Money Talks, So Should You

Green car guide: Electric cars

Clint Williams
by Clint Williams, Dimespring Contributor

Volatile gasoline prices and environmental concerns are nudging more and more people toward alternatives to the old-fashioned gas-guzzler. And never have there been more options for getting from Point A to Point B.

Electric cars are no longer the stuff of wistful science fiction. Hybrid cars are mainstream. Alternative fuel cars are available and even gasoline-powered engines are more efficient and eco-friendly. Driving a green car may reduce your monthly operating costs, but in most cases the higher purchase price means a payback period of years, not weeks or months.


• Electric cars are propelled by an electric motor powered by rechargeable battery packs. They are quiet and typically pretty quick. A growing number of public (and free) charging stations promise to make electric cars even cheaper to drive.

READ: Is it worth it: 2013 Honda Fit electric car


Tax credits. Electric vehicles may be eligible for a federal income tax credit of up to $7,500. Some states also offer tax incentives for buying an electric vehicle.
Low operating costs. The Nissan Leaf, for example, uses just 3.5 cents of electricity per mile, based on the national average of 11 cents/kWh of electricity. A 30-mile trip would cost you about $1; driving that same route in a Toyota Prius would burn about $2.50 in gasoline. A full charge – and about 75 miles – will cost less than one gallon of gasoline.
No smog. Electric cars don’t spew any tailpipe pollutants, although some may quibble that the power plant producing the electricity creates air pollution.


Sticker price. While tax credits and other incentives may reduce the tab a bit, expect to pay full-size sedan prices for a compact car. The 2013 Ford Focus BEV sells for more than $39,000 – nearly 60% more than you would pay for a nicely equipped, gasoline-engine version of the same car.
Range anxiety. Electric cars today can travel just 60-90 miles between charges – although the $77,400 Tesla claims a range of 265 miles. While the range of most electric cars is more than enough for daily driving, you can’t pack up the family and head to Disneyland – unless you live in Irvine.

Models to consider

Nissan Leaf: The first mainstream full-electric vehicle marketed in America gets the equivalent of 106 mpg in city driving. The Leaf’s 80-kilowatt electric motor produces 107 horsepower and enough torque to snap your head back when you floor the accelerator.
Tesla Model S Sedan: This five-passenger luxury sedan offers three different battery packages. The standard 40 kWh battery pack offers a range of 160 miles and the top-of-the-line 85 kWh pack is rated at 265 miles of range. More range, however, means more dollars.
Ford Focus Electric: The all-electric edition of this popular and critically-acclaimed small car features a 107-kilowatt electric drive motor that generates 143 horsepower. Ford has teamed up with the Geek Squad at Best Buy’s® to install the optional 240-volt Leviton charging station in your garage.

Diesel cars
High mpg cars
Hybrid cars
Compressed natural gas cars


Clint Williams is an Arizona-based freelancer for DImespring. He has written for the Arizona Republic and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.