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.
• 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.