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Top Electric Car Purchasing Questions Answered

Chevy Bolt. (Wikipedia)

David Roberts

Drive Electric Vermont has helped organize several virtual sessions on electric car purchasing and ownership over the past year. Here are answers to several of the most common questions that have come up during these discussions.

  1. I live on a dirt road. Is the clearance too low on most electric cars for this situation? Are there any all-wheel drive all-electric cars with range of 150+ miles for under $40K now?

Many electric vehicles (EVs) do have lower ground clearance to improve aerodynamics and increase range. However, there are growing numbers of “crossover” type all-electric vehicles which have more clearance. The most affordable all-electric, all-wheel drive (AWD) model currently available is the Tesla Model 3 which has a base price of $46,900 for the long range AWD option before any incentives. There are many more models coming in the next two years, including the Volkswagen (VW) ID.4 which will offer AWD for an estimated $43,675 before incentives. VW models are still eligible for the federal tax credit. For the ID.4, this could reduce the price by $7,500 to $36,175. In the meantime, shoppers may also want to consider some of the more affordable AWD plug-in hybrid models, such as the Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid, Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV or Toyota RAV 4 Prime to name a few.

  1. Electric car technology always seems to be changing, is it better to lease or buy in this environment?

It depends on several factors that will vary depending on your individual circumstances. Leasing is a great option as it will roll in the value of the federal tax credit and protect against rapid depreciation seen on some EV models. It may not be a good fit for high-mileage drivers (over 15,000 miles per year) as leases typically include per mile charges if you go over the amount allotted in the lease agreement. Some owners who know they may not be able to claim the full value of the federal tax credit will lease with the plan to purchase the vehicle at the end of the lease period. We have some additional discussion of purchase and lease issues on a Drive Electric Vermont blog post .

  1. Some EVs are advertised with more efficient heat pump heating systems, others rely on less efficient heaters. Does a heat pump improve winter driving range and comfort?

If you are running the cabin heat instead of the more efficient heated seats and steering wheel (common on many EVs, although may require outfitting with “cold weather packages”), then a heat pump will be less of a drain on the battery range. If outside temperatures are below 15 to20 degrees F, then heat pumps often lose performance and backup resistance heating kicks on, so the benefit of a heat pump is reduced in frigid conditions. We have more information on which models include heat pumps and more tips for winter driving on our winter blog post .

  1. I have heard that there is a problem with dealers sending their used EVs out of state. What have you heard about this, and do you see any potential solutions?

When EVs come off-lease they are owned by the leasing company (usually a financing entity associated with the automaker, e.g. Nissan Motor Finance). The leasing company usually gives the dealer where the vehicle is returned the option to purchase the vehicle, so they can then offer it as a used model. If the dealer doesn’t do that, the vehicles are sent to out-of-state auto auctions. Vermont dealers do purchase from these auctions, but if they aren’t seeing demand for used EVs they can be outbid by dealers from other states.

Many Vermont dealers have used EVs available, but as of 2020 there just isn’t much overall supply. Quebec and several U.S. states are offering significant incentives on used EVs which can distort the market. As new EV sales increase, we expect to see more used options available in time. Some Vermonters have looked out-of-state to purchase used EVs and had them shipped.

We have more information and resources related to used EV purchase http://bit.ly/DEVUsedEV.

  1. Are our utilities increasing their electrical capacity as increasing numbers of people go with all-electric cars?

Generally speaking, there is adequate capacity for thousands more EVs in Vermont, especially if they are charging during off-peak periods. Utilities are offering incentives for charging equipment that makes it easier to shift charging away from peak periods, which will help them sell more energy through their existing infrastructure investments, which should help put downward pressure on electric rates over time. VELCO and electric distribution utilities regularly update long-range plans which factor in transportation electrification to ensure our utilities will be able to manage even large increases in EV use in the future.

  1. Is Costco offering incentives for a Chevrolet Bolt purchase?

Yes, there is a special limited-time Costco program offering a $3,000 Costco members-only incentive on a Bolt purchase or lease through Jan 4, 2021. Combined with other incentives this may result in lease pricing under $200 per month. See http://bit.ly/CostcoAutoProgram for additional details.

  1. When is the best time to buy a car?

Many automakers offer significant discounts and customer rebates on a month-to-month basis, so if you feel good about a deal you may not want to wait too long to take advantage of it. There are times of year when discounts tend to be higher (e.g. end of the month, end of the quarter, end of the vehicle model year), but discounts can vary significantly from one dealer (or auto manufacturer) to the next. Edmunds.com provides some additional information on timing your purchase at http://bit.ly/BestTimeCarBuying.

We were able to cover some additional topics related to EV battery life, charging and more in the full question and answer document from the virtual sessions available on the Drive Electric Vermont website: https://www.driveelectricvt.com/webinar-ndew2020

David Roberts is the Drive Electric Vermont coordinator. He has driven all-electric vehicles for the past eight years and says if you have to drive, drive electric.

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