Are you considering buying an electric car? You are not alone. Electric vehicle sales soared to 9 percent of global car sales last year, down from 2.5 percent in just 2019. Manufacturers will also add nearly 80 new passenger EV models to the U.S. market in the coming years, and the federal government is invest billions to help build a more robust network of charging stations. That’s great news, because the United States is the world’s second largest producer of greenhouse gases, and transportation is responsible for most of the carbon pollution of every sector of the US economy. By dumping gasoline, EV drivers reduce those emissions, improve local air quality and save themselves hundreds of dollars a year in fuel costs.
But the move can be intimidating. Let’s answer the biggest lingering questions you may have about pulling the trigger on your first electric car.
What should you consider in your EV budget?
- Sticker price: While the average cost of a new electric vehicle is around $56,000EVs still offer a lower total cost of ownership than their gas-powered counterparts. In addition, the initial costs decrease. There are already several EV models under $40,000, with the Nissan Leaf being the cheapest. And a few resources can help bring the sticker price down further. Start by checking your eligibility for the federal EV tax creditwhich is worth up to $7,500, and find out if your state offers additional incentives† (Don’t be afraid to lease or buy used, either.)
- Fuel: With EVs you can skip (more and more) expensive trips to the pump. In fact, charging an electric vehicle at home is about the equivalent of filling up with a dollar a gallon of gasoline. And one study suggests that the average EV driver saves between: $800 and $1,000 per year on fuel costs. But regional electricity costs, the efficiency of your EV model, and where you charge all affect this number. To get a rough estimate of your monthly charging costs, multiply the cost of your car kilowatt hour (kWh)/100 mile rate (the EV equivalent of miles per gallon) by your electricity rate, which you can find on your utility bill. This will give you the electricity cost per 100 miles driven. Please note that at public charging stationsyou tend to pay more — about $10 to $45 to fully charge your car — compared to plugging it in at home.
- Maintenance: These costs tend to walk around 31 percent less electric vehicles than their gas-powered counterparts, as you can bypass things like oil changes or spark plug replacements. So keep those savings in mind.
- Initial setup: Most EVs come with what’s called a “Level 1” charger, which plugs into your traditional 120-volt outlet (the same kind you’d plug a light into or your phone, for example). But many EV drivers also install a so-called “Level 2”, 240-volt outlet in their garage for faster charging. The cable and installation will cost you a few thousand, but there are programs that can help reduce or eliminate these costs.
What are your typical driving needs?
“Range anxiety” is often a major concern for new EV drivers. So it’s worth noting that, depending on the car model, EVs can go anywhere from 100 to 520 miles on a single charge — many times farther than the 31.5 miles that the average American car owner drives every day. Even the affordable Chevy Bolt can go nearly 250 miles on a full charge, and certain luxury EVs nearly double that. You could also consider a plug-in hybrid vehicle, which runs primarily on electricity, but can switch to petrol for longer journeys and completely eliminate range fears.
To figure out your needs, start by taking an inventory of your normal car use. How far is your daily commute? How often do you travel longer miles, such as visiting relatives or traveling for work? Even if you occasionally take trips out of the reach of your electric car, you can plan to public charging stations and just be good.
How do you regularly charge your electric car?
More than 80 percent of electric car charging takes place at home, mostly in the garage. You can plug your electric car into the normal 120-volt outlet, but it can take up to 40 hours to fully charge your battery. In comparison, Level 2 charging allows you to easily go from zero to a full battery in about six hours or overnight. It’s also worth noting that plug-in hybrids can be fully charged overnight using just the standard 120-volt outlet.
Do you live in an apartment complex? If so, you may be able to petition your building manager to install charging stations for EVs. Some states offer incentives that cover full infrastructure and installation costs. (Here’s a template letter to get you started.) If that’s not feasible, rely on public charging stations. This may be a little less convenient, but still doable. The good news is that public charging stations are becoming more common. Some charging stations even offer Level 3, DC Fast Charging (DCFC), which is faster, higher voltage charging at a slightly higher rate. Sites like PlugShare and ChargeHub allows you to inventory the current charging stations near you, which will grow by the thousands in the coming years as the inevitable electric vehicle revolution accelerates.
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