For now, electric vehicles—whether BEV or PHEV—carry a price premium over comparable gasoline-powered vehicles. (That may change late in the decade.) However, EVs have dramatically lower running costs because they require less maintenance, and depending on where you live, electricity is likely to be cheaper than petroleum. And federal and local incentives can effectively reduce the purchase price.
The range of EV types has grown considerably since the days of the modest Nissan Leaf. Now consumers can choose futuristic-looking models like the Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Kia EV6; SUVs such as the Chevrolet Blazer and Equinox; high-end cars and SUVs from Audi, BMW, Cadillac, Lexus, and Mercedes-Benz; and even pickup trucks like the Ford F-150 Lightning, Rivian R1T, and upcoming Chevrolet Silverado EV.
Tesla was once the new kid on the block, but now startups such as Lucid, Rivian, and VinFast—along with resurrected brands Fisker and DeLorean—are also muscling in.
Almost every manufacturer is getting into the EV market.
Pricing ranges from around $27,000 for the Chevrolet Bolt and can climb well past $150,000 for top-shelf luxury models.
Plus, lower carbon dioxide emissions and air pollution, and reduced dependence on fossil fuels, are icing on the cake. And a federal incentive of up to $7,500 can increase the savings. (Learn more about available incentives on the Department of Energy website.)
Electric cars are very efficient, and most new models can deliver from 200 to 300 miles of cruising range to satisfy the needs of many drivers without daily charging. EVs are very clean because they have no tailpipe emissions. They are also quiet and provide punchy acceleration. But charging them can take hours—depending on the charging source—and driving them for long distances requires extra planning regarding where and when you’ll charge.
It’s also well-established that cold weather takes a toll on the range of electric vehicles. In our tests, we found that cold weather saps about 25 percent of range when cruising at 70 mph compared with the same conditions in mild weather. Unlike a gas car, where the heat is a byproduct of the running engine, an EV has to produce cabin heat and manage an optimal battery temperature with energy that comes from the battery, in turn reducing range. And shorter trips in the cold with frequent stops and reheating of the cabin can reduce the range by 50 percent.
EVs usually cost thousands more to buy than conventional cars, although much of that difference can be offset by federal and state subsidies, and lower maintenance and fueling costs.
Certain regions of the country are also better suited to using electric cars. Some have better public charging infrastructure, more favorable electric rates, and milder weather, which doesn’t tax the battery as much. And some areas have cleaner electric power generation than others.
If you live in a house, as opposed to an apartment building, it’s feasible to charge your EV at home. We recommend getting a home charger (known as electric vehicle supply equipment, or EVSE) that works on 240-volt (Level 2) charging installed inside or outside your garage. That way, you’ll be able to charge your EV overnight. The cost is typically $500 to $700 for a home charger. Parts and labor can add $1,200 to $2,000. (Learn how to choose the best home charger based on our tests.)
Whether or not an EV is for you depends on your use—where you live and the distances and climate in which you drive, your willingness to plug in as frequently as necessary, and your ability to pay more for the car and reap the benefits in the long run. If you’re keeping a conventional vehicle in your household, the decision is easier. (For more help in deciding, read How to Decide If a Hybrid, Plug-In Hybrid, or Fully Electric Car Is Right for You.)