common.

There are more than 21,000 charging stations across the country, says the U.S. Energy Department, but only about 2,800 fast-charging stations, which provide 60 to 80 miles of range per 20 minutes. The Volvo survey shows that nearly half of non-EV drivers still worry about availability of charging stations.

  1. Maintenance costs are lower than with a conventionally powered vehicle.

“The operating costs of EVs are substantially lower [than gasoline-powered vehicles],” according to the U.S. Energy Department, with other sources estimating almost 50 percent savings. But our research on Five Year Cost to Own at Kelley Blue Book (KBB.com) and BeFrugal.com suggests hybrids cost about a third less than the same as gasoline-powered vehicles to maintain.

  1. EVs create zero tailpipe emissions.

EVs don’t spew out pollutants like gasoline vehicles, although Gorzelany concedes that an EV’s overall environmental impact depends on whether the electricity source is renewable or fossil fuel. “Still, a recent study … concluded that EVs are generally responsible for less pollution,” he wrote.

  1. You can go solar and generate your own power.

Yes, this is true, but going solar means retrofitting your dwelling at an average cost of $23,052, with the range for a typical homeowner of $16,000 to $30,000, according to homeadvisor.com.

  1. Used EVs are cheap.

Like the EV-resale-values-are-rising argument, this depends on what EV you’re talking about: EVs with shorter ranges can be bargains compared to those with longer ranges.

While there may be good reasons to purchase an electric vehicle, the cost calculation appears to be a little more complicated than car companies and supporters make it out to be.

The second most important factor is not cost-related at all – and not exactly what you might think.

“For many EV drivers, the reduction in their carbon footprint achieved by driving an EV helps alleviate their green guilt,” said the Volvo survey. “73 percent of EV drivers say their vehicle makes them feel better about making less environmentally conscious decisions in other areas of life.”

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