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Aaron Gold

Joel and Melissa go electric — would you?

By February 8, 2013

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Ford Focus ElectricI just got word from my friends Joel and Melissa that they bought an electric car -- a Ford Focus Electric. They are excellent electric vehicle candidates: He works from home, and her job and the kids' schools are close by. Most of their driving is short trips, and they have a second car (a Toyota Prius) for long-distance vacations. (They will eventually replace the Prius with a plug-in hybrid that can use the Focus Electric's charger.) They are willing to shoulder the extra cost of the car for the ecological benefits, although they will realize a cost savings since the Focus is replacing a gasoline car, and the fuel and maintenance costs will be significantly lower.

A lot of people object to the short range of EVs, though I have long said that the range of current EVs is more than sufficient, especially considering that they can be refueled nightly right at home. I'm eager to see how Joel and Melissa get on with their new EV.

I think a lot more people could do with an electric car as a second vehicle. Would you consider buying an EV? Cast your vote and tell us why (or why not) in the comments section. -- Aaron Gold

P.S. If you haven't done so already, please make your nominations for the 2013 Readers' Choice Awards. If you're having problems using the form, email me your nominations (cars at aboutguide dot com) with "RCA Nomination" in the subject line. Thanks!

Photo © Aaron Gold

February 8, 2013 at 3:24 pm
(1) Ross says:

I would love to have an electric car, but it has to make economic (or visceral) sense for me to purchase one.

We have 3 vehicles right now, so if there is somewhere longish distance we need to go, that’s covered. But I commute about 20-25 miles a day. If I could get an electric vehicle that wasn’t a penalty box (iMiev?, Leaf) for a reasonable price I would love to drive one back and forth to work. Unfortunately I can buy small gas cars for so much cheaper, that even over the life of the car the savings don’t materialize.

On the other hand, I would buy a Tesla S if I could afford simply because the car is so cool. Near silent running, instantaneous torque, great performance, but a price that’s out of my budget.

One of two things need to happen for me to buy an electric. Either I need to be able to get a capable commuter for less than or at least equal to it’s gasoline counterpart. Or the electric equivalent needs to be similarly priced and get a decent range 150+ miles.

Currently nothing meets those criteria, so gas it is for now. But I have none of the intrinsic hate for electrics that so many seem to be afflicted with.

February 8, 2013 at 3:48 pm
(2) Eric says:

In a word, no. I’m sure electric vehicles are just the answer for some people. They are not for me. Whenever possible, I buy vehicles for the driving experience. Fuel economy is only a small part of that. I also look at the overall cost effectiveness of the car. Like Ross, I can buy a host of gas powered cars, both new and used, for much less money than most any electric vehicle and pay far less overall to operate it over the life of the car.

February 8, 2013 at 5:14 pm
(3) Lee says:

No. We live in the mountains. I just talked with my friend who traded
their hybrid Camray for a new gas model. They’d driven it 82K miles
with no trouble but it made no economic sense. As for electric no one
ever says anything about the fuel that’s burned to make the electricity to run them.

February 8, 2013 at 6:44 pm
(4) jeff says:

Still too early for me to even consider it. Need a lot more range (100-150 miles at least) and the designs are still laughable. All for well under $30k.

February 8, 2013 at 6:53 pm
(5) Brent says:

Your friends are the poster children for electric car use. No lengthy commute, and they do have an alternate vehicle for longer trips. But that’s a lot of dough to shell out for a run-around car. Here in the NW I’d have to believe your battery life will be greatly decreased in the fall/winter/spring when you have to have the defrosters and windshield wipers going full blast most of the time. If it’s to be used by “the wife” to shlep around the kids, dog, make runs to Costco, etc, you need something with a little room. Maybe the Focus is big enough for them. But just as everyone else has mentioned, I’d take the same amount of money, get a good, used Passat TDI Wagon and have a LOT of money left over for fuel.

February 9, 2013 at 1:21 am
(6) Hawaiian Don says:

Nope! If I’m forking out $20k+ for a second vehicle, then it has to replace ALL the duties of its counterpart should that car go down because of an accident, serious repair, loaned out to family for a trip, or needed by them in a pinch.

February 9, 2013 at 2:03 pm
(7) Chuck Manson says:

Here’s a first: I agree with everything previously written.

And I work from home and only put on 6,000 miles a year. Most trips are only 10 miles or so. Rarely do I ever go over 60 miles in a day. But there are days I need all 4 wheels to haul kids, grandkids, tree branches to the landfill, skis and boards to the mountains and slushing through the snow(if only it would?).


February 9, 2013 at 3:36 pm
(8) George in Ohio says:

Not yet. We need our 1st car to be a highway cruiser to visit our family across Ohio, so an electric doesn’t work for that until range improves. And for a second car used for going to work or shorter trips,, I would not pay the current pricetag that accompanies an electric car. Besides, in a second car I would much rather have the utility of a hatch or small wagon or (going entirely in the opposite direction) have a convertible. Fuel economy (so far, at today’s gas prices) is significant but not at the top of my requirements list.

February 10, 2013 at 11:41 am
(9) Kevin from Bellingham says:

Did it…sort of. I replaced a Prius with a Volt. Gives me the best of both worlds for now….electric for 90% of the around town trips, and the gas generator for longer distances. What people don’t think about when comparing is the driving experience of an electric car. The silence and instantaneous response are utterly addicting. It is just flat out annoying when the gas generator kicks in on my car. I am seriously considering a Tesla S for the next purchase when the lease is up….though there may be alternatives. The new Cadillac ELR in an all electric version with a 250-300 mile range would be hard to pass up. I see more high end luxury car mfgrs going Electric as it defines what a luxury car should be…silent and imminently responsive.

February 10, 2013 at 7:05 pm
(10) Hawaiian Don says:

I wonder if gas stations will one day stock fully charged batteries. You just pull up to a service bay and a machine swaps out one battery for another. You simply pay for the charge. It is a major infrastructure change, but it may work if a standarized battery was adopted and battery life was consistently stable for various manufactures.

February 10, 2013 at 8:59 pm
(11) jeff says:

Don. They already have those in Japan, I believe. Maybe China. And that’s exactly what they do. Saw it on some random show in the last year.

February 11, 2013 at 12:50 am
(12) Shvingy says:

Baloney. Electric car sales say all you need to know. In GM’s case have agencies like the pentagon place huge orders skews the numbers, but the problem is still battery life. No electric vehicle can compete on cost of operation for the life of a car. Until that happens, or is close, the only people laying down cash is people looking for external gratification.

February 11, 2013 at 10:26 am
(13) Brian says:

I had the chance to drive a volt for a week. Battery would run out if I did anythig but drive straight to and from work. Which is fine, but needing to use gas every day kind of defeats the purpose. Electric or not, as a car, I loved driving it. I still can’t afford one though. Bought a used Golf TDI instead.

I second Shvingy about electric sales being skewed. Not only by government purchases, but by the government offering rebates on electric vehicles while ignoring other alternative fuels.

February 11, 2013 at 3:15 pm
(14) Phil says:

It would not work for my family. We have just one car, and it needs to do everything. I walk to work. My wife takes the bus. I remember reading about a car that Saturn was working on before they went under which would be perfect for us, though: It was going to be a VUE (small SUV) that had a plug-in electric mode that would be good for the first 30 miles or so, at which point it would switch over to the gasoline engine. That would be ideal: groceries & short city errands on electricity, vacations on a not too horribly inefficient gasoline engine.

February 11, 2013 at 5:22 pm
(15) Steve in GA says:

I canít help but think that EVís will always appeal primarily to those who see the automobile as Consumer Reports does: a necessary evil, which is an unfortunate requirement since government has not done its duty to furnish door-to-door mass transit.

February 12, 2013 at 3:31 pm
(16) Brian in AZ says:

Ditto everything Ross wrote. Given an electric that looks good and comparably priced to a gasoline version ( or clearly recoups the higher price in savings that can be calculated ), I’d be there. Financially, as Ross mentioned, the electrics don’t make sense( for me ) compared to similarly-sized gasoline vehicles.My conscience is clear driving a gasoline vehicle because my wallet takes precedence. I suspect many drivers defer to finances first in their decisions.

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