As if dealing with tricky car salespeople to buy a new car isn't enough of a challenge for most of us, there are more choices to be made than ever — including what kind of fuel your car uses. No longer just limited to just gasoline or diesel, cars can run on hydrogen, ethanol, compressed natural gas, french fry grease, and even electricity. Still, only 1 percent of new cars bought are electric — here are 15 of the reasons why I love my Prius Prime electric hybrid.
i got paid to get an electric car (sort of)
Being an early(ish) adopter of plug-in hybrid technology paid off for me, because I was able to get a tax credit from both the federal government ($4,500) and the state of California, where I live ($1,500). Credits are higher for fully electric cars, too. These credits brought the cost of my car down by $6,000 — and when I looked at cars I could buy for $6,000 less, they were smaller, had fewer features, or had bad to so-so reviews. The good news? The federal tax credit is still available.
i can get a deal on electricity
My power company (Los Angeles Department of Water and Power) encourages electric car buying by offering both a discount on electricity and a rebate for installing a meter in the home. While paying an electrician to install the meter can cost more than the meter itself (and that doesn't include the expense of upgrading the electrical panel, if necessary), the power company will cover $500 of my meter costs. Depending on the meter service I choose, I can either get a discount for when I charge my car (off-peak hours) or get an overall price break per kilowatt hour. While different states have different offers, it's worth exploring wherever you live.
i almost never go to the gas station
In the first year that I had my electric hybrid — which utilizes both an electric motor and an gas-powered engine — I went to the gas station just four times (and the first time was because the dealership forgot to charge my car when I bought it). It's one less thing I have to do during the week, and gas stations have never been my favorite hangout, anyway. When I do get gas, at least it's a quick visit — my car's gas tank is only 11.4 gallons.
i pay less on fuel overall
Figuring out the PEF (Petroleum-Equivalent Fuel Economy Calculation) for an alternative-fuel car is a hassle — and every time electricity prices or gas prices change, you have to start over. But even when I crunch the numbers conservatively, I find that if I were to opt for a fully gas-fueled car instead of my plug-in hybrid electric car, for it to be cost effective (assuming the cost of gas and the cost of electricity stayed static) the gas-fueled car would need to get over 65 miles to the gallon. Also, compared to the regular hybrid (non-plug-in) version of my car, the EPA says the plug-in saves an owner over $750 over five years to run for 15,000 miles.
i find more places to plug in every year
My initial concern about choosing an electric car (and why I was fine with it being a gas hybrid) was that I might run out of juice before finding a place to recharge. I shouldn't have worried. While I haven't tackled a major road trip, I've found charging stations popping up at the library, the Costco parking lot, and other places I visit. While it can be a hassle to make sure I've downloaded each of the many charging systems to my phone, once I have, all I need to do is plug in.
i enjoy a quiet ride
When the Prius first came out, many people commented on how it snuck up on unsuspecting pedestrians in parking lots — and the plug-in electric version, the Prius Prime, is just as stealthy. On the rare occasions when the gas engine kicks in, I'm always startled by how loud it seems — and how tempted I am to turn up the radio. I may have already ruined my hearing other ways, but at least I can't blame my car anymore.
i like how my car looks
Not to sound like a typical girly-girl, but after price, my first consideration when looking at cars is whether or not I like the way it looks. Mine is sporty, has room in the backseat for passengers (and all their stuff), has a great GPS system, and starts with a push button. Driving a green car doesn't mean you have to choose a car that's humdrum.
i can drive in the carpool lane
While this isn't a perk that's offered in every state or even to every electric car driver in my state, I got one of a limited number of HOV stickers that allow me to drive in the carpool lane — even when I'm alone in my car. Given that the HOV (carpool) lane is often empty during rush hour, it's a great perk that saves time when I need it most.
i liked the price
When you get into comparing plug-in electric cars vs. hybrids vs. regular cars, pricing gets very complicated, very fast. My previous car was a hybrid by the same manufacturer, and the price differential between a new version of that car and a plug-in was under $4,000. I knew that spending a little more on the purchase price of the car would be made up in gas savings as well as tax breaks. I also knew my relatively short daily commute was a good fit for my car. The price of a plug-in or all-electric usually goes up the longer its range, and I was able to keep my initial outlay of cash relatively low by buying only what I needed.
i don't notice gas prices
I sometimes spot headlines in my local paper about oil prices shooting upward, meaning higher prices at the pump, or new gas taxes that will be felt in the pocketbook. When you get gas so infrequently, it doesn't have as much impact. Also, while electricity prices fluctuate, they're relatively stable — especially when compared to gasoline.
i've cut my air pollution contribution
While an internal combustion engine (ICE) produces emissions from the tailpipe as well as through evaporation and the fueling process, a plug-in hybrid electrical vehicle (PHEV) has zero tailpipe emissions while in all-electrical mode. My power company also gives me the option of choosing to buy exclusively green power (electricity generated only from renewable sources) if I want. While it's impossible not to leave a footprint on the environment, it's great to feel like you're not adding to the smog cover.
i have fun driving it
You don't have to drive a Tesla to get the smooth ride and fast acceleration the brand is known for having. Electric motors are able provide a lot of torque very quickly, even if other electric cars can't quite match the Tesla Roadster's lightning-fast speed of zero to 60 mph in 1.9 seconds.
i don't have a big electricity bill
i don't have to do much maintenance
Because hybrid cars have fewer moving parts and regenerative braking, there's little regular maintenance (and it's usually just to replace a filter). Replacing the battery of the car would be pricey, but these are meant to last the life of the car, and some brands have multi-year warranties — and a few states even cover the battery pack for 10 years as well as hybrid-related components for 15 years.
i have confidence in its longevity
While Teslas are trendy (and expensive), I felt taking a risk on a plug-in electric car became easier when I was able to buy one made by a brand I'd bought before and found to be very reliable. I drove my previous hybrid for 10 years with nary a glitch, so I feel pretty sure the battery won't conk out in a year or two with this car. Given that, thanks to tax refunds and other incentives, I'll end up paying less for this car than I would have if I'd bought a less-expensive car from a brand that doesn't have a sterling reputation, I think I'll be plugging in reliably for years to come.