I have an old Jeep that’s on its last legs. We’ve rebuilt the transmission and replaced most of the suspension, at a cost that far outstrips the hypothetical value of the car. It runs, but just. It burns oil like a refinery and gets terrible gas mileage to boot.
Replacing it with an electric car seems like a no-brainer. Used lease returns for the less expensive models, such as the Nissan Leaf or Fiat 500e, can be cheap—less than $10,000 in some cases—and come with less than 30,000 miles. But they pose other problems, largely related to the fact that electric vehicles (EVs) don’t operate like traditional cars. Many of the early models you can now buy used have ranges less than 90 miles a charge, for one. Some can’t use the fastest public chargers. The standard 110-volt outlet in my garage would take about 24 hours to fully charge one of these cars. I could add a 240-volt outlet, but my circuit box is full, so I’d need to spend a lot more money to add a subpanel. Used EVs tend to appear in the markets where they were first introduced, California especially. But with such a small range, you can’t drive one cross-country; it has to be shipped. That’s more money. The range is plenty for city driving, but what if my older daughter wants to take it to school? That would be impossible.
There really aren’t that many differences between an electric car and one with an internal combustion engine. It doesn’t have an engine or a gearbox, which gives it a lot more torque at low speeds. And it doesn’t use fuel, of course, but has a battery that needs to be charged. That’s about it. But those differences have an outsized impact on the electric-vehicle ecosystem. Drivers will have to acclimate to that ecosystem for EVs to become mass-market compatible, and the industry knows it, so it’s trying to get ahead of the problem.