Electric vehicles (EVs) have fast-tracked their way from futuristic novelties to reliable and cost-effective options for many consumers in the last decade or so. Contrary to popular belief, EVs can benefit the environment, air quality, your wallet, and even the electric grid. Accessibility to EV charging infrastructure varies by location but continues to expand nationwide. 

Sifting fact from fiction in a seemingly ever-evolving industry can be confusing. We’re here to debunk common EV misconceptions, offer a realistic idea of EV feasibility, and help reveal the true potential of EVs.

Key takeaways

  • EVs are a reliable vehicle choice that can save you money in the long run.

  • EVs are not pollution-free but are better for our environment and health than traditional vehicles.

  • The average EV range is about 200 miles, but some can travel over 500 miles on a single charge.

  • Things like demand response programs and bidirectional charging technology can reduce the demand EVs put on the electric grid. 

  • As of 2023, there are about 170,000 EV charging ports in the U.S. Your accessibility to EV chargers depends on where you live.

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EVs typically come with a higher price tag than gas-powered cars, but upfront costs don’t represent the actual cost of owning a vehicle. Local, state, and federal incentives can shave thousands of dollars off the sticker price of your EV, and the fuel and maintenance costs of traditional vehicles are often enough to make an EV more cost-effective over its lifetime. 

EVs have lower maintenance costs than gas-powered cars

A 2020 Consumer Report found that EV and plug-in hybrid car drivers pay about half as much to repair and maintain their cars. That’s because EVs require fewer repairs or routine checkups than traditional gas-powered vehicles. Internal combustion engines (ICEs) found in traditional cars have more moving parts and require more fluids than electric motors, making them the higher maintenance option of the two.

EVs are usually cheaper to fuel than gas-powered cars

Fuel costs fluctuate regionally for all types of vehicles, and both electricity and gas prices are subject to volatile market changes. Generally, fueling up with electricity instead of gas saves you money.  

While installing a gas pump on your property is impractical, you can easily charge your EV from the comfort of your home. At-home charging is more convenient than going to a gas station, and it allows you to take advantage of off-peak electricity prices. Conversely, you won’t receive any discount for gassing up your car at midnight versus 5:00 PM. Essentially, you can charge your EV while you sleep and save money doing so. 

The cost to “fill up” your EV can be even cheaper still when you couple a home charger with a solar panel system. Using emission-free electricity produced on your property insulates you from those fluctuating electricity prices and enables you to reduce your EV’s carbon footprint. 

EVs are eligible for tax incentives and rebates

Traditional gas-powered cars are less expensive to purchase than comparable EVs, but EV tax incentives and rebates help level that playing field. State and local incentives vary, but the federal EV tax credit is available to EV users everywhere in the U.S. and can reduce the price of an electric vehicle by up to $7,500.

EVs are not pollution-free, but they typically have a smaller carbon footprint than gas-powered vehicles, even when you account for fossil fuel power plant emissions and manufacturing. 

EVs are not inherently emission-free

As with any type of car, manufacturing an electric vehicle requires the extraction and refinement of metals, transportation of materials, and assembly, all of which have pollution implications. Manufacturing batteries for EVs is a particularly emission-intensive process.

Generating the electricity to charge your EV also usually isn't emission-free. As of 2023, roughly 60% of utility-scale electricity generation came from fossil fuels. If you charge your EV with electricity from the grid, it probably comes from generators burning fossil fuels (although our dependence on fossil fuels continues to lessen, which we address in detail below). 

EVs emit less pollution than gas-powered cars

Cradle to grave, EVs produce less pollution than gas-powered vehicles. The environmental impact of EVs is improving for a few reasons: 

  • The U.S. electric grid is getting cleaner: In 2020, renewable energy generation surpassed coal generation for the first time in 130 years. More and more states are passing 100 percent clean energy targets, and the Inflation Reduction Act signed by President Biden largely supports his goal of reaching a carbon-free electricity sector by 2035.

  • EV manufacturers are working to improve the environmental impact of EV battery manufacturing: Measures include developing cobalt-free batteries and recycling and repurposing used batteries to reduce the amount of new material required for more batteries.

  • An EV charged with fossil fuel electricity converts more than 77% of electric energy from the grid to power at the wheels. Comparatively, conventional gasoline vehicles typically convert 12% to 30% of energy from gasoline into wheel power.

EVs improve air quality

Driving an EV means no tailpipe emissions into our atmosphere, improving local air quality and reducing the pollution that increases asthma, cancer, and heart disease. A recent report from the American Lung Association found that the widespread transition to EVs could contribute more than $978 billion in public health benefits.

Learn more about the environmental impact of EVs vs. gas-powered cars

A decade ago, this critique had some validity. EV technology has improved drastically since then, and today, the average range of an EV exceeds the needs of the average American driver.

Many long-range EV models allow you to travel hundreds of miles on a single charge. The Lucid Air boasts a whopping 520-mile range, while the Tesla Model S can go over 400 miles before a recharge. Hyundai, Mercedes-Benz, and BMW also offer electric ranges over 300 miles.

Sure, an immediate, 100% transition to electric vehicles would overwhelm the grid – but that scenario is ludicrous. In reality, we’re in the midst of a gradual transition to EVs. According to Consumer Reports, electrifying all passenger vehicles by 2050 would require less than 1% annual growth in overall electricity generation. Considering the revenue and grid service opportunities vehicle-to-grid charging technology provides, utility companies are gearing up for the expected growth. 

While it's still emerging, vehicle-to-grid is a bidirectional charging technology that allows your EV to use grid-produced electricity and send power back to it. Bidirectional charging isn't widely available yet, but some EV models like the Nissan Leaf already have the capability. 

As an EV user, vehicle-to-grid charging will enhance your EV and your solar investments. Utility companies can employ this technology for demand response programs and use a fleet of EV batteries to store electricity from intermittent power sources like solar or wind.

Accessibility to EV charging depends on where you are in the country, and you might need to plan ahead for longer road trips. Still, finding a charging station is much easier than it used to be. The number of EV charging ports in the U.S. grew from just 430 in 2008 to more than 87,000 in 2019. That number nearly doubled by 2023; we rounded out the year with about 170,000 charging ports nationwide. In January 2024, the Biden Administration announced over $620 million in grant funding intended to contribute 7,500 new charging ports across the country. 

EV charging has skyrocketed recently, but its convenience still varies regionally. California is miles ahead of the rest of the country regarding public EV charging access, with over four times as many charging ports as the runner-up, New York. EV adoption in many Western and Midwestern states lags far behind that of the East and the West coasts (EV ranges aren’t always compatible with rural driving distances, among other factors).

Whether you drive an EV for the financial or environmental benefits (or both), pairing it with a home solar panel system maximizes its potential. Charging your EV with emission-free electricity produced right on your property reduces your electric bills and your carbon footprint. Use the EnergySage Marketplace to see how much you can save with solar. If you don't have an electric car yet but plan on buying one soon, simply note it in your account so that installers can design your system with your future EV's charging needs in mind.

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