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Sick of paying for gas? Here's what to look for when shopping for your first electric car

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 9/30/2021 Marc Saltzman

That’s it, you’ve had it. You can’t justify paying $3.50 a gallon to fill up your tank.

Perhaps you’ve had an epiphany about contributing to climate change with CO2 emissions from your “gas guzzler.” 

And electric vehicles, which have always been quiet, are getting better-looking and more extensive ranges by the year.

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Maybe it’s time to consider one.

“Buying an EV is becoming popular for a variety of reasons,” says Tom Moloughney, senior editor of InsideEVs, one of the largest and oldest publications targeting the EV market. “Some of the original EVs didn’t charge rapidly or go very far, and they cost a lot, too.

Powered by GM’s Ultium battery, Cadillac Lyriq's range will be more than 300 miles on full charge © 2021 General Motors Company Powered by GM’s Ultium battery, Cadillac Lyriq's range will be more than 300 miles on full charge

“Today, prices are coming down, range is about two to three times (farther) than an EV from six or seven years ago, and they now charge up in minutes instead of hours,” Moloughney says in a telephone interview with USA TODAY.

Moloughney says the infrastructure is more “mature,” including thousands of DC (aka “Level 3”) fast chargers around the country that didn’t exist a few years ago.

Nik Miles from Our Auto Expert, a 20-year veteran as an automotive broadcaster, agrees it’s a “great idea” to drive an EV but suggests it’s prudent to lease – rather than buy – as the technology is “evolving so fast.”

“The tech may be obsolete in a couple of years as the industry is changing so quickly, so just be aware of that before you consider one,” Miles says in a telephone interview.

Miles and Moloughney suggest assessing your needs before you start test-driving EVs, as the features you look for will vary based on your driving habits, lifestyle and budget.

The following are a few considerations when looking for an EV.

Charging speed

All EVs have different charging capabilities, Moloughney says. “A Chevrolet Bolt, for example, would be much slower to charge than the upcoming Hyundai Ioniq 5, for example,” so figure out your needs. “But a Bolt might be just fine for those who don’t need to drive far often.”

You'll pay more for that charging speed: It's part of the Ioniq's upper-trim Limited model , which is likely to be priced around $44,000, compared with the base-model Bolt EV, which starts around $32,000.

Shipping during the first half of next year, the 2023 Cadillac Lyriq Debut Edition ($58,795) – the company’s first all-electric luxury SUV – will support high-speed (“DC”) fast-charging for public stations up to 190 kW, which provides up to 76 miles of range in about 10 minutes or up to 195 miles of range in about 30 minutes.

Powered by GM’s Ultium battery, the vehicle’s range will be more than 300 miles on full charge, comparable to the 2021 Tesla Model Y Long Range (from $53,990).

Without disclosing how many vehicles were reserved, Cadillac said reservations for its debut Lyriq sold out in a little more than 10 minutes last weekend, but dealers will take additional orders starting next summer.

Connector type, stations

Moloughney says to do your research to ensure your vehicle can charge up wherever you want it to. Most – but not all – EV models support the Combined Charging System (CCS) standard.

Many Nissan Leaf models (from $27,400) use a different connector type called CHAdeMO.

“While Nissan is joining others to support CCS with its Nissan Ariya, the company’s EV models can only be charged up at a CHAdeMO station for a DC fast charge,” Moloughney says. The standard 2022 Nissan Leaf has a maximum range at about 149 miles.

“In other words, you’ll need to look at your smartphone app ahead of time to see if your vehicle is supported at a particular charging station,” Moloughney says.

The Tesla Supercharger network is by far the most “robust” for Tesla owners, Moloughney says. Telsa CEO Elon Musk said it will open its Supercharger network to other EVs by the end of this year.

Range

Miles says range is often the No. 1 consideration when buying an EV, but most buyers don’t need as much as they think.

“Just like so few people who buy a Land Rover take it off-roading, you probably shouldn’t be overly concerned about range with an EV,” Miles says. “Most don’t drive more than 40 miles a day, so unless you’re spending a lot of time on the road, you don’t need to be too concerned.”

“A less expensive car with lower range may be fine for you,” Moloughney says. “The battery is the most expensive part, and you might be able to save if you don’t need huge range.”

Newer EVs typically deliver 200 to 300 miles of driving range, per full charge, though some models go well beyond that. Lucid Air boasts range up to 520 miles (starting at $77,400).

Battery warranty, customer service

Tesla vehicles hold their value very well, in particular. © Tesla © 2021 Tesla vehicles hold their value very well, in particular.

When looking for your first (or next) EV, Moloughney says, you should consider a robust battery warranty – just in case. “Make sure you’re getting at least seven years or 100,000 miles, as a minimum, as most new EVs offer.”

“Without knocking any brands, also research what the dealer support is like on the back end, in the event of an issue,” Miles suggests. “Look to resources like J.D. Power ... to see how some companies are ranked. Even with its Bolt issues, GM typically has a much better ranking, along with Lexus, by handling situations well.”

Miles says there are a “slew” of EV companies popping up, so you want to make sure they’ll be around in the future.

As for resell value, Moloughney says, Tesla vehicles hold their value very well, in particular.

Follow Marc on Twitter for his “Tech Tip of the Day” posts: @marc_saltzman. Email him or subscribe to his Tech It Out podcast at https://marcsaltzman.com/podcasts. The views and opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Sick of paying for gas? Here's what to look for when shopping for your first electric car

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