The next time you go shopping for a car, especially if it's a new car, you will seriously consider an electric vehicle. Why? Because you're a logical person, and an EV will be the logical choice--less expensive to buy, less expensive to own, better for the environment, and way more fun to drive.

One of the biggest reasons car buyers choose a gas car over an electric one is simple economics. Electric cars cost considerably more to buy (or lease) than gas ones. Consider the 2018 Ford Focus. The manufacturer's suggested retail price starts at $17,950. The 2018 Ford Focus Electric MSRP starts at $29,120. Even counting the $7,500 federal tax credit for buying an EV, the electric model costs substantially more. And if you pay less than $7,500 in federal income tax, your tax credit will be lower as well.  

But that price difference is going away, and sooner than you think. A Bloomberg analyst reported last week that the "crossover point" at which electric vehicles will become less expensive to buy than gas ones will come in three years, in 2022. A couple of years ago, analysts thought that day wouldn't come until 2026. What's changed since then is battery technology--batteries are getting smaller and less expensive all the time. If that trend continues, the crossover point could come even sooner.

If a gas car and electric car cost about the same to buy, then the EV is the obvious choice if you're looking to manage expenses. That's because an electric car costs dramatically less to own and operate than a gas one. First, there's fuel. If you charge at home, as most EV owners do, the cost of driving 15,000 miles a year (slightly more than the U.S. average) is an average of $540 a year or $45 a month, according to one estimate. That fits with my own experience: Working at home I drive less than those who commute, and charging my electric car all month seems to cost me about $30. Using public chargers costs more, but it's still much less expensive than filling up at the pump.

Then there's routine maintenance. An electric car doesn't need any, unless you count rotating the tires. In two years of driving electric, the only thing I've had to replace is a covering underneath the battery that was torn when I foolishly drove over a curb. Electric cars have motors not engines, and don't need to shift gears, so they don't need engine oil, spark plugs, air filters, coolant, or transmission fluid.

The death of range anxiety.

Ah, but what about battery range? This is the issue that stops most consumers from considering an electric car--they're afraid they won't be able to get where they want to go without running out of power, or that they'll need to search frantically for a public charger. Those were legitimate concerns in the past, but not with today's electric cars. Public chargers are everywhere and their numbers are growing fast, with Walmart and other chains installing them in parking lots. Also, many of today's new electric cars have ranges of 200 miles or more. Some versions of the Tesla Model S have a range of 335 miles, which is pretty close to the typical gas car range of 375 miles on a full tank. As batteries keep getting smaller and lighter, electric vehicle ranges will continue to increase. Since gasoline isn't likely to get smaller or lighter, chances are EV battery ranges will surpass gas tank ranges at some point.

So picture yourself at a dealership a couple of years from now. By then, pretty much every automaker will offer an electric option. That electric option will cost about the same as the gas-powered version, or maybe less if you get the tax credit. You'll consider the benefits of never having to pump gas and never having to schedule an oil change or an emissions test. You'll think about all the money not buying gas will save you. 

Maybe you'll take a test drive. You'll discover how quiet an electric car is to drive, and how it accelerates immediately as there are no gears to shift. And then you'll make your choice. What do you think it will be?

Published on: Apr 20, 2019
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