So You Want an Electric Car? Here’s What You Should Consider Before Making the Switch

For those who have only owned a gas car, making the switch to a Bolt, Tesla or any other electric vehicle (EV) has never looked better. No more gas station trips? A government rebate? Not too bad, right?

With a long list of perks, joining the sustainable transportation revolution is now much more accessible. If you’re thinking about buying one, there are a few things you’ll want to consider before you commit.

Where can you charge?

If you’ve got a garage or a driveway with an easily accessed outlet, you’re already ahead. However, if your home is an apartment, condo or other multi-unit living space without a guaranteed parking spot, charging at home may not be an option.

Some states are starting to make charging more accessible for those who don’t own their homes. In California, a bill passed in 2015 makes home charging easier in apartments, stating that tenants are entitled to the right to plug in to an electrical outlet or install a charger. However, you’ll have to buy the charger yourself, with most starting around $400.

Another option might be plugging in at work. Look around your office building and see if there are any outlets near the parking area. If there are, ask if you can plug in. If your workplace has a charger installed, that’s another huge plus.

Since electric will be the only way to power your vehicle, you’ll want to make sure you can have ample access to it. If that’s not something you can easily guarantee, you might want to explore other options.

What kind of driving will you be doing?

Highway driving for long distances isn’t always ideal with an EV. If you have a long commute and nowhere to charge, you could have a real problem on your hands.

When looking at EVs, it’s important to note that not all are created equal. For example, the 2018 Chevrolet Bolt has a range of 238 miles, a standard Tesla can go about 220 miles on a full charge, while a Kia Soul EV’s range is just 110 miles. This range isn’t exact, much like gas usage. Going up steep grades will take more power, as will driving 75 miles per hour on the highway with the AC or heater on.

If you’re an avid road tripper, you may find driving an EV challenging. The limited range means you’ll have to stop and power up when you hit your maximum range. Unlike the gas station, you should expect to stop for at least 30-minutes to an hour each time, unless you’re driving a Tesla on the Supercharger network. Also, it can take some planning to find a charger on your route.

The last thing you want is to be stranded in your new car. With a purely electric vehicle, you’ll have to plan around your car’s needs to avoid running out of power.

Free driving? Sign me up.

Not so fast. Driving an EV isn’t necessarily free. While you’ll definitely see fewer gas station trips on your credit card, you’ll still end up paying for it in other ways.

I’ve found in areas where EV charging is more available, it’s far less frequently free. I’ve seen level-two charging go for up to $8 per hour here in the Seattle area. Phone apps like PlugShare have a wealth of information on where to plug in and lists prices, so you can search for cheaper options.

Carry your own charger and you can most likely charge for free. Many parking garages have outlets where you can plug in a portable charger. If you’re charging guerrilla-style, as I call it, just know it won’t be as fast as a level-two charger. In other words, don’t count on this as your only source of electric.

You’ll also have to check with your state’s registration office as some states impose an EV fee meant to make up for lost gas taxes. If you live in a state that charges this fee, you’ll pay somewhere between $50 (Wyoming and Colorado) and $200 (Georgia) each year.

Of course, you’ll also have to pay for the energy it uses. Generally, having an EV charger in your home increases your energy usage, but the extra on your power bill will certainly be less than you’d spend on gas.

To make sure your decision to buy an EV is the right one, consider these things before you start shopping around. If you’re not sure you’re completely ready for the switch, maybe a Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) is the right option for you. With a PHEV, you’ll have the best of both worlds with battery-only range and a gas-powered backup generator. You can plug in when it’s convenient, but don’t have to depend on it. If you’re not sure you’ll always have access to a charger, this could be perfect for you.

If you have a place to charge, aren’t using the vehicle for frequent, long road trips, and are prepared for a possible extra fee, you’re all set to go. Driving an EV is more enjoyable if it’s not a source of stress, hence the term “Range Anxiety.” So if you’re ready to make the switch, try one out and see just how fun sustainable transportation can be.

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