No gas to buy. No engine noise because, well, there’s no engine. And hardly any maintenance.
Those are just some of the advantages to owning an electric vehicle, a choice that more people are making.
Sales of electric vehicles and of hybrids, which run on gas and battery, are expected to comprise more than 20% of annual vehicle sales in 2030, according to the Edison Electric Institute, an association that represents electric companies.
If you’re in the market for an electric or hybrid vehicle, here’s a run-down of questions and answers that could weigh into your decision:
1. What are the cost benefits of driving an electric vehicle?
It costs about half as much to drive an electric vehicle as one that runs on gas, according to an online tool by Energy.gov. In a recent check, regular gasoline cost $2.35 a gallon while an “e-gallon” cost $1.09. An e-gallon measures what it costs to drive an electric vehicle the same distance as a similar vehicle that runs on gasoline.
Electric vehicles also have fewer moving parts so maintenance costs tend to be lower, according to a report by the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, an organization in Knoxville, Tenn., that promotes “responsible energy choices.” The electric vehicle’s primary part is the shaft, which requires little or no maintenance. The batteries are sealed and are maintenance free, although life of the batteries is limited, and they require periodic replacement.
2. What are consumers’ concerns about buying electric vehicles?
Affordability is the biggest issue, but some say that’s a misconception.
Electric vehicles start at about $37,000, including cars such as the Hyundai Kona Electric, the Chevy Bolt and Kia Soul Electric. The Tesla’s latest Model 3, which includes autopilot, enabling your car to steer, accelerate and brake automatically, costs $39,500, according to a Tesla blog post in April.
In comparison, the average cost of a new gas-powered car in the U.S. was $37,400 as of August 2019, up 2% from a year ago, according to Kelley Blue Book.
But concerns over the cost of electric vehicles compared with traditional vehicles, their driving range and lack of readily available charging stations were the biggest obstacles named by about 1,600 car shoppers in August survey by Autolist.com, a vehicle sale and research site.
Some consumers have “range anxiety,” the concern the vehicle will run out of juice before it can be recharged. But an increasing number of charging stations is expected to ease that concern.
“We’re on the very tip of the disruption curve. We’re going to see very rapid growth in this technology as more people get comfortable with it,” said Stephen Smith, executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, which advocates for electric vehicles and offers test drives at special events.
Nationwide, charging stations can be found online at ChargePoint.com or Greenlots.com.
3. What do drivers say about their electric vehicle experience?
Citrix Systems, a technology company, has had electric vehicle charging stations at its Fort Lauderdale, Fla., headquarters since 2013.
The company has four stations with plans to add more because the number of employees who drive electric vehicles continues to grow, said Chris Fleck, vice president and technical fellow at Citrix, who drives a Tesla Model 3.
“What I like about (my Tesla) is the safety, convenience, and acceleration. The overall experience is just incredibly good,” Fleck said. But what really impresses this technologist is that his Tesla receives software updates every month.
Tesla added “Sentry Mode,” for example, to help protect against break-ins and theft. Cameras used for the autopilot feature record activity around the car when it is parked. Lights flash, the stereo goes full blast, and a screen message lets the intruder know he’s being recorded.
Rafael Santoni, marketing systems analyst at Citrix, is so enthusiastic about the Tesla that he founded the Tesla Club of South Florida, which holds educational events on electric vehicles.
Santoni, who has owned many cars and motorcycles, said his Model 3 is “the best vehicle for long-distance driving.” He uses the autopilot feature most of the time on a trip. “I can pay attention to the details because the car is doing a lot of hard work,” he said.
He has driven his Tesla to California, to Philadelphia and to Toronto, and he says he has had no problem finding Tesla charging stations along the way.
Santoni, who saved for two years to buy his Tesla, said his only cost beyond purchase has been $3 to occasionally refill the windshield wiper fluid.
Fleck notes with his Model 3 that “you don’t even have to bring it in for regular service.” When he was having a problem with the car’s electronic glove box, Tesla’s repair team “came out and fixed it while I was in the office.”
4. How does a hybrid compare with an electric vehicle?
Some consumers prefer hybrid vehicles, which are powered by battery — some with plug-in options, and a gas-fueled engine.
Toyota has been banking on that customer preference and has been rolling out hybrid versions of its popular models including the Camry, Rav 4 and Corolla. The latest hybrid models are the 2019 Rav 4 EV and the 2020 Corolla EV.
”Toyota’s plan is to put our effort into hybrid and plug-in hybrid. It negates range anxiety,” said Pete Friedland, manager of sales training for Southeast Toyota Distributors, part of Deerfield Beach-based JM Family Enterprises.
The company said its hybrid sales in South Florida have increased 6% over a year ago.
Friedland said car shoppers usually ask questions about charging a hybrid, not understanding that the hybrid charges itself as it is driven. “Toyota hybrids have regenerative braking. When you use the brakes, the motors turn into (electrical) generators, using the forward motion of vehicle to charge the battery,” he explained.
Consumers also are often concerned about how long the hybrid car’s battery will last. Friedland noted that Toyota recently announced it will be offering a 10-year or 150,000-mile warranty on its hybrid batteries, which could help allay that concern.
Friedland said price of a hybrid is becoming less of an obstacle for car shoppers as the option has become less.
The 2020 Corolla EV’s price begins at $23,100 while the gas-fueled Toyota Corolla LE prices start at $20,050.
5. How does driving an electric vehicle help the environment?
The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy “sees electrification of the transportation sector as a very large piece of the puzzle” to protecting the environment, said Smith, the group’s longtime executive director.
Transportation is the largest source of carbon dioxide pollution in the U.S., according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Electric cars also could reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign oil and petroleum.
Coastal states such as Florida, with beaches to protect, should be particularly concerned, Smith said. “If you’re opposed to offshore drilling, you should be driving electric,” he said.
He said driving an electric vehicle is like a “triple play”: It protects the environment, helps solve the energy crisis and ultimately lowers the cost of vehicle ownership and maintenance. Smith said more consumers are now able to find used electric vehicles or hybrids, which typically cost less than new.
While there’s still a long way to go before electric cars are dominant enough on roads to alleviate harmful emissions, Smith says individual actions matter.
“Every time you drive an electric car when it’s not burning a gallon of gas, it makes a difference,” Smith said.