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What to know about buying an electric vehicle

By Bruce Finley The Denver Post

For drivers, shifting from gas to a zero-emissions electric vehicle means weighing steeper up-front costs against climate benefits and long-term money saved.

EVs don’t need gas, and studies have found they typically require less maintenance, with no oil changes and only tires, brakes and batteries — usually good for 100,000 miles — to replace.

Here are answers to some commonly asked questions about electric vehicles, or EVs:

How much do they cost?

Current prices exceed $100,000 for top models, such as the Tesla X, but deals for other models can be found as low as $20,000 after tax credits.

Those credits for buying (not leasing) new EVs — up to $2,500 from the state and $7,500 from the federal government — can defray the price. However, credits are vanishing as automakers, Tesla and General Motors so far, reach a threshold of selling a total of more than 200,000 electric vehicles nationwide.

Starting this summer, look for Rivian pickups priced around $75,000, likely appealing widely along with anticipated electric versions of the Ford F150. Toyota’s RAV-4 hybrid, priced around $41,000, has proved popular, along with the Prius Prime. A fully electric Volkswagen ID4, costing less than $55,000, may rival top models for style. Base prices hover around $31,600 for an electric Nissan Leaf, $29,900 for an electric Mini Cooper and $35,400 for a Tesla Model 3.

Why do they cost so much?

Battery costs are the problem. Industry analysts widely anticipate prices falling as companies improve batteries, just as tech improvements drove down costs of wind and solar energy. Tesla chief Elon Musk recently said his company will sell an electric car priced at $25,000 within three years.

Will the government help?

New government-backed incentives aren’t ruled out. President Joe Biden has said action to address climate warming must be the nation’s top priority, favoring a shift from gas to electric vehicles. Gov. Jared Polis has voiced enthusiasm. Colorado officials pointed to possible rebates for lowincome drivers under an Xcel Energy pilot program.

How much does the electricity cost?

Electricity costs around 13.28 cents per kilowatthour, varying around the country from 9 cents to 19 cents.

An EV typically requires about 30 kilowatt hours of electricity to travel 100 miles, approximately equivalent to what residents of an average house use in a day.

Electricity costs also vary based on when you plug in. Gas to travel 100 miles at current prices would cost about $11.50, compared with about $3.98 for charging an electric vehicle to travel that same distance.

How far can you drive on a charge?

Some EVs can travel more than 200 miles on a charge. Tesla vehicles can go 300 miles.

Latest top models are built to move more than 400 miles. Driving fast drains batteries, though, and freezing temperatures can reduce range by up to a third.

Where can you recharge EVs, and how long does it take?

EV battery charging looms as a challenge and source of “range anxiety” — the fear of running out — especially in the West, where distances can exceed 100 miles between cities.

Public charging stations, some free, can charge vehicles up to 80% in as little as 30 minutes. Many take longer. You can find locations using PlugShare.com.

Tesla owners are given access to a Supercharger network that includes fastcharging stations, and other networks such as EVgo, ChargePoint and Electrify America offer maps.

Charging at home at night while you sleep may be cheapest. You simply plug in and wait — maybe for several days with a standard household wall outlet (called “Level 1”) at the rate of about 4 miles of range per hour. A rapid charger requiring a 240-volt outlet installed by an electrician for around $750 (called “Level 2”) can charge batteries six times faster, typically infusing about 25 miles of range per hour.

In Colorado, utilities are expected to invest more than $100 million installing more charging stations over the next few years, concentrated along the interstates (25, 70, 76) and state highways (40, 50). Colorado Energy Office data show 34 EV rapid-charging stations as of December 2020.

What about insurance?

Insurance tends to cost about 23% more because of the higher cost of EVs, with their battery packs, compared with gas-powered vehicles.

Send EV questions to reporter Bruce Finley at bfinley@denverpost

 

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