What Consumers Should Consider When Buying an Electric Car

(The Washington Post) -

This summer has had a lot of news about electric vehicles. Tesla announced last week that it plans to deliver its first mass-market car to customers this month. Volvo said in the same week it will only sell electric and hybrid cars in 2019, and last month, Nissan’s Global Director of EV, Kazuo Yajima, said that the next Leaf will have a range of over 200 miles. As efforts ramp up to get more electric vehicles in front of consumers, here are some things to keep in mind when considering such a purchase:

Battery life: Batteries in electric vehicles differ from those in gas-powered cars. Electric cars require a more expensive kind of battery, which is what contributes to the high price of most models, said Frederic Lambert, the editor in chief of the website Electrek. The batteries are lithium-ion based and designed to give power over sustained periods, while batteries in gas-powered vehicles are lead-acid based and mainly are used to start the conventional gas engine.

Most electric cars come with an extended warranty that covers the car battery up to its first 100,000 miles, said Brian Mooney, an auto analyst and executive editor at Autotrader, which is similar to gas cars depending on the model. Since most electric cars have yet to have their warranties expire, car companies have handled the majority of battery replacements, Lambert said.

Range: Depending upon the mileage, how fast a car is going and other factors, a nonelectric car can get well over 350 miles on a full tank of gas, according to consumer finance website Bankrate. The range for electric vehicles vary model to model, with the Chevy Bolt advertised to go 238 miles on a full charge, which is considered high for electric cars. The Nissan Leaf has a range of 107 miles, while the Tesla Model S has a range between 210 and 315.

The more miles a car can go on one charge, the higher its price will be, Mooney said. But not everyone needs an electric car that has a range like the Bolt, if they’re only going to use it for a 10-mile commute to work every day. Consumers should consider how they will use the car and the average number of miles they’ll be putting on it before purchasing an electric car, Mooney said. If they’re not traveling far, they can look at the cheaper models rather than overpay for a more expensive one.

Charge time: How fast an electric car can charge its battery really depends upon the strength of the outlet it’s plugged into and the kind of charger used. One can recharge half the battery in half an hour when it’s plugged into a supercharger, which is unique to Tesla cars only. Cars plugged into a basic wall outlet can take up to 12 hours to charge depending on the wattage, but customers have the option to buy a wall connector that cuts the time by five to six hours, Lambert said.