Electric vehicle technology has been around for more than 100 years, but the current iteration of EVs has only been available since 2008 when the Tesla Roadster was brought to the market. The Tesla is now gone, but a whole slew of vehicles have emerged including battery electric vehicles (BEV), hybrid electric vehicles (HEV), plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) and fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV).
All the different names mean one thing: you need to understand what is out there to ensure that you get the type of vehicle that meets your needs, advances your lifestyle or both. Let’s take a look at electric vehicles and what these cars mean for you and your wallet.
Fuel Savings — Across the board, EVs of all stripes use less fuel than conventional internal combustion engines. BEVs use no gasoline, deriving energy strictly from the electric grid. Hybrids, whether conventional models or the plug-in variety, rely on a gasoline energy as well as a battery pack to drive these cars. FCEVs are rare, but include the Honda FCX Clarity, a vehicle that runs on hydrogen.
Reduced Emissions — ‘Tis true: you’ll pollute less with an EV, but you’ll still have some impact on the environment, sometimes indirectly. Vehicles such as the Nissan Leaf EV tout not having a tail pipe, suggesting that driving such a vehicle means no pollution is emitted. However, the Leaf taps into the power grid and coal burning plants supply the power hat helps EVs run. Thus, the Leaf and vehicles like it indirectly pollute. Hybrids pollute too, but less so than conventional models as these run on gasoline only part of the time. FCEVs offer no pollution whatsoever as these vehicles run on hydrogen.
Vehicle Costs — You’ll pay thousands of dollars more for an EV than you will pay for a comparable gas-powered car. Sometimes those differences can be measured in the tens of thousands of dollars. Electric battery packs are expensive, costing manufacturers $8,000 to $12,000 to produce, a cost that is passed on to the consumer. However, if you keep your vehicle for many years you may recoup this cost. Moreover, federal tax credits and local incentives can reduce your ownership costs.
Recharging Inconvenience — Except for conventional hybrids and FCEVs, you’ll need to recharge your vehicle for it to run on electric power. You’ll also face a limited vehicle range of 65 to 90 miles between charges. If you buy a plugin hybrid, such as the Chevy Volt, you extend your range as a small, gas engine kicks in. You’ll still pay for gas, but use less of it.
One area that is hard to quantify with electric vehicles is actual mileage. The Environmental Protection Agency has attempted to come up with a comparable number, but those figures may not tell the whole story. Much caution must be exercised when shopping for an EV as well as any new car.