New electric vehicles (EVs) keep coming from automakers despite the fact that gas prices are still below $2.00 per gallon in much of the country. Sales are not very brisk when gas prices are this low.
But between toughening federal regulations on fuel economy and emissions, and even tougher regulations coming in California and some other states, the EVs are going to keep coming. And because gas prices figure to not stay low forever, a lot of consumers are interested in taking the plunge with the EV lifestyle now to get ready for a more electrified future.
Here is a buying guide for new and used EVs that should make buying one easy.
Most people should be familiar with hybrids by now. The top selling hybrid is the Toyota Prius. But there are plenty of others like the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, Ford Fusion Hybrid, Honda Civic Hybrid and more.
Hybrids get such good gas mileage because they use a combination of gas, which powers an internal combustion engine, and a battery that assists the engine in moving the vehicle down the road. Hybrids like the Prius will allow the driver to drive on all-electric power in low-speed stop-and-go traffic. And a read-out on the dashbooard will tell you how the battery and engine are working together.
You do not plug a Hybrid in. The battery gets recharged through energy from the brakes.
Plug-in Extended Range Electric vehicles
With these vehicles–such as the Chevrolet Volt, Chrysler Pacifica, Ford C-Max Energi and BMW i3– the car will travel on all-electric power for some distance. In the case of the Volt, for example, the car will go up to 53 miles on an electric charge. After the charge is depleted, an on-board gasoline-powered motor will continue to power the battery. This enables the driver to keep going as long as there is access to gasoline until the battery can be re-charged. The battery is NOT being re-charged as the car is driving on gas.
Imagine if you spend all week driving fewer than 50 miles a day. You keep re-charging the battery, and burn no gas. But imagine you need to go on a trip of 500 miles. You have no restrictions on driving. But once you get to your destination, you can go back to driving around on battery power provided you can re-charge. Drivers of these cars like the flexibility and protection against running out of electric power.
All Electric Vehicles.
These are what you would think. Cars like the Nissan Leaf and Ford Focus EV drive on battery power alone. Range can vary from 85 miles to about 120 miles. The new Chevrolet Bolt arriving in the Fall of 2016, though, will get in excess of 200 miles on a charge. And Tesla Motors EVs get up to 300 miles on a charge.
Once the battery is depleted on an EV, it must be re-charged. Depending on the kind of charger you have access to this can take up to 20 hours (standard 110-volt household current) to under an hour on a super-charger. If you buy an EV, you will want to get a fast-charger hooked up to your garage that will do the job in about four to five hours.
Hydrogen Powered Electric Vehicles
There is only one on the U.S. market now, the Toyota Mirai. How does it work? You fill the tank with hydrogen from one of the growing number of hydrogen filling stations in California (other states are ramping up too), and the hydrogen is transformed into electricity in a “fuel-stack” under the hood of the car to power the battery. The advantage of this technology is that there are no long charging times. Filling up with hydrogen takes just a few minutes.
Buying a Used Hybrid or EV
Hybrids like the Toyota Prius have battery warranties of 8 years/100,000 miles, though it is up to 10-years/150,000 miles in California. That warranty protects you against total failure of the battery pack, which can cost $2,500 to $3,500 to replace. The battery is nickel-metal-hydride technology, and has been very durable and reliable. But when it goes, it goes.
There are no federal or state tax credits for buying a used EV, hybrid or plug-in.
How about buying a used EV? Don’t be skittish. I have seen used Nissan Leafs, for example, with just 15,000 to 35,000 miles for a bit over $10,000. At auction, these cars sell for just $8,000 to $9,000. Dealers have marked them up to near $17,000. That is a huge gap. So, getting yourself to an auction can really pay off.
Battery life in an EV is expected to last at least ten years, and the warranty on the battery is transferred when you buy it (but verify by manufacturer).
Most EVs are leased when bought new. But they are mostly bought out-right when they are bought in the used market. But they can also be re-leased by some dealers.
If you intend to buy a used EV, and drive it into the ground, just be aware that replacing the battery when it finally does die will be a big ticket–about $5,500 for the Nissan Leaf, for example.
And as always, as with any used vehicles, check its history with vehiclehistory.com where you will find out the vehicle’s history of ownership,m accidents and more.