Electric cars may be good for the earth, and depending on government tax incentives, maintenance costs and other factors, they can also be good for the wallet as well. NY1's Money Matters reporter Tara Lynn Wagner filed the following report.
Whether car owners opt for a fully electric vehicle or a plug-in hybrid that has a backup gas engine, the green benefits of electric vehicles can extend beyond the environment, directly to the wallet. While the initial price tag can be a bit of a shock -- the Chevy Volt is close to $40,000 and the Tesla costs over $100,000, for now at least the government will help.
"There is a government tax incentive on electric cars of $7,500 that you get back in April when you file your taxes. On some plug-in hybrids, it's less than that," says Eric Evarts, a senior associate auto editor for Consumer Reports.
Several states offer tax breaks as well, further shrinking the price of the car, such as the electric Smart for Two.
"It's $25,000 before tax incentives, so if you apply all of the national and state incentives to that you can actually get that down to $15,000 easily," says Heiko Schmidt of Mercedes-Benz USA.
When it comes to maintaining an electric car, manufacturers say owners will see a savings there as well, mainly because the design of the engine is entirely different.
"There's no oil in there, there's no spark plugs, no pistons, so you can actually reduce the service costs that you have, the annual service cost," Schmidt says.
Perhaps the biggest question about the affordability of an electric car is how much will it cost to charge it? While owners will probably see their home electric bill double, it is still an enormous savings compared to paying at the pump. To fully charge a Nissan Leaf, for instance, costs about $3, less than a gallon of gas.
"And out of that gallon of gasoline you'll get maybe 30 miles. Out of that $3 worth of electricity you'll get 80 miles," Evarts says.
In fact, the miles per gallon equivalent of an electric car is miles ahead even of the hybrid.
"The Leaf is getting 108 miles per gallon [equivalent]. The Volt, when it's running on electric mode before the gas engine kicks, in is getting 99 miles per gallon [equivalent]," says Evarts.
There are plenty of practical concerns with electric cars, like infrastructure and mileage limitations, but looking strictly at cost, the biggest bump may be the price of the battery.
"We can't really say how much it is but it's a lot of money," Schmidt says.
However, these batteries are covered by a warranty, in some cases for up to 10 years.