League of Women Voters

Let’s shop for an EV

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Happy holidays. Tis the season for end-of-year giving, “best of” lists, reflections, goal setting, and ... the flip of the calendar into 2023 means the ticker on EVs that qualify for $7,500 incentive resets.

If the past couple of years have made drivers postpone a car purchase, 2023 might bring more than 25,000 twinkling lights to the car market — this time may those twinklies be LED and the cars be EVs, especially since EVs save drivers thousands of dollars in fuel costs and upkeep over the life of the vehicle. As Nerdwallet reported in July 2022, an EV like the 2021 Hyundai Kona runs at the equivalent of paying two dollars a gallon, saving drivers about $14,500 in fuel over fifteen years.

The EV market will offer more than 40 new models from which purchasers can choose, a huge uptick from the past six years. As if the car buying process didn’t already involve research, purchasing during this exciting transition from internal combustion engines to electric vehicles means learning new terms and having a clear assessment of household needs and preferences.

Chad and Rachel Hassler bought their EV in 2016 when only about 30 models existed. After following Mr. Money Mustache, a blogger curious to try a financial experiment, Chad and Rachel Hassler committed to a Nissan Leaf. They live off of dirt roads and wanted an affordable small car for trips back and forth to town. Their Leaf had a range of about 100 miles, far more than double their regular commute into Crawfordsville, which they learned is a critical factor when choosing a make and model.

Simon Reynolds realized their household would need a third car when their daughter went off to college in September, so he started shopping in 2021. He’d ridden in Teslas and queried their owners, but Elon Musk’s antics with COVID and Bitcoin made him wary. His research made him favor the Hyundai Ioniq 5, which is considerably cheaper than a Tesla with all the amenities Simon wanted for his daily commute.

Car buying feels like learning to ballroom dance. We must learn complicated steps that need to be executed in order and require close proximity to a complete stranger — the salesperson being something like the instructor. Most people avoid this until it’s absolutely necessary. It often begins with overtures like “Do we need … How much life is left …. How far will this go?” In periods of inflation or recession, it’s more stressful. Whether we added a commute, a driver or the old car’s next stop is the proverbial glue factory, now is the time to consider EVs. Most of us will drive the car for the better part of the next 10 years and in a decade, EVs and their infrastructure will be the norm. They’re simply cheaper and require less maintenance. AAA reported in April that EVs cost about $330 less per year in maintenance because they don’t require oil changes. Some cars only need maintenance every 7,500 miles as opposed to every 3,000 miles.

Apparently, 7,500 is the number of the year. With the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, Congress created two incentives that add up to a full $7,500 in rebates, so there’s a little more research to factor into purchasing decisions. The incentives are broken into two parts. One part says the qualifying EV must be a passenger vehicle assembled in North America. The second is scaled for increasing requirements that the materials and components be extracted, processes or recycled in North America or in nations with which the US has free trade agreements. The government’s Alternative Fuels Data Center webpage shows which years, makes and models qualify. Maximizing these will help offset the higher upfront cost of an EV, a cost that may give those of us who budget a smaller payment some pause. It’s key to remember that the higher monthly payments of an EV will be offset by those lower fuel and maintenance costs and that the incentives will mitigate the purchase price.

Since most of us are new to the EV market, there are characteristic differences between the hybrid and traditional ICE cars that we’ve driven up to now. Yes, the upfront cost has always been related to the size of the car, preferred amenities and the reputation of the maker. With an EV, another factor is the distance and the type of daily commute. The battery of an EV provides everything to carry your passengers, heat, cool and entertain them, so when passengers turn on comfort tools like heating, the AC, defoggers, seat heaters and more, the battery is supporting all of those functions. (Gas fuels most of that in an ICE vehicle, but we aren’t conditioned to factor that into fuel efficiency and costs.) Furthermore, an EVs range and efficiency drop when outside temps are lower than 55 degrees or higher than 85 degrees Fahrenheit. EVs are most efficient at moderate temps between 70-71 degrees Fahrenheit and lose around a quarter of their range below freezing or on hot summer days.

Consumer Reports recommends that buyers purchase a car with a range twice the total daily mileage. For instance, a 40-mile commute to Lafayette, then the return trip adds up to 80 miles, so buyers would want to purchase a car that has a range of 160 miles. Also, the type of commute will affect the range. EVs are efficient in city driving because of regenerative-braking technologies and optimal preconditioning systems that control interior comfort to mitigate power loss. For context, ICE vehicles lose 24% energy loss in stop-and-start city driving. Also when choosing the range of an EV, bear in mind that current EV batteries lose a small amount of capacity — around 2.3% annually. Buyers can calculate the range and efficiency of their preferred cars using Geotab.com, which offers both range and temperature efficiency tools based on the make/model and age of the EV.

Some EV owners may be trading in, so drivers with short commutes can find good deals on slightly older models. With a six-year-old car, Hassler said he would consider a newer model.

“I like shiny new things,” he admitted. He also calculated this in his initial research. He planned on owning his Leaf for about eight years. If he waits until 2024, he will be able to shop from 134 models, double the availability in 2022. Reynolds plans to own his Ioniq 5 for 10 years. Presently, EV technology is evolving fast, and inflation will eventually be tamed, but if a household needs a car this year, as some will, purchasing an EV in 2023 is still one of the wiser choices, especially when we in Crawfordsville (or those with solar panels) can plug in our cars and power them mostly with the sun. Here’s to the new year.

 

The League of Women Voters, a non-partisan, multi-issue organization encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase public understanding of major policy issues and influences public policy through education and advocacy. All men and women are invited to join the LWV where hands-on work to safeguard democracy leads to civic improvement. For information, visit the website www.lwvmontcoin.org or the League of Women Voters of Montgomery County, IN Facebook page.

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