To EV, or Not to EV

Dear Dr. Per Cap:

Would you recommend buying an electric vehicle? They seem really cool, but I hear a lot of people say they’re impractical.

Signed,

Native Driver


Dear Native Driver,

I’ve never owned an electric vehicle (or EV, as they’re commonly referred to) so I have limited experience on this hotly debated issue. However, I recently rented an EV for a week and that’s what you should do, too.

Here’s what I learned: The driving experience in an EV was like nothing I’d ever experienced in an automobile powered by an internal combustion engine (ICE). Tap the accelerator pedal and the car instantly responded with silky, smooth power that made virtually no mechanical noise. No gears to shift, automatically or manually; and it also allowed for seamless acceleration to higher speeds that at times felt like the car was floating down the road.

The car I drove had four batteries, one for each wheel. This design offered refreshingly simple function compared to the parts-heavy powertrains that still use technology surprisingly similar to what Henry Ford had when the first Model T rolled off the assembly line more than 100 years ago.

Now for the bad news about those lithium-ion batteries that make the magic happen. As you’ve probably heard, they just don’t have the same range of gasoline-powered automobiles. The car I rented had a maximum range of about 240 miles with a 90% percent charge, which meant I had to recharge the car twice. An ICE car would have been fine on one tank of fuel for the whole trip.

I also had a heck of a time finding a charging station that charged faster than a snail’s pace. There was a gas station with four chargers not too far from my hotel, but they were super slow and gave an estimate of six hours to charge the vehicle.

No, thanks!

Instead, I had to drive another 30 minutes to a Walmart parking lot with a half dozen super chargers that took about 25 minutes to charge; however, the cost for that extra electricity wasn’t a whole lot less than what I would have paid for a comparable amount of fuel.

That’s why you should rent an EV for a week before buying one. If you’re able to charge the car at home and don’t see yourself driving long distances, it might be a good fit. Of course, EVs are more expensive, even with the $7,500 federal tax credit available on many models. So, you’ll need to do the math to see if you’ll really come out ahead financially in the long run with the energy savings.

Also, be sure to factor in the environmental impact, which can be really tricky to calculate. Sure, EVs have no tailpipes spitting out harmful emissions, but there is an environmental cost to lithium mining that’s easy to overlook when you see a shiny Tesla pass you on the highway.

EVs are definitely the future. Whether it’s your future or not is for you to decide.

 

Ask Dr. Per Cap is a program funded by First Nations Development Institute with assistance from the FINRA Investor Education Foundation. For more information, visit www.firstnations.org. To send a question to Dr. Per Cap, email askdrpercap@firstnations.org.