Massachusetts

What to Consider When Buying an Electric Car

The first consideration when choosing an electric car is how far it will be able to travel on a single charge. Most people will want a car with the greatest amount of range for the lowest cost. See the following chart, sorted by base price after the federal rebate. (Sadly, the Massachusetts rebate program expired 9/30/19.)

Curious about how much you have to spend to get how much range? Look at the far-right column, “Price After Rebate(s) ÷ Range”. By this metric, the Hyundai Kona is a great deal. So are the Tesla Model 3 Long Range RWD and the Nissan Leaf e+ S.

Also, don't forget to check out the deals at Green Energy Consumer Alliance. Their Drive Green program matches buyers with dealers offering discounts. These are constantly changing, so we couldn't factor those into our spreadsheet below, but at the time of publication, we saw a discount for $14,000!

2019 Electric Cars

Base Price (MSRP)

Federal Rebate

MA Rebate

Base Price After Rebate(s)

Range (mi)

Price 

After Rebate(s)

÷ Range

smart EQ for two Coupe

23,900

7,500

0

16,400

58

283

smart EQ for two Cabrio

28,100

7,500

0

20,600

57

361

Nissan Leaf

29,990

7,500

0

22,490

150

150

Hyundai IONIQ

30,315

7,500

0

22,815

124

184

Volkswagen e-Golf

31,895

7,500

0

24,395

125

195

Kia Soul

33,950

7,500

0

26,450

111

238

Fiat 500e

32,995

7,500

0

25,495

84

304

Nissan Leaf e+ S

36,550

7,500

0

29,050

226

129

Hyundai Kona

36,950

7,500

0

29,450

258

114

Nissan Leaf e+ SV/SL

38,510

7,500

0

31,010

215

144

Tesla Model 3 Standard RAnge

35,000

3,750

0

31,250

220

142

Chevy Bolt

36,620

3,750

0

32,870

238

138

Kia Soul 2020

42,595

7,500

0

35,095

243

144

Testla Model 3 Standard Range Plus

39,500

3,750

0

35,750

240

149

BMW i3

44,450

7,500

0

36,950

153

242

Kia Niro

44,995

7,500

0

37,495

239

157

BMW i3S

47,650

7,500

0

40,150

153

262

Tesla Model 3 Long Range RWD

44,500

3,750

0

40,750

325

125

Tesla Model 3 Long Range AWD

49,500

3,750

0

45,750

310

148

Tesla Model 3 Performance LR AWD

59,500

3,750

0

55,750

310

180

Jaguar I-PACE

69,500

7,500

0

62,000

234

265

Audi e-tron

74,800

7,500

0

67,300

204

330

Tesla Model S Standard Range

78,000

3,750

0

74,250

285

261

Tesla Model X Standard Range

83,000

3,750

0

79,250

250

317

Tesla Model S Long RAnge

88,000

3,750

0

84,250

370

228

Tesla Model X Long Range

93,000

3,750

0

89,250

325

275

Tesla Model S Performance

99,000

3,750

0

95,250

345

276

Tesla Model X Performance

104,000

3,750

0

100,250

305

329

Tesla Model S Performance LM

119,000

3,750

0

115,250

345

334

Tesla Model X Performance LM

124,000

3,750

0

120,250

305

394

Source: Except Columns 4, 5, and 7, the rest of the data in this chart is from InsideEvs.com 4/25/19 article “Compare EVs: Guide To Range, Specs, Pricing & More

Next, you need to know how range is affected by cold weather, the use of heating and cooling, and the age of the car. Consider the experience shared by owners of three popular models, below.

Elizabeth, Owner of a 2019 Chevy Bolt

“We bought our car in mid-February.  In the winter, it fully charged to about 190 miles, and now it's about 220 [in spring]. It definitely does use up miles faster at some times, but it can also use up way fewer miles, or none, especially if I am recharging the battery [through regenerative braking or going downhill] while I drive. If we turn on any kind of climate control, it deducts about 20 miles off the total. 

 We have not installed a charger. We just plug it in to the house. It adds about 3 - 5 miles/hour like that. Because we don't drive long distances ordinarily, I can easily charge it overnight and always be fully charged.

It's fun to drive and easy to park. There's room for 5 to ride comfortably, and for 4 suitcases in the trunk.  The seats flip down for greater cargo carrying.  We were transitioning from a very old car, so we enjoy all the new-car bells and whistles - automatic lights, that sort of thing.

We have a ChargePoint account for Level 2 charging, which we have used once, when we drove to Connecticut.  We also signed up for a Level 3 charging network with stations on the freeway, but we have never used it.  There seems to be a ton of Level 2 charging in Brookline municipal parking lots, but we have never used this.”

Karyn, Owner of a 2015 Nissan Leaf

“When my car was new, and I charged it overnight, it could deliver up to 106 miles, on a summer day. In winter, a full charge was 85-90 miles. 

Four years later, a full charge in the spring is about 88 miles and the winter is about 75 miles. Time will tell how great a charge the Leaf will hold in the summer, and how well it performs 5 or 10 years from now.

As for cold weather, if I set out with 90 miles on a very cold day of 20℉ or below, I find that I only have about 30 miles, even if I confine myself to the use of heated seats and steering wheel. If I set out with 90 miles on a 30℉ day, I will find that I only have about 45 miles. Using hot/cold air and driving at highway speed also eats up the miles.

We plug the car into an outdoor outlet and the car is fully charged the next morning. This was true back when all we had was a 120-volt outlet, and now that we have a 240-volt outlet (which we upgraded for reasons that had nothing to do with our automotive needs).

Our car is zippy and fun to drive. It’s so quiet you can hear yourself think. We love driving electric, and it suits us well for driving in the city where most of our trips are under 20 miles. As technology improves in the future, we look forward to owning a car with greater range.”

Jesse, Owner of a 2018 Tesla Model S

“These days, a full charge in summer is 280 miles. On the coldest winter days, we get about 140 miles. Heating the cabin further reduces the range. Air conditioning is less of a problem. Driving speed considerably reduces range, but the Tesla will notify you to adjust your speed when necessary, and route you to a charging station if necessary.

Before we got our Tesla charger, we plugged the car into a 120-volt outlet in a rented garage space. Instead of running it down to empty, we plugged it in every night. Otherwise, at 120 volts, it would have taken 3 days to charge. Frequently, we charged for free - at work, at the Museum of Science, and Brookline town lots. We also have a ChargePoint account.

Now we have our own garage, and a Tesla charger, the most powerful you can get, which cost about $500. It takes 7 hours to fully charge the car, at 37 mi/per hour. Even now, for the longevity of the battery, we usually only charge it up to 50%. Charging has never been a problem for us, even at 120 volts in a rented space. 

Most people are concerned about range and charging. They should know that EVs are practical now. According to InsideEvs.com, 90% of EV owners say they will never go back to gasoline. Also, it can be done in a way that saves you money, so it’s financially practical, too. 

In 2019, 23 chargers are coming to Beacon Street. About half will be reserved for electric Zipcars. The others will be available for anyone to use, and three will be Level 3 fast chargers.”

Where & How to Charge?

Most drivers do not exceed 40 miles per day, so many find it easiest to simply plug their car into a typical household outlet overnight. Drivers who exceed 40 miles per day, and drive cars with ranges above 100 miles, may feel the need to install a charger. Otherwise, it could take two or three days to charge a long-range car from a standard household outlet.

Even if you charge at home, it still makes sense to join a charging network, so you can charge when you’re on the road. ChargePoint is the biggest network in the Boston area. Other networks include EVgo, Blink, Electrify America, SemaConnect, and the Tesla network. As ConsumerReports puts it,  “Subscribers sign up with a network online and link a credit card to their account. They receive a small key tag with a barcode on it. This allows them to connect to activate the charger and have their electricity usage account billed to their account. Thankfully, some EV charging networks offer a roaming option, which lets subscribers from a different network use a charger for an additional fee.”

Google Maps now allows you to search for “charging stations,” and the results include user ratings and reviews of each station. Unfortunately, this feature does not let you know whether the station is occupied. ChargePoint does let you know whether it’s occupied, and includes a social component that lets you know the condition of each station, and any hindrances to charging that users have encountered. So does PlugShare, an app which allows you to find chargers from multiple networks. If those networks have an agreement with PlugShare, you will also be able to pay via the PlugShare app. Extra-helpful: PlugShare has a Trip Planner that allows you to enter your point of origin and your destination to see all the charging stations along your route.

Fuel & Maintenance Costs

According to Consumer Reports, “electric cars can dramatically reduce running costs. We’ve found that most EVs cost about four cents a mile to run at national average electric rates.”

As Jesse says, “Electric vehicles have very few moving parts and therefore are dramatically less expensive to maintain, making them cost-savers even when they cost more to purchase upfront.”

An article in Quartz.com says that the city of New York “analyzed fuel and maintenance costs for 1,893 of its 9,196 light-passenger vehicles in 2018. It found servicing costs with all-electric vehicle models was less than for gas, hybrid, and hybrid plug-in models.” 

This cancels out the higher base price of electric cars, at least with reasonably priced models, like the Nissan Leaf, which by comparison with a gas-powered Ford Fusion is “expected to save the city $8,748, or 21% of the expected $41,328 for the gasoline car over the course of nine years.”

When to Buy

Ideally, you would take your prospective car for a test drive in the winter, so you can witness the effect of cold on range first-hand. As with any car, you should buy at the end of the month or, ideally, at the end of the year. You’ll have better leverage then, when dealers are trying to reach sales goals.


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