There’s a buzz about electric cars, but even their owners have some words of warning.
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.
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.”