The automotive industry is going electric and the pace just seems to get faster and faster. As world governments set ever-more ambitious targets to eliminate the sale of new gasoline and diesel cars as soon as 2030, OEMs are releasing new electric models at an increasing pace.
For the vast majority of people, purchasing an electric car this year will represent the first-ever EV that they have purchased in their lives. They are understandably hesitant about the transaction because they aren’t 100-percent confident in what they are buying. In today’s blog, we’ll cover our best tips and advice for those who are buying an electric car. First time or not, we’re sure you’ll find it handy.
1. Know Your EV Types – Choose the Right One
The first thing to know is that there isn’t just one single type of electric car. There are three main types that are widely available in 2021: HEVs, PHEVs, and BEVs.
The first type is hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs), such as the Toyota Prius. It uses a combination of internal combustion and electric powertrains to provide a more efficient alternative to pure gasoline, but a more convenient form or electric car style. HEVs do not require plugging in for charging. The combustion engine will recharge the battery once it is depleted.
The second is plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), such as the new 2022 Kia Sorento PHEV, or the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. These work on the same principle as regular hybrid cars, but the difference is that the battery is more powerful, typically features greater electric range, and must be recharged by being plugged into an external power source. Where a Toyota Hybrid might only get a total of 11 miles all-electric range, the Kia Sorento PHEV can do up to 32 miles.
The final type is battery electric vehicles (BEVs), such as the Tesla Model 3, and Chevrolet Bolt. These are vehicles that run on an entirely electric powertrain and use electric motors to propel the car in place of an internal combustion engine. The total range of these vehicles depends on their battery size and efficiency. Some are designed mostly for city use with ranges of up to 120 miles. Others are made for longer commuting and distance travel, with their range extending to 300+ miles.
Among these three types, you need to understand the differences and be able to pick the right car for you. Don’t assume an all-electric car is right for you when it might not be. For example, if day to day you use the car on short drives to and from work, dropping the kids at school, doing daily errands and whatnot, then a PHEV might be a good choice, offering all-electric driving for those daily errands, but then the option of efficient gasoline driving with long range when the occasion — e.g., holiday season travel — presents itself.
It might be that there is little or no public charging infrastructure around your home or workplace, and you have no way to install one on your property. In that case, a regular hybrid is a better place to start, removing the need to plug in but allowing you to enjoy EV benefits until such time that charging infrastructure improves. These are all important considerations.
2. Think About Range and Battery Life
Once you’re sure about the type of EV that you want, you have to start thinking about range and battery life. So-called “Range Anxiety” is a serious problem in the EV sector, and one of the big stumbling blocks that prevents people from making the switch from gasoline to electric. It refers to the fear that people have that their EV will run out of juice while they’re in the middle of nowhere and far from any charging infrastructure.
This could happen with any car, in fact, but most people are very used to the range of their gasoline cars and are very familiar with the best times to fill up. Furthermore, they know that there are many more filling stations on the highway than there are charging stations, currently. Therefore, the range of the car is important. If you regularly have to travel more than 100 miles in a single day, then you need a car with higher range, perhaps 200-300 miles. If you spend all your time in the city, then a car with 100-150 miles of range will be enough.
Range is typically dictated by battery size, but also by the technology used. Usually, the bigger the battery, the greater the range. Battery sizes are measured in kilowatt hours (kWh).
3. Factor in Charging Method and Time
The next important consideration has to be about charging solutions. First of all, do you have the facility to charge your EV at home? If you do, then shorter range is not a problem because as long as you can get home you can always charge overnight and keep your battery close to full.
If you have no wallbox at home, then does your workplace provide one? Or is there one wherever you park up on your way to work? If so, then your worries are also solved because you can keep the battery topped up during your work day.
If you have neither a wallbox at home nor a charging solution at work and have to rely on public charging infrastructure, how many on-street charging points are there in your neighborhood? Where is the closest charging station? Is it DC fast charging — therefore taking 30 mins maximum to charge — or level 2 AC charging? The latter takes several hours to complete.
It’s a good idea to think about these things carefully before buying an EV. Make sure the charging schedule will fit in with your daily life.
4. Test Drive the Car
This next tip is universal of all car buying, not just that of EVs. You have to be able to test the car or a version of that car to see how it feels to drive, as well as the overall performance, visibility from the driver’s seat and more. One thing to especially get a feel for in the test drive is the acceleration, which can take some people off guard in electric cars.
Most EV models don’t have very high top speeds, but they do have quite fast acceleration and instant torque. It will be quite a different sensation for some drivers, especially if they’re testing performance models like Tesla Model S. EVs also have a much more digitized interface so getting a feel for the controls, battery interface and various other settings is important.
5. Do Your Research: Read the Reviews
EVs in their current variety are still relatively new to the marketplace. Even the “oldest” used models are barely 10 years old. It’s very important therefore to read the customer reviews and understand what kind of experience people have had with that model of EV to date. Of course, you shouldn’t believe every negative review that you read, but when there is a pattern of people repeatedly complaining about the same issue, you can take it as a red flag.
For instance, if you’re looking at one model that’s been around for the past 4 model years, but buyers from every model year are complaining that the battery is degrading quickly and has already lost 15 percent of its capacity, then you know it’s not a good investment.
6. Talk to Other Owners
Even better than reading reviews online is to speak with friends, colleagues and family members who have already purchased the same EV. Ask about their experience and especially if they have noticed any issues with it. Even if their EV is different from the one you’re looking at buying, ask them some common EV questions about local charging, performance and other things you want to know.
It’s true that sometimes owners aren’t always the best judge because they’re often prone to positive bias because they don’t want to admit they have a car with problems, but you can still glean some useful information, regardless.
7. Investigate Rebates
If you’re buying in the US, then you could get a Federal Tax Credit worth up to $7,500 when you buy a new EV. This can help a lot with the pricing and make many EVs closer to their gasoline car equivalents in terms of price. The fact is that EVs will basically cost you more to purchase, but the rebate brings it down a little, and then you have the ongoing benefit of having a car that’s cheaper to run and maintain.
8. Inspect the Warranty
Our final tip is to inspect an EV warranty closely to see what the terms are. Probably the most important coverage on the warranty is that which covers the electric powertrain, including the battery. A typical warranty will cover an EV battery for 8 years or 100,000 miles. Exact terms may differ depending on the brand you purchase.
Since a huge number of EVs that people own are still under their original warranty, it’s hard to know for sure how BEV batteries will perform in the longer term. We already have quite good data on hybrids from 20 years of cars like the Toyota Prius, but for many PHEVs and BEVs only released in the last few years, the jury is still out.
In conclusion, don’t get drawn into any of the hype surrounding any one EV, be it HEV, PHEV or BEV. Competition is increasing, which in turn means OEMs are stepping up the advertising game. Follow the advice we gave above and you shouldn’t go too far wrong with your EV purchase.