Concern for the environment and lower long-term costs has led millions of Americans to say they’d be likely to consider an electric car for their next automotive purchase. But many still have serious questions about how making the switch would impact their routine—and their wallets.

Here are facts to help you better understand how electric vehicles (EVs) can affect your bank account and the environment, and what to consider if you’re thinking about getting one.

How far can an EV go on a charge?

Most EVs can run about 200 miles on a single charge. In comparison, a typical gas-powered vehicle has a range of 400 to 500 miles on a tank of gas. However, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, U.S. drivers travel an average of 31 miles per day.

Electric vehicle consideration: Do you plan to use it for commuting or long distances? It’s best to find an electric car with an operating range that exceeds your expected use. EV range is reduced by 41% when temperatures drop to 20 F and the car’s heater is used, and by 17% when they rise to 95 F and the car’s air conditioning is used, according to AAA research.

How long does it take to charge a battery?

The short (and unhelpful) answer: It depends. Recharging a depleted battery with household current can take 12 hours or more—a problem if you’re in a hurry but not if you simply charge the vehicle overnight. Many public chargers are faster, with some able to replenish half of the battery’s range in less than an hour.

Electric vehicle consideration: Are you willing to upgrade your electric service at home to support faster charging? And what is the availability of charging stations where you typically drive? There were more than 43,000 EV charging stations in the United States as of summer 2021—but only about 5,000 were fast charging stations, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Availability varies widely by state, but you can find charging station locations through the AAA Mobile app (see them at the Near Me map filter). One other thing to know: AAA Roadside Assistance is beginning to offer charging capability on its vehicles in some cities and states—so a recharge could be as close as your phone.

Are EVs affordable to buy?

EVs start at a little more than $30,000; high-end EVs can run to six figures. But be sure to check for federal, state and local incentives, which can bring down the price.

Electric vehicle consideration: Think about friends and family who own EVs and talk to them about the experience. AAA surveyed EV owners and found that:

  • 96% of respondents said they would buy or lease another EV.
  • 43% said they drove more now than they did with a gas-powered vehicle.
  • 78% reported also having a gas-powered vehicle in their household, but they said they did most of their driving (87%) in their EV.

Are maintenance costs higher for EVs than for gas-powered vehicles?

No. AAA research from 2019 indicates that although the overall cost of EV ownership1
is 8% more than gas-powered vehicle ownership (because of higher depreciation
and finance costs), some individual expenses are substantially lower.

The cost of electricity to drive 15,000 miles a year averages $546; the cost of gas to drive the same distance is $1,225.

Electric vehicles don’t require oil changes or engine air filter replacements. If an EV is maintained according to automaker recommendations, it costs $949 annually to maintain, $330 less than a gas-powered car.

Are electric vehicles really that green?

Total emissions associated with driving EVs are still typically less than those for gasoline-powered cars.

Although EVs produce zero direct emissions, emissions may be produced by the source of their electrical power, such as a power plant, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Conventional vehicles, on the other hand, produce direct emissions through the tailpipe, through evaporation from the vehicle’s fuel system and during the fueling process.

You can estimate the greenhouse gas emissions associated with charging and driving an electric vehicle where you live by visiting this calculator from the U.S. Department of Energy.

This story was featured in the
September/October 2021 issue of AAALiving Magazine

Get Help Buying a New Vehicle

The AAA Car Guide provides comprehensive reviews that are based on 13 criteria, including the number of safety features, emissions, braking, fuel economy, handling, ride comfort and acceleration. To focus on EVs, just select Electric for Fuel Type on the search page.

1Costs calculated over five years and 75,000 miles.

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