Afraid of high fuel costs? What you need to know about owning an electric vehicle

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With the national average for a gallon of gasoline being over $4, some Americans might be willing to go electric.

Searches for “green vehicles” on Edmunds.com are up 39% over the past month as fuel prices have soared. Battery electric vehicles accounted for 2.6% of new vehicle purchases overall in 2021, according to Edmunds, and that number could rise to 4% this year.

“People are very frustrated with gas prices right now and are looking for alternatives,” Edmunds executive director of insights Jessica Caldwell told ABC News. “In 2008 — the last time we saw significant consumer reaction to gasoline prices — people switched to smaller vehicles. The dialogue is now about electric vehicles, not about downsizing.”

However, electric vehicles come at a high price. According to Edmunds, the median transaction price for a new electric vehicle in February was $60,054 versus $45,596 for the industry average.

“It’s a big commitment to get into an electric vehicle. These are luxury-priced products,” Cox Automotive senior economist Charlie Chesbrough told ABC News.

Still, “many vehicle buyers will consider electric vehicles and see if they can meet their family’s needs. Nothing makes Americans more unhappy than seeing high gas prices,” he said.

So if you’re new to electric vehicle ownership and intrigued by these quiet, battery-powered machines, here’s what you should know before you unplug internal combustion engines.

maintenance

Mark Wakefield, chief executive at AlixPartners, said owning an electric vehicle is a “bigger change” for a consumer than downsizing an engine or vehicle. But ICE vehicles have more parts and require more assembly, resulting in higher maintenance costs.

Chad Kirchner, editor-in-chief of website EV Pulse, noted that EV drivers proficient at single-pedal driving (releasing and releasing the accelerator) rarely use the brake pedal.

Replacing the brakes “is a maintenance expense you don’t have to worry about as an electric vehicle owner,” Kirchner told ABC News. Also, “If you let off the gas pedal and let the car coast, you charge the battery,” he said.

And EV batteries can last at least a decade, pointed out John Voelcker, editor at Car and Driver.

“Batteries are designed to last the life of a car — with some loss of range,” he told ABC News. “Leaving the car plugged in for a week will not affect the battery. Don’t expect to replace the battery in the first 10 years.”

Voelcker said that a vehicle’s range — the number of miles an electric vehicle can travel on a full charge — decreases as the battery ages. But automakers are getting better at reducing range loss.

“In the worst case, maybe 30% of a vehicle’s range will take a hit over a 10-15 year period,” he said.

EV motorists living in colder climates can also expect reduced range as mercury levels drop.

“Heat in cold weather is a range killer. You can lose up to a third of your rated range if you have the heat rays,” Voelcker said. “Heat, and to a lesser extent air conditioning, affects your range more than a gas-powered vehicle.”

According to a 2020 AAA study, repairs for an electric vehicle (no more oil changes and air filter changes!) can cost $330 less than a gas-powered car, a savings of $949 per year.

tax credit

Tesla and General Motors have sold more than 200,000 electric vehicles in the U.S. since 2010, meaning new buyers of Tesla or GM’s Bolt or Hummer electric vehicles will no longer be eligible for tax credit savings, which expire after an automaker lifted the 200,000 state sales cap has reached.

Consumers still have a range of electric vehicles (including plug-in hybrids) to choose from to earn a tax credit of up to $7,500. Almost every car manufacturer now produces a qualified electric vehicle. However, it is important to note that a tax credit only applies to new electric vehicle purchases; Leases are not eligible.

EV owners claiming the $7,500 rebate may not receive full credit; The owner’s tax liability must be at least $7,500 for the year the vehicle was purchased.

The driving experience

Do you love hearing the crackle, pop and growl of a powerful engine? Then an EV might not be the right choice. EVs are completely silent unless traveling below 18.6mph to warn pedestrians and cyclists. Automakers have also largely refused to pump “artificial” ICE sounds into the cabin.

But not hearing the constant engine noise allows for a smoother, more peaceful ride, Voelcker said.

Another benefit of electric vehicles is instant acceleration. “There’s no gear shifting, just a single, smooth burst of power. You get the maximum torque from 0 rpm,” he said.

However, riding a pedal may require a little practice and patience. Some EVs are equipped with a vehicle crawl feature that allows the vehicle to automatically move from a standstill when the brake pedal is released, emulating the feel of an internal combustion engine.

“It’s okay to get in the car and not like pedaling…it can be weird to get used to,” Kirchner said.

Voelcker adds: “You learn to modulate the gas pedal and literally drive with one foot. Electric cars can drive just like normal cars with automatic transmissions.”

Matt Stover, Ford’s director of charging, energy services and business development, agreed that single-pedal propulsion can be daunting at first. Now, when he drives the Mustang Mach-E SUV, Ford’s first electric car, he only uses the brake pedal in an emergency. He also noted that 70% of Mustang Mach-E customers are new to Ford, with the majority being new to EVs overall. Ford sold 63,683 Mach-E worldwide in 2021.

“The SUV brings new customers to the brand,” he told ABC News.

load

According to government data, more than 80% of electric vehicle battery charging takes place at home. Owners can plug in their vehicles at night and expect a full charge in the morning. Apartment dwellers have to look for public charging stations scattered along highways and malls. Rural communities are also disadvantaged; Automakers and EV network operators are actively building stations to meet demand in these areas.

Owners can opt for a 110-volt cord or have an electrician install a hard-wired 240-volt outlet in a garage for even faster charging (up to 20 minutes, depending on model and battery type).

“People have misconceptions about charging. Since we don’t have gas pumps at home, we don’t think about refueling a car overnight at home,” Voelcker said. “Installing a charging station is the same cycle as a clothes dryer, but a little more powerful. You’re not installing a nuclear reactor.”

For customers who buy or lease a 2022 Bolt EUV or Bolt EV, Chevrolet will handle the standard home installation of a powerful Stage 2 charging socket.

According to Ford’s Stover, EV owners first need to consider the size of the vehicle’s battery — a larger battery offers longer range but takes longer to charge — and what type of experience they want. Each Mach-E comes with a portable charging cable capable of delivering 120 volt power.

“It’s not a great everyday experience,” Stover admitted. However, many Mach-E owners take this phone cable with them when they travel, he said, and find EV charging stations through the Ford Pass app.

Ford is also offering all Mach-E customers free public fast charging worth 250kW through Electrify America (approximately five full charges), and customers also have access to the company’s BlueOval Charge Network – a public charging network with more than 70,000 chargers.

According to Kirchner, the FordPass app, along with the My Porsche app and the Volvo On Call app, are incredibly helpful for EV owners who need to charge on the go and keep track of a vehicle’s charge status. But it’s Tesla that has the best in-trip planning functionality, he argued.

“You put in a destination and the car tells you where to stop to charge and how long it will take,” he said. “It’s really powerful at reducing range anxiety.”

bottom line

For those seriously considering buying an EV, “the silver lining is that vehicle prices have risen so much that the cost of EVs appears relatively lower,” Chesbrough said.

Continued chip shortages and supply shortages have disrupted production of all vehicles, so finding an electric vehicle for sale can be difficult. New models are coming, with at least 20 new vehicles expected to arrive at dealerships this year, Chesbrough noted.

And for consumers still ambivalent about range, Kirchner said a vehicle with at least 250 miles of range is enough to run errands or commute to the office.

“The reality is most people charge at home and you don’t need 300-400 mile range,” he said. “It’s a good time to get excited about electric vehicles.”

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