Electric vehicles account for just 1.2 percent of the U.S. vehicle market, but sales are booming, growing 25 percent last year.
Here are factors to consider when assessing whether an electric vehicle is suitable for you.
Issue 1: The Distance Myth
According to the Federal Highway Administration, the average American drives 36 miles a day. The typical range for an electric car today is more than 100 miles, with ranges of 150 to 250 miles becoming common.
“If you’re an insurance salesman you’re logging a lot of miles, so an electric car’s not going to be for you,” says Brian Sloboda, a program and product manager at the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. “For most people in the United States, even in rural areas, that number is under 40 miles per day. So if your car has a range of 120 miles, that’s a lot of wiggle room.”
Track the number of miles you drive.
Issue 2: Off-Peak Electric Rates
What you pay to charge your electric car could depend on whether your local utility offers a lower rate overnight, when demand for electricity tends to be lower.
“It’s different depending on where you are in the country,” says Sloboda. “There are areas of the country where the on-peak, off-peak difference in price is extreme.”
Some utilities have fairly stable electric demand throughout a typical day, so they may not offer a special electric vehicle rate.
Issues 3 and 4: Environment and Geography
For many people, one of the biggest selling points for electric cars is their more favorable effect on the environment compared to conventional vehicles.
“Seventy-five percent of people now live in places where driving on electricity is cleaner than a 50 mpg gasoline car,” says a report from the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Climate and geography also affects performance. If you regularly drive up and down mountains, or make a lot of use of the heater or air conditioner, performance will be sacrificed.
Sloboda says electric vehicles are not for everybody—yet.
No major carmaker offers a pickup truck, although he believes that will happen within the next 24 months.
Sloboda says there is no technological barrier to making an electric pickup, and suggests advantages: a heavy battery in the bottom would lower the center of gravity for better handling, and at a remote worksite the battery could run power tools.