What is an electric car and are they right for you?

While traditional gasoline-based cars will continue to dominate the scene for years to come, the good news is you no longer need to spend a small fortune to get into the electric car game. The electric car market continues to expand with new players like Tesla, as well as familiar brands like Kia and Chevy. But what is an electric car exactly? While this might seem like an easy question, it’s a bit more complicated than you might think.

When you think of electric cars, you probably mean full electric. A full electric vehicle ditches the traditional gasoline and diesel engine in favor of a fully electrical system that must be plugged in to charge back up. Beyond full electric cars, there are also plug-in hybrids and hybrids that switch seamlessly between gas and electric.

For this particular guide, let’s focus on full electric vehicles. For more on hybrids, check out our hybrid car buyer’s guide.

Is an electric car right for me?

Should you consider buying an electric car, and if so – what’s the best electric car out there?  It might seem like a straightforward question. It is, on the face of things. But there are so many caveats here it could take us all day to get through them.

The truth is that electric cars are so diverse that there is absolutely no one-size-fits-all s0lution. You need to find what is the best electric car for you.

So ask yourself:

  • Do you need the best electric car range?
  • Do you want the fastest electric car?
  • Do you want the best electric car lease deal?
  • Do you want a budget electric car?
  • Do you need a fast charging electric car?

So if you’ve comee to this guide, you’re likely at least thinking about getting an electric car. Or maybe you’re just daydreaming about the day you can truly afford one. However, before you really start planning a purchase, there’s some questions you can ask yourself to figure out if an electric car makes sense for you.

A fully electric car might be worthy of your consideration if you can answer yes to the majority of these questions:

  • Do you live in a highly populated area where most things that matter to you are within a reasonable distance?
  • Do you have access to a power socket for overnight charging?
  • Are there enough charging stations locally available, or if not — is your range going to be short enough that you can rely on just charging at home?
  • Do you have a secondary car that runs on gas for longer journeys, or are willing to rent a car for situations like this?
  • Are you able to afford the cost of a full electric car? Prices typically start at $30k+.

If you can answer yes to pretty much all of these questions, an electric car could be a good fit. But what if you need something with a longer range, or maybe a cheaper price tag? That’s where hybrids come into play. You should consider a hybrid (including possibly a plug-in hybrid) if you:

  • Want or need to make longer journeys regularly.
  • You don’t have dependable access to charging ports in your area.
  • You simply want a ‘backup’ plan for if you run out of battery — in this case a small gas engine that can take over.
  • You’re looking for a more affordable option. Hybrids often run as cheap as $20k, though there are models that can cost much more.

If you still want an electric vehicle in your life but a full electric car doesn’t make sense due to pricing or range concerns, we highly recommend considering either a hybrid car or an electric bike.

Charging – finding a local station, or installing a better solution

If you are going with an all electric car you’ll need a reliable way to charge up. There are a number of factors to consider here, including how much you’ll be traveling each day. Regardless, we highly recommend you have 240-volt plug installed in your garage. For those in the US market, many electric cars can use a standard household plug (120V) but it’s not a great idea, considering charging up a battery from near-dead could take as long as 20 hours depending on your car’s battery size.

A 240-volt plug on a 13 amp socket will still take around 6-10 hours in most cases, but installing a 240-volt plug is cheap and easy yet improves charge times dramatically.

Need even better charging performance? You can but a High Performance Charger setup that can charge up to 80% in as little as 30 minutes, but this will require professional installation and a costly charger — we are talking around a thousand or more in some cases. Then again, if you are willing to invest $30k+ in a full electric car, what is another $1000?

Lastly, it’s important to know what local charging options are available to you when driving around your neighboring communities. A great resource for this is PlugShare – which provides a map of all nearby electric chargers in the area you specify.

I want an electric car!

If you’ve decided electric cars are right for you, you have plenty of options in 2018. At a glance, here are the best electric cars you can buy today:

  • The best of the best: Tesla Model 3
    • Price: $35k and up
    • Range: 220 mile standard model, 310 mile long-range model
  • The best affordable electric car: 2018 Nissan Leaf
    • Price: $29k and up
    • Range: 151 miles
  • Best luxury electric car: BMW i3
    • Price: $45k and up
    • Range:114 miles
  • Best electric crossover: Kia Soul EV
    • Price: $32,250 and up
    • Range: 110 miles
  • Best for distance: Tesla Model S
    • Price: $74,500 and up
    • Range: up to 300 miles (depending on battery variant)

For more detailed information on the best electric cars you can buy, be sure to check out our best electric car buyer’s guide. 

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