Switching to an Electric Car

Chase Drum
Jun 2024
Making the change from a gasoline to an electric car can feel intimidating at first. But, with a little bit of preparation, it’s easier to switch to an EV than you think. Check out these seven helpful tips.
Hyundai IONIQ 5 electric vehicle charging outside a house

How to Switch to an Electric Vehicle: What You Need to Know

While much of the discussion around EVs is about the world moving towards greener and more sustainable forms of transportation, what does that mean for the average consumer? Well, there are a lot of perks beyond just cleaner air. In this article, we’ll share what those are and what to be aware of to make the shift as easy as possible!

While charging infrastructure gets a lot of headlines when it comes to electric vehicles, it’s just one part of the equation – and generally a very small part, if you already have access to a charger at your home. This guide will help you navigate the change and ensure a smooth transition to an electric vehicle.

Chargepoint EV charging station

EV Charging Infrastructure

Probably the most significant, and obvious, change when moving to an electric vehicle is how you "refuel." Unlike traditional vehicles, EVs require charging – and there are different levels of charging as opposed to the one-size-fits-all experience of the gas station. I’ve written quite a bit previously on the subject – but here is a high-level summary.

Home charging is by far the most convenient way to charge your EV. While owners generally install a home charging station, it isn’t always an option for everyone. Some employers offer free workplace charging as a perk for employees, which opens up EV ownership to more drivers.

Regardless of where you charge, it’s still good to understand the costs. This can include the process of installing the charger, as well as any upgrades your home’s electrical system might need to support it. Overall though, most people will simply purchase a Level 2 charger – which is what I recommend for most people. Level 2 chargers, which operate on a 240-volt circuit like your clothes dryer, offer faster charging times than a Level 1 charger that plugs into a standard 110-volt wall outlet.

It’s also crucial to be aware of the availability of public charging stations. This includes stations near your home, workplace, and along your regular routes. Apps and websites can help you locate nearby charging stations and plan your trips accordingly.

Charging Speed: A Primer

Different charging options offer different charging speeds for various electric vehicles. A small, efficient EV like a Tesla Model 3 is going to go farther on less energy than a larger vehicle like a GMC Hummer EV. A larger battery will take longer to charge than a smaller battery; and that’s before you factor in the different speeds offered by different types of charger.

Level 1 charging is the slowest form of EV charging – think of how long it takes to charge your laptop when plugging into a wall, then think of the size of an EV’s battery compared to your laptop!

Level 2 is faster, and delivers anywhere from 3-16 kW; a Level 2 charger will usually fill up an EV from dead to full overnight. However, on most days it’ll only be charging up a portion of your car’s battery and not whole thing – meaning it should be done pretty quickly.

DC fast charging, or Level 3, is the quickest, often providing an 80% charge in around 30 minutes. It’s also usually the most expensive and is primarily used when driving long distances, like on a road trip.

EV Range and Battery Life

Understanding your vehicle’s range and battery life is essential – not only so you don’t run out of power unexpectedly, but also because it can help save you a lot of money when purchasing an EV.

First, assess your daily driving habits, and ensure the EV you choose can comfortably meet your range requirements. While it’s easy to default to buying an EV with the biggest battery option, ask yourself how you plan to use your EV. Will this be a second car for just around town, or a car you need to do everything?

Be aware that an EV’s battery capacity can degrade over time, which may slightly reduce its range. Most manufacturers offer warranties on their batteries, providing some peace of mind regarding long-term use.

In addition, while the chemistry in an EV battery may be similar to the lithium-ion batteries used in cell phones, there are some big differences. The vast majority of EV batteries are liquid cooled, and cell phone batteries are not. This gives EV batteries a much longer lifespan, meaning they will degrade much more slowly – and the degradation will usually be much less over the vehicle’s lifetime.

What Are EV Ownership Costs?

While the upfront cost of an electric vehicle may be higher than a similar combustion-engine vehicle, there are many factors that can offset this initial expense.

The first is government incentives. The initial cost of an EV can also be brought down by federal, state, and local incentives and rebates. Use the GreenCars incentive tool to research the incentives available in your area – and then see if a dealership is offering any specials on certain EVs.

You should also check with your local utility company to see if they offer rebates for installing home charging stations or lower electricity rates for EV charging.

One cost you might not consider when shopping for a new vehicle is maintenance. EVs generally have lower maintenance costs, because they have fewer moving parts, and don’t require oil changes. All of which adds up to greater savings and less headaches.

The biggest cost savings you’ll experience will be fuel. Transitioning to an EV means you’ll no longer need to purchase gasoline or diesel. Not only does an EV save you time from having to swing into a gas station to fill up – but the difference between gasoline and electricity prices when charging at home can add up to hundreds of dollars a month, or thousands of dollars over the time you own the car.

How to Choose the Right EV

Choosing the right EV involves evaluating different models and how they offer a different experience compared to combustion engine vehicles.

There is a growing variety of EV models on the market, each offering different features, battery sizes, vehicle types and price points. You can use the GreenCars buyer’s guide to thoroughly research the model that best suits your needs and budget.

You will notice that EVs have a different driving experience than you may be used to. They are known for their instant torque, providing quick acceleration and a smooth driving feel. The handling can also be quite different and, for many, more enjoyable. With the batteries being positioned down low in the car, EVs have a lower center of gravity than traditional combustion vehicles – which helps them handle better.

Electric vehicles are also significantly quieter than their combustion counterparts. While this can make for a more peaceful driving experience, it can take some getting used to – and can even like the car has died when coming from a combustion vehicle.

Some electric cars offer fake engine sounds or other noises in the interior to help drivers better understand the speed they are doing down the road, and to make the driving experience feel more familiar. EVs are also required to have speakers on the outside as well, so pedestrians can be more alert to their presence. However, the noises from these external speakers are still quieter than a traditional gas engine.

You should also carefully consider the potential resale value of an EV. While the market for used EVs is still developing, certain models tend to retain their value better than others. While there have been some headlines about EVs depreciating faster than combustion vehicles, a large reason for that is due to the effect of Tesla’s numerous price cuts on new cars in the last 18 months.

Environmental Impact of EVs

For some, one of the primary motivations for switching to an EV is the environmental benefit. Whether it be air pollution or noise pollution, driving an EV has many noticeable, and positive, impacts.

Electric vehicles produce zero tailpipe emissions, significantly reducing your local carbon footprint. That means you’re not spewing harmful gases into the air as you drive.

However, it’s also important to consider the source of the electricity you will use for charging. Charging your EV with renewable energy sources – like solar or wind power – maximizes the environmental benefits of an EV. Plus, electric motors are much more efficient than gasoline engines – even when using a dirtier energy source like coal. That means, for every mile driven, the overall pollution is still lower in an EV than a hybrid or a gas vehicle. Batteries can also be recycled at the end of their usable life.

Interior view of dashboard from a Toyota BZ4X

What New Technology Comes in EVs?

Electric vehicles come with advanced technology that may require some adjustment. Many EVs have their own accompanying phone apps, and the car itself is likely running on its own operating system. This does have a lot of advantages – and unlocks many new features that a traditional combustion vehicle can’t have. However, all of that new tech at once can be overwhelming.

Modern EVs are equipped with various smart features and digital interfaces. Familiarize yourself with the systems and functionalities of the vehicles you are considering – including navigation, battery management, and infotainment options. Choose the one that works best for you.

Unlike traditional vehicles, EVs often receive over-the-air software updates that can enhance performance and add new features. Over-the-air updates can improve your overall driving experience over time.

What About Taking a Road Trip in an EV?

Planning long trips in an EV can require more consideration than in a traditional vehicle, especially if your vehicle doesn’t have great route-planning software built in.

Long-distance travel can necessitate careful planning to include charging stops along your route. Some EVs have great route planners built in, which can choose the fastest charging stops in route to your final destination. If not, there are plenty of apps and maps designed for EV owners that help you identify charging stations and optimize your travel plans.

Subscribing to or being aware of different public charging networks can be beneficial for road tripping. Some charging networks offer membership programs that provide access to numerous charging stations and can include benefits like reduced charging costs.

Do EVs Cost More to Insure or Register?

Insurance and registration for an EV may differ from traditional vehicles.

Insurance premiums for EVs can vary. Repair costs tend to be higher when EVs get into an accident, which can mean higher premiums. However. some insurers may offer discounts for electric vehicles due to their lower environmental impact and advanced safety features.

In some areas, registration fees for EVs are lower than for combustion vehicles, adding another layer of potential savings. In some states, EV owners pay a slightly higher registration fee – because EV owners don’t pay taxes on fuel!

Switching to an Electric Vehicle: The Verdict

Transitioning from a combustion or hybrid vehicle to a fully electric vehicle is a significant, but rewarding, step towards more sustainable transportation, additional savings and greater tech features.

By considering factors such as charging infrastructure, range, cost, incentives, and the overall driving experience, you can make an informed decision that suits your lifestyle – and helps reduce your environmental impact. Embrace the change and enjoy the benefits that come with driving an electric vehicle.

Front view of a Tesla Model 3 driving through canyon roads

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