What to Expect When Buying an EV

As mentioned on a previous post, I moved from a gas-powered Mazda 3 to a Mitsubishi i-MiEV. What should you expect when considering purchasing an EV for yourself?

The first thing you need to consider is if your lifestyle is suitable for an electric vehicle. Because of range limitations of electric vehicles, along with relatively long charging times, most EV owners do not travel farther than a single charge distance from their homes.

The i-MiEV has the shortest range of all the EVs on the market currently, meaning 62 miles of EPA estimated range. That means I could travel 31 miles from my house and return on a single charge. Does this sound short to you? Then maybe an EV isn’t for you.

Do you have more than one car? An electric car is a wonderful second car. This way, if you do need to travel farther distances, you have another vehicle to rely on. You can also consider renting a car. I am fortunate to have a car rental agency within walking distance of my home.

Next, do you live in a home or apartment? Finding a place to charge your electric vehicle is easy when you have a home. Most garages have electrical plugs inside. Many homes have outside-accessible sockets, too. Apartments? Not so much. You need to consider how you are going to charge your EV. While all EVs have the ability to charge from 120V sockets, the time to charge is very long — up to 22 hours! Adding a high-voltage charging point helps reduce that time significantly, but is usually only something you can install if you own your home. Most people charge at home rather than a public charging point.

At this point, you’re certain that your life fits well with an EV. Time to visit the dealership.

Your first choice: Buy or lease? Buying your EV will allow you to break even against a similarly-equipped gas-powered car in about 5-6 years. Keep your car for that long and you’ll be saving money. Leasing means you pay for only the portion of the car you use. It also means that you don’t have any principal value built up.

With those negatives, why do most people lease their EVs? Because the technologies are improving so quickly that yesterday’s EVs are already outdated. Leasing allows you to have the latest and greatest technology. In electric vehicles, most of the time this means additional range or features, even a lower price.

Your salesperson may or may not have any knowledge in electric vehicles. Fortunately, when I visited the Mitsubishi dealer, they had a single salesperson certified to sell the i-MiEV. If he wasn’t there, I wouldn’t have been able to go home with my new car. Really.

Next, be prepared to be sold away from an electric vehicle. Why? Because the general public really doesn’t know about or even understand electric vehicles. The salesperson is trying to keep you from making a big mistake. Once they know you understand the limitations, they will happily sell you an EV.

Leave a bit of time for the dealership to fully charge your new EV and to teach you how to drive it. The i-MiEV is about as similar to a gas-powered car as you can get, but some cars, like the Nissan LEAF, have some different controls. Learn all you can and even take notes. When you get home, read your owner’s manual. Really.

Note: Having compared notes with other EV owners, I see that — for the most part — my experience is typical. 

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