As we enter the 2020s, it’s hard to escape the thought that we’re living in the decade of the electric vehicle. The movers and shakers of the auto industry have announced major electric additions to their lineups, and some regulatory organizations have even announced an eventual phase-out of fossil fuels in their jurisdictions.
However, there’s still a lot of unanswered questions about EVs. Will an EV save me money? Can I drive my daily commute in one? Are they actually good for the environment? Do I have to mess with a bunch of tools and buy a NEMA 3R enclosure to install a charger in my garage?
Don’t worry—it’s less complicated than you might think. We help sort out the pros and cons of going electric below.
1. Pro: You’ll save money on gas.
The average non-electric car owner spends anywhere between $700 and $1300 on gas annually, although the number varies widely by state. A full EV has no need for gas, so you can say goodbye to that expense.
If you still feel more comfortable having gas for a backup, you might want to consider plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs). These cars have both a gas tank and an EV battery pack, but they still use very little gas and can be big money-savers for many folks.
2. Con: You’ll pay more on your electric bill and for the charger installation.
Even as you’re skipping the gas pump, your electric bill will likely increase because of the additional current that you’ll use to charge your vehicle. Investopedia calculates that the average EV owner will spend between $30 and $60 per month extra on their electric bill.
You’ll also need to pay a professional electrician to install a Level 2 wall charger for your EV. (The Level 1 charger most EVs come with isn’t sufficient for daily EV use, except for PHEVs.) Estimates vary for how much you’ll pay, but it can easily run over $1,000 all-inclusive. However, you might be able to offset this with a tax credit.
Finally, if you need a charging station built outside, expect to pay even more for an IP66 outdoor enclosure and other upgrades necessary to protect the charger from weather conditions.
3. Pro: Electric vehicles are a great fit for people who typically only need to drive short distances.
If some or all of the following are true of your situation, an EV might be an excellent choice for you:
- You have a short or non-existent commute. EVs are especially good for the increasing numbers of people who work from home full time.
- You don’t travel often, and/or you almost always fly when you do.
- You primarily need a vehicle for short, around-town trips.
- You live in a highly walkable or bikeable area.
An EV’s limited range is no problem for these drivers, and the ability to come home and plug it in at the end of the day is convenient compared to stopping for gas.
4. Con: Traveling longer distances requires more planning or an additional vehicle.
If, on the other hand, you frequently drive long distances, an EV will be a more challenging fit for your lifestyle. You might need to have an additional gas vehicle or PHEV for a long drive. If you have a long commute, be sure that your EV will have more than enough battery for the distance you plan to drive, and find out whether public charging is available along the way there and back.
5. Pro: EVs are much better for the environment than combustion engine vehicles.
Switching from a combustion powered vehicle to an EV is an excellent way to reduce your carbon footprint. A large study found that in 95 percent of places on Earth, driving a fully electric vehicle is better for the environment than driving a comparable gas or diesel vehicle. If you can’t or don’t want to rely solely on public transit or biking, an EV is a great option.
6. Con: They’re not the be-all, end-all of climate friendly transportation.
Until we can make the real necessary changes in the U.S. grid, there’s a good chance that the upstream power source of your EV will be fossil fuels like coal and natural gas. That’s not even considering lithium batteries themselves, which are becoming an increasingly urgent disposal problem.
7. Pro: EVs are more widely available than ever, and in more styles.
The EV market now has plenty of options that can appeal to the average vehicle buyer. Compact hatchbacks, full-size sedans, and SUVs are all well-represented in the EV and PHEV market. Luxury car lovers will find numerous models from brands like Porsche, BMW, and Audi. And although affordability used to be a weakness of EVs, less expensive options like the Chevy Bolt and Hyundai Ioniq have recently made a big impression.
8. Con: Big gaps still exist in the available selection of EVs.
People who need a pickup truck or a minivan are still mostly out of luck when it comes to EV selection. Despite recent announcements like the F-150 Lightning, the selection of EV pickups is still mostly theoretical at this point. As for minivans, only Mercedes has even mentioned one, and it’s a concept vehicle that might never see a production line.
9. Pro: You may be able to get a subsidy for buying an EV.
Remember that tax credit for installing an EV charger? Certain models of EVs and PHEVs are also eligible for federal tax credit subsidies themselves. If you purchase one of these vehicles, you might qualify for a credit on your federal income taxes. These credits are fairly substantial, although you can’t get a refund for the remaining amount.
10. Con: Your neighborhood mechanic may not be able to work on your EV.
There’s an impending shortage of mechanics who are qualified to work on electric vehicles. Repairing an EV requires specific training that most mechanics haven’t received, simply because there hasn’t been sufficient demand up until now. That means many EV owners might be stuck with the most expensive option of getting your vehicle worked on at a dealership.
11. Pro: Your electric vehicle will probably require less maintenance than a gasoline car.
In many ways, the magnetic motors that move an EV are much more simple than an internal combustion engine. That means that most EVs will need substantially less maintenance than a comparable fossil fuel vehicle, potentially saving you tons of money on maintenance—one of the biggest financial expenditures for any auto owner.