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Answers to your electric vehicle questions

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David Boraks
/
WFAE
Electric cars are displayed at an EV expo in 2019 in uptown Charlotte.

Roughly 4 in 10 Americans say they’re “very likely” or “somewhat likely” to “seriously consider” buying an electric car or truck the next time they are in the market, according to a recent Pew Research survey. With help from WFAE climate reporter David Boraks, FAQ City answered some common questions about electric vehicles, or EVs for short

Which car companies offer electric vehicles?

Tesla isn’t the only game in town, though it is still the biggest-selling electric-vehicle brand in the U.S., accounting for roughly 80% of all newly registered EVs in 2020.

Most of the big automakers now have their own electric models, including Hyundai, Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche, Volvo, BMW and Kia. Right now there are about 50 different EV models for sale in the U.S., and that's expected to grow to 150 by 2025.

The Nissan Leaf has been on the market for 10 years. The Chevy Bolt is the third most popular in the U.S., based on sales so far this year, according to Car & Driver. Ford’s Mustang Mach E won a lot of awards in 2020 and is currently the fourth-best-selling EV in the U.S. Ford also plans to deliver an electric F-150 pickup in 2022.

New electric vehicle companies are popping up, too. Rivian has a truck that it calls an “adventure vehicle,” Lucid is a super luxury EV brand, and Polestar started in Sweden. These startups are trying to replicate Tesla’s business and have also hired away some of Tesla’s talent.

How much do EVs cost? 

Be ready for a bit of sticker shock unless you currently drive a luxury car. And in general, the lower the price, the shorter the range.

In general, Tesla’s models range from around $40,000 to $100,000, with price increases for adding bigger batteries or accessories. The company also announced it’s raising prices by $2,000 on its two best-selling EVs, the Model Y and Model 3. Mini has an electric model that starts at $30,000, the Nissan Leaf starts around $32,000 and Hyundai has a model for about $35,000.

But EV advocates say electric cars require a lot less maintenance and remember: You won’t be paying for gas.

When will electric vehicles become less expensive?

Prices are continuing to come down, but it’s tough to say when exactly the initial cost of an EV will be roughly the same as a gas-powered car.

“It's going to be better than gasoline because the batteries are going to continue to come down in cost,” said Daniel Sperling with the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California at Davis. “There's all kinds of innovation... There's been like an 85% to 90% reduction in cost in the last decade. And all forecasts are that it's going to continue going down.”

Tesla’s first EV, released in 2008, cost $100,000 — or $125,000 today. Now, some EVs cost around a quarter of that price.

Are there rebates or other incentives to buy electric? 

Yes. There’s a federal tax credit of up to $7,500 for buying an electric vehicle. There's also a federal tax credit of up to $1,000 for installing a charging station. In many parts of the U.S., local governments and utilities may also offer incentives. No state in the Southeast currently offers a tax credit or financial incentive for buying EVs.

Can you buy a used electric car?

Absolutely, though you may have to hunt around and prices don’t seem to fall as quickly for used EVs as they do for some gas-powered cars. Plus, older electric cars won’t have the range of newer ones.

How far can you get on a charge?

It depends on the EV model, like how some gas-powered cars have larger or smaller gas tanks, but most can get around 200 miles on a single charge.

Generally, as the vehicle’s price goes up, so does its range. The Mini model that starts around $30,000 can get roughly 110 miles on a charge. Other lower-cost models can get up to 200 miles. Meanwhile, the luxury Tesla S and the Lucid Air both get more than 400 miles but cost at least $90,000. Lucid brags that its priciest model tops 500 miles per charge.

What is 'range anxiety?' 

Range anxiety is when a driver worries that their vehicle doesn’t have enough energy (i.e. electric charge) to power them to their destination, like if you’re on a road trip to the beach and need to think about where to charge your car. But experts say the average EV owner drives only about 30 miles per day, so charging isn’t a daily concern, and that the vast majority of electric vehicle charging happens at home.

“(Range anxiety) is a perception more than a reality,” said Stan Cross with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “In fact, you experience incredible convenience, being able to come home every night and plug in your EV. And once you're in the vehicle, and you're experiencing that technology, you realize … the performance of an EV is just so much better than a car.”

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David Boraks
Electric vehicle charging station outside Cornelius Town Hall. Some chargers are free and others charge a fee for the electricity.

Have pandemic-related supply chain problems affected electric cars? 

Yes. There are longer waits for electric vehicles, caused in part by the global shortage of computer chips and steel supply chain problems. Rising demand for EVs also plays a role. In general, the more popular the car, the longer the wait.

An order for the entry-level Tesla Model 3 right now could take as long as 10 months to arrive, though experts say fancier models may come sooner. It’s a similar story for other carmakers. You could wait six months for a Ford Mustang Mach E

Are there any extra taxes on electric vehicles? 

Yes. Many states have passed laws charging an extra annual fee for electric vehicles. That's to make up for the loss of road-use taxes charged at the gas pump. That money goes toward maintaining roads. In North Carolina, it's $130 per year for any plug-in electric vehicle.

Are public battery chargers free? 

Yes and no. Some chargers are free — supported by the business, government or organization where you find them. When Tesla first built its charger network about nine years ago, the cost of charging was built into the purchase price. But since then, Tesla has started charging either by the amount of electricity or the time it takes to charge.

The recent infrastructure bill includes $7.5 billion for charging stations nationwide plus a competitive grant program with another $2.5 billion. North Carolina stands to get $190 million for charging stations out of that bill, though, ultimately, the private sector will probably build out most of the EV charging network.

“As soon as companies — just any company — realizes they can be profitable in selling electricity for an electric vehicle, we're going to see a little bit more infrastructure happen,” said Stephanie Brinley, an automotive analyst with IHS Markit.

Brinley said companies may sell advertising on the charger, collect money for the electricity, or charge property owners for charger installation.

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Claire Donnelly is WFAE's health reporter. She previously worked at NPR member station KGOU in Oklahoma and also interned at WBEZ in Chicago and WAMU in Washington, D.C. She holds a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University and attended college at the University of Virginia, where she majored in Comparative Literature and Spanish. Claire is originally from Richmond, Virginia. Reach her at cdonnelly@wfae.org or on Twitter @donnellyclairee.
David Boraks is a veteran journalist who covers climate change for WFAE. See more at www.wfae.org/climate-news. He also has covered housing and homelessness, energy and the environment, transportation and business.