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Electric Vehicle Basics FAQs

A plug-in electric vehicle can be plugged into an electrical outlet or a charging device to recharge its battery. There are two types of plug-in electric vehicles: battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs). BEVs run only on electricity and PHEVs run primarily on electricity until the battery is depleted and is then powered by gas or diesel.

Similar to selecting a gasoline-powered car, choosing the electric vehicle that’s best for you depends on a number of different factors including your driving habits and personal preference. Below are several factors to consider:

  • Total Range: How far will you travel? The total range of current electric vehicles vary greatly—anywhere from 40-400+ miles.
    Additional considerations are how far your daily commute is, your typical weekend travel, and how often you use your vehicle for extended trips, driving speed (highway vs. city driving), and climate/seasonal fluctuations with outside temperatures which affect battery performance. Unlike gasoline-powered cars, electric vehicles are generally more efficient in city driving vs. highway driving.
  • Gasoline Use: How much gasoline do you want to use? The battery capacity of an electric vehicle determines how far you can go without using a drop of gasoline.
  • Charging: Where will you charge? Where you drive and how you'll charge your vehicle can help you decide which electric vehicle will meet your needs.
    If your daily commute is less than 40 miles, many electric vehicles—hybrid or battery electric—will be able to handle your daily driving without the need for gas. If you want the ability to drive much farther, several battery electric vehicles can travel 200 to 300+ miles on a charge. If you need to drive farther without charging, consider an extended-range hybrid like the Chevy Volt.
  • Insurance Costs: Recommend receiving quotes for vehicle insurance from multiple companies to compare the option that best fits your needs and driver history.

The purchase price of electric vehicles (EVs) can vary widely, like gas-powered vehicles, based on make, model, year, type of vehicle, and market segment (mass market, luxury, etc.). EV prices are also driven by battery size, which is the largest single cost in the vehicle. As the price of batteries continue to decrease, EVs will begin to reach price parity, a price that sets two items equal in value to one another, with a comparable gas-powered car.

Today’s EV market offers BEV and PHEV models for under $30,000 when you apply available incentives. Although the upfront cost of an EV can be more expensive compared to a similar gas-powered vehicle, when you look at the total ownership over the vehicle’s lifetime, EVs are less costly to own. Factoring in the purchase price, fueling costs, and maintenance costs, EV owners can save between $6,000 to $10,000 across their vehicle’s lifetime.

EVs typically have lower total cost of ownership due to lower maintenance costs than gas-powered vehicles. This is because they have fewer moving parts, and required fewer (PHEVs) or no oil changes (BEVs). EVs require less frequent brake maintenance since battery regeneration absorbs most of the energy. Hybrid and plug-in electric vehicles can go up to 100,000 miles before receiving new brakes.

The savings from vehicle maintenance is one of the major benefits of owning an EV. On average, EVs cost half as much to maintain compared to similar gas-powered vehicles – an average of $0.03 per mile for EVs compared to $0.06 for gasoline powered cars. Over the 200,000 miles of a vehicle’s lifetime, that’s an average savings of $4,600 for a BEV.

The upfront costs of EVs can be more expensive compared to a similar gas-powered vehicle; however, when looking at the total ownership of the vehicle’s lifetime, EVs are less costly to own. EVs can cost between 10% to 40% more to purchase than gas-powered vehicles, but when factoring in purchase price, fueling costs, and maintenance costs the total ownership savings over the lifetime of an EV can range between $6,000 to $10,000.

The exact amount of savings depends on a number of factors, such as the price difference between the EV model and its comparable gas-powered model, electric service rates, access to charging, insurance costs, maintenance, and incentives.

If you are looking at purchasing a used EV, it may be hard to tell how much charge the battery holds depending on the vehicle’s display of charge information. Here are a few things you can do to check the battery’s charge:

  • The car keeps a wealth of data about its charging and driving history, which can be accessed by plugging a tool into the on-board diagnostics port. A service technician should be able to do this. You can pay to have this service done or request the report if the seller has already performed the test.
  • Ask the seller to charge the battery to 100% before you arrive so you can tell what the maximum range is.
  • Do some research into the vehicle online, which should tell you what the vehicle’s original range was. You can also use a free tool from Geotab to estimate how much battery degradation, the reduction of energy a battery can store or amount of power it delivers, you might see from a car of the same model and year – ELECTRIC VEHICLE BATTERY DEGRADATION TOOL
An EV’s battery is similar to an engine in a gas-powered vehicle. The expected lifetime of an EV is estimated to be 200,000 miles. Once a battery has exceeded its life expectancy, it will probably be recycled.