Plugging in to the Idea of an Electric Car

Step aside, hybrids, and make room for the eco-friendliest rides on the road. Electric vehicles, or EVs, are powered by an electric motor and a big ol’ battery. But is a clean-burning EV right for you? Here are the pros and cons of being the proud owner of a shiny new electric car:

First, the good news. With no tailpipe emissions at all, electric cars are super green – no matter what color they are. While they aren’t technically pollution free, because the power needed to charge them will produce some amount of pollution itself, EVs are a far cry from fuel-powered vehicles. And more and more manufacturers are churning them out too. From the BMW i3 to the Fiat 500e, the Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric to the Tesla Model S, there are lots of options out there.

Electric motors are synonymous with smooth, steady and silent power. Plus, folks are always surprised to hear that electric cars can accelerate with surprising speed, and they’re pretty much maintenance free – no more oil changes, adjusting fuel systems or changing spark plugs, and no appointments to have the radiator flushed or the transmission serviced, either. Oh, and that no exhaust thing? It means your electric car is exempt from emissions tests.

So what’s the downside of an electric car? Well, if a battery is what makes your electric car go, then that battery needs to be charged. In most parts of the country, electricity costs what you would spend on gas if it cost $1 per gallon – and you can save even more if you charge during off-peak rate times. Some utilities will even offer free electricity at night. Most people assume that an electric car’s range isn’t that impressive, but the typical electric car today can go between 60 and 100 miles before needing to charge. With the average American driving some 33 miles every day, and the fact that electric cars can be charged at home, range really isn’t that big of an issue.

Public charging infrastructures vary from community to community, though, and that can be a problem. And for condo-dwellers, accommodating EVs can take a bit of planning. As it is, most condominium communities aren’t equipped to charge electric cars near parking spaces. But with the proposal of bills like California’s Senate Bill 880, which, if passed, would make it illegal to pose any condition that effectively prohibits or unreasonably restricts installation of charging in an owner’s designated parking space, it’s becoming clear that communities must be ready to work with their residents to accommodate electric cars.

Price and availability of electric cars can be a deterrent to would-be early adopters too. With relatively low production numbers and a lack of electric cars in some cities and states, electric cars can be pricey. They’ll definitely cost more than fuel-powered cars, but tax credits on both state and federal levels may be available to bridge the gap. Battery lives are also limited and replacing the battery on your electric car is expensive.

So, let’s recap:

Why should you buy an electric car? They’re super eco-friendly, inexpensive to maintain, and they drive nicely.

Why shouldn’t you buy an electric car? They cost more to purchase than fuel-powered cars, the public charging infrastructure may not yet be developed in your area, and driving range is somewhat limited compared to fuel-powered cars.

Tough choice, right? Ask yourself these questions, and see if your decision becomes any easier.

  • How many miles do I drive in the average day?
  • Would I be able to charge my electric car at home or at work?
  • How would this effect my power bill?

Making the switch to an electric car may seem like a novel idea, but with more manufacturers offering a greater variety of electric vehicles, their appeal and practicality are only going to grow. And as that happens, the necessary infrastructure is certain to follow.