What to know before you buy an electric car or hybrid vehicle

An electric car recharges at a public charging station.

There was a time where electric and hybrid cars that are plugged in like a household appliance — albeit a very large one — seemed like something that might occur in the distant future. And when they did hit the market, certainly these types of vehicles wouldn’t be mainstream, right?

Well, a recent study by the American Automobile Association (AAA) shows that approximately 20 percent of Americans say they’re likely to buy an electric car in the future, which is more than in any previous survey and up from 15 percent in 2017.

hybrid photo
Getty Images | Kevork Djansezian

Greg Brannon, director of automotive engineering and industry relations at AAA, told Consumer Reports that some of that increase is the result of the number of electric vehicles (EVs) that are now available on the market.

“I think we’re seeing more and more options available to consumers by virtually every automaker at this point,” he said.

electric car photo
Getty Images | Miles Willis

And it’s true: Makers of EVs include Nissan, Tesla, Chevy “and a host of new plug-in hybrids,” according to Consumer Reports (CR). But CR also noted that, while the interest for EVs is there, the sales are not. Sure, sales increased by almost 25 percent between 2016 and 2017. But those sales still account for less than 1 percent of new car sales overall, according to manufacturer data collected by CR.

So, the question remains: How do you fill the gap between your interest in an EV and actually purchasing the car?

electric car photo
Getty Images | Bryan Mitchell

Electric Vehicles 101

A good jumping-off point for educating yourself about EVs includes learning about the models and types of vehicles that are available to you. According to the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy (EERE), there are two basic types of EVs: all-electric vehicles (AEVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs).

There are two types of AEVs, which run only on electricity: Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) and Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEVs). Most AEVs have all-electric ranges of 80 to 100 miles, “while a few luxury models have ranges up to 250 miles,” EERE noted. A maxed-out battery can take anywhere from 30 minutes to nearly a full day to recharge, depending on the type of charger and battery.

battery electric vehicle photo
Getty Images | Justin Sullivan

If you don’t like that option (or the wide range in charge times), then you may want to consider a PHEV which runs on electricity for shorter ranges (6 to 40 miles), then switches over to an internal combustion engine running on gasoline when the battery is shot. Flexibility is definitely a key feature of PHEVs.

Who Makes Electric Vehicles?

By now, most car manufacturers have caught on the to the electric vehicle trend and have produced a vehicle to represent their brands. But there are a few automakers that are considered to be the best when it comes to electric vehicles, including Tesla, BMW, Nissan, Chevrolet, Ford, Volkswagen and Kia.

Popular vehicles from these manufacturers include:

  • Tesla Model S and Tesla Model X
  • BMW i3
  • Nissan Leaf
  • Chevrolet Bolt
  • Ford Focus Electric
  • Volkswagen e-Golf
  • Kia Soul EV

kia soul photo
Getty Images | Scott Olson

If you want a full list of electric vehicle models available to you, then you might want to check out this searchable database created by the EERE.

Why Buy An Electric Vehicle?

According to CR, of the people who said they planned to purchase an EV, 80 percent said environmental benefits was their reason for wanting to buy the car.

“Two-thirds of would-be EV buyers said that long-term cost savings would influence their purchasing decision, and they cited savings on fuel and the high predicted reliability of electric cars as major selling points,” noted the publication.

Volkswagen e-Golf photo
Getty Images | Jens Schlueter

Should You Buy An Electric Vehicle?

But is an EV for you? The main reason for purchasing an electric vehicle is that it it can significantly contribute to reducing carbon dioxide emissions. EV maintenance is also minimal and the increased number of options have resulted in reduced battery costs, meaning less money spent on your end, too.

A major downside to an EV, however, is the range that the car can (or can’t) travel (i.e., if you clock a lot of miles, then it might not be the vehicle for you). The cost might also keep some interested buyers from being able to make a purchase.

You can typically expect electric vehicles to cost a few thousand dollars more than a comparable conventional car. For example, the base price of a Nissan Leaf electric vehicle is about $4,000 more than a Honda Civic, even after the electric car tax credit.

However, more charging stations throughout the nation, increased range and dropping vehicle prices can only mean one thing — the future for EVs is bright (and rather nice to the planet).

, ,

Related posts

cute small children in car seats in the car
Why you should never leave your child's coat on in a car seat
Snow covers car in winter weather
Why you shouldn't heat up your car for long in cold winter weather
Woman in blanket (left), snow brush (center), air compressor (right)
11 items you should have in your car during the winter
windshield wipers pointed up in snow
Why you shouldn't put your windshield wipers up when it snows

About the Author
Caroline Shannon-Karasik

From our partners