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FAQ for Electric-Vehicle Shoppers

Rich Ceppos
Photo credit: Car and Driver

From Car and Driver

It's only taken about 120 years, but electric vehicles are becoming viable competitors to gasoline-powered automobiles. Virtually every automaker now either offers one or more EVs or has them coming soon. Several independent EV manufacturers have sprung up seemingly overnight to challenge both Tesla and the long-established carmakers. Battery technology is improving steadily and EVs are becoming more affordable. Charging networks have grown across the country that make both daily driving and long-distance travel in EVs feasible if not entirely convenient. If you're thinking of purchasing an EV, or just want to know all about them, we've pulled together this list of frequently asked questions and done the investigative homework to answer them for you. Everything you need to know about EVs is right here.

1. What's the Real Story on EV Range?

When it comes to electric vehicles, range is the all-important stat. Whether or not you make it to the next public-charging spot, are able to complete your daily commute, or are instead stranded on the side of the road depends on it. The EPA rates range for EVs just like it does fuel economy for gas cars. We test that range in the real world. Here's what you need to know about range, what affects it, and what you can expect from your EV.

2. How Does EV Charging Work?

Navigating the EV world is like traveling in a foreign country for the first time. It can seem unnerving until you've learned your way around and gotten familiar with the local customs. For living comfortably with an EV in America you'll need to know the ins and outs of charging—how charging stations work, how you purchase the electricity to refill your EV's battery, and where to find those recharge locations around the country. Here's how it all works.

3. Which EVs Have the Longest Range?

How far will it go? That's the single most important question anyone considering an EV wants the answer to. It's a generally accepted fact that EVs can't be driven nearly as far on a single charge as a gas-powered car can go on a tank of fuel. And EV batteries can't be re-juiced in the five minutes it takes to top up a car's tank at a gas station. So, if you're thinking about buying an EV you want to know what your choices are, starting with range. We have your answers right here: every currently available EV model ranked by its EPA combined driving range, from worst to best.

4. How Do EV Tax Credits Work?

EV Tax Credits are non-refundable federal tax credits available to purchasers of vehicles with a battery propulsion system that draws power from an external power source. In other words, both pure electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids qualify. The federal government has been offering a $7500 credit for since 2010, and most carmakers' EVs are still eligible for it. The credits earned depend on a variety of factors and are used to decrease taxes you owe in a given year. They can bring down the price of an EV significantly, so you need to know about how to apply for and receive them.

5. How Long Does it Take to Charge an EV?

Whether you plan on using your EV for local, daily driving or longer cross-state treks recharging time is going to have a significant impact on how you use your time behind the wheel. Refilling a depleted battery pack takes more time than topping up your gas-powered car's tank. But how much more time? And why does that differ depending on where you choose to charge it up? Here's what to expect when you plug-in your EV.

6. What Are My EV Choices?

There are 14 electric vehicles on the market today and plenty more coming soon. Here's the full list of on-sale models, and a preview of what's in store in the months ahead.

7. Are There Any Great Lease Deals on EVs Due to Slow Car Sales?

Car sales are dragging these days, and dealers are eager to move the metal. You've seen the ads for great new-car deals with deferred payments and zero-percent financing. With the price of fuel at rock bottom, there's even less demand for EVs. Does that translate into any special deals? We've scoured the country to find the best lease deals on EVs. Here they are.

8. Can I Buy a CPO EV?

Any Certified Pre-Owned car, SUV, or truck offers numerous positives, from an extended factory-backed warranty to the repair of any defects before the vehicle is sold by a participating dealer. Here's what to know about CPO programs, including a list that connects you with every automaker's CPO program with a single click.

9. Is an EV More Expensive to Own and Operate Than a Regular Car?

EV aficionados will tell you that electric vehicles are cheaper to own and operate. EV skeptics will counter with the premium pricing of many EVs. To answer the question of whether an EV can save you money, we dig into the data and compare the cost of buying and running of a pair of EVs against their gasoline counterparts—including purchase prices, energy costs, maintenance charges, tax credits, and depreciation.

10. Does an EV Work for a Long Trip?

With electric vehicles and the charging infrastructure that supports them evolving and improving almost daily, has it become feasible to drive long distances comfortably in an EV? We attempt a 1046-mile round trip in our Tesla Model 3 long-term test car to find out. Here's what we learned that just might affect your plans to buy a EV.

11. How Long Have There Been EVs?

We'd bet that many people think of electric vehicles as a relatively new method of transportation, but history says otherwise. Electricity has actually been competing with gasoline—and steam—to power automobiles since the very dawn of the horseless carriage. Today's modern EV miracles such as the Tesla Model S and Porsche Taycan were preceded by more than a century of electric-powered automotive experiments. In this illustrated history we've pulled together the most influential—and sometimes smile-inducing—EVs produced during the past 120 years.

12. Can I Ask a Really Dumb Question About EVs?

Sure you can. Here's a handful of them that are actually not so dumb at all. And we answer them, too.

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