How to Choose an Electric Vehicle
Electric vehicles (EVs) are becoming more popular and affordable as technology advances and environmental awareness grows. EVs offer many benefits, such as lower fuel and maintenance costs, reduced emissions and a smoother driving experience. But how do you choose the right EV for your needs, budget and lifestyle? Here are some factors to consider before you buy or lease an electric car.
Types of EVs
There are three main types of EVs: battery electric vehicles (BEVs), plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) and hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs).
- BEVs are pure electric cars that run only on electricity stored in a large battery pack. They have no gasoline engine or tailpipe emissions. They need to be plugged in to recharge, either at home or at a public charging station. BEVs typically have longer electric range than PHEVs, but they may also take longer to recharge and have fewer charging options.
- PHEVs are a combination of electric and gasoline cars. They have both a battery pack and a gasoline engine. They can run on electricity for a limited range, usually between 10 and 50 miles, and then switch to gasoline when the battery is depleted. They can be plugged in to recharge the battery, or they can use the gasoline engine to generate electricity while driving. PHEVs offer more flexibility than BEVs, but they also have higher fuel and maintenance costs and produce some emissions.
- HEVs are similar to PHEVs, but they cannot be plugged in. They use a small battery pack and an electric motor to assist the gasoline engine, improving fuel efficiency and reducing emissions. The battery is recharged by regenerative braking or by the gasoline engine. HEVs are the most common type of electrified vehicles on the road today, but they also have the lowest electric range and the highest dependence on gasoline.
One of the most important factors to consider when choosing an EV is how far it can go on a single charge or a tank of gas. This is known as the range, and it varies depending on the type of EV, the size of the battery pack, the driving conditions and the driver’s behavior.
The range of BEVs can range from less than 100 miles to more than 300 miles, depending on the model. For example, the 2023 Tesla Model 3 has an estimated range of 263 miles1, while the 2023 Chevrolet Bolt has an estimated range of 259 miles1. The range of PHEVs can vary from less than 20 miles to more than 80 miles on electricity alone, plus hundreds of miles on gasoline. For example, the 2023 Toyota Prius Prime has an estimated electric range of 25 miles1, while the 2023 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid has an estimated electric range of 48 miles1. The range of HEVs is usually similar to that of conventional gasoline cars, since they rely mostly on the gasoline engine.
The range you need depends on your driving habits and preferences. If you mainly drive short distances within your city or town, a BEV or a PHEV with a small battery pack may suffice. If you frequently travel long distances or in areas with few charging stations, a PHEV with a large battery pack or an HEV may be more suitable.
Another factor to consider when choosing an EV is how and where you will charge it. Charging an EV is different from refueling a gasoline car, and it requires some planning and adaptation.
There are three main ways to charge an EV: at home, at work or at a public charging station.
- Home charging is the most convenient and cost-effective way to charge an EV, especially if you have a dedicated parking space where you can install a Level 2 charger. A Level 2 charger uses a 240-volt outlet and can add about 25 miles of range per hour of charging2. You can also use a standard 120-volt outlet with a Level 1 charger, but this will only add about 5 miles of range per hour of charging2. Home charging allows you to take advantage of off-peak electricity rates and have your EV ready to go every morning.
Workplace charging is another option if your employer provides charging stations for employees. This can help you extend your electric range and reduce your fuel costs. However, not all employers offer this perk, and you may have to compete with other EV drivers for a limited number of charging spots.
- Public charging is the option you can use when you are away from home or work and need to recharge your EV. There are different types of public charging stations, ranging from Level 2 chargers that can add about 25 miles of range per hour of charging1 to DC fast chargers that can add up to 200 miles of range in 30 minutes or less1. However, public charging stations are not always available, reliable or compatible with your EV. They may also charge higher fees than home or workplace charging.
To find and access public charging stations, you may need to use apps, websites or membership cards from different charging networks, such as ChargePoint, Electrify America or Tesla Supercharger. Some EVs also have built-in navigation systems that can locate and direct you to nearby charging stations.
Price and Incentives
Another factor to consider when choosing an EV is how much it will cost you upfront and over time. EVs tend to have higher sticker prices than comparable gasoline cars, mainly because of the expensive battery packs they use. However, EVs also have lower operating and maintenance costs, since electricity is cheaper than gasoline and EVs have fewer moving parts that need servicing.
To make EVs more affordable and attractive to consumers, the federal government and some states offer incentives in the form of tax credits, rebates or exemptions. The most common incentive is the federal EV tax credit, which offers up to $7,500 depending on the vehicle’s battery size and other eligibility requirements1. The Inflation Reduction Act extends this incentive for new 2022 and 2023 vehicles and allows buyers to get the credit at the time of purchase2. The act also caps the price of qualifying vehicles at $80,000 for trucks, SUVs and vans and $55,000 for cars2.
Some states also offer their own incentives in the form of rebates or tax incentives. For example, California offers a rebate of up to $4,500 for low- and moderate-income buyers of new or used EVs3. Colorado offers a tax credit of up to $5,000 for new EVs3. New York offers a rebate of up to $2,000 for new EVs3. These incentives vary by state and may have different eligibility criteria and expiration dates. You can check the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE) website for more information on state incentives.In addition to tax credits and rebates, some utilities, employers and local governments may offer other incentives for EV drivers, such as electricity discounts, bill credits, free parking or access to HOV lanes. These incentives can help you save money and time while driving an EV.
The last factor to consider when choosing an EV is how it performs on the road. EVs are known for their smooth acceleration, instant torque and quiet operation. They also have lower center of gravity and better weight distribution than gasoline cars, which improves their handling and stability.
However, not all EVs are created equal when it comes to performance. Some EVs are designed for efficiency and practicality, while others are designed for speed and luxury. The performance of an EV depends on several factors, such as its battery size, motor power, drivetrain configuration and aerodynamics.
Some of the most popular performance metrics for EVs are horsepower (hp), torque (lb-ft), 0-60 mph time (seconds) and top speed (mph). For example, the 2023 Tesla Model S Plaid has 1,020 hp