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Electric cars: to buy or not to buy?

1204
 2018


Scott Little installed a charging station in his garage. His Tesla's port blinks green when the charger "nozzle" is plugged into the car.

STORY BY ED CROWELL
PHOTOS BY ZACH RYALL


It’s not the higher price tags that usually hold back potential electric car buyers  — state and federal incentives can effectively lower the cost by $10,000. “Range anxiety” may cause hesitancy. When all-electric cars first hit showrooms several years ago, consumers worried about how far they could drive before the cars have to be recharged.
 
Now that range-per-charge has increased on most electric models, that anxiety is lessening. Also, the presence of plentiful public charging stations in shopping areas, libraries, workplaces and hotels in larger cities has reduced the worries of traveling afar.
 
With development of more reliable and more powerful battery packs, nearly every major car manufacturer offers an electric model. Another improvement to electric cars in recent years has been how quickly they accelerate. With better batteries and without the weight of a gasoline motor, some of these cars are zippier than similar gasoline models on the road.
 
Hybrids, which get good mileage using an electric-drive motor at slow speeds before a gasoline motor takes over, have continued to sell well.
 
Educating car buyers about all these points is the mission of Plug-in Texas, an Austin-based advocacy coalition. The group is supported by General Motors, Ford and Toyota, the Environmental Defense Fund and other organizations, and utility companies CenterPoint Energy, Luminant and TXU Energy.
 
The cost of batteries for carmakers is going down, said Russ Keene, who handles public relations for Plug-In Texas. That brings lower pricing, increased driving range with battery improvements and a widening of production across electric and hybrid lines.
 
He compares pricing differences within Chevrolet’s current lineup of small cars:
 
The hybrid Volt is priced at $33,220 while the all-electric Bolt, introduced in 2017, is $36,620. The gas-only Cruze, a comparable four-door small car, is $16,975. But that difference can be somewhat offset by the $10,000 in federal and state incentive programs available for the Volt and Bolt, Keene said.
 
Buyers appreciate being able to make longer trips. When the Nissan Leaf, for example, debuted in 2010, it had just under a 100-mile range. The 2018 model can go more than 150 miles between charges. The new Chevrolet Bolt will go 276 miles on a full battery.
 
The typical Texas driver who commutes from home to work and back travels about 40 miles a day, Keene said.
 
The Bloomberg NEF (New Energy Finance) research company “predicts that by 2040 half of all cars sold in America will be electric,” Keene said. “Most people keep cars for 10 years, so it will take some time for people to cycle into new cars.”

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