Electric vehicles (EVs) only currently make up about 7% of cars owned in the US. However, this shows signs of growing exponentially in the near future. A recent survey by Pew Research Center showed that 39% of American adults are considering buying an electric vehicle for their next car.
Many US consumers have concerns about whether an electric car is right for them. Let’s take a look at exactly what’s involved in owning an electric or hybrid car.
Read on for our ultimate electric car guide.
Table of Contents
What is an Electric Car?
An electric car runs on electric only. It has no gas engine; it relies entirely on an electric motor to get you where you need to be.
Owners have to charge their electric cars at home or public charging stations. There are currently around 41,000 EV charging stations in the US, and this number is rising. However, only around 5,000 of these are fast chargers.
Popular models of electric cars include Tesla Model Y and Model 3, Chevrolet Bolt, and Ford Mustang Mach-E.
What is a Hybrid Car?
Hybrid cars run on both electric power and a gas engine. There are two forms of hybrid cars – hybrid electric vehicles (HEV) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV).
An HEV does not need to be recharged using mains electricity. It generates electricity under braking. This is then stored in the car’s batteries and is used for driving at low speed.
HEVs are great for city driving – this is where you’ll see substantially better fuel economy. Take them on a long drive, and you’re unlikely to see much improvement over a regular gasoline engine.
A PHEV needs to be plugged in to recharge the batteries. The trade-off is that you can run it much longer, almost purely on electricity. This can have a huge impact on your fuel costs.
Short trips around town can be run mainly on electricity. But if you go into pure electric mode, you might find AC and other functions quickly run the battery pack down.
Toyota Prius was one of the first hybrid cars on the market, and the 2021 Prius Prime is its current PHEV model.
The 2021 Toyota Rav4 Hybrid is Toyota’s current hybrid SUV offering. This is also available in the Prime derivative, which is their plug-in hybrid offering.
Pros and Cons of Electric Cars
Let’s start with the advantages of owning and running an electric car. Firstly, it has serious green credentials. You’ll lower your carbon footprint as there are no emissions from the vehicle.
Maintenance costs for electric cars are usually lower. They create less noise pollution, and federal tax credits are available for all models on the market.
The main con of owning an electric car can be summed up in one word: range.
This has created the new phenomenon of range anxiety. All-electric vehicles currently available have a shorter range than gas-powered vehicles. You need to carefully plan your trips so you can access power sources such as charging stations as needed.
With an electric-only vehicle, you also have to factor in the downtime – the time you have to wait for it to recharge. Also, there is currently a much smaller range of electric vehicles (EVs) on the market, meaning more limited choices for buyers.
Pros and Cons of Hybrid Car
A hybrid could be a good option if you want the freedom to take longer trips but would still like to help the planet. If you do a lot of city driving, you will find that you need to fill up less often.
Many plug-in hybrids also qualify for tax credits. The gasoline engines in hybrid cars are also more fuel-efficient. Savings all around.
The disadvantages are that they are not usually as fun to drive as cars that run on an internal combustion engine. Their focus is economy, not performance. They can be expensive upfront and need specialist garages for maintenance.
Average Upfront Cost of Both Vehicles
Recent studies by Bloomberg suggest that by 2024, an EV and a gas-powered vehicle will cost the same upfront. After that, they anticipate that the cost of electric cars will begin to drop.
Currently, the average upfront cost of a hybrid or electric vehicle is higher than gas-powered vehicles. However, this may be slightly skewed as many manufacturers focus on making luxury electric cars.
The current average cost of an electric car is $55,600. A huge range of popular models come in a standard or plug-in hybrid option—these range from an affordable $20,000 to over $100,000.
The upfront cost is not the only factor to consider when deciding if an EV or hybrid vehicle is right for you.
Incentives and Tax Credits
Currently, the federal government is offering tax credits on all PHEV and electric vehicles (EVs) on the market. This can be up to $7,500, depending on the vehicle.
Additionally, some states sweeten the deal. They provide additional tax credits, rebates, or incentives for owning or leasing hybrids and EVs.
For example, the Massachusetts MOR-EV program has been extended. It provides rebates of $2,500 on EV and PHEV vehicles up to a final purchase price of $50,000.
Other states offer reduced vehicle license tax, carpool lane access, and free parking. Research what your state currently offers and factor this into your affordability calculation.
Charging an Electric Car
To charge an electric car, you have two options. You can set up a home charging station, or you can use a commercial charging station.
Home Charging Station Costs
There are three options for electric vehicle chargers – levels 1, 2, and 3.
Level 1 uses a standard household wall outlet (120V) and can only provide around 5 miles of charge per hour. Level 2 needs a dedicated 240V outlet and specialist equipment. This can provide 60 miles per hour.
A 480-volt option is also available, but this is not suitable for all vehicles. This can be found at some commercial charging stations. This can provide 249 miles per charging hour.
The average cost of installing a Level 2 home charging station is between $1,700-$2,700. A Level 1 home charging station will cost slightly less but provides much less power.
At a minimum of $70,000 for parts and labor, most electric car owners will choose not to go for a Level 3 EV station any time soon.
Currently, there are two incentives available from the federal government. These are 30% off the cost of purchasing a home charger and a maximum of $1000 towards installation costs. Some states also have rebates and incentives available.
If your electricity costs 10 cents per kWh, to charge your vehicle at home to run 1,000 miles per month would cost around $30 per month.
Commercial Charging Station Costs
Charging stations most commonly offer Level 2 charging. Some public charging stations may be free. Others are usually charged on a pay-as-you-go basis.
Laws vary from state to state on how charging stations can charge for electricity. Some charge by the minute, while others charge per kWh.
If an hour of Level 2 charging gives you a range of 25 miles, this would cost between $2.40 and $3.60.
Tesla superchargers are charged at an average of $0.28 per kWh. For example, fully charging a Tesla Model 3 (around 250 miles of range) would cost around $22.
Average Range of Electric Vehicles
The median driving range for all-electric vehicles continues to rise year on year. The latest data available (2020) shows a median driving range of 250 miles for all 2020 models tested. The maximum range was 400 miles.
The 2021 Tesla Model 3 Long Range and 20201 Ford Mustang Mach-E CA Route 1 lead the way of the most popular cars currently on the road. They have an average range of 345 and 344, respectively.
Cost to Maintain an Electric Car
Unfamiliarity with the systems in an electric car can lead us to worry that they’ll be expensive to maintain. But the data shows that they are, on average cheaper to maintain than cars with internal combustion engines.
That’s because they have fewer moving parts. Fewer parts to go wrong or wear out. That means fewer parts to replace.
They still have all the usual consumables such as tires, brake pads, and shock absorbers. Some systems, such as regenerative braking systems, are actually kinder to brake pads.
Maintained correctly, they can cost around $330 less per year to maintain than a traditional car.
Average Battery Life an Electric Car
Electric car owners can do much to keep their batteries in good condition. This includes not overcharging them and not allowing them to run completely empty. Batteries work best when charged between 50-80%.
Electric cars sold in the US come with a minimum warranty of 8 years or 100,000 miles. In reality, they should last much longer. Take into account the climate where you live – hotter temperatures can cause them to degrade more quickly.
Leasing vs Purchasing – Advantages and Disadvantages
Purchasing a vehicle has an obvious advantage. Either upfront or at the end of your payment term, you own the vehicle outright. However, with EVs, leasing can be an attractive proposition.
The advantages of leasing include access to technical upgrades and tax incentives more often. You will also avoid the steep depreciation that aging EVs will inevitably attract.
The manufacturer’s warranty will always cover you. The disadvantage is that in the end, you will not own anything. If you really like a car, that might be frustrating.
On the other hand, you might be jumping for joy at the prospect of a sweet new ride.
Top 7 FAQs on Hybrid and Electric Cars
Buying a new car can be stressful. Few topics get car owners’ brains whirring more than hybrid and electric vehicles. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions and their answers.
1. Are electric cars worth it?
In terms of gas savings, yes, they are. Conditions vary, but an average car owner can save over $1,000 in gas costs alone. Add in federal and state tax incentives, and they can make a lot of sense.
2. Are electric cars practical for long trips?
They can be. Battery ranges are constantly improving, and charging stations are becoming more common. If your vehicle is equipped for Level 3 charging, a long trip should be possible.
Some manufacturers insist you could easily drive from coast to coast this way.
3. Can you overcharge an electric vehicle?
It’s better for electric vehicles not to be fully charged. Some models have an automatic cut-off before they reach full capacity. Constantly topping it up to full is not a good idea.
4. Is it worth buying an electric car in 2021?
Depending on your circumstances, they could be a great choice. There are lots of incentives and tax breaks available. If you do a lot of short journeys, they could be worth it.
5. How often do you have to charge a PHEV?
Many PHEVs can run for around 40 miles on electricity. Depending on the length of your daily commute, it’s likely to need charging every evening.
6. Can you drive a PHEV without charging the battery?
Yes, you can. They will continue to run on the internal combustion engine. Even if you forget to charge it, you will still be able to use the vehicle.
7. Is a PHEV better than a standard hybrid?
PHEVs have a larger battery and can store more energy than a regular hybrid. That makes them much more economical for short journeys. If you do a lot of short journeys in city traffic, they could be a more economical option.
Is It the Right Time to Go Electric?
This is a million-dollar question, and it depends on your personal circumstances.
Do you mainly make short trips around town or short commutes? Do you have access to a local charging point, or can you easily install a home charging station? If so, an electric vehicle might be a great option for you.
On the other hand, if you regularly take longer journeys, especially to more remote destinations, a PHEV may be more suitable. You get the advantage of the economy of electricity for short journeys. But it also reduces range anxiety by having the gasoline engine to take you further.
The Future is Electric
Whether you choose to buy an electric car now or not, one thing is for sure. The age of the internal combustion engine is almost over. Electric car technology will continue to develop, and there are many benefits to be had even now.
Whatever vehicle you choose, you need to get the right insurance. LoPriore Insurance Agency is here to help you get the right auto insurance based on your unique situation.
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