The car in your driveway unfortunately can’t fly, but it probably gets better gas mileage than your parents’ vehicles. Advancements in green car technology have significantly reduced fuel consumption and emissions, especially through the development of hybrid and electric vehicles. Nearly every major automaker produces an electric car these days, but before you take the leap to a fully electric vehicle, here are seven topics that often pop up and you might want to know more about before making the leap.
- Driving distance – Battery technology has come a long way in recent years. It’s still not limitless, but almost all electric cars have enough range for 97% of our trips (US automobile trips). Electric cars typically have a range of 50 to 100 miles, while Tesla Motors actually offers a highly acclaimed car (the Tesla Model S) that has 265 miles of range. Longer road trips may be a challenge in certain models, but for most of us, we should be able to fill that gap either by borrowing a car from a friend or relative or by renting a car.
- Charging stations — You don’t actually need one. While an EV charging station can charge your car faster than a conventional power outlet, that simple power outlet (aka electricity socket) is all you really need. Since most drivers don’t drive even close to 50–100 miles a day, they often charge overnight every other day, and that’s completely adequate. Some utilities or car manufacturers still offer free charging stations, though, so why not get one if it’s available to you? And if you think you will really need or want to quick-charge at home (but don’t have a free offer), you can always purchase a charger — there are several on the market now. Of course, public EV charging stations are popping up all over the place these days, 180 a month in the US, so they’ll likely become quite ubiquitous in the future anyway.
- (Lack of) noise – Electric cars run surprisingly quietly. This is a big benefit for many consumers, but it’s also a good idea to keep in mind that pedestrians and animals may not be able to hear your car approach.
- Cold weather limitations – Car batteries don’t like cold weather, which may make electric cars less efficient during the winter. Inconsistent mileage resulting from a cold battery can throw a wrench in the range mentioned on auto manufacturer websites (or on the EPA’s EV website). However, there are owner forums for many of these new cars, many of which are open to the public, and you can probably find lengthy, detailed discussions about such matters if you look around a bit.
- Cost – Many drivers look at green cars as a way to reduce the amount they spend on fuel (and maintenance). And while hybrids and electric cars can drastically reduce fuel consumption, you have to balance the savings with the extra vehicle cost. Most green car models cost more than the conventional equivalent, so calculate fuel savings against the added premium of a green car. Luckily, some car enthusiasts have put together handy little EV calculators and spreadsheets for playing with all the variables and comparing prices.
- Maintenance – Electric cars have far fewer moving parts, so they will require much less maintenance. Also, you can forget about having to do oil changes. Basically, you’ll see your mechanic a lot less often. However, while most car owners can take their vehicle to the local mechanic for repairs, electric car owners have fewer options. Many mechanics will be unfamiliar with the emerging technologies used in green vehicles, making it necessary to go directly to the dealer for repairs and maintenance (when you do run into that occasional need).
- Health and environment — Despite some counter-hype, electric cars are actually much greener than gasoline-powered cars. This is better for our health and is critical to stopping global warming.
If you’ve considered the pros and cons of green car ownership and decided to buy, an auto loan can get you behind the wheel of the newest fuel-saving auto technology fast. If you’re stuck with a gas hog, look into auto refinance rates, which can potentially shorten your loan term and get you into a more fuel efficient vehicle more quickly.