Buying a new car has always been a complex, high-stakes decision, and the influx of electric vehicles certainly hasn’t made it any simpler. There are now more fuel and engine types than ever—gas, hybrid, plug-in hybrid, EV, and even hydrogen fuel cell. Inside the vehicle, dash screens are getting larger and more numerous, complete with their own apps, monthly subscriptions, and over-the-air updates.
The Technological Marvels: Best Electric Vehicles Tested
As confusing as these next-gen vehicles can seem, it’s hard to go wrong. EVs tend to be some of the most technologically advanced, smooth-driving cars on the road. They’re essentially smartphones on wheels, with the potential to save you hundreds of dollars on gas and maintenance bills (e.g., no oil changes). With that in mind, these are the best EVs we’ve tested. Make sure to read to the end for an overview of key points to consider when it comes to electric driving.
Should You Get a Hybrid, Plug-In Hybrid, or Full Electric Vehicle?
If you’re interested in moving away from a fully gas-powered vehicle, there are multiple ways to do so depending on your lifestyle.
Hybrid Vehicles: The Efficient Transition
Hybrid vehicles are a great entry point: They are essentially a more efficient version of a fully gas-powered vehicle. Their small battery complements the gasoline engine, improving the miles per gallon and overall efficiency though not providing enough power to travel on pure electricity.
Plug-In Hybrids (PHEVs): Bridging the Gap
Plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) sit in between a pure electric vehicle and a hybrid. They have a full gas tank but can also go a certain distance on pure electricity (usually around 25 miles, give or take), thanks to their larger battery that must be charged through an external port.
- Many PHEV owners report not needing the gas engine for weeks at a time, especially for errands around town.
- Cost-wise, PHEVs are not necessarily a budget option. With two powertrains, that means double the engineering complexity for car makers.
Electric Vehicles: The Silent Revolution
Electric vehicles drop the gasoline engine entirely and rely on electricity alone. They run nearly silently, accelerate more quickly, and don’t spew unpleasant exhaust out of the tailpipe.
- The trade-off? Charging can take hours, and the total driving range is often shorter than a gas-powered vehicle.
- Range numbers have slowly crept up over the years, with many newer models now able to go more than 300 miles on a single charge.
Key Questions for Going Electric
There are a few key questions to ask yourself when considering a purely electric vehicle.
- Do you have an easy, stress-free place to charge?
- If you often take road trips, are there ample fast chargers along the way?
- Would you save money on gas?
- Are you able to spend a bit more money to buy the car?
Considering Alternative Fuel: Hydrogen Fuel Cell
An alternative fuel vehicle you might consider is a hydrogen fuel cell, which offers great range and refuels in just five minutes. However, hydrogen fuel cells are in their fledgling era, even compared with hybrids and electrics.
The Changing Landscape: Buying EVs Online vs. at Dealerships
Electric vehicles are shaking up the dealership model. Tesla and Rivian both take orders online only, foregoing dealerships entirely. Instead, they have set up service centers around the country exclusively for maintenance.
- Ford, GM, and others have taken the hint. They now also take orders online, though you still need to visit a dealer to pick up the vehicle.
- Pros and cons abound with the shift to online car sales, impacting both pricing transparency and the overall car-buying experience.
How Do EV Tax Credits Work?
The US government offers a federal tax credit of up to $7,500 for eligible buyers and vehicles. Only a handful of EVs qualify, and the buyer must make under a certain amount of money, though there are loopholes for leasing.
- Funds are issued when you file annual taxes through December 31, 2023.
- Beginning January 1, 2024, you can recoup the funds directly at the dealership when buying or leasing the vehicle.
- State credits are also plentiful, and tend to be less restrictive.
Navigating the Dashboard: Dash Screen 101
Most new vehicles these days—and EVs in particular—come with a slew of new dash features.
- Dash screens are getting larger and more numerous.
- Some offer content streaming via in-vehicle subscriptions.
- Many display camera feeds from all angles around the car, assisting with turning and parking while collecting data for self-driving assists.
- Some, like the Audi Q8 e-Tron, have head-up displays.
The Evolution of Controls: Physical Buttons vs. Touchscreens
Some automakers are replacing physical buttons with reprogrammable touchscreens. On the Ford F-150 Lightning, for example, the volume dial also adjusts temperature. Brands like Hyundai say they won’t fully get rid of buttons, as studies show physical contact with a reliable knob is still safer.
- Teslas, on the other hand, have no physical buttons at all, or even an ignition to turn the vehicle on and off—your phone serves as the key.
The Crucial Test: Seeing is Believing
The vast array of dashboard designs means it’s even more crucial to see the vehicle in person to find a cockpit you’re comfortable with. This also applies to gas-powered vehicles.
- The main addition to the dash screen for an EV is the current battery percentage and expected range.
- Be sure to check out a vehicle’s mobile app. It often acts as an extension of the dash, allowing you to turn on the AC/heat before entering the vehicle, lock/unlock, view battery percentage, and more.
FAQs: Your Electric Car Journey Unveiled
- Q: Are electric cars more expensive than gas-powered cars?
- A: Generally, yes. While there are affordable electric models, the upfront cost is often higher. Consider long-term savings on fuel and maintenance.
- Q: Can I go on road trips with an electric car?
- A: Yes, but plan ahead. Ensure there are ample fast chargers along the way or consider a gas-powered vehicle for longer trips.
- Q: How do EV tax credits work, and do they apply to all electric cars?
- A: The US government offers up to $7,500 in federal tax credits for eligible buyers and vehicles. Not all EVs qualify; research specific models.
- Q: What’s the future of online car sales vs. traditional dealerships for EVs?
- A: The landscape is shifting. Online sales offer transparency, but seeing the car in person and talking to experts remain valuable.
- Q: What are the must-have features on a modern EV dashboard?
- A: Look for large screens, in-vehicle subscriptions, camera feeds, and user-friendly controls. Test different dash designs to find your comfort zone.
- Q: Are electric cars more expensive than gas-powered cars?