The EV Buyer's Guide
By Don Bennett, decades-long EV researcher

 

You've decided it's time to buy a new car. And great, you've decided that it will be an Electric Vehicle now that EVs have come into their own (the technology has matured enough to make them a serious contender for purchasing), and you decided on an EV because you discovered that they are less expensive to own than a gasoline-powered car. But now the question is: Which EV?

What would your considerations be?

Safety

Reliability

Price

Range

Utility

Features

And lastly, color

But there are a few other things that should also be considered.

Engineering

How much does the EV manufacturer really care about the customer

What company do you want to give those many thousands of dollars to

Let's explore all these; there's more to them than you might think.

 

Safety

Whether it'll just be you in the car, or you and your family, safety should be your #1 priority. If you're a smoker, and a heavy drinker, and eat a super unhealthy diet, then maybe safety isn't your first concern, but for those people who do care about their health and well-being, safety is important. So if there was an EV manufacturer that makes the safest EV in the world, their models should not only be in the running, but towards the top of your list. And there is an EV maker who's safety record blows away all the other EV makers... Tesla. So there's one plus mark for Tesla.


NHTSA = National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration

 

A Word About Tesla's Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB)

Now you might think, "Well pretty much all new cars have this feature", so what's so special about Tesla's version? All new cars detect a car in front of you that you're about to hit, and the brakes will be automatically applied to prevent you from rear-ending that car (or hitting it at a much slower speed). But since all Teslas have cameras on the sides of the car as well as three cameras that face forward, and since their software can recognize intersections and traffic lights instead of just a car in front of you, Teslas can see you approaching an intersection where you have a green light, but it can also calculate that the car that's approaching that intersection from the right – the intersection that you're about to travel through – is going much too fast to be able to stop for its red light, so your car automatically applies the brakes (and probably very strongly) to prevent you being hit. This scenario has already been seen in Youtube videos. And this "Smart AEB" so impressed NHTSA that they have required it on all cars as of 2027. Oh, and Tesla's SAEB can recognize and brake for pedestrians too if you're not paying attention. Is this feature an option on Teslas? No. It comes standard.

 


Tesla Model 3 passengers walk away with minor injuries after nine-story fall. The Tesla was driving southbound on Hwy 18 at an unsafe speed when the driver lost control and launched over the side falling 100 feet. Four occupants self-extricated. All four transported with minor injuries. Teslas are built like a tank in case they are hit by other cars... this helps when driving off a cliff.

 

Reliability

If you intend to keep your car for more than three years, you'd want a car that has the least likelihood of needing out-of-warranty repairs, yes? Most legacy automakers design and build their cars to have the least likelihood of needing warranty work, but after the warranty is over, their dealers want to do repair work because that's where they make the bulk of their profits. So the cars aren't designed to the highest quality, which also keeps manufacturing costs down. But what if there was an EV manufacturer where one of their goals is to make a car that needs as little repairs as possible, even after the warranty is over. And they do this by using very high quality parts, like the best bearings made so that the EV's motor will last for 100 years or more, never needing any service. Fortunately there is one EV maker who does this... Tesla.

And remember that in general, EVs have no: engine, transmission, exhaust system, muffler, high temperature/pressure cooling system, belts, spark plugs, fuel injectors, fuel pump, starter, and no oil changes, and the brakes last a very long time because of regenerative braking. So a lot less to repair.

And it's good to know that Tesla's Service Centers are not a revenue generating segment of the business... which is why they are very affordable should you ever need out-of-warranty service. They even have mobile service vans that can come to your car because 90% of repairs don't need for the car to go up on a lift. Do other EV makers have this? No.

And it's probably good to mention that Tesla's EVs are made in the U.S. Yes, they do make some in China, but those are for the Chinese market, and they have a factory in Germany, but those are for the European market.


Compared to other EVs, Tesla wins these categories, no contest

 

Price

When looking at any car – gas or electric – the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) should be considered, and not just the initial purchase price. And this is especially important when comparing a gas-powered car to an EV (because EVs have a much lower TCO than gas cars). So if an EV's purchase price is $4000 more than an equivalent gas car, the EV's TCO will be still less than the gas car's. One reason for this is that the fuel costs are different. Gasoline versus electricity has the latter being less in price per unit of energy than gasoline. So the fuel for an EV is less per unit of energy than gas cars.

But the savings don't stop there. A decent gas car gets about 28 MPG, but a decent EV gets at least 104 MPGe (the "e" stands for "equivalent"). And this is an apples-to-apples comparison. So which kind of car is more energy efficient? EVs of course. And this means a lot less money spent for fuel over the life of the car if it's an EV. And then factor in the less money spent on repairs as discussed in the above "Reliability" section, and an EV is a bargain.

And these days, Teslas are at or below "price parity" with equivalent gas-powered cars. And this makes an EV even more desirable from a financial perspective. For example, the Tesla Model Y rear-wheel drive version is listed on the Tesla website as having an MSRP of $36,490 after the $7,500 Federal EV point-of-sale tax credit is applied. With added state rebates where offered, the purchase price can be even lower. For context, the average new car price in the U.S. is about $50,000 and the lowest priced car is the Toyota Corolla (gasoline) at around $24,000.

Another plus for a Tesla: They sell direct to the customer... no dealer to visit and therefore no dealer markups, and no salesperson to try and upsell you things you don't need... it's as easy as buying something on Amazon (but there is some paperwork involved).

 

Range

Yes, most gasoline cars can go farther on a full tank than an EV can on a full battery. But EVs can be charged at home by a lot of people, so their EV is always "full", and they never have to go to a filling station. Those who live in apartment buildings that don't have electrical outlets in their parking garage will have to fill up their EV at a public charging station, and there are many companies who provide them. But one EV maker (and only one) built their own public charging network. Guess who. Yep, Tesla. And their public charging stations have been independently rated at 99.5% up-time. Others average 60% with some being under 50%! So reliability doesn't just apply to the car itself, it also applies to the public charging stations that the car can use. And Tesla's can charge at Tesla charging stations and at the others.

But as far as range is concerned, for daily driving to and from work and for errands, most EVs today have plenty of range. For long trips, it's the public charging stations that the EV has access to that's important. And here, Tesla wins hands down. Tesla owners have zero "range anxiety". Owners of other EVs have run into issues with public charging when on a long trip.


By the way, those canopies are solar panels that feed large Tesla battery packs that are then
used to supply electricity to the cars charging. So you will get some of your fuel from the sun.

 

Utility

This just means, does the vehicle have the space you need, and can it do what you need it to do. A small sedan is not the best for a family with kids... an SUV or CUV being a better choice. So does the EV maker have the kind of car you need? But they don't need to have 35 different models for you to find one that works for you. Tesla currently has four models as seen at the top of this page (soon to be six), and those models fill-the-bill for 99% of people.

And consider that most EVs (not all) have front trunks (because there's no engine). And in hot weather, most EVs can run their AC even when the car is off. Same for cold weather and the heat. You can't do that with a gasoline-powered car.


A Tesla front trunk ("frunk").
Make sure the EV you're buying has one. Not all do.

 

Features

Considering there are features that can be added via a software update, anyone buying an EV should make sure the car can do OTA updates (Over-The-Air). All Tesla's have improved over time because they can all do OTA updates, and they all have received many new features over time (and in the case of Tesla, ones that customers requested). So if an EV can't do OTA updates (that can be done at home so you don't have to bring it into a dealership for an update), I wouldn't consider it. If it must be brought into a dealer for a software update, that EV manufacturer cares more about profits than its customers.

And what about future features? How about one that will be available for all Teslas by the end of 2024... "Self-Driving Mode". Great for seniors who are close to needing to give up their Driver's License because their reaction-time or eyesight isn't what it once was. They can get in their Tesla, tell it where they want to go, and the car will drive them there, and it will do so more safely than the best human driver could. And this feature isn't just for seniors. How about those who want to make the most of the time they spend driving around and want to get some work done on their laptop, or those who'd like to be on their cell phone without fear of breaking the law, or those who are driving but getting sleepy... just turn on Self-Driving Mode. Only Tesla will be offering a Self-Driving feature that you can engage anywhere.

And Tesla has the only EV with "Dog Mode", "Fart Mode", and "Joe Mode" (named after the customer who suggested it). Sounding like a unique vehicle? You bet it is!

And a Tesla outsold the Toyota Corolla, which was huge news, but you didn't hear about it on any news shows because Tesla doesn't advertise, but Toyota does, giving those networks lots of money.

Also, many of a Tesla's features can be controlled by the Tesla app on your phone. So if it's hot out, you can turn on the AC before leaving the store you're in so your car can be comfortable when you get to it. And if the Tesla is charging at a public charging station, and you're in a nearby store or restaurant, when the car's battery is nearing "full", you'll be notified on your phone!


"Dog Mode" because the AC can remain on when the car is "off", and in hot weather this prevents the Police from breaking the car's window. This feature was requested by a Tesla customer, and Tesla's CEO tweeted back, "Good idea!" And now, four million Teslas have "Dog Mode".

 

Engineering

The design of EVs can be very different from one another. And I'm not talking about the design you see, I'm talking about the design you don't see. The "under the hood" design. A really good design can mean a much lighter vehicle, which translates into less fuel needed and better handling in case of a sudden steering maneuver.

And obviously from a safety perspective, a really good design can be lifesaving (like airbags that deploy based on how the occupant is sitting in the seat; unique to Teslas).

But how about the engineering of the EV's most important part: The battery pack. A really well designed battery pack will use cylindrical cells, and not pouch cells. Take for example GM's "Ultium" battery pack. Sounds like a really great battery, right? But that's just marketing. Their battery uses pouch cells, which was a reason some of their Chevy Bolt EVs caught on fire just sitting parked (burning down some people's homes). Why did GM use pouch cells when everyone in the industry knew that cylindrical cells were better and safer? Can you guess? Yep; money. Pouch cells are less expensive than cylindrical cells. So wouldn't you want an EV that uses cylindrical cells? I would. And try asking the salesperson at the dealership what type of battery cell their EV uses. Remember that Teslas use cylindrical cells, and that their CEO stated publicly many years ago that cylindrical cells were the way to go. But GM chose to care more about profit, so they used pouch cells and simply gave their battery a great sounding name that implied it was the ultimate battery. Not even close.

And then there is the engineering that affects the car's aerodynamics. How much attention to detail went into that? The less wind resistance, the better your fuel economy. Teslas have some of the lowest drag coefficients of any EV on the market. Another plus for Tesla. (I think we're up to six now.)

 

How much does the manufacturer really care about the customer

Most companies operate on the "profits first" business model. Why? Because this gives them the highest profit margins, which is their goal. But a rare few companies put people first and profits second. Those are the companies I like to do business with. Yes, their products might be a little higher in price than if they had put profits first and used cheaper parts and less costly engineers, but the end result is a better product in general (safer, lasts longer, etc).

And when it comes to vehicles, since safety is very important, how much does a car-maker really care about people when they offer some non-required safety features only on their highest trim models? So if you want the safest version of their car, you are forced to buy the most expensive trim level of the model you want. Good for business, but bad morally in my opinion. I'm happy to say that Tesla puts all their non-required safety features in all their cars as standard. And they are continually improving their safety features, above-and-beyond what they are required to do by Federal regulation. And Tesla's safety improvements are so good, that the NHTSA has required that all cars have these new safety features by 2027.


And what CEO of a car manufacturer actually listens to its customers to the point of taking suggestions via Tweets sent to him, and incorporating them into the cars? To my knowledge, only Tesla's.


What company do you want to give
those many thousands of dollars to


When most people buy a car, they do so with a car loan, so the amount they pay out when making a payment isn't the full price of the car. But the car manufacturer gets the full amount right away (from the loan company). So you are giving them many thousands of dollars, and it's the second biggest purchase you're ever likely to make (a home is #1). So who do you want to give all that money to? As I implied in the section above, I want to support companies that do right by their customers... and not just their customers, but all the people on the planet. Tesla's mission statement is to "Accelerate the adoption of sustainable energy technology", which includes electric cars. Tesla was started specifically to make EVs, and Tesla's CEO was motivated to do so when GM killed the electric car back in 1999 (there's a documentary about what GM did).

Tesla also makes energy storage devices that many states and countries have been buying to help support their power grids and make them less dependent on coal, oil, and gas. So it's actually a company that cares. Not many of those around. Certainly none of the legacy auto manufacturers who are now forced to make EVs to compete with Tesla. Believe me, they didn't want to. So, who do you want to support with your dollars?

 

How's Tesla doing as a company?

TOP 15 COMPANIES BY MARKET CAPITALIZATION

I don't see GM, Ford, Honda, Toyota, Hyundai, Kia, VW, or BMW on there

 

Oh, and one more thing to consider...

EV Adoption Rate

Countries other than the U.S. are at relatively high EV adoption rates. China is at 40% and Norway is at 90%. The U.S. is only at an average of 8% (but California is at 25%)

This from Bloomberg News, August 27, 2023

IMPORTANT TO KNOW

Why Most Auto Dealers Don't Want to Sell EVs

Why do car dealers that sell EVs try and talk people out of buying them in favor of their gasoline-powered cars? Simple. They make more money from you buying a gasoline-powered car. Why do they make less money on EVs? Traditional car dealers make the bulk of their profits not on the sale of the car, but on parts and out-of-warranty service. Since EVs have less parts and are more reliable than gas cars, they require less parts and less service. Good for the consumer but bad for the dealer. This is why it's better to buy from an EV manufacturer that sells direct to the consumer. No lying salesperson who does what's in his best interest, and no "middle-man" means a lower price for the car.

And most traditional car makers also don't want to sell EVs. Why? Because in the beginning, as they are ramping up production, they lose money on each EV they sell to a dealer. Ford loses about $30,000 on each EV they sell to a dealer. So, auto manufacturers wish that Tesla never existed, because if it didn't, no automaker would have to sell pure battery electric vehicles, just gas cars and hybrids. All auto manufacturers do what's in their best interest, with one exception... Tesla. So make sure you check out a Tesla when looking at EVs.

 

Want to know more about EVs?

Want to know more about Tesla and its CEO?

Want to know more about Tesla's safety?