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Autotrader: The pros and cons of electric cars

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Choosing a new car is hard, and it’s even harder if you’re deciding between a traditional gas-powered car or an electric car like the Nissan
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Leaf, Hyundai
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Kona, or Tesla Model S.

So check out our pros and cons of electric vehicle ownership to help you make an informed decision before you sign the papers for your next car.

Benefits

No gas

The biggest benefit of electric cars is obvious — you no longer need gas. That’s a big deal since the average American spends between $2,000 and $4,000 on gas every year. With fully electric cars such as the Nissan Leaf, that cost is eliminated — though electricity isn’t free. A plug-in hybrid, or PHEV, can eliminate a portion of your gas bill, as well, but it still uses a gasoline engine as a range extender.

Low-maintenance

Beyond the fuel-saving benefit, EVs offer another major cost savings on maintenance. Since an EV is fully electric, it doesn’t require oil to lubricate an engine. That means oil changes become a thing of the past. The same is true for a lot of other expensive engine work that could afflict a gas-powered car. Brakes won’t wear as quickly, either, so you won’t need to replace pads as often as you do on a normal car.

For electric cars, you’ll find substantial savings from the federal government’s mandate that manufacturers offer a minimum of an 8-year/100,000-mile warranty on EV batteries. Some manufacturers offer even more protection, such as the lifetime battery warranty on the Hyundai Kona EV. For the Kona, the manufacturer also pays the maintenance cost for the first three years or 36,000 miles with the electric models (and gas-powered ones, too).

Tax credits and incentives

Electric vehicles aren’t just less costly to own in terms of maintenance. They can come with federal tax credits and other state and local incentives. The Mini Cooper SE, for example, starts around $30,000 — no small number until you factor in the $7,500 federal tax credit. Many states offer electric car incentives, as well. As a result, the $30,000 Mini Cooper SE can easily get below $20,000. Leasing an electric car can be enticing, too. Some leasing companies take the tax credit and pass on the savings to the driver. If not, use it as a negotiating point when buying a car.

See: These are the 10 bestselling EVs

Reducing your carbon footprint

Of course, there’s another major benefit to owning an electric car. For many drivers, just knowing that they’re doing their part to save the planet will be reason enough to leap into an EV.

Read: Here are all of your choices of EVs, and which have the best safety features

Drawbacks

Range

The main hurdle of electric car ownership concerns ranges and the anxiety that you’ll run out of juice when you’re nowhere near a charging station. However, as battery technology improves, so will range, and those challenges begin to fade. According to reports, Toyota
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plans to unveil a solid-state battery with a 600-mile range any day.

Until then, here’s a few examples of what you can expect to get out of a longer-range battery. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, for the 2021 Nissan Leaf Plus with its 62 kWh battery, its range reaches an estimated 226 miles. For most drivers, that’s more than enough range to get around, but many will require a second car if only to calm their nerves.

Tesla
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 cars can travel some of the longest driving ranges of any production electric vehicle on the market. The 2021 Tesla Model S offers an estimated EPA range of up to 387 miles, and the forthcoming Model S sedans claim even higher numbers.

Of note: Estimated ranges can change, particularly over time or with a temperature change.

EV charging station installation at home

Another big disadvantage is that many drivers need to install an EV charging station at home. It’s not completely necessary if you live near a plethora of public charging stations around major cities or at work or retail centers. But most shoppers prefer the convenience of a charging station at home, cutting into the cost savings from owning an EV in the first place. And while you can technically charge an electric car on standard 120-volt outlet, a 240-volt, Level 2 charging station is much faster.

Costly battery replacement

Although EV ownership eliminates many maintenance hassles such as oil changes, it can also lead to big expenses. These are mostly because of batteries mounted in modern electric vehicles. Overall battery life is expected to be around a decade, and replacement battery packs can be costly. Most estimates put them well into the thousands of dollars.

Electricity still costs money

Finally, EV ownership doesn’t eliminate fuel costs. As mentioned, electricity isn’t free — and charging during peak hours can add to your utility bills. Still, many drivers won’t see costs increase more than $20 a month, at most. As of this writing, consumers pay approximately 13 cents kilowatt-hour in the U.S. for residential power. California residents pay more than 21 cents per kWh.

Learn more: How much does it cost to charge an electric car? We do the math

While it can be difficult to decide between electric vehicles and gas-powered models, we hope our explanation of the benefits and disadvantages can make the choice a little easier.

This story originally ran on Autotrader.com.

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