What to Look for When Comparing EVs

Electric vehicles are attractive for many reasons. For starters, the absence of a petrol-fired engine means there will be no tailpipe emissions. Which is obviously good for the environment. But you should consider the source of the electricity being used to charge that EV.

In many parts of the country, coal-fired power plants are still in use. So technically, your green-machine is partly responsible for the coal-burning emissions being produced by that plant. Granted, not all power grids draw from a coal plant. So you might want to check with your local power company, if such a thing would bother your earth-consciousness.

There is a purely green, self-sustaining charging option that many EV owners are starting to adopt; Solar charging systems. These use a roof-mounted solar panel to capture the electricity needed to charge an electric car. When not in use, the solar electric vehicle charging system will actually put power back into the grid, garnering you credit toward your next power bill.

Regardless of the power source, a home EV charging station will cost you several thousand dollars, in addition to the price of the EV. There are however, numerous State and Federal tax incentives that will help reduce the cost of installing a 240v home charging dock. And that brings up the next thing that you need to consider when buying an Electric Vehicle; Does it make financial sense?

Dollars & Sense

Nissan LEAFAn EV costs considerably more than an equivalent gas-fired car. For example, a 2013 Nissan Leaf starts at $35,200. The closest gas powered hatchback would be the 2012 Nissan Versa Hatchback, and it starts at just $14,153. So you’re looking at a difference of $21,047.

Now, let’s look at the cost per mile; Figure out how many miles you drive per year, divided by your current average fuel economy. That’ll give you the number of gasoline gallons that you consume in a year. Simply multiply that number by the current price of fuel, divided by the mileage, and you’ll arrive at your current cost per mile.

Next, determine the realistic range of the EV that you want (remember, cold weather can reduce your range by as much as 50%), and divide your mileage by the EV range. The answer will be the number of times that you have to fully recharge your EV. Now multiply that number by the number of kilowatt hours that it takes to fully charge the batteries. Finally, determine what your local utility company charges per kWh (remember, the rates drop at night), and multiply the number of kilowatt hours by the price, to arrive at your current yearly electricity cost. Then divide the yearly cost by your yearly mileage, to arrive at your EV’s cost per mile.

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Clearly, driving an electric vehicle will save you a ton of gas money. But it’s going to take a very long time to recover that $21k EV premium. To see just how long it’ll take, subtract the two yearly fuel costs to figure out how much gas money that you’ll save each year. Then, divide the EV premium by your yearly savings to determine how many years it’ll take to ‘save back’ all that extra money (remember, EV batteries are only warrantied for 8-10 years).

Now if you look solely at the numbers, a pricey electric car might not seem worth it. But here’s the catch; Most urbanites only drive 30-40 miles per day. So the average EV, like the 2013 2012 Ford Focus ElectricFord Focus Electric, or the 2013 Toyota Rav4 EV, would make a perfect commuter car. They’re large enough to handle all of your chores, they drive like a normal car, and they only cost pennies per mile to run.

Granted, you’ll need a gas-powered, or range-extended EV (like the 2013 Chevy Volt) to venture outside of the city (remember, the average EV is only good for 50-100 miles). But EV ownership can still be very rewarding…especially if you’re the OCD Hypermiling type.