While the idea of driving an electric car can be appealing to many of us, the reality of what this entails is still relatively unclear to a number of people. This guide attempts to add clarity and make it easier to decide if an electric vehicle is the right choice for you.

Is an EV right for me?

If you drive less than 30 miles each way to work and can either install a charging station at home or use one at work then an electric vehicle can be a strong option. Because of their limited range, they work best as the second or third vehicle in a household.

How much money can I save?

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, an average electric vehicle (EV) takes $3.74 worth of electricity to travel 100 miles. (This assumes the vehicle is being charged at night when electricity costs are lower.) A traditional gas vehicle would cost $13.36 to fuel for the same distance. If you drive 12,000 miles per year this translates to $1,154 per year in savings. However, as we’ll discuss below, the MSRP for electric vehicles can be significantly higher than their gas equivalents.

Is an electric car actually better for the environment?

Yes. EVs have no tailpipe emissions. While the electricity used to charge the vehicle does have emissions this is usually far less than a comparable gas vehicle. In regions with “clean” electricity grids like California, EVs are responsible for less global warming than any other vehicle including hybrids.

The environmental impact of producing electric vehicles is known to be greater, but this is offset by their lower carbon footprint throughout their driving lifetime. A 2011 study by Renault looked at the lifetime environmental cost of an electric car vs. its diesel and gasoline counterparts and found that the electric version had lower overall carbon emissions even in heavily coal-dependent regions.

Do I need to install a home charger?

Yes. Technically, electric vehicles can be charged using a standard three –pronged household outlet (known as Level 1 charging), but in reality this can take around 20 hours per charge. Installing a home charger will cut this down significantly. Car charging stations (Level 3 chargers) are available at Home Depot or Amazon and average between $500 and $1,000. We strongly recommend having your charger installed professionally which can cost approximately the same amount depending on the specifics of the installation.

How long will it take to charge the car and how far will it go?

Charging time and range can vary. We’ve listed some of our top sellers with their charging time and the distance you can travel on a full charge (according to the EPA). The cost per 25 miles is intended to show how much it costs to fuel an electric car vs. a gallon of gas for a 25 mpg vehicle (again assuming nighttime charging).

 Vehicle Charging time (@240 V) Miles per charge Cost per 25 miles*
2014 FIAT 500e 4 hours 87 miles $0.87
2014 Chevrolet Spark EVHorsepower 7 hours 82 miles $0.84
2014 Ford Focus Electric 3.6 hours 76 miles $0.96
2014 BMW i3 3.5 hours 81 miles $0.81
2014 Nissan LEAF 8 hours (3.6 kW charger)

5 hours (6.6 kW charger)

84 miles $0.90
2014 Honda Fit EV 4 hours 82 miles $0.87
2014 Toyota RAV4 EV 6 hours 103 miles $0.87

*Assumes electricity cost of $0.12/kWh

Where else can I charge besides home?

There are currently over 20,000 charging stations in the US—the greater Los Angeles area and San Francisco Bay area each have around 500. Sites like PlugShare and CarStations can help you locate local stations and plan trips around charging. Many workplaces, campuses and retail establishments offer free charging which can make owning an electric vehicle even more attractive.

Are electric vehicles expensive to maintain?

No. Electric cars have far fewer moving parts than gas vehicles meaning there are fewer things that will need to be repaired. Additionally, electric vehicles do not require oil or transmission fluid changes. However, most EV batteries will need to be replaced every 7 to 10 years—Chevy, Toyota and Nissan all provide 8-year, 100,000 mile warranties that will cover this.

How much more does an electric vehicle cost?

Electric vehicles can cost significantly more than their gas equivalents. We’ve compiled a chart comparing the two:

 Vehicle MSRP (Gas Version) MSRP (Electric Version)
2015 FIAT 500 $16,445 $32,300
2015 Chevrolet Spark $12,170 $26,820
2014 Ford Focus $16,180 $35,170
2015 Honda Fit $15,525 $36,625
2015 Toyota RAV4 $23,680 $49,800

Many brands offer leases that can make electric vehicles more competitive with their gas counterparts and can make the savings more immediately attainable. Additionally there are a number of rebates available that significantly reduce the gap in MSRP between gas and electric vehicles. The white clean air sticker also gets drivers the reduced carpool rate for bridges and toll roads.

What credits and incentives are available?

At the time of writing, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act  includes a federal tax incentive of $2,500 to $7,500 (depending on the battery capacity). The California Air Resources Board also offers a rebate of $2,500 for qualifying electric vehicles. The leasing company will work the federal credit into the terms of the lease for qualifying vehicles.

Is the car still fun to drive?

Yes. Electric cars offer a zippy drive with plenty of acceleration.

What if I need a larger vehicle?

There are a limited number of options for larger electric vehicles. The Toyota RAV4 is the only SUV currently available. If vehicle size is a deciding factor it may make sense to look at hybrid or diesel vehicles as well.

What else should I consider?

Hybrids and plug-in hybrids are widely available and offer strong fuel economy. (See Plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles to get you in the carpool lane.) Diesel cars can also be a great alternative to traditional gas engines. (See Why you should consider clean diesel.)

Whether or not an electric vehicle is the next car you want, Cartelligent can make the car buying process simple and efficient while getting you a great price on your new vehicle. Call our team of car-leasing experts at 888-427-4270 or get started today.