This guide is a basic primer that can help determine whether “going electric” is right for you.Electric vehicles come in all shapes and sizes, from small hatchbacks to luxury SUVs. Some are electric versions of familiar models, others are all-new vehicles engineered to strictly use electric power.There are two basic kinds of plug-ins: Battery electric vehicles (BEVs) that run exclusively on electricity, and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) that can run on electricity for a limited distance before switching to gas/electric hybrid mode.

Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles can operate on electric power alone for anywhere from 10 miles to 50 miles. Once their battery power is depleted, plug-ins transition from running on electricity to being powered by the gasoline engine mode to extend their range, allowing them to drive about as far as a regular car, and they can quickly refuel at a typical gas station.

Plug-in hybrids are an appealing option for drivers who travel mostly short distances, and can benefit from operating on electricity most of the time. But those owners can still get the ultimate range of a gasoline engine when needed.

Battery electric vehicles are very efficient, and most newer models have enough range to satisfy the needs of a typical driver for multiple days without fully recharging. For most drivers, this means daily energy usage can be replenished from a simple 110-volt outlet, without the need to purchase and install a 240-volt charger. Battery electric vehicles have fewer components than a plug-in hybrid or an internal combustion engine vehicle, and so they often have lower maintenance costs—no oil changes necessary!

Electric cars offer significantly lower fuel costs compared to traditional, gas-powered cars. On average, a gallon of gasoline costs about twice as much as the comparable cost to run an electric car. That’s especially true if drivers take advantage of off-peak electricity rates while charging at home. And electric rates tend to be more stable than oil prices. (Compare how much you’d save in your state using the Deptartment of Energy’s eGallon tool.)

EVs cost more on average than typical gas-powered cars, and despite significant advances in range, they may not be ideal for some one-car households. Plug-in hybrids solve the range problem, but they still need a place to plug in to take full advantage of their propulsion system.Electric vehicle owners need to have ready access to an outlet (or 240-volt battery charger) and a parking spot for overnight charging, unless they are relying entirely on workplace charging.

For EV drivers, planning when and where the car will be charged is a constant part of ownership.Unlike refuelling a gas car, which takes only a few minutes, recharging an EV can take 25-60 minutes (depending on the battery size and charging speed) using fast chargers and several hours with slower, Level 2 chargers (see below for more details on levels). Note also that in cold weather or extreme heat, the range plummets dramatically.

Of course, an EV doesn't have to be somebody's only car. A conventional gas-powered car can fill in where a pure EV falls short—and vice versa—in a multi-car household.Base prices start at about $30,000 for the Hyundai Ioniq and Nissan Leaf. From there, prices run the gamut and span into six figures for a Tesla Model S and Model X. In some cases, those prices are thousands more than similarly-sized gas-powered cars.

But many electric cars are eligible for up to a $7,500 federal tax credit to help offset the extra cost. Additional city and state tax credits, rebates, or vouchers are available in California, Colorado, New York, Texas, and elsewhere that can make the costs of electric cars more compelling and competitive with the price of non-EVs. Plus, consumers with a home solar system can really lower or even eliminate their energy costs.

Under current rules, once an automaker sells 200,000 electric cars, the value of the tax credit decrease and eventually fades away. So far, this has impacted only two automakers, General Motors and Tesla. However, Congress is considering a plan that would expand the federal tax credit, including increasing the number of electric cars from each automaker that is eligible for the credit, so this limitation may change. Be sure to consult your accountant to determine eligibility for receiving a tax credit. Check current status for credits being offered with the IRS.
It pays to do your homework and look beyond the sticker price to find out how much you’d actually be paying after state, federal, and local incentives, as well as local lease offers. You may be surprised to find that some EVs are more affordable than you think.

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