Examine Your Commute To See Which EV Is Right for You
Take a hard look at your daily commute to see if it falls within an EV's range. Calculate how many miles you drive to and from work. Factor in whether you make any other stops along the way, such as dropping off kids at school. Once you have a number, compare it to the stated range of the electric vehicles you are considering.
For example, the Nissan Leaf has an EPA-rated range of 73 miles, although the manufacturer says it can travel up to 100 miles in certain conditions. It would work best for people who have urban commutes but rarely take long drives. If you need to travel past the EV's range, you can always rent a conventional gasoline vehicle or use your household's second car (assuming you have one). The Tesla Roadster, the other pure EV that's currently available, claims a range of 227 miles, which would make it suitable for more than around-town drives. But the Tesla also has an MSRP of $109,000, meaning it won't be on the shopping list for most car buyers.
Other EVs scheduled to hit the market in the next few years from Fiat, Ford, Mitsubishi, Smart, Think and Volkswagen, among others, typically have ranges estimated at between 60 and 120 miles.
Plug-in hybrids like the Chevrolet Volt and the upcoming plug-in Prius have all-electric ranges of 14-36 miles, although they can keep going after the battery is depleted. They work best for people with longer commutes or those who are prone to range anxiety. A plug-in hybrid is able to travel significantly farther than a pure EV, thanks to a gas engine that kicks in when the electric charge has been depleted. However, plug-in hybrids make the most sense if you are able to maximize the time you drive in electric mode. In the case of the Volt, a driver who travels less than 35 miles a day and charges daily would only use gasoline on longer weekend and vacation trips and when the engine-generator needs to run occasionally to keep its parts lubricated.