By Caroline Zane
For some time, I had been saying that my next car would be electric. When hurricanes caused so much devastation last year, I decided it was time. I was convinced that the severity of the storms was due to climate change and that electric cars could make a difference.
Since our cars were 13 and 17 years old and increasingly costly to maintain, getting a new one didn’t seem like a bad idea anyway.
I was intimidated at first by the high-tech features of new cars and all that I needed to learn before purchasing an electric one. But I told myself I had to do this.
There are some attractive incentives for buying electric cars. The federal government provides an income tax credit up to $7,500 and New York offers a “drive clean” rebate at the time of sale up to $2,000. The amount depends on the car’s battery capacity. For some manufacturers, the tax credit could start phasing out this year.
I needed to find out how these incentives applied in my case and also decide what size battery fit my driving needs, whether to rent or buy, and which type of vehicle – all-electric or plug-in hybrid – was better for me.
I learned that owners of all-electric vehicles can suffer from “range anxiety” – a fear that the battery will run out and the car will come to a stop before it can be recharged. Because of this concern – and also the lower price – I decided to focus on a plug-in hybrid.
One minor feature may have sealed the deal for me. My husband and I like to listen to CDs, so I was disappointed to learn that the car I was test driving had no CD player. When I discovered that the lowest trim level, which was the car I wanted, did have one, I was delighted.
It took several months and repeated nudging from a car salesman, but I finally signed the contract and picked out a car.
I am happy now that I did. So far, I’ve traveled 1,200 miles and used only a quarter of a tank of gas. Driving on electric has been cheaper than gas. Whenever the car does run on hybrid mode, it gets very good mileage.
What I hadn’t anticipated is how much I would enjoy driving on electric power. The ride is quiet and peaceful, and there are no fumes for me, my passengers or anyone in the vicinity to breathe. In fact, it’s so relaxing that I’ve caught myself speeding on a few occasions – one of the few negatives I’ve encountered so far.
A few neighbors have told me that they like the car. One, the mother of young children, said she was glad I bought it.
Because I have only around 25 miles of battery range, I need to consciously plan to keep the car on electric power. I usually take the shortest route and often avoid the highway to conserve energy.
I also keep track of the limited number of recharging stations in case I need them, which I occasionally do. Most of the stations I’ve used have been free. But I prefer plugging into a standard outlet at home where I have a renewable energy supplier of electricity.
Although my driving routine has changed because of the new car, the transition from a gas-powered vehicle has been much easier than I expected. As electric cars become more affordable and efficient, and new choices become available, I believe that many others will soon be joining us on the road.
Caroline Zane is happy to be driving electric.