7 Electric Car Questions, Answered

How far is an electric car’s range? How much money would you save on gas? We tackle these and more of your most frequently asked electric car questions. Buckle up!

| December 2014/January 2015

Tesla Supercharger Station

Charge in minutes, free: Tesla Superchargers, strategically located across North America, replenish about half the battery of the Model S in as little as 20 minutes. Shown here: a Supercharger station in Columbus, Texas.

Photo by Theo Civitello/Theo-Graphics

No longer hypothetical vehicles of the future, electric cars are shaking up the market much like hybrids did more than a decade ago. Nine models of rechargeable vehicles — all-electric and plug-in hybrid electric cars — are now widely available in the United States, and nearly every major automaker has at least one electric vehicle (EV) in the works. Here, we answer some of your most frequently asked electric car questions to help you better evaluate whether one of these electrifying rides may be right for you.

1. How much does it cost to drive an electric car?

Electric cars’ efficiency is measured in MPGe, which stands for “miles per gallon equivalent” and is the metric that federal agencies use to compare these vehicles’ energy consumption with that of gasoline-powered vehicles. (Our chart 6 Standout Electric Cars lists the MPGe for six top electric vehicles.) As impressive as 114 MPGe — the rating for the all-electric 2015 Nissan Leaf — may sound, perhaps a more practical way to gauge the money-saving merits of an EV is to look at the cost to drive one.

Consider the cost to fuel 50 miles of driving: With a 30-mpg gasoline car, assuming $3.50 per gallon of gasoline, the expense for a 50-mile trip would be $5.83. Assuming a rate of 12 cents per kilowatt-hour (kwh), the cost to drive the all-electric Leaf 50 miles would be $1.80.

Mile by mile, you’d pay about two-thirds less to charge an electric car versus what you’d pay to fuel a gasoline car. Run our Leaf example against the numbers for a 50-mpg hybrid car, and you’d still arrive at about 50 percent savings per mile. With that in mind, a savvy electric car salesperson could tell you, “The more you have to drive, the more you’ll save.”

2. How much does it cost to buy or lease an electric car?

While electric cars cost significantly less to drive than gas cars do, EVs currently cost significantly more to buy. The two least expensive of the most widely available all-electric options are the Mitsubishi i-MiEV (starting at about $23,000) and the Smart ForTwo Electric Drive (about $25,000). In the plug-in hybrid arena, the two least expensive of the most widely available models are the Toyota Prius Plug-in (about $30,000) and the Ford C-MAX Energi (about $33,000).

Those prices do not factor in discounts from federal tax credits, which range from $2,500 to $7,500, depending on the capacity of the car’s battery pack. Several states offer additional tax credits, cash rebates and other incentives for electric car owners. Learn more at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Tax Incentives Information Center and on the PluginCars.com incentives roundup page.

9/12/2015 11:01:34 AM

And the most important questions weren't asked: 1. How much does a new battery cost? 2. How many charges does a battery take (with decent range), if charged daily, until replacement is required? www.alloma.ca

12/20/2014 10:21:26 AM

In response to eBurl, I have never known any study that suggests there is a risk from DC. Much differnt than Power lines or even cell phones. Is he refering to some thing else, perhaps? sulfuric acid fumes? I imagine they are pretty well vented.

12/20/2014 10:16:52 AM

Why make things Dificult? Why arn't electric cars mileage measure in miles per dollar. That is what people ultimatly want to know. For instance, when Diesel is four dollars a gallon( currently I last paid #3.18.) I get 10.5 miles per dollar. at $3.18 per gallon, I get about 13.2 miles per dollar. 2014 VW Passat TDI SEL I would be more inclined to want to know what my carbon footprint would be after ten years and I have to dispose of a battery and use electric from the power company.

12/11/2014 11:33:38 AM

No one seems to know or even want to address the issue of Health concerns from riding on top of these batteries. Will there be a huge increase of all kinds of cancers in the future after being exposed time and time again and on long trips? Of course, the makers of Electric Cars and Electric companies will never speak a word of this! Like those who have been living under power lines for years have come down with all kinds of cancers and sterility in males. I'm sure if you have anything to do with the manufacturers, this comment will either be erased or simply dismissed. This type of question/comment is certainly not good for stock prices. Sincerely, NOT BUYING IT!

dairy goat


Aug. 5-6, 2017
Albany, Ore.

Discover a dazzling array of workshops and lectures designed to get you further down the path to independence and self-reliance.