The short answer is no. Electric cars are the way of the future so it’s been said. But at what cost to the consumer? Buying a used electric car can lead to some really expensive repairs and take up more time than you realized just in charging times alone. However, it comes down to three main factors – Price, Battery, and Convenience. But I’ll let you decide for yourself.
This is the main concern for anyone thinking of purchasing a used EV. Prices remain high for used electric cars, and it’s only now that we are seeing what it really costs to own one.
Recently I was sent the following ‘repair estimate’ for a replacement battery on a Chevrolet Volt that had only traveled 70,489 miles. At a staggering $26,887 just for the part, $1,200 for labor, and a whopping $1,712 for taxes, the car would leave me just under $30,000 out of pocket.
Now, this isn’t a collectible Nissan GT-R or Porsche 911, this is an everyday hatchback – and it has a hybrid battery which should cost less to replace. Even the cost to replace a basic aging, all-electric Nissan Leaf can set you back between $7,000 and $12,000 if you go through a dealership, or $4,000 to $6,000 for a reconditioned battery which may not last as long as a new battery (they still have to be tested thoroughly). On the other end of the scale, a Tesla 3 battery will cost roughly $15,000 to $18,000 to replace (with the Tesla S costing a little more). You will most probably need a second job or start a go-fund-me page.
Next is the cost it actually takes to charge an electric car compared to its ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) equivalent. If you went out and bought a Fiat 500 ICE car or a Fiat 500 EV car you would notice the difference in favor of the ICE model – especially when you think of the cost to buy it in the first place, and charging stations still charge you money to use their equipment. However, what you have to realize is that you will also have to fork out a few hundred dollars for an EV charger for your home.
2. Battery Life
Gasoline cars are known for going greater distances than most EV vehicles. And while the range of EV batteries is increasing as time goes by, used models are struggling to go the distance. Unlike traditional ways of looking at the mileage of a used car to gauge how well the car has been driven, low mileage doesn’t matter so much as the battery life is the essential part to fail, and this relies mostly on age. If you look at the used Nissan Leaf electric car I found for sale in Australia below, you will notice the car is now 10 years old with only 48,000 kilometers (29,800 miles) traveled.
Now, on a combustion engine, this is just starting its life, but as you can see when reading the description, the number of bars showing when fully charged has dropped from 12 bars to just 7, and the range has dropped from 120 kilometers (74,500 miles) on a full charge to just 80 kilometers (49.7 miles) – and this is actually a good result!!! Most drop by about half the range after 10 years. After that, the drop becomes more significant. If you think to yourself ‘Well I’ll probably sell it by then’ without changing the battery, you may find yourself with a worthless commodity as people won’t want to spend out big money on an old electric car with limited range only to fork out more money updating the battery. In fact, the reason you are seeing more EV cars come onto the used car market is because of age and battery range.
Weather and other factors (such as whether you want to use it for regular towing or off-road adventures) also play a large part in the life of the battery.
Be aware that some lithium-ion batteries are prone to catching fire from charging while parked. There have been a number of recalls on certain makes and models to resolve this issue, so if you have your eye on one, make sure they have been fixed as a fire from an EV car is quicker to spread and harder to distinguish.
3. Convenience or Inconvenience
This comes in different guises. The first is the inconvenience of time. The time it takes to fill a gasoline car is a couple of minutes, right? And you can run the car to nearly empty. You don’t want to let the electric battery run much below 45% as it’s a bit like your smart phone – once it goes below a certain level, it drops fast! If you are charging at home, you will need it on charge overnight for a really good charge around 12 hours at a slow rate (which may come down as technology progresses) which is optimum for better battery life and lower electricity costs. If you’re charging at a public station, you can opt for a faster charge, but you will still spend around half an hour waiting and it won’t give you a full charge – around 80% is average.
Then there is the issue of an available space at the public charging station. I see electric cars waiting for a charger at my local shopping center, and that could take a lot longer compared to waiting in line at a gas station.
Road trips are the next concern. You really do have to plan ahead – especially if you plan to go off-road or into the desert. Some places you just won’t be able to drive. It’s not like you can take a spare fuel can in the trunk.
Have you thought about how far you can travel towing a trailer or caravan? While towing may not be the issue, the distance you get from a single charge drops dramatically due to the excess weight the vehicle has to pull.
Have you got access to a home charger? Is there access to a charger in the parking basement of your apartment building?
Battery size and capacity will get better in the future, but for now it makes sense to stick with a gasoline car until such time as the kinks have been ironed out, there are more charging stations not only in cities but also remote areas, and the prices have come down. Logically it makes sound sense to purchase a used ICE car which will last until the time and technology is right , and you have saved enough to transition to an electric car.