A Nissan Leaf, which is a fully electric vehicle, is connected to a charging station.

Electric Vehicles: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Electric vehicles began taking the market by storm when Nissan introduced its mass-production Leaf model in 2011. Since then, nearly every manufacturer has brought its own EV to the market. The future appears bright for EVs, especially as engineering improvements make them more efficient and cost effective.

That said, we’ll examine the good, the bad and the ugly of electric vehicles to help you make an informed decision about this emerging technology.

The Good

A Nissan Leaf connected to a public charge station.1. No emissions. One of the big reasons EVs are so attractive is that they have absolutely no emissions. If you’re worried about your direct impact on the environment, an electric vehicle will help allay those concerns.

2. No gas. How often do you visit the service station to pump gas? Those stops are eliminated for EV owners, saving you money. Yes, you will want to invest in a 240-volt charge unit for your home to hasten otherwise slow charges. But beyond the initial charge unit investment and the cost of electricity, your annual out-of-pocket savings should be enormous.

3. Less maintenance. Electric cars still require maintenance, but oil changes, exhaust system care and spark plug changes are a thing of the past. And while you’ll still need brake system care, the regenerative braking system on EVs usually means your brake pads will last twice as long as those on a conventional gas-powered model.

The Bad

1. Your upfront cost. Electric vehicle prices have come down, but they’re still higher than comparable gas-powered models. For example, a Nissan Leaf will cost you at least $30,000 new, while a well-equipped Nissan Sentra costs about $20,000. Fortunately, taxpayers may find themselves eligible for a $7,500 EV federal tax credit as well as state-level credits, rebates and incentives. Ideally, you’ll want to recoup the cost of your investment, which is something government-backed incentives make possible. In a best-case scenario, the “bad” can actually be categorized as good.

2. Restricted range. Run low on gas and you can fuel your conventional vehicle within minutes. With an electric vehicle, you can only travel so many miles before you must connect to a power source. Even with longer ranges for second-generation EVs, weather and other driving factors can reduce that range.

3. Battery replacement. Manufacturers typically guarantee that the battery packs powering electric vehicles will last at least eight years and 100,000 miles. Happily, we’ve seen hybrid Toyota Prius models with more than 300,000 miles on the odometer and the original battery delivering sufficient power. Yet, there is always the chance a battery might fail once the warranty expires, costing the owner thousands of dollars for a replacement. An extended warranty might cover at least some of the expense, but at another cost to the consumer. The upside is that mainstream retailers like NAPA Auto Parts now carry hybrid vehicle battery packs, so parts availability for this relatively new technology won’t be a concern.

The Ugly

1. Weak charge station infrastructure. There’s no getting around the fact that the EV charging network in the United States is at best spotty. Certainly, major cities are equipped to supply a robust network of fast chargers, but adoption is slow everywhere but California. Elsewhere, few places provide anything better than a household outlet.

Consumers have more choices when shopping for an electric vehicle. A happy medium for some is a hybrid, which provides a conventional gas engine and an electric motor, reducing range anxiety.

Check out all the maintenance parts available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 16,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on electric vehicles, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Photos courtesy of Matthew C. Keegan.

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Matthew C. Keegan

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