By Chris Prickett —Does an EV (electric vehicle) make sense? The simple answer is yes, no, and maybe. In my situation it does, but your mileage may vary. (Car joke, get it?) I’m not talking hybrid here, but purely 100-percent electric. Here’s why I chose one and why you might not.
Let’s talk range and refueling: I bought a used Nissan Leaf for my daughter to commute to school, about 30 miles each way. Used electric cars that come off a lease are less than one third the price of new. The total range of the vehicle, before recharging, is around 80 miles, so that works for us. (A Tesla gets 200–300 on a charge but will set you back major dinero.) The advantage is that driving the car is essentially free, with the exception of tires and brakes as needed. Here are the limitations:
Most econo-electrics come standard with a 3.6 kW charging system, and an option for a faster 6.6 kW setup. The standard charger plugs into a regular 110-volt wall socket and takes an excruciatingly long 21 hours to charge. I hooked up a dedicated 220-volt line (like what the washer and dryer use) and can top off in 5-6 hours, but the charging cable costs $300.
One big challenge, at least in Arizona, is that most public charging options are only 3.6 kW. If you outrun your range, expect to take a long timeout. Run out on the highway and you’ll either need a tow or a generator. There are charging stations all over the metro area (and around the country, for that matter) but practically speaking, I don’t think an EV is a cross-country driving option.
Unlike its fossil-fuel counterpart, an electric actually gets better mileage in city driving than highway. The sweet spot is 60 mph and under. It’ll do 80 plus (or so we heard), but high speeds seriously drain the battery.
Other than that, an electric operates and performs very similarly to a regular car. An EV has the added benefit carpool lane privileges, but just try doing 60 in the left lane of I-17 with the teeming masses riding your butt. Talk about short circuit!
Over the Prickett Fence is a column in In&Out Magazine.