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You Are Thinking That Your Next Car Might Be An EV, But … ?

A big portion of new car buyers are now buying fully electric cars. But more are buying non-electric cars. If you’ve been in the bigger, latter group, what’s keeping you from an EV as your next car? Here are some common responses:

  • I would expect to have range anxiety. (Where will I refuel? How long does charging take?)
  • They don’t make the EV model I want, and I want to stay with my favorite brand.
  • There is no dealer or service near me — where do I get service?
  • Are EVs as reliable as my Toyota?
  • The winters are bitter cold where I live. How would an EV do here?
  • EVs are more expensive than gas cars.
  • I’ve never driven an electric car; how do I get a test drive?
  • Are EVs safe?

I will try to answer some of these questions and concerns. Note that I owned 3 Nissan LEAF models for a total of 5 years and I have driven my Tesla Model 3 for over 3 years, so much of my expertise and recommendations are based on this experience.

  • I would expect to have range anxiety. (Where will I refuel? How long does charging take?)

Where will I refuel? Only farmers and rural residents can have a gasoline refueling tank on their property. Safety & zoning laws prevent gas tank installation in cities. You will do almost all of your “refueling” (charging) in your garage.

There are three levels of charging for EVs. Level 1 (L1) charging involve a normal 110V outlet, like the one next to the mirror in your bathroom. To emphasize, you can use any 110V outlet anywhere. Obviously, these are much more ubiquitous than gas stations. However, L1 is very slow, you get ~4 miles of range per hour. 110V charging is useful only if you can charge for a day or two. I have a friend with a top-of-the-line EV. They make do with L1 charging. They make cross-country trips using Superchargers but they don’t do much local driving, and they have a second car if need be. (Editor’s note: I also use Level 1 charging at home with my Tesla Model 3 SR+.)

Level 2 (L2) charging uses a 220V outlet. This is the charging option that many or most EV owners have in their garage, carport or driveway. When I took my EV to our cabin in Northern Wisconsin for the first time, I called an electrician to see if I had 220V service in my stand-alone garage and to schedule charging installation. Just 20 minutes and $130 later, he had installed a NEMA 14-50 outlet in my garage and I was good to go. L2 charging charges your vehicle at ~24 miles of range per hour. If you have L2, you start every morning with a full charge. If you make a longer trip in the morning, you may need to charge for a few hours before doing it again in the afternoon.

Note: My Model 3 came with the EVSE cable needed to charge with a 110V or NEMA 14-50 outlet. New Tesla owners, however, need to purchase a $200 Mobile Charging Cable.

For local driving, your “gas” station is in your garage. It’s as easy as charging your cellphone. Also, you never need an oil change or emissions check. In Utah, your first mandatory state vehicle check is after 4 years for mechanical issues.

Level 3 (L3) DC fast charging is the final type of EV charging. L3 direct current charging ranges from 50 to 350 kW in the US. Tesla has over 1,500 Supercharger stations with 150–250 kW power capacity, with 12,000 stalls spaced at 70 to 130 miles on all the major Interstate highways and in major cities in the USA. A Supercharger will charge your Tesla from 20% to 80% state of charge in about 20 minutes. Non-Tesla chargers are much less ubiquitous and less reliable.

I do 500 cross-country miles per day in my Tesla Model 3 (the same as I did in my gasmobile). However, if you are driving “non-stop” cross country, with only the most minimal of bathroom breaks, an EV will slow you down a bit. (Note: The Tesla Model S has 405 mile range and the rest of the Tesla lineup has versions with range of up to ~350 miles.)

  • They don’t make the EV model I want, and I want to stay with my favorite brand.

EV options have been growing lately. The Ford F-150 Lightning EV pickup truck has been in production for over a year and is popping up in more and more places. Ford also sells the Mustang Mach-E crossover, and several other automakers sell similarly sized SUVs/crossovers of varying prices.

If you are more adventurous and eager to try a model from a new company, the startup Rivian has been making pickups for over a year also. Rivian makes a pure electric SUV on the same chassis similar to a Ford Excursion or other large SUV. Rivian produced 25,000 vehicles in 2022.

Somewhere between a legacy automaker and Rivian is Tesla, which gets most of the electric vehicle sales in the USA. The Tesla Model X SUV will seat 6 in three rows of captain chairs with plenty of foot room for adults in all rows or even 7, while the lower priced Model Y SUV/crossover offers plenty of room for mass-market buyers.

You also have more affordable mass-market models like the Chevrolet Bolt EV and Bolt EUV, the Volkswagen ID.4, and the Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Kia EV6.

  • There is no dealer or service near me — where do I get service?

Your favorite brand is selling EVs now, so if you are close to a dealer, you can probably buy an EV there and they will service it. Tesla doesn’t have traditional dealers, but you buy your Tesla online just like any other product. You may have to drive some distance to pick it up, depending on where you live. I live 30 miles south of Salt Lake City, so for 3 years, I had to drive 30 miles for service. However, Tesla gives you a loaner car or Uber credits to use as long as service takes. In December, Tesla opened a new showroom and service center in Pleasant Grove, Utah, 4 miles from my house. Also note that Tesla will often send a mobile repairman to your house for diagnostics and minor repairs.

Tesla Service Cars JRR | CleanTechnica

Tesla service cars. Photo by JRR, CleanTechnica.

There are also numerous other startups like Lucid, Canoo, Genesis, and Aptera with electric cars under development. The futuristic Aptera has three wheels and seats only two, but has solar panels and a model with 1000 miles of range.

  • Are EVs as reliable as my Toyota?

EVs use a simple electric motor in place of a complex internal combustion engine. EVs also have no complex transmission and no exhaust system with emission control. Etc. etc. etc. See the appendix at the end for a list of all the components of a gas car that are eliminated with an EV. Tesla has a 50,000-mile warrantee on everything and a 130,000-mile warrantee on the battery and drive system. In 90,000 miles and over 3 years, my Tesla Model 3 has had only one squeaky front suspension joint and a valve for controlling the cooling of the battery and motor replaced out of warranty. My Toyota Highlander was recently totaled in a collision at 17 years and 230,000 miles. I had to replace out of warranty: 2 catalytic converters for $1000 each and a drive shaft for the rear wheels for another $1000. The transmission was making a clunking sound when shifting between some gears and the engine was leaking oil. An EV has none of those systems.

  • The winters are bitter cold where I live. How would an EV do here?

Those who live in cold climates know that a gas car gets fewer miles per gallon and needs a fresh battery or even a block heater to be able to start in the coldest weather. One testament for the performance of electric cars in the winter comes from the cold country of Norway, which is leading the world in uptake of EVs at 90%. You can talk to your Tesla with an app on your phone. You can set it to charge from 80 to 90% and warm the cabin to 80 degrees Fahrenheit just before you leave so the battery and car are at optimum performance. EVs will lose some range in cold temperatures, but heat pumps minimize the range loss in the new models. I’ve had no significant problems with range in blizzards driving to and from ski resorts in Utah. Like other issues, including strong headwinds, you need to be aware of the reduction in range and lower your speed and stop to charge more often.

  • EVs are more expensive than gas cars

It’s true that EVs are generally more expensive to purchase than an equivalent gas car. However, the lower fuel and repair costs make the cost of an EV the same or less over a 5 or 10 year lifetime. Therefore, if you can get a loan at a reasonable rate for your new EV, the price can be equivalent. Tesla has just reduced prices on its current lineup and orders are through the roof.

There are also EVs like the Chevy Bolt at $27,000 that also qualify for a $7,500 rebate from the federal government under the new rebate program. (Note: you need a $7,500 tax liability to get the full rebate.) The high cost of batteries is responsible for the higher cost of EVs. The cost of batteries has dropped significantly over the last 10 years and is expected to decrease significantly going forward. If you are not ready to buy an EV now, you may be able to take advantage of the drop in battery prices in the future.

  • I’ve never driven an electric car; how do I get a test drive?

These days, EVs are common enough that you can probably find a family member or friend who will let you test drive his or her car. If you’re buying from a legacy auto dealer, you can get a test drive in the usual manner. Tesla showrooms also have inventory cars that are available for test drives.

  • Are EVs safe?

EVs are not just safe, but are generally safer than gas cars. Heavy batteries on the bottom of EVs make them much less likely to roll over. Not having a heavy engine block to deal with gives EV manufacturers more ability to design effective energy dissipating crumple zones. All Tesla cars have received the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) 5 star rating in all categories. Tesla models have actually received the highest safety ratings ever given by the NHSTA.

Prospective EV buyers and EV owners wishing to convince a friend to go electric can use the arguments given above. Let’s hear your reasons (e.g., rocket-like acceleration) to also go electric.

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Arthur Frederick (Fritz) Hasler, PhD, former leader of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization & Analysis Laboratory (creator of this iconic image), and avid CleanTechnica reader. Also: Research Meteorologist (Emeritus) at NASA GSFC, Adjunct Professor at Viterbo University On-Line Studies, PSIA L2 Certified Alpine Ski Instructor at Brighton Utah Ski School.


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