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Should I buy an electric car or hybrid now?

Is it the year to buy an electric car or hybrid? It̵

7;s for Michael Rowan, who wanted to save money and energy during the pandemic. And so are many other drivers.

Rowan, an IT manager from Albuquerque, NM, recently purchased a Chrysler Pacifica PHEV minivan and new solar panels for his home to help power the vehicle.

He says the hybrid car purchase was financially meaningful, from tax breaks to improved fuel efficiency.

“We get 450 miles per gallon on our van when we use gas,” he says. “But we rarely use gasoline. We’ve used two gallons since we started having the ability to run electricity from home.”

Since the pandemic has lasted until the summer, there has been a lot of talk about electric cars and hybrids. Tesla’s stock is hot, as my FORBES colleague Camilo Maldonado noted. And the company recently lowered the price of the Model 3, Model S and Model X electric cars by up to $ 5,000.

For drivers who often sit at home and dream of being on the open road, it will be a choice between an electric car, a hybrid or buying – or keeping – their current gas-powered car. Each alternative has its advantages and disadvantages that are easily overlooked in an emotionally charged debate about the value of the electric car.

It’s a big year for electric cars

Electric cars are on their way to a record sales year, according to a new report from the International Energy Agency. EVs, which accounted for 2.6% of global car sales in 2019, increased by 40% compared to the 1.9% share in 2018. General Motors and EVgo recently announced plans to add more than 2,700 new fast charging stations over the next five years. years, in an attempt to accelerate the widespread use of electric vehicles.

Interest in electric cars may be at an all-time high. According to the analysis company SEMRush, it has increased 18% in searches for the term “hybrid” and a 20% peak in “electric vehicle” searches globally during the first six months of this year, compared to 2019.

“We’ve seen an increase in customers buying hybrids and EVs,” said Toby Russell, co-CEO of Shift.com, a peer-to-peer marketplace for buying and selling used cars. “One reason may be increased road travel. Many consumers choose a driving-based vacation today rather than jumping on a plane.”

Travelers are also moving away from mass transportation in favor of a passenger car under COVID and are looking for a fuel-efficient vehicle for those increased trips, according to Russell.

“Many consumers jump into hybrid or electric vehicles for reasons other than gas mileage,” said Zoriy Birenboym, CEO of eAutolease.com. “There are many benefits of tax credits and taxes on vehicles. All of these benefits are equivalent to thousands of dollars in savings.”

Large incentives encourage the sale of electric cars and hybrids

Mindy Farabee, a retired teacher from Walnut, California, bought a Toyota Camry Hybrid LE last week. She and her husband considered several options before deciding on the Toyota hybrid.

“We are both retired and wanted a reliable car that would last a long time, be comfortable – my husband is 6 meters tall – and economical,” she says. “In order to combat climate change, we both feel we are doing our part to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.”

The Farabés were not necessarily loyal to Toyota, but for them the timing was right.

“There were other cars we had considered, but they were either not available until next year or we did not feel they had a Toyota reliability,” she says. “A major incentive to buy now was the 0% financing on new vehicles that Toyota offered in early August.”

Farabee says she loves her new car.

“We drove less than 200 miles round trip and barely moved the gas gauge under 3/4 of a tank,” she told me. “I expect we will enjoy this car for a long time.”

The benefits of a plug-in hybrid: “Do we not need to buy gas?”

As someone who covers the travel industry – and consumer complaints – I have been skeptical of electric cars for several years. I have seen the studies and comments that question the environmental benefits of electric cars. And I’ve also had this recurring nightmare of running empty in the Arizona desert.

In June, I started driving a Volvo XC90 plug-in hybrid. It seemed like an ideal compromise. We could always find a gas station if the battery disappeared. On our first drive from Spokane, Wash., To Reno, Nevada, I did not notice much difference in the car’s fuel efficiency. But when I got home and plugged in the Volvo, the needle on my fuel gauge froze at half a tank.

It’s been there ever since.

“Do we not need to buy gasoline?” asked my 13-year-old daughter, after noticing that the car’s absence from gas stations stops recently.

We did not. Like Rowan and Farabee, we have only used a few liters since June.

“When you drive a plug-in hybrid vehicle, you immediately understand the benefits of electrification,” said Jim Nichols, Head of Product, Technology and Brand Communications at Volvo Car USA. “Fast acceleration, lower fuel costs and a driving range that can exceed traditionally powered vehicles make hybrid vehicles an exciting alternative.”

Hybrids like the XC90 are great for short trips around the city – the kind of driving most people do. On longer trips, like our upcoming trip to Arizona, you see about the same fuel efficiency as a gas-powered vehicle. But hybrids are not the same as electric vehicles. When we tried to put Volvo in a purely electric mode, the air conditioner quickly dropped the battery in the summer heat. It is clearly intended for use with an internal combustion engine.

Switch to a Tesla: “We did the math”

For some drivers, this summer has been a time to buy a different type of electric car. Mihaita Vulpe, who runs an SEO company in Romania, bought a Tesla Model 3, despite some of the challenges of owning an EV in Europe.

“To be honest, we did the math and an EV can save you a lot of money on gas and maintenance,” he says. “It also reduces harmful emissions that lead to less health and ecological damage.”

Vulpe says he expects lower maintenance costs. And Romania is EV-friendly with free charging stations in the mall and supermarket.

“What I do not like is how long it takes to charge,” he says. “There are no official Tesla charging stations in our country yet. Every time I travel away from a big city, I have to carefully plan every long road trip because not every small town or countryside has a charging station.”

David Kirsch, author of the book The Electric Vehicle and the Burden of History, says experts have predicted a breakthrough for EVs since the 1960s.

“The success of Tesla’s Model 3 may have finally broken the dam that is holding back final demand for EV,” he says. “Tesla’s inventories have broken down and decreased since the end of 2019. From mid-2020, the company’s market value will exceed that of the next three most valuable car companies. combined. Regardless of its long-term appearance, the Tesla story has clearly taken the day. “

Is it time to buy an electric car, a hybrid – or wait?

Because it can be such an emotional purchase to buy a car, I have had a hard time getting clear buying advice. But based on my conversation with experts, here are some tips:

When to buy an electric vehicle. If you have the disposable income to buy a new EV, and you live in an area with many charging stations, you may want to consider an electric vehicle – especially during the pandemic. You can find some great deals, especially for a used EV.

When buying a hybrid. If you have money but live in an area with fewer charging stations or plan longer trips to remote areas, a plug-in hybrid may be more suitable for you. (A plug-in hybrid car runs entirely on electricity; a hybrid does not usually.) Remember that hybrids work well under certain driving conditions, but for some trips you still rely on a gasoline engine.

When to wait. If you do not have the money for a new car, stick with your old wheels for now. The pandemic has hit almost everyone’s bank account hard, and you may be better off waiting to buy a new car. Do not go into debt for a new EV or hybrid.

But would you buy an electric car now?

So it’s finally time to buy an electric vehicle? It depends on who you ask.

Talk to someone like Charles Agosta, a professor of physics at Clark University and a self-proclaimed renewable energy enthusiast, and the time is now.

“The electric car is half the price to drive per mile compared to a gas-powered car,” he says. “An electric car is four times more efficient than a car that runs on gasoline.”

He says the benefits of electric cars have never been more obvious.

“With strategic legislation and investment, we will stop wasting a valuable resource, cutting off an important source of traditional pollution, reducing our carbon footprint and saving money,” he says. “And electric cars are fun to drive.”

George Hoffer, an emeritus professor of transportation economics at Virginia Commonwealth University, says motorists should be careful about buying an electric car during a pandemic.

Hoffer notes that the benefits of ownership vary by country and state, making it difficult to generalize about the true cost of an electric car or hybrid. He also says that it is important to distinguish between Tesla, the market leader in electric vehicles, and other manufacturers that offer a “one off”.

This may be the electric car’s summer, but Hoffer thinks it will take a while before it is the electric car’s year.

“I believe that electric propulsion will be supported in 2022 or 2023,” he says.

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