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When Does an Electric Car or Plug-In Hybrid Make Sense?

Where do you start when considering alternative energy vehicles, between completely gas free or the use of some gasoline?

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First Things First. The first step before considering an electric car, EV or a plug-in hybrid, PHEV is to understand why you are considering one. Are you an early adopter or a pragmatist? Early adopters tend to bet on new technologies, while pragmatists need to do research before committing. Understand whether you need one or more vehicles for your household. If electric cars have the edge on maintenance and energy cost, you break even after a few years, depending on where you live and your utility’s rates. As far as the pollution factor, this year we have seen coal power drop down to about a third of the country’s energy, meaning EVs are becoming overall cleaner to use.

Real Driving Habits and Project Driving? While the MPGe might make sense on the surface, it is not a accurate actual energy cost. A better way to calculate and estimate your energy needs is to see how many kWh per 100 miles the vehicle you are considering actually gets. A general rule of thumb is to see if your commute is more than 75 miles a day, then depending on what charging stations are in between, a plug-in hybrid might make more sense.

Weather and Terrain. Cold and hot weather conditions will effect your battery range. Go online and calculate you annual temperature range to get a more accurate range.

Purchase Price Versus Maintenance Costs. That is probably the thorniest issue, figuring out what is the purchase price you are willing to accept, taking into consideration rebates, energy use and maintenance cost. While electric cars have close to no maintenance, at least for the first 60,000 or so miles, you will still have to eventually change tires and brakes. A plug-in hybrid will have more maintenance costs associated with its on-board gasoline engine.

Charge, Where, When and How Much. How many kilowatt-hours do you consume per month. This will help you figure if daily charging your EV could push you into a higher tier. Next, see if your utility company has pricing tiers based on usage that will give you better price when charging at night. Call your utility to see if discounts for charging electric vehicles are available. If you can you install a 110-volt outlet or a 240-volt EV charger in your parking spot, this is will make the experience a positive one.

EV And Renting or Plug-In Hybrid? Ultimately, your budget dictates everything. If your budget allows, a Tesla Model S and a Fisker Karma or Chevrolet Volt will suit anyone’s needs. However, most have tighter budgets and an electric car would work, as long as renting a gasoline car is an option.

What it boils to is to understand whether you are an early adopter or a pragmatist. The happiest electric car drivers I have seen did their homework well, have figured out a way to purchase and use solar panels and even managed to buy a plug-in hybrid for longer trips. All of this means you must know your real driving needs and understand why you are considering an alternative energy vehicle.

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