Ever since Toyota pushed the hybrid segment into the mainstream with its Prius, the world of automotive electrification has been in high gear. Electric cars are nothing new, as they date back to the 1800s and rivaled the early gasoline-fueled cars.
Today, electric cars span every segment, including the performance-oriented Porsche Taycan, and have longer ranges than ever. But the question still lingers, "is an electric vehicle right for me?"
We'll run you through how to determine if an electric car is right for you or not.
When considering an electric vehicle — also known as a battery-electric vehicle (BEV) — there's a slew of factors to account for, ranging from your daily commute to the weather to your lifestyle and more. Here are some of the key considerations and how they affect your decision on buying a BEV
Your daily commute is the No. 1 factor in whether or not an electric vehicle is right for you, as this remains one of the most significant issues in the segment. Most buyers will suffer from range anxiety — the fear of running out of battery on the road — despite most BEVs now easily exceeding 125 km of range.
If your daily commute to work is 65 km or less, you'll put under 130 km per day on your electric vehicle. Even the current base-model Nissan LEAF, one of the shorter-ranged BEVs at just 240 km, will still have 110 km of range left after a full day's commute.
Even in Canada's wintery conditions, you'll still be fine, as the average BEV loses 10 to 12% of its range when the temperatures fall under -6 degrees C. At a 12% loss, the LEAF would still have 81.2 km of range after a day's commute.
If your daily commute is 65 km or less, an electric vehicle may be right for you.
If your commute is a little longer than average and reaches up to 100 km, you may start running a little too close to your maximum range than you may prefer.
At 100 km, the LEAF would have just 40 km of range left after your commute. During the winter, things get worse, as the LEAF could fall to just 211.2 km of range. After driving your 200-km round-trip commute, you'd have just 11.2 km of range left. That's cutting it very close.
Also, when driving in the frigid Canadian winters, you'll likely use the heater, which research shows can bring the total wintertime range reduction to 40%. In this case, the LEAF would deliver just 144 km of range, leaving you with insufficient range without an accessible charging station at your workplace.
If you're a super-commuter and drive over 100 km one way to work, you may find a shorter-range BEV, like the base LEAF, a little too tight for comfort. You could consider a longer-range model, like the higher Nissan LEAF trims, Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus, Volkswagen ID.4, Ford Mustang Mach-E, or a Tesla Model Y or Model X. However, with these longer driving ranges come significantly higher prices and higher charging costs.
If you can't afford the payment on these longer-range electric cars, a BEV is likely not a great option for your 100-plus-km daily commute.
There's no getting around it: Electric cars are still expensive. Even at the lowest end, a new BEV will set you back about $40,000 before federal and provincial incentives — at the time of this writing, the new Mini Cooper SE started from $40,990 before rebates and incentives.
Once you throw in the $5,000 iZEV credit from Canada, you pay just under $36,000 for the Mini Cooper SE. Considering you can get the base Mini Cooper 3 Door for just $24,490, that's quite the jump.
Even if you take advantage of Quebec's aggressive BEV incentive, which is worth up to $8,000, you're still looking at a total cost of $27,990 for the lowest-price BEV in Canada. That's over $3,000 more than the base Cooper 3 Door.
Once you buy an electric car, the costs don't stop there. Unless you want to wait days to charge it via a 120-volt household outlet, you'll need to install a suitable 240-volt outlet or a wall box charger.
The least expensive route is the 240-volt outlet, as you only need to purchase the appropriate breaker, wire, and plug, then pay an electrician to install it all.
For the fastest charge and other features, like programmable charging times, charge monitor, and more, a wall box is your best option. On top of the wiring and installation cost, wall box units cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to over $1,000.
One of the main reasons people buy BEVs is they are tired of the fuel economy battle. By switching to battery power, you no longer have to worry about a car's L/100 km rating. While BEVs have an equivalency rating, it's generally so much better than a traditional car that it's not worth comparing.
Still, it's worth looking at how much you drive your current car and determine how many kilowatt hours of energy you'll use driving a BEV per year. You can determine this using the combined kWh/100 km rating on the Natural Resources Canada's (NRCAN's) fuel consumption report for the BEV you want.
Divide the number of kilometres you drive on average per year by 100, then multiply that number by the combined kWh/100 km rating to determine the amount of power you'll use. Finally, multiply the amount of power you will use by the per-kWh fee your power company charges. This will tell you how much per year you'll spend on charging.
Now, take the number of kilometres you drive per year and divide it by 100 to break it down into the 100-km measurements NRCAN uses. Multiply the number of 100-km measurements by the combined NRCAN combined fuel economy rating for your vehicle to get the litres of gasoline you use each year. Now, litres of gasoline you use per year by the average per-litre price you pay for fuel.
Now, subtract the amount you'd spend on charging from the amount you currently spend on fuel. The result is the amount you'll save per year by switching to an electric vehicle.
Multiply your fuel savings by the number of years you plan to keep the electric vehicle to determine your total savings. Subtract this number from the BEVs sales price to better represent a net cost.
For example, if a BEV costs $41,000, but you save $5,000 in the first five years on fuel, the car's net cost was only $36,000.
Because electric vehicles lack an internal-combustion engine, they have significantly lower maintenance costs. There are no oil changes, timing belts, hoses, coolant, and other items to worry about. The only maintenance items on a BEV vehicle include tires, brakes, suspension components, and steering components.
Look over your maintenance records over the past few years and add up all those maintenance items a BEV wouldn't need, like oil changes, timing belts, serpentine belts, coolant flushes, transmission services, and more. Subtract these costs from the BEV's price to better represent a net cost.
For example, if you bought a $41,000 BEV and avoided $2,500 in maintenance on it, that BEV cost you only $38,500.
Unlike traditional gasoline-engine cars, you can't just swing into any old gas station and refill your electric vehicle in a few minutes. Recharging a BEV takes planning, as they can sometimes take hours to reach a full charge.
Recent advancements have ushered in DC fast charge capabilities that can recharge a depleted battery pack to about 80% of its electric range in 30 minutes to an hour. This has made long-haul traveling a possibility in these eco-friendly rides.
However, these chargers aren’t accessible to everyone, especially those living in rural Canada.
If you find the chargers are few and far between, you may want to reconsider becoming an EV owner, as you could find yourself severely limited by its range and the lack of charging stations. On the flip-side, if there are plenty of chargers nearby the areas you visit the most, you have near unlimited access to inexpensive — in some cases, free — fuel.
Using the considerations above, if the electric vehicle suits your driving style and commuting needs, fits your budget, and delivers net savings when you consider all the incentives, rebates, and fuel and maintenance costs, then it's a good option for you.
If any of these areas don’t end up benefiting you, it doesn't mean a BEV is a bad idea. It simply means you may have to consider less tangible benefits, like its environmental impact, to determine if an electric vehicle is the right choice for you.
If a BEV is the right option for you, Clutch has a wide selection of high-quality electric cars to pick from. Each electric car's been through a 210-point inspection to ensure it's ready for the road. Plus, they all include a 90-day or 6,000-km warranty for added peace of mind.