Pros: No fuel required; immediate acceleration; electric vehicles are theoretically cheap to maintain due to mechanical simplicity; tax credits generally available

Cons: Limited range; still expensive despite tax credits; may require special home installations for fastest charging times

Summary: If you're shopping for a car and see the term "electric vehicle," or "EV," it refers to a vehicle that runs solely on an electric motor powered by a battery pack.

Just like a cellphone, EVs have to be recharged when they run out of battery power. They should not be confused with hybrid electric vehicles, or "HEVs," which are powered by a combination of battery power and (typically) gasoline.

EVs have a lot going for them. They never have to stop at a gas station, obviously, so whether you're concerned about your personal CO2 footprint or foreign oil dependence -- or both -- an EV could be the answer. Also, because the torque of an electric motor is always available, most EVs provide responsive acceleration, especially from a stop.

Furthermore, because the electric motor and simple transmission have far fewer moving parts than traditional engines and transmissions, your maintenance bills should be lower. Finally, the widespread availability of tax credits for EV buyers helps protect you from sticker shock.

Nonetheless, EVs are still more expensive than comparable conventional cars, so the question is, are they worth the stretch? The answer depends largely on whether you plan to take the car on lengthy trips. Aside from the top-of-the-line Tesla Model S, EVs are generally good for 100 miles per charge at the most, so road trips are going to be a challenge. To make matters worse, recharging the battery pack at a roadside charging station, if you can find one, takes much, much longer than refilling a car with gas or diesel; you could be there for hours!

And keep in mind that all outlets aren't created equal, so if you want the fastest possible charging times at home, you may have to pay extra for a special charging unit with an industrial-grade current.

What it means to you: An electric vehicle is definitely a lifestyle choice, but it can be a very satisfying one. If you have the means and don't need the extended range of a plug-in hybrid or conventional gas-powered vehicle, an EV could be a great addition to the garage.

author photo

Josh Sadlier is an automotive journalist based in Los Angeles and has contributed to such publications as Edmunds.com and DriverSide.com. He holds arguably the most unexpected degree in his profession: a master's in Theological Studies.

Related Articles & Car Reviews

Find Cars for sale near you:

Research by Vehicle Type

  • Convertible
  • Coupe
  • Hatchback
  • Hybrid
  • Luxury
  • Sedan
  • SUV
  • Truck
  • Van/Minivan
  • Wagon

Shopping Tools

Loading Ajax Content Loading Ajax Content