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Your Questions About New & Used EVs Answered

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You’ve heard so much about new and used EVs (electric vehicles) from your neighbors, friends, and the media. New groups of drivers are excited to learn about EVs, with survey data indicating that 54% of participants are definitely adding EVs into their next vehicle purchase options. This increase in EV interest means that zero emissions driving will become a norm in our lifetimes.

Transportation is one of the most significant areas on which we need to focus if we are to get a handle on the climate crisis. The transportation sector is the largest source of US greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, accounting for 27.2% of the total. Cars and light-duty trucks (including pickups and SUVs) are responsible for 57.5% of those transportation emissions. Reducing transportation emissions would be a notable step toward alleviating climate pollution, and EVs are a clear pathway toward alleviating this major climate problem.

Yet lots of questions and misinformation about new and used EVs remain.

Aren’t used EVs too expensive or unreliable?

Before we switched to battery EVs full time, we bought a used Nissan Leaf as a second family vehicle. It was 100% electric, but it only had a range of about 80 miles. Out of necessity, it offered tutorials in frequency/locations of charging, what it takes to install a home charger, when to/not to use heat/AC (which run down the battery), the costs of higher speed driving, what it is like to use regenerative braking, and so much more. And the Leaf was fairly inexpensive to purchase, never mind the minimal costs to charge it at home. I was ready to switch to a Tesla Model Y in a couple of years, wanting more range, technology, luxury, and driving ease.

The Recurrent team estimates that used EV sales volume in 2024 will increase by roughly 100% over 2022 and 40% over 2023. In 2023, I purchased a used 2017 Chevy Bolt for my summer cabin in the Connecticut woods, and I’ll be getting a $4000 return when I file my taxes in April. On January 1, 2024, the new guidelines for $4000 point-of-sale discounts on used EVs took effect, which reduces the paperwork and wait time for a used EV purchase significantly.

Can I charge my EV at home?

We had an electrician install a home 240-volt charging setup with a private electrical meter in our condo carport. It allowed us to follow the state guidelines for condo charging and be independent each quarter in reporting our electrical usage to the condo board. In total, it cost us about $750, but the convenience and ease of overnight charging has made it worth every penny.

Can an EV get me to and from work or play without worry of running out of charge?

A lot of the hoopla about range anxiety is unfounded. Calls for much more extensive range capacity fail to recognize that only 5% of trips in the US are longer than 30 miles. According to data from the US Department of Transportation, 95.1% of trips taken in personal vehicles are fewer than 31 miles; almost 60% of all trips are fewer than 6 miles. In total, the average US driver only covers about 37 miles per day. If we can live with less optimum range, there’s a movement to reduce battery size and cut lithium demand by 42% while doing so.

Will I be able to locate a charger if I drive an EV for longer distance travel?

It is important to understand the nuances of charging on the move so that you feel confident and comfortable. Most EV drivers charge at home. When charging at home isn’t a possibility, it’s time to locate other common destinations for EV charging. They include major highways, strip malls, hotels, restaurants, car dealerships, and other places. Is it a bit of an art to locate an available and reliable EV charger? Sure, but if you become familiar with the most popular charging apps, you should be all set.

The following apps may help you to locate chargers:

MIT’s Technology Review notes that the US had about 24 EVs per charger as of the end of 2022, while the EU is at about 13. China offers the most chargers-per-EV ratio with 8. The market share EVs have of their broader auto market is also greatest in China, second best in Europe, and far behind in the US. So, yes, improving access to EV charging is a vital step toward transportation electrification. Seven major automakers, including BMW Group, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Mercedes-Benz Group, and Stellantis, announced a new joint venture that will install 30,000 EV charging stations. The biggest news is that Tesla, for the first time, opened a portion of its US Supercharger and Destination Charger network to non-Tesla EVs, making at least 7,500 US chargers available for all EVs by the end of 2024. They will include at least 3,500 new and existing 250 kW Superchargers along highway corridors.

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Aren’t hybrid new or used EVs the way to go?

A hybrid vehicle has 2 powertrains, so you can utilize electric power for your decarbonization efforts and gasoline power for longer trips when you don’t want to or can’t charge. Right now, hybrid vehicles account for more than 40% of all electric vehicles. Companies are drawn to them due to their flexibility, federal tax incentives, and the promise of reduced fuel consumption. Plug-in hybrid EVs (PHEVs) have really caught on, but PHEVs may actually be less beneficial if not used to their full electric advantage. They must be charged frequently, as they have smaller batteries — dependence on the internal combustion engine (ICE) means continued reliance on fossil fuels and their dangerous environmental consequences. Research indicates PHEVs are more likely to experience problems than either EVs or ICE-powered vehicles — plus they require more maintenance.

Do EVs cost more or less to own than ICE-powered vehicles?

An EV typically costs less to charge and drive than paying to fill up the tank of an ICE vehicle. So you’ll save money on your monthly fuel bills, as Edmunds explains. The EPA’s website is a helpful resource for comparing the efficiency and annual fuel costs of different vehicles. It’s a fact of contemporary life that electricity costs vary widely depending on where you live and how you charge.

Should I worry about the cost of replacing an EV battery?

Years ago, people complained that EV batteries would be too expensive to replace to make them a viable personal transportation decision. The federal government requires EV manufacturers to warranty their batteries for 8 years or 100,000 miles. That means no longer do you have to worry about the cost of replacing a battery on most EVs. Even used EVs seem a safe bet, as an analysis of 6,300 EVs by the fleet-tracking firm Geotab concluded that the rate of battery degradation of the EVs it tracked was slower than the usable life of the vehicle. The average rate of decline in Geotab’s tracked vehicles was 2.3% per year.

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Carolyn Fortuna

Carolyn Fortuna, PhD, is a writer, researcher, and educator with a lifelong dedication to ecojustice. Carolyn has won awards from the Anti-Defamation League, The International Literacy Association, and The Leavey Foundation. Carolyn is a small-time investor in Tesla and an owner of a 2022 Tesla Model Y as well as a 2017 Chevy Bolt. Please follow Carolyn on Substack:

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