Does it still make sense to buy an electric vehicle?

For many Georgia drivers, the decision to invest in an electric vehicle (EV) has been an easy choice over the past five years. A generous state tax credit helped EVs gain popularity statewide. Last year, Atlanta was reportedly the top market nationwide for Nissan Leafs.

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APRIL10 2014-KENNESAW: Town Center Nissan has leased more Leafs than any other dealership in the country. The $5,000 state income tax credit for electric vehicles was eliminated in a law passed by the Georgia Legislature. Dealers say they expect to see a drop in sales. (Photo by Phil Skinner)

“The incentives really helped make it a no-brainer for electric vehicles in terms of savings. Georgia has been very proactive in making it easy and affordable for consumers,” says Shannon Baker-Branstetter, policy counsel for Consumers Union.

But in April, Georgia lawmakers passed a bill that will eliminate the $5,000 state tax credit for EVs ($2,500 for low-emission vehicles) purchased after July 1 and charge drivers of EVs a $200 annual registration fee. So if you are thinking about buying an EV and you’re intent on getting a very generous tax credit, you had better get started on your research.

To be clear, there are other financial incentives available to EV purchasers, such as the federal income tax credit of up to $7,500 (the amount of the credit depends on the size of the battery). Georgia Power offers customers who purchase and install a level 2 electric vehicle charging station a $250 rebate through December, and customers also enjoy reduced rates for electricity when they charge between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m.

Car manufacturers are also offering incentives, particularly as fuel prices have hit all-time lows. A recent Consumer Reports survey found the biggest discount at more than $4,800 off the cost of a $30,000 2015 Ford Focus. Nissan offers two years of free public charging when you purchase or lease a new Nissan Leaf.

As with any car purchase, price shouldn’t be your only consideration. Making the switch from a traditional car to an EV also means evaluating your needs and habits.

Consider how much you drive in order to compare your fueling costs to your charging costs, Baker-Branstetter says. Also consider the times you would be charging your car to determine if you can take advantage of off-peak rates. Think about whether you would invest in a home charger (prices start around $450) or use public chargers.

How far is your commute to and from work? Are there charging stations at your job? A Nissan Leaf, for example, can run about 70 miles on a single charge. “If you don’t have work charging, then you shouldn’t be more than 35 miles out,” Baker-Branstetter says.

Resources such as Consumer Reports magazine, the U.S. Department of Energy website and Autotrader.com all offer information that can help you determine if EVs are right for you.

In short, EVs are less expensive to own for a few reasons.

It costs half as much to charge an EV as it does to fuel a gas-powered car. With an EV, you have less maintenance (no regular oil changes), and batteries are designed to last for about 10 years. And of course, zero emission EVs are better for the environment.

On the flip side, most EV drivers purchase a home charger, which can cut into overall savings, and there is always the fear of running out of electricity and having to be towed to the nearest charging station.

While much of the talk about EVs focuses on cost and savings, for many EV drivers, performance is also a big factor. “People are really satisfied with torque and the driving experience is elevated,” Baker-Branstetter says. “You can accelerate seamlessly from 0 to 60.” And in Georgia, you can do it in the HOV lane even as a single occupant.

In addition, she says, EVs are safe, reliable performers thanks to fewer moving parts, and they offer what every driver wants — a smooth ride.

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