5 Reasons NOT to Buy an Electric Car

By on

Brett Circe clearly recalls the last time he filled up his Chevy sedan. “It was the day after New Year’s,” he says on this crisp February morning. “The last time I was at a gas station was January 2nd.”

Circe pats his Chevy Volt on the hood and smiles. “When you buy gas, you send money to the Middle East, which we don’t want to do no matter how much a car costs.”

And the Volt costs a lot. The mid-sized sedan starts at $40,280 ($32,780 after the $7,500 Federal tax credit) – much more than Chevy’s other offerings, including the Impala ($24,390), Malibu ($21,975), and even Camaro ($22,680).

That’s one obvious reason you might want to wait before driving electric, but there are others.

Watch the video below to meet two electric car owners and see their cars – the Chevy Volt and the Tesla Roadster – in action. Then meet me on the other side for more…

Now that you’ve seen some general pros and cons from the video, let’s get specific…

5 Reasons not to drive electric – yet

1. Unavailable at any price

If you want a Volt, get in line. General Motors says there are 10,000 eager buyers ahead of you. Circe ordered his last September and didn’t pick it up till Christmas.

Steven Siegelaub, who paid more than $100,000 for his Tesla Roadster, says he “fell in love” with the electric sports car when he saw it online. “I ordered it the next day, and it took 2 1/2 years to deliver because it was still in prototype,” he recalls.

And the brand-new Nissan LEAF? Nissan says the waiting list is maxed out at 20,000, and “we will not be accepting new reservations until the next phase begins.”

2. Home in the range?

If you don’t like math, driving an electric car can drive you crazy. “You have a certain number of miles to drive, so you have to pay attention,” Siegelaub says. “You really have to calculate where you’re going.”

Staying in the neighborhood helps. “I’m only about five miles from the office,” Circe says, “so the generator doesn’t usually kick in.” If he drives more than 40 miles a day – the limit of the car’s battery pack – the Volt’s gasoline-powered generator will kick in and charge the batteries, giving it an overall range of more than 300 miles. But the Volt’s nine-gallon tank takes only premium gas, so when Circe does fill up, he’s paying more.

Siegelaub doesn’t have to worry about gas, since the Tesla is purely electric: no generator. So if his battery dies, he’s going to have to get towed to the nearest outlet. Range is about 240 miles.

3. Charge it! Slowly…

According to electric car advocate Plug in America, it costs $2 to $4 a day to charge an electric car. (GM’s website says it only costs $1.50 to charge a Volt, but that cost will obviously fluctuate depending on where you live and the time of day you’re charging.) While that’s nothing compared to the price of gas, it will still take years to offset the extra cost of the car. But before you worry about cost savings, worry about time savings.

“The charge is fairly slow,” Tesla owner Siegelaub says. “It takes eight hours.” While some newer vehicles can charge in four hours, that still could potentially put a crimp in any plans you have to just jump in the car and go for a drive. And for cars like the Tesla that don’t offer a gas-powered generator as back-up, traveling cross-country could make for short driving days.

4. Service without a smile

Electric cars are so new, mechanics haven’t had a chance to become electricians. So Circe, who lives in Florida, better not have any problems – because there are no Chevy dealers certified yet to service the Volt, says Marc Cannon, senior vice president of public policy and communication for AutoNation. And if he’s traveling cross-country and breaks down far from a dealer? Forget about it.

Circe isn’t too concerned. “Generally, a new car doesn’t need a lot of service,” he says before pausing and adding, “Generally…”

5. Sticker shock

We started by mentioning price, so let’s end there: The price of electric cars is shocking. Circe’s Volt was pricey at around $40,000, and Siegelaub’s Tesla cost $100,000. You can find the cost of other electric cars here.

Part of that high price tag is offset by tax breaks: a $7,500 Federal tax credit, as well as credits offered by some individual states. But however you slice it, as with any new technology, being an early adopter is an expensive hobby.

Then there are the quirky drawbacks.

For Circe, it’s the Volt’s interior space. “In this price range, you can get a bigger car,” he says. “And in the Volt, there’s no middle back seat, because the battery runs down the center.”

And Siegelaub? In his six-figure sports car, “The air-conditioning is sharing the fans with the cooling of the battery,” he says, “so when the battery needs cooling, I sweat.”

Concludes Circe: “As with any new computer, phone, or tablet, if you’re the first one to buy it, you’re paying a premium. They’re still working out the bugs, and the next one will be better. If your only motivating factor is money, wait till the price comes down.”

Sign up for our free newsletter

Like this article? Sign up for our newsletter and we'll send you a regular digest of our newest stories, full of money saving tips and advice, free! We'll also email you a PDF of Stacy Johnson's "205 Ways to Save Money" as soon as you've subscribed. It's full of great tips that'll help you save a ton of extra cash. It doesn't cost a dime, so why wait? Click here to sign up now.

Check out our hottest deals!

We're always adding new deals and coupons that'll save you big bucks. See the deals to the right and hundreds more in our Deals section.

Click here to explore 1,204 more deals!

Comments & discussion

We welcome your opinions, but let’s keep it civil. Like many businesses, we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone. In our case, that means those who communicate by name-calling, racism, using words designed to hurt others or generally acting like an uninformed bully. Also, comments that include links to email addresses or commercial websites typically aren't posted. This isn't a place to advertise your business.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Andy-Linko/1588081911 Andy Linko

    If you have a son or daughter in the military, fighting so we, the United States, have access to their oil, what greater sacrifice than the 5 items you listed can there be? While I can agree on the economics of an electric vehicle, the $1 trillion debt for the United States to be in Iraq and Afghanistan is costing each taxpayer what? Their pension, Social Security and future raises, medicare, medicaid as 42 out of 50 states are bankrupt, house values, do I need to say more?

    Change is difficult, change brings much resistance, but kissing the behinds of nations that hate us, our way of life, and being dependent on them is no different than the average street junkie being dependent on cocaine, heroine, etc. They will get their habit fulfilled at any cost! Is your son or daughter worth that cost? Those who think so DO NOT SEND THEIR CHILDREN!

  • http://www.facebook.com/caseybramall Casey Bramall

    While it is understood that this site is devoted to smart investing, spending, and saving, this article and video are irresponsible for its lack fact, or any kind or researched, balanced reporting. This is fear based or ignorant journalism at its finest.

    Jaw-droppingly so. As such, there is a need to reply to this “news article”.

    Of course, everyone, including journalists, is entitled to an opinion, but this article is simply incomplete and incorrect although, at the very least, it can be considered an opinion. Having an opinion does not make one correct.

    The price of something is very rarely relates to the overall value of something, there are many factors that go into value. Of course there is always a premium for early adopters of technology, there has to be. If there weren’t early adopters (or if one dissuades them from being such), the technology/price equation slows, or even stops. Early adopters allow companies to refine, improve and reduce cost on their tech at the beginning of the product cycle, which directly affects the overall cost of the tech, thereby reducing the price for later adopters. By telling buyers to avoid EV’s “for now”, the author is actually pushing back the time frame for adoption by the masses due to the entry price of EV’s remaining higher, for longer, because of this effect.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technology_adoption_lifecycle

    Encouraging the EV or hybrid uneducated not to purchase, instead of trying to educate them on why they should, and also why and how in the long run it will save them money, is beyond unacceptable. This technology in needed now. It was needed 30 years ago. There may be some good reasons to wait, for some people. But there are just as many reasons, if not more, not to.

    The author advises not purchasing without even mentioning the obvious environmental benefits, such as large reduction of Co2 emissions and, of course, the huge reduction in the use, and dependence upon, foreign or domestic fossil fuels. The author does not factor in the future fuel savings the average person could apply to the purchase of an EV, which should have been equated into the cost of EV’s and hybrids in the article. Left out are the many other benefits most people (and clearly the author) do not consider about EV’s, i.e. sound pollution reduction (imagine rush hour on the freeway with no exhaust or engine noise).

    One could easily think of many positive impacts, large and small, EV’s could have on one’s daily lives.

    There is an assertion in the article that is will cost “up to $4 a day to charge”. First, this ($4 a day) would only happen in an area that has peak usage charges. Second, it will cost less than that, period (please note the “up to” disclaimer used in that claim). Third, that inflated cost is a charge from a dead flat battery during those peak hours, when most owners will likely be at work, or actually driving the vehicle. Most drivers won’t even come close to running their cars to a flat battery every day, or likely any time during the work week. Even if a full drain every day is the case, most drivers will be home for 8 hours during the evening and at night, so getting a full charge on off-peak hours, even on 120V, won’t be an issue. Also, there is no reason the car needs to be fully charged every time, all that’s needed is enough power for the range needed during that trip.

    Charging is based on the voltage supplied to the vehicle. A standard 120V household outlet will take about 8 hours to charge, but most owners of EV’s will have a 240V charging station installed at their homes, which cuts the charge time to 4 hours. There are 480V stations already that reduce the charge time by half again. As well, as the battery tech gets better, the charge times and range can only improve.

    There are companies working to have battery change stations that will simply swap your low battery for a charged one in less than half the time it takes to fill a car with gas. As well, many cities are beginning to provide charging infrastructure for EV’s. In the near future it will almost be as though there is a “gas pump” wherever you park your car. Having a “gas pump” at every parking stall for the last 100 years would have been amazing, and rather handy.

    http://www.betterplace.com/the-solution

    http://www.geindustrial.com/products/static/ecomagination-electric-vehicles/ge-wattstation.html

    Addressing availability. “Availability” is simply a non-reason not to buy anything. Either it’s available or it isn’t. It’s just part of basic supply and demand. “I’m not going to buy that because it isn’t available to buy” is simply a ridiculous statement. If people need to wait to buy an EV, that’s OK, they will make as many as people want, surely.

    As far as the assertion by that “…there are no Chevy dealers certified yet to service the Volt…” is a statement that may even be liable, it’s so far from the truth. All manufacturers of EV’s and hybrids train their technicians on every model they sell, including, or course, hybrids and electrics. Any dealership will have experienced and trained technicians for these vehicles. There will undoubtedly be independent shops and technicians in the future. If the technicians aren’t there today, they are probably being trained for tomorrow. It is hard to believe the author would include such unfounded and unchecked claims in his article.

    http://www.nissanusa.com/leaf-electric-car/index#/leaf-electric-car/index

    http://www.gm-volt.com/

    EV’s and hybrids are not for everyone, that is true, but with a little research and some acceptance, most people will find that a hybrid or an EV will be more than enough vehicle to satisfy their needs, help reduce pollution, and save them money over time. It’s that simple.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_7KRSWKH6ZFBNTI5VIUYW7TCDZQ Ian

      You fogot to mention anything about battery life.  These batteries don’t last forever and are v ery difficult to dispose of.  They leak toxic chemicals into the ladfills and are a mess.  Also somewhere we need to remember that for the most part we burn coal to make electricity.  Electric cars are “pollution elsewhere’ vehicles.  Just because they don’t have a tailpipe, don’t think for a minute that they don’t pollute! 

      • http://www.facebook.com/caseybramall Casey Bramall

        My post does not say once that they don’t pollute. In fact, if you read the last paragraph of my post it includes the phrase “help reduce pollution”. I mention many times, in many ways, the reduction of pollution, not the elimination of it. They still use fossil fuels in the plastics and rubbers that are part of the vehicle construction (interiors, tires). You are correct that the battery disposal issue is currently a problem, but with adoption of the technology, this will become less of an issue over time, I believe it’s a good reason to help speed up the research/solution process by buying into EV’s. It’s also a much, much smaller issue than the amount of pollution caused by the current technology being used. I think you are missing the bigger picture of my response to the article, which is the suggestion by the author that people shouldn’t buy EV’s based on very little research, incorrect assumptions and fear-based “journalism”. I agree they aren’t perfect zero-impact environmental vehicles. There is no such thing. If you want zero-emissions/zero-impact transportation, you should walk everywhere… naked. Thanks for your passion and opinion though, I’m glad there are more people out there who care ab out this issue!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Seth-Rothenberg/1329665247 Seth Rothenberg

    If your gas car runs out of gas, you may need to be towed to a gas station, or get a gas can. If your EV runs out of fuel, you need an outlet. 99.% of the homes in the US are capable of charging an EV. The “Infrastructure” for charging EV’s is here. If might not be fast and it might not get you far, but if you planned correctly, you should be close to home or office anyway.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_X3YWFYWTEE2LMAFREBZB2K5XVA Paul

    With gas forecast to exceed $4.00 per gallon by Spring people will continue to line up behin each other to purchase electric cars – even at $40K. The unrest in the Middle East is a blessing in disguise. It will continue to fuel the demand for alternative sources of energy eventually freeing us from reliance on foreign oil. My next car purchase will definitely be hybrid or electric.

  • IGeorge

    I have found an interesting book on amazon.com entitled challenges of the future individual transportation that shows even more details on this subject . In the book you will find some costs calculations for several vehicles.
    The author is right and he got exceptionally well all the main aspects of being a potential electric car owner.
    Nobody mentions battery accidents – LiIon batteries when fail burn to ash and release a very toxic gas.
    Heavier batteries have impact and shock problems, and special designed chassis have to be added – and there are more issues – that’ just the begining.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Richard-Joash-Tan/100000351085371 Richard Joash Tan

    for me I will buy the Volt And the Spyder Roadster

  • Anonymous

    MK,
    As a life long penny pincher, I generally think of MTN as awesome, specific and useful. In that vein, thankfully I have never read an article so general that it concluded you shouldn’t buy a gas powered exotic carbon fiber sports car/battery powered in town switches to hybrid car on long trips/gasoline alternative family hatchback commuter vehicle. Despite the salient points (covers enough ground for 4 different headlines) this article lumps the vehicle types, uses and budgets together mercilessly.

    An article, or a series of them, that looks at the reasons people buy cars and and gets readers to ask if the price is too much for the features would be great. This article however, though it briefly touches on some points about buying electric cars, ends up lumping them all together in the wash without really touching on specifically why any buyer should be cautious, or enthusiastic about buying one or the other types. If a writer were try to cover that much ground with gas cars, wouldn’t they be risking some serious over generalizations?

  • Anonymous

    There are solutions that neither cost too much or have a fixed range. TriTrack is an electric car that has a patent describing battery swap on the fly. What hands-off battery swapping does is eliminates the range discussion. Each time you make a turn in the city you get a fully charged battery that was shallow discharged. Shallow discharge will be the new discussion once electrics are prevalent. At 5 cents a mile at high speed on an elevated guideway not only are you saving money but you leave traffic congestion below. In the solar version it does not need any power grid power eliminating the discussion about nuclear or coal power because it doesn’t use any grid power from power conglomerate monopolies. We can cry in our tea over oil or we can kick it to the curb. The old guys who advocate for getting more oil supply will die off soon enough as the younger demographic is all about switching to better energy that is 100% replaceable each day like sunshine. The engineering is sound so don’t dig up old dogma. Gasoline and diesel cars are on their way out and replaced by a much better solution that goes faster pollutes none and uses no imported oil. The patents can be applied to big rigs that burn tremendous amounts of oil so there is plenty of innovation to get us out of this mess but the givernment does not seem to want a solution so here we are.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=192800179 Clint Box

    Though I do agree with some of the statements in this article, I would like to point out that this is the future of driving and there absolutely HAS to be some early adopters.  If not, it’ll never come to fruition.  This is basically what happened when GM introduced the electric car.  People sat and talked about how there were so many problems with the infrastructure and few people tried.  Now, gas prices are over $4 a gallon and it’s finally hurting people.  I mean, seriously, I’ve heard people say that they can barely afford food because it costs them so much just to drive to work, which is supposed to be for affording food, clothing and other costs… not just to afford gas so that they can keep driving to work. 

    I see the issues in this article as being minor… well, except the initial cost.  However, adopting electric will result in the infrasture builing built, the costs will go down and gas will become cheaper for other things like producing electricity.  We use so much for commuting that it drives up the cost for other things like heating and producing electricity…Those costs will go down for consumers eventually…

  • Anonymous

    Where does this man think the electricity for his car comes from?

    This is a perfect example of how dumb liberals are!  They buy the hybrid or the electric car and think they are saving the planet from CO2 emmissions.  But all they have done is moved the burning of the fuel from their car to power plant that provides the electricity for their car!

    Out of sight, out of mind!  They don’t see the fuel being burned so they can pretend it isn’t being burned!  They do not consider that a vast majority of power plants are coal power plants, creating CO2 emmissions big time!

    Liberalsim, the art of being stupid on purpose………..

    • http://www.moneytalksnews.com/ Dan Schointuch

      Coal power plants are more efficient than gasoline car engines.

  • http://twitter.com/AnusuyaV Anusuya V

    I think it is all right to buy an electric car. It is cool.