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Ben Halpern
Ben Halpern

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Ben's Electric Vehicle Buying Guide

First and foremost, the most environmentally-friendly car is no car at all. However, especially in the USA, makes car ownership fairly normal and necessary. If you need a car, buy electric.

Incentives

Different regions have different incentives, and you should definitely take this into account. The tough thing is that these incentives are always in flux. As of now, most EVs in the USA have incentives attached.

Original incentives were meant to encourage auto makers to begin producing electric vehicles, so any maker who has already sold many cars (namely Tesla) no longer have federal incentives. You may still have state and local.

There are possibilities of bigger and better incentives which may be coming soon, but you can't bet on anything. I'd advise you to be okay with the possibility of not maxing out your savings depending on when you buy. No matter what you'll be saving on gas in the long run. 😜

What should I buy?

As far as I can tell, the only EV which is a complete care-free upgrade to all gas cars are Teslas. This is due in part to generally great technology, and the only amazing charging network. Teslas mostly all get over 300 miles on a charge, which is more than you need for almost any driving— and when you are on the road, the Tesla chargers provide the best UX.

Road trips will become more and more friendly within the generic charging ecosystem, but it is hard to justify a big investment in another vehicle as a main traveler at this point.

supercharger map

That is not to say that there are not some really great cars being manufactured these days, but count the Tesla infrastructure as a huge bonus if you are between choices. The Volkswagen ID.4 competes with Tesla on all specs and is a beautiful car. Most auto makers are starting to come out with competitive cars with over 250 miles of range.

My wife and I are about to replace our second car with an EV to become an all-electric household, and I am happy with our approach. We own a 2021 Tesla Model Y which we took delivery of in late 2020, and our second vehicle will be a Cooper Mini SE. The Mini is not a range king and is mostly only practical for daily commutes. It would be a frustrating road-tripper, but that is fine. We have our immensely practical crossover SUV in the Model Y to give us everything we can't get from the cute electric Mini.

If you need two cars, this setup is pretty ideal. One big-battery do-everything car and a second car which can handle 90% of daily driving and do so at a lower price point and lower overall lifetime carbon footprint (batteries are way better than gas, but they are not ecologically free by any means).

Tell me more about Tesla

We are very happy Tesla owners. It's a beautiful machine, incredible to drive and has a massive amount of space. It is the bigger sibling of the Model 3— Tesla's most affordable car. If you want more space, go with the Y. If you want something sporty that still has plenty of space, go with the 3.

Tesla makes two higher-end vehicles, the Model S and Model X, which just recently got "refreshed" with a new interior. It's hard to say those are not also the top of their class— With range, infrastructure, and software as the main drivers of that opinion.

Tesla ownership can be a bit of a roller coaster, they are not the most stable fortune 500 company. You'll never be totally sure of the features you're getting after you order because they roll new things out all the time, and the company's CEO is constantly over-promising and under-delivering on timelines. Despite still being the best in their classes, they are years behind on some public statements about self-driving technology.

Dismissing the myths

EVs have most certainly arrived. It is so much nicer to charge at home and always leave the house with the equivalent of "a full tank of gas". Range anxiety is definitely not a thing in Teslas, and I don't think the rest of the ecosystem is too far behind.

The driving experience of an EV is unparalleled. An electric motor doesn't need to rev up like an internal combustion engine, and you'll never want to go back once you've experienced instant torque.

I'm not a car person, and probably never uttered the term "torque" until I found out what it meant when it was instant.

You will probably save at least $2k per year on gas at the low end, and have the opportunity to consolidate your savings further if you have solar panels on your house. EVs also do not need regular maintenance. There are no oil changes. If nothing goes wrong, you virtually never need maintenance.

High end

At the very high end, there are some absolutely magnificent electric vehicles coming out. Auto-makers get to be pretty experimental if they are trying to make a brand statement and it's pretty cool to see.

I'm not a car person at my heart and my enthusiasm for electric vehicles comes from environmentalism and technology, but my observation is that traditional auto makers still know how to make the most beautiful overall cars in terms of that "car experience", while Tesla wins on technology.

Tesla's latest high-end vehicle is called the Model S Plaid, and it is basically a rocket ship disguised as a four-door sedan.

Nobody on earth needs this kind of power, but the instant acceleration from "normal" EVs is still enough to amaze, and abundantly practical on the high way when you need to quickly gain space to pass or merge.

The bottom line

If you have the means to buy electric, do it! I hope this post was helpful if you have been on the fence.

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