Electric cars help lower emissions and fuel costs and offer drivers improved fuel economy. Given the volatility of gas prices and the general trend toward higher prices for fossil fuels, electric cars are a promising economic alternative.
Switching to an electric car involves more than just changes to your driving habits – there are updates you’ll need to make to your home and garage to prolong your car’s battery life and keep it fully charged. Here are some electric vehicle (EV) basics.
Before You Buy
It’s important to consider your lifestyle before you make the leap to an electric vehicle. Ask yourself these questions:
How far and how frequently do you drive?
Early EVs had a range of approximately 100 miles before they needed to be charged. The majority of newer electric vehicles can travel 200 to 300 miles on a single charge, and the newest Tesla model is expected to reach the 500+ mile range when it’s introduced in late 2021.
Are you prepared for the higher price tag ahead of any tax credits and incentives?
Although some incentives are available in the form of rebates at the point of purchase, federal tax credits are applied the year after you purchase your vehicle – and the credit can only be used to offset the amount of taxes owed. If you don’t owe federal income taxes, you won’t be able to take advantage of the savings.
Can your current electric service panel handle the increased load?
If you live in an older home with 100-amp service, you may need to upgrade to 200-amp service to accommodate a charging station. Keep in mind that, although you won’t be spending money at the gas pump, you’ll see higher energy costs in the form of electricity.
How extensive is the network of charging stations in your area?
Although the number of public high-speed charging stations is experiencing unprecedented growth, they are few and far between in some parts of the country, and there’s no guarantee that a charger will be available or in good working order when you arrive.
If you’ve decided that an electric vehicle is the right choice for you, here’s how to prepare your garage for the new arrival.
Selecting a Charger
Most EVs come with a Level 1 charger at the time of purchase. It delivers standard household current and comes equipped with a three-prong plug, which means you won’t need to install a dedicated electric line. However, convenience comes at a price, and that price is the time it takes. If you don’t drive more than 40 to 50 miles each day, an overnight charge should be sufficient.
Level 2 chargers cost between $300 and $1,500, but deliver 240 volts for a full charge in about three hours. You will likely need to enlist the services of a professional electrician to install this type of charging station – and at an additional cost.
If you’ve been meaning to tackle that long-overdue, this could be the perfect time. The electric vehicle itself doesn’t take up any more space than a car with a combustion engine, but you’ll need to factor in the space needed for the charging station and ensure that it’s easily accessible.
Find out whether your electricity provider offers special rate plans or rebates for electric vehicles and related equipment. Some utilities allow you to combine the charge for your vehicle charging station with that of your home, while others require a separate meter. In either case, you’ll find that many utility companies use time-of-use rates, where the cost of electricity is determined by the time of day the energy is used. The rates are typically lowest weekends, holidays and late evening to early morning on weekdays, and higher on weekdays during the afternoon and evening.
Did You Know? Up to 80% of the energy in the battery of an EV is used to power the car.
- Electric vehicles are more affordable than ever, and almost every major automobile manufacturer offers at least one model.
- Factors to consider before purchasing an EV include the average distance you drive each day, the availability of public charging stations, and whether your existing electric panel can accommodate the increased load.
- Check with state and local governments, as well as your dealer, to learn about available rebates and incentives, as some automobile makes are no longer eligible.