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Wednesday, August 19, 2020

The Shocking Truth About Electric Vehicles

By Catherine Powell

Image courtesy Pikist
If you’ve been considering buying or leasing an electric vehicle, you’re not alone.  It’s been predicted that by the year 2020, close to half the cars and trucks on the road will be electric and by 2040 they’re predicted to be the dominant form of automotive transportation in the US.  Electric vehicles offer many advantages over their gas-powered brethren.  They require less maintenance, they’re friendlier to the environment, and they save on gas.  Especially if you routinely drive 100 miles or less per day on average, the savings of operating an EV can be substantial.  That’s the upside.  The downside is that all-electric vehicles have higher sticker prices than comparable gas-powered vehicles. 

Sticker shock isn’t the only shock when it comes to driving an electric.

The biggest shock for most first-time electric car owners is the sticker price.  Most electrics cost 20-40% more than a comparable gas-powered model.  For instance, the Hyundai Sonata has a base price of $23,400, while the Hyundai Kona starts at $38,000.  A brand-new Chevy Equinox starts at $23,800, while a brand-new Bolt has a base price of $36,620.  What takes a bit of the bite out of purchasing an EV is the one-time $2,500-$7,500 federal tax credit for anyone who purchases one. Here are some other facts:

      1.      The average cost to operate a new gas-powered automobile is $1,117.  The cost to operate a comparable electric vehicle is only $485, which is less than half.

      2.      How far can you go? If you drive a late model car to and from work, you can probably get by with an electric, provided your average commute is 200 miles or less, which is the current average range for EVs.  If not, be prepared to stop for a half hour or more at a charging station to replenish the battery.  While some electrics purportedly get 300 miles or more per charge, the true mileage depends on how fast you drive, what mode you drive in and how many on-board systems you use.  If you have a lead foot or like to blast the air conditioning along with the radio, you could find the real mileage is less then you were led to believe.  

Image courtesy Pikrepo
Electricity isn’t free.  While you’ll never have to stop at a gas pump to fuel an EV, you still need to charge them…and I don’t mean in your home’s wall socket.  The cost for home charging stations can run from $300 to more than $1,000, installation not included.  (The good news is you’ll get a 30% tax credit for buying and installing a charging station.)  Once connected to the grid, charging an electric will save you about half the cost of gas when the cost of electricity is taken into consideration.

      4.      The real savings on EVs is the low cost of maintenance.  Driving an EV means you’ll never have to pay for another oil change, tune-up, transmission repair, or radiator flush and fill.  That’s the good news.  The bad news is where a battery change on a gas-powered car can run a hundred bucks or so, when your EVs batteries need to be changed, you’re talking thousands of dollars.  Fortunately, EV batteries are expected to last 10-20 years if properly maintained, where a regular car battery can only be counted on to last for 4-5 years on average.  While EVs have no radiator, they have cooling systems needed to keep the batteries cool.  These require service every 50,000 to 150,000 miles, depending on the make and model.  While both EVs and gas vehicles need to have their brakes maintained, EVs require less since they use regenerative braking, which turns drag into electricity and reduces the wear and tear on the brakes.

Image courtesy flickr
      5.      EVs are not set-it-and-forget-it vehicles.  Depending on the ambient temperature, electric vehicles should be garage kept and plugged in when not in use.  Temperature extremes in either direction can not only reduce an EVs range, it can damage vital systems like batteries.  While you can feel free to let your gas-powered jalopy sit idle in the driveway for a couple of weeks while you take a vacation, if your ride is all-electric, you may come home to find that the battery has fully discharged.  Think all your EV needs is a jump?  Think again. An EV with a dead battery pack could require you to replace the entire battery pack. 

      6.      How much does it cost to insure an EV? More than it costs to insure a comparable gas-powered vehicle.  NerdWallet recently published research that shows insurance costs for gas and electric versions of the same car were higher for EVs, due mostly to the higher purchase prices. 
7.   What do you do if something happens to your EV? One thing you’ll never have to worry about while driving an EV is a fuel fire.  Since electric vehicles don’t use gas, getting hit from behind won’t cause a fuel tank rupture.  EV battery packs are not only armor plated to survive a crash, but their electrical systems are equipped with motion sensors and circuit breakers that are designed to disconnect the battery in the event of a collision. 

      8.      What happens if you run out of juice on the highway?  While the range of electrical vehicles continues to improve, they are not inexhaustible.  That means you need to monitor the status of the battery, as well as the distance to the next charging station if you are driving an EV long distance.  The last thing you want to do is to drive an EV until the battery completely discharges.  Some manufacturers like Tesla have built-in warning systems that tell drivers how far the next charging station is and what they need to do to get there without running out of juice.

      9.      Is it safe to tow an EV?  You’ll need to check your owner’s manual to answer that question.  Suffice it to say that some EVs don’t have a neutral gear.  This means you can damage them if you tow them.  If you’re unsure, request a flatbed instead of a standard tow truck, just to be on the safe side.

      10.      How difficult is it to get an EV serviced?  While any dealer can service an EV, you may need to consult your local auto repair shop to make sure they have what it takes to service your electric vehicle.  Not only do EVs have systems with which some auto mechanics are unfamiliar, but some mechanics prefer not to work on EVs because these vehicles require far less maintenance.  This equates to less billable hours.

Catherine Powell is the owner of A Plus All Florida, Insurance in Orange Park, Florida.  To find out more ways to save on flood insurance, check out her website at


  1. The entrepreneur who creates the world's first gas-powered generator for EVs is going to be the next billionaire. I don't know why the auto manufacturers haven't figured this out yet. You don't need a 4-cylinder engine to recharge a battery pack.

  2. It seems to me that EV cars are not quite ready to supplant gas powered vehicles because the break even cost takes about 4 years.


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