Kiplinger’s Personal Finance – April 2022
English | 78 pages | pdf | 31.82 MB

Time to Buy an EV?

With a slew of electric vehicles hitting the market—including the Ford F-150 Lightning pickup truck and, a year from now, the Chevy Silverado—we thought it was time to ask whether it’s time to buy an EV. We tapped senior editor (and gearhead) David Muhlbaum to help answer
the question and evaluate some of the most popular new models in the story on page 66.
The automobile industry is undergoing a revolution the likes of which have not been seen for more than 100 years, when the industry was in a battle over which technology would power cars: batteries or gasoline engines. Then as now, the secrets to success were range, cost and convenience.
The Model T went on sale in 1908, and its 10-gallon fuel tank could take the car up to 200 miles or so—but the battery was still in play. World War I, and cheap petroleum, gave the internal combustion engine the edge.
Now the car companies are betting big on electric vehicles. Ford has pledged that 40% of its global sales will be EVs by 2030, and GM is shooting for a fully electric fleet by 2035. Hyundai, Toyota and Volkswagen are also making major moves toward electrification. And a few Silicon Valley start-ups have been building EVs, from Rivian to Lucid (for our take on Lucid
stock, see the cover story, starting on page 18).

What about you? I have been asking myself whether it’s time to switch to an EV, and many of you may be thinking along the same lines. My wife and I own a 15-year-old BMW X3. It still runs great, but its mechanical clock is ticking.
The advantages of EVs are well documented: They have low maintenance. (No oil changes! No belts!) In fact, according to a recent study by the U.S. Office of Energy Efficiency, EVs in the U.S. government fleet cost an average of 6 cents per mile to operate, while internal combustion engine vehicles in its fleet cost 10 cents per mile. There’s also a federal tax credit (with strings attached) and often a state rebate—oh, and enough torque to make any 16-year-old giddy. You can throw in zero tailpipe emissions, although power plants running on natural gas or coal still produce the electricity to recharge EVs, and battery production creates a lot of CO2.
Besides the initial cost, range anxiety and convenience are the biggest hurdles. If you use an EV mainly to commute or run errands, you can recharge overnight (and pay a higher electric bill). Even for longer trips, if you’re traveling up and down I-95 or the 405, you’ll find lots of “DC fast chargers” installed by Tesla, Ford and other charging networks along the way. You typically pay $20 to $40 per charge (dedicated Tesla Superchargers cost less than that). But it takes at least half an hour to power up.
I’ve been talking to my friends who have bought EVs to see how they like them. I got a lot of info from Yves LePottier, a Michigan friend who has owned a Tesla 3 for three years.He mostly uses it to commute from his home in Ann Arbor to his job near Detroit. He installed a 220-volt charger in his garage and can get a
full charge overnight.
Yves says it’s the best car he has ever owned. What about limited range? Yves is an engineer and a cool, analytical sort of guy. “I’d say I deal with range complexity, not anxiety, because I know how to manage it,” he says. But there have been anxiety-producing trips. He recently drove from Ann Arbor to northern Michigan, about 230 miles one way, to participate in a cross-country ski race. He plugged in to a 110- volt outlet overnight. The next morning, he had only enough charge to drive 42 miles. (Besides the relative trickle of power from a 110-volt outlet, cold temperatures reduce an EV’s range.)
EV computers analyze how many miles away the next charger is and how much charge you’ll have by the time you get there, as well as how to adjust your speed if necessary to squeeze in extra miles. Yves found a not-so-super charger at a shopping mall and got enough extra juice to drive to a supercharger due east, off of I-75, which was the long way home.
For me, the thought of traveling a long distance or in a less-populated area where chargers are still few and far between makes me anxious. And we don’t have a garage in D.C., so I’d have to drag the cord across the front lawn to charge up. Fingers crossed that our X3 keeps on trucking a few more years.

Mark Solheim

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