Before you buy an electric car

On July 7, 2016 in Auto

Before you buy an electric car

So you’re thinking of taking advantage of low auto loan interest rates to purchase an electric car? Good choice. Numerous studies show that electric vehicles boast a lower total cost of ownership than gas-powered vehicles (driving an EV can save drivers over $10,000 in five years, according to NerdWallet).


Before you shop for your new, quiet and eco-friendly electric car, there are a few things you’ll need to know. Here’s a short guide to help with your purchase:

Know your battery

An electric car’s battery is one of its most important — and expensive — components. Most employ some variant of lithium battery (like that in a laptop or smartphone), which is where the price comes from. Most plug-in cars come with long warranties, usually around eight years and 100,000 miles.

Types of chargers

Electric car manufacturers provide two basic levels of charging support. Level 1 utilizes a standard three-prong household outlet. Every EV comes with a cable supporting this type of charging. While Level 1 charging is convenient, it’s also slow, only adding about five miles of driving range per hour of charging. Still, that’s enough for basic driving.

Level 2 charging uses a unique 240 V plug, usually in the form of wall- or pedestal-mounted equipment. It’s faster than Level 1, adding about 15-30 miles of range per hour of charging depending on your EV.

On the road, EV drivers find public charging stations using DC Fast Charging. These industrial pumps pour electrons into your car’s battery, adding up to 70 miles of range in around 20 minutes.

Cost of charging

When shopping for an electric car, you’ll hear a lot about kilowatt hours, or kWh per 100 miles. While many buyers may begin to tune out, it’s important to listen closely. A car’s kWh determines the costs of charging.

The U.S. Department of Energy uses the figure $0.11 per kWh. If your EV consumes 34 kWh to go 100 miles, the cost per mile is approximately $0.04.

For most people, charging their EVs simply isn’t an issue. Home chargers are great, as they typically cost less than $1,000 and allow drivers to just plug their cars in at night like an oversized smartphone. Most times, this is all the charging an EV requires.

Don’t worry too much about range

Anyone who’s never driven an electric car before may experience the creep of a certain feeling PluginCars called “range anxiety.” Though not diagnosable by any established psychiatric association, range anxiety is the fear that an EV will reach the limits of its driving range and leave the driver stranded, battery exhausted.

In reality, the typical EV range of 80-100 miles comfortably covers most everyday driving. If you’re going farther than that, you’ll need to do a little extra planning for when and where you’ll charge.