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Electric Vehicles

EV Car Buying Tips

What to Know Before Buying New and Used Electric Cars or Trucks

The idea of driving an all-electric car or truck is increasingly appealing. Eliminating trips to the gas station or paying unreasonable high fuel prices is enough to motivate buyers to explore fleets of electric vehicles available for purchase. As your community’s preferred energy provider, we want you to be informed and aware of the many considerations around the purchase of a new or used zero-emission (all-electric) or hybrid (gas-electric) car or truck.

Vehicle Range and Lifestyle

Range should be one of your top considerations when shopping for an EV. The average range of a fully electric vehicle increases every year. Clearly understand the range of the vehicles you are considering for purchase.

If you need an EV as your daily driver, it’s a good idea to know how many miles you drive in an average day. If the range of the EV you’re eyeing is well above the number of miles driven in an average day, then you probably won’t have a hard time living with that electric car.

Remember, just like gasoline-powered vehicles, the range is impacted by driving conditions, climate and our own tendency to drive fast. Driving from the foothills into the Valley during the summer months, with the air-conditioner running will reduce your overall range, as will driving up into the mountains, like to Lake Tahoe or the surrounding area.

In-Home and Public Charging Stations

The most common location to charge an electric vehicle is at the owner’s residence. This usually requires a Level 2 charger installed at the owner’s home. If you don’t live in a home with a garage, the placement of a Level 2 charger could be challenging. Owners of electric vehicles should locate and evaluate the proximity of public charging stations, at their place of work and in areas of town that are commonly visited.

Level 2 Charging Home Installation

Installing a Level 2 Charger at home requires a number of steps:

  1. Check with your city and county about the need for a permit to install the charger. 
  2. Hire a certified electrician to verify that your electrical panel has adequate space to install the appropriate breaker. 
  3. Identify the location in your garage to install the charger to assure easy access to the vehicle. 
  4. When ordering the equipment, be sure to order a cord that is long enough to safely reach the parked vehicles. 
  5. Hire a certified electrician to install the level 2 charger to building code standards.

Incentives and Tax Credits

Incentives and tax credits available for electric vehicle purchases can make the buying of an electric vehicle even more affordable and enticing. Check with a local tax specialist to determine any and all state or federal tax credits and incentives available to electric vehicle and charging station owners.

Utility rebates may also be available to offset the costs of switching to an EV. For information about current rebates please visit PG&E’s website. Pioneer customers are eligible for all PG&E rebates and incentives.

Unique EV Costs

The purchase price for a new electric vehicle is often higher than a traditional gas-powered car. And, while you’ll no longer need to buy gasoline at a pump, your electric consumption does increase so your electric bill will go up. That said, a normal driver will see overall net savings in fuel costs. For a more personalized and detailed analysis please see the available comparison calculator.

Other related costs to consider are the installation and related electrical work necessary to install a residential charging unit. If a panel upgrade is required, this can become quite expensive.

While there are some cost increases, there are also some additional savings, beyond lower fuel costs. Maintenance costs will drop significantly. The EV does not have many of the fluids or parts that a traditional gasoline-powered car has installed that require ongoing maintenance.

Finally, if you travel by car frequently you will need to be aware of charging options on your routes. This adds a layer of complexity and time to travel and you may want to consider renting a gas-powered vehicle to make your journey more enjoyable until more electrical charging infrastructure is in place.

Understand EV Warranties

Potential electric vehicle buyers should fully understand the warranties that come with electric cars. There is “bumper to bumper” warranties, electric drivetrain warranties and battery warranties. Warranties and details vary by model and age and are different than those for gas-powered vehicle warranties.

Does an EV Fit Your Lifestyle?

The number of available fully electric vehicle models is increasing every year. Despite the increasing variety, there are still some limitations. respective EV buyers should evaluate and consider the lifestyle they live, their needs and expectations of a vehicle and how the vehicle is actually used. If you are not able to charge your EV every night or taking long road trips is how you like to live, an EV might not be right for you just yet.

Is a Hybrid Vehicle Better for You?

If your research has left you unsure of purchasing a fully electric vehicle, you may want to consider a hybrid. There are a great many models of plug-in hybrids available. The benefits are similar to all-electric vehicles but lessened somewhat due to the use of gasoline as a backup energy source. The comparison calculator mentioned above calculator can also help you compare hybrid vehicles.

Buying a Used or Pre-Owned Electric Car or Truck

So, you’ve decided to buy an electric car or truck. The question now is buying new versus used. Used cars are, generally, a fantastic value, but with electric vehicles, there are a few more different items to consider, beyond the questions or concerns you might have with a used gasoline-powered vehicle.

Battery Life

Just like your cell phone, a car’s battery life deteriorates over time. A dealership service department should be able to give you a report on the battery life. Also, most cars have battery life and details displayed on the information center display. Shorter battery life does not have to be a deal-breaker; it can become a bargaining chip to lower the vehicle price. Remember, a car’s battery can always be replaced.

Battery Replacement

Especially on older models or vehicles with higher mileage, ask if a battery has ever been replaced. Always review the documentation and validate any claim of battery replacement. A fairly new battery simply extends the time frame before you should need to invest in a new battery.

Battery Warranty

Make sure you understand how much battery warranty is left and whether the warranty is transferable to the new owner upon vehicle resale. Many battery warranties are up to 8 years or 100,000 miles, whichever comes first. The terms for warranties are always changing, so make sure you read and understand the terms of a warranty, especially the fine print.

Maintenance History

Ask the owner for a history of maintenance performed and copies of any service records. Remember, maintenance on all-electric cars can be significantly less than on a gas-powered vehicle.

Always check Kelley Blue Book’s recall items website to determine if any recalls have been issued for the vehicles you are considering for purchase.

Battery Charging Capacity

Car models are upgraded every year or so. The most significant change to an electric vehicle is usually the battery range. As such, it is important to know the range of the used car and then compare it to a new car or another model.

Vehicle Charging Rate

Not all vehicles charge at the same rate. Additionally, using Level 1 chargers versus Level 2 chargers dictate the amount of time needed to complete a full battery charge. If you plan to charge at work or other public charging stations, it is important to have some idea of how long it will take to ‘top off’ the vehicle battery.

Check for Charging Accessories

When buying a used electric vehicle, make sure to get the charging cord as part of the purchase. Additionally, if you are purchasing from a private party, you might want to ask about including the  Level 2 charger with the sale of the car. When buying a used car, make sure you have all the equipment needed to charge the car.

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