The movie series Back to the Future was a cult classic for a lot of reasons. One of these is showing us what the future could look like. Holograms on ads? Check. Hoverboard? There is already a prototype for that. Self-tying laces? Some brands already have an innovation.
The movie also introduced us to some bold concepts about cars. One, the Delorean, the time-traveling car, can be powered by something else. Two, cars may have the ability to fly. The latter may take a couple of years more before it comes true. But today we have cars plying the road with no typical fuel. Instead, they run on electricity.
Learning More about Electric Cars
The idea of an electric car seems to be straight from twenty-first-century sci-fi, but that is further from the truth. From the online archives of PBS, you’ll learn that there’s already an “electric” vehicle as early as the 1800s. An inventor from Scotland named Robert Anderson created a carriage powered by primary cells. The only problem was it was not rechargeable.
By 1835, an American, Thomas Davenport, built a small electric locomotive. In 1859 Gaston Plante, a physicist from France designed the first lead acid battery that is rechargeable. Before 1900s, some of the electric car models already made it to exhibits. By 1897 New York City streets were filled with the first electric taxis.
In 1900 at least 28 percent of the cars produced in the country ran on electricity. Its ascent was cut short with the introduction of the Model T Ford, which ran on gasoline. It had more power and travelled longer distances, two things electric cars then couldn’t do.
Fortunately, they’re making a comeback and with a huge bang. Not only that, but you also have a couple of choices:
- Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs)
This is a full-fledged electric car since it runs solely on battery. There’s no exhaust pipe or a fuel engine. In other words, the power to run is stored right there on the battery. But how do you get it to run? At the end of the day, or when necessary, you charge it to an outlet.
- Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEVs)
Not all electric cars run on batteries only. Some also pick a hybrid, which is a combination of electricity and gasoline. While they don’t work simultaneously, they complement each other. For example, the gasoline kicks in once you go to top speed since it’s more economical. If you find yourself wondering whether to use electricity or not, however, don’t worry as cars come equipped with a panel that automatically shifts between the two, depending which is economical at that point.
- Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs)
This is like a combination of the two above. It doesn’t just come with a battery but also a section for your petrol. But besides using regenerative braking to recharge the battery, you can also plug it on an external outlet.
Why Buy Electric Cars
Electric cars are some of the most expensive commercial vehicles today. It will cost you $40,000 and up, though some experts believe it will be just as costly as petrol-powered vehicles, which means it will be much cheaper by 2018.
Despite the price, you should still seriously consider investing in electric cars for the following reasons:
To understand how you can save money, you need to know the source of the power, which is electricity. Granted, the cost of gasoline these days has fallen. The average price is about $2 per gallon. But electricity seems to be much cheaper at 12 cents per kilowatt-hour. Based on the information from the Alternative Fuels Data Center, if an electricity costs around that price and the vehicle can consume 34 kilowatts per hour for 100 miles, each mile costs only around $0.04. If you exhaust all the power from the battery that requires 24 kilowatts per hour for an electric car that can cover 70 miles, you spend only $2.64 to charge your vehicle fully.
Furthermore, it’s not uncommon for electric suppliers to offer rebates and other incentives for off-peak use. In turn, you can drive the costs much lower. Lastly, while fuel prices are low, they are very volatile. Electric prices are more stable. It helps a great deal when you’re planning your transport budget.
Another way you can save money from electric cars is through state and federal incentives. The federal government can give you a tax credit from $2,500 to $7,500 when you purchase a new electric car. The amount can vary according to the capacity of the battery and the size of the vehicle. Many states can also provide you with rebates, tax deductions, and other forms of credit.
Note, though, these are usually offered to newly acquired electric cars. What if you buy used ones? Sadly, there’s none available. But you can still save money thanks to depreciation. Prices will go down, and depending on where you buy your vehicle, your savings could be much more than these tax credits and incentives combined.
Electric cars may sound too technical, but they’re actually very easy to maintain. Compared to conventional cars, they don’t use oil, which can clog or harden during the winter. You don’t need to change them as well. There are fewer components to take care of. The braking system also lasts longer because of regenerative braking.
Efficiency and Performance
Electric cars are very quiet and smooth, which may not sit well among those looking for power. But that’s okay as a lot of people like its energy efficiency. These cars can convert as much as 62 percent of its stored energy compared to 21 percent of conventional cars. This is important because you want to maximize what you’re paying for.
More governments are incentivizing the purchase of electric vehicles because they don’t contribute to carbon emissions. Carbon is one of the leading causes of global warming, which is associated with climate change. Studies after studies already show how this phenomenon can harm the planet’s sustainability even within the next few years.
Issues with Electric Cars
Electric cars are not perfect, and whether you’re thinking of buying a new or used one, you should know their limitations.
- Charging Time – One of the biggest issues with electric cars is their charging time. Sure, you can do so at the comforts of your own home, but it takes you as long as 8 hours for a full recharge.
- Plug Outlets – To charge, you need to literally plug the car to an external electric outlet. This is not a problem when you’re at home, but it is when you’re traveling and you run out of power. There are still very few charging stations around the country.
- Range – Over the years, the range of electric cars has improved. Today you can already find ones that run 200 to 300 miles, but still, this is lower than the 400 miles of conventional cars.
- Limited choices – These days more companies are coming up with electric cars, so the market is growing, but it still doesn’t match that of conventional cars. The limited options help make the prices steeper.
Buying Electric Cars at an Auction
You can surely buy a brand-new one. Besides the tax credit, companies can offer you with a financing option. But if you still want to see if this is the right fit for you or you still don’t have the means despite the incentives, you can get one by joining an auction.
What happens during a car auction? It’s no different from other types. Each car will have its own lot number. During the auction, the auctioneer mentions the lot number and says it’s up for bidding. Each participant will have his or her own number as well for identification.
During the bidding process, the auctioneer provides the initial amount. The rest then try to outbid each other. The auctioneer will count up to three or five. If after the count no one provides a new bid, the last one becomes the winner.
The winner then pays for the vehicle as well as other fees or charges, processes certain documents, and takes the car.
The simplicity of an auction makes it a favorite among many auto enthusiasts. But that’s not the only benefit. When you join an auction, you can:
- Buy a car according to your budget – This is because you bid only what you can afford. It’s common among veterans, though, to come with a price range to give them a lot of wiggle room during the bidding. In the end, you have more control how much you’re willing to spend for the car.
- Access many models and designs – In an auto auction, you’ll find hundreds of vehicles to choose from. It, therefore, saves you a lot of time browsing through your possible options.
- Get an electric car at a very low price – If there’s one place to buy heavily discounted vehicles, it’s in the auction. It’s not surprising to pay at least 25 percent off the book value. Usually, the amount you pay is lower than the market resale price. If you’re wondering why, many factors affect it. One is competition. The more cars there are, the cheaper owners may offer them. If there are fewer bidders, you don’t need to bid too high to increase your chances of winning. Further, since these are used cars, they already have depreciated considerably. It also depends on where these vehicles come from or who’s selling them. Private lenders like banks, for example, can offer them at a good price. Their main objective is to recoup their losses and get rid of the vehicles.
How to Bid for an Electric Car
- Learn where the auction is. Auctions are all over the country, but you don’t hear more than 65 percent of them. Auction houses are not keen on marketing, and they’re picky of the kinds of participants they want to have. Some limit their auctions to car dealers only.
If you wish to know where the auctions are, you can subscribe to an auction listing. It works like a directory for all auctions around the country. You will know the ongoing ones, the ones that are over (it’s common among houses to have a repeat if the auction is successful), and the upcoming auctions. Each list will include a link to the auction so you can check the address, direction, and schedule.
- Plan ahead. Many of these auctions already have an online counterpart, so you can already see which cars are up for bidding. You can begin searching for your preferred electric vehicle. You can do your initial research.
- Join the viewing. About a day before the actual auction, you can already see the cars. Around this time, you can inspect the vehicle and even perform a test drive. It’s essential that you join this and that you bring along a mechanic or someone who is extremely knowledgeable with electric vehicles.
These cars may look like conventional vehicles, but many of the parts are different. For example, they have charging docks, so you want to check if the cords are not frayed or showing signs of wear and tear. You also have to see the size and condition of the battery, charging system, and even its software.
- Ready your Kelley Blue Book. Or you can have any handy tool that will give you information on the resale price. Based on the condition of the vehicle and its market resale price, you can have a better idea how much to bid or what your range is. Make sure your tools are accessible during the bidding process so you can always have a guide.
An auction can give you the opportunity to feel what it’s like to ride or drive the car of the future. You can also be at the forefront for any updates that will make the vehicle more useful.