As battery technology improves and becomes less expensive, fuel efficiency standards take effect, and charging stations are rolled out across the U.S., the prospect of driving an electric vehicle (EV) is becoming more feasible than ever. About 17,000 electric cars were sold in the U.S. last year — more than any time in since the early 1900s. Here are some tips for leaving that internal combustion engine behind:
Take stock of your driving conditions: According to the Rocky Mountain Institute, potential EV buyers should consider range and climate. If the miles you cover each day are predictable and/or less than 60 miles, an EV might work for you. Just like a typical car battery, an EV battery loses effectiveness in cold weather, so they work best in warm climates. EV driving ranges are expected to improve as battery technology improves.
Shop for the greenest vehicle: GreenerCars.org releases a list of the greenest cars each year. The Mitsubishi i and the Nissan Leaf took the top spots for 2012 EV models. There are even more models on the horizon at the Plug In America website.
Get a rebate: After taking advantage of up to $7,500 in federal tax credits and potential state incentives, EVs become more affordable than their sticker price might suggest. To search for rebates in your area, go to the Plug In America incentives database or the Department of Energy website. While EVs currently cost more than conventional fuel vehicles, their lifetime costs are much lower (fully charging an EV can cost as little as $2 compared with $12 for the same distance in fuel costs for a conventional car). This Union of Concerned Scientists graph shows savings over the life of the car:
Charge up: Most people can charge their EVs at home by plugging them into the same outlet they use for appliances like TVs and toasters! People can also install special charging docks that allow a higher voltage. There are now over 10,000 charging stations around the country so that people can charge the car while it’s sitting in a parking garage, for instance. To find charging stations in your area, search here.
Green the grid: EVs are only as clean as the electric grid they draw power from. There’s a big difference between charging up a car in a solar car port and plugging it into a building that gets most of its energy from a coal power plant. Luckily, as more renewables are phased into our power supply, electric cars will become cleaner too.