Owning or leasing an electric vehicle (EV) is a significant personal investment and a choice that benefits our community directly, through reduced air pollution, and indirectly by cutting down our greenhouse gas emissions. Below you will find a list of frequently asked questions about electric vehicles with answers based on the best available information. This page will be updated as the EV market continues to evolve and expand.
EVs offer many benefits for drivers. Although they often have higher upfront costs than gas-powered vehicles, total cost of ownership for EVs can cost less than half of what it does to operate a conventional vehicle. Fuel and maintenance are lower as EVs have fewer moving parts (they don’t require oil changes, for example). Repairs can be costly, especially for battery replacements, but EVs typically require fewer repairs over the course of their lifetime.
In addition to long-term cost benefits, EVs are better for the environment than gas-powered vehicles. All-electric vehicles are much more efficient, produce no tailpipe emissions, and when charged using a renewable energy source, offer an emissions-free way to travel.
Although technology is fast improving, EVs do have certain limitations. If looking into buying or leasing an EV, drivers should carefully consider upfront versus lifetime costs, travel needs and range limitations, and how and where to charge the vehicle.
EVs and plug-in hybrids are vehicles that have motors powered wholly or partially by an electric motor and require electricity to recharge. All-electric vehicles are driven entirely by a battery-powered electric motor while plug-in hybrids have both a battery-powered electric motor and an internal combustion engine. When its electric range is exhausted, the hybrid is powered by gasoline. A typical plug-in hybrid has an electric range of 20 to 40 miles, although ranges may be higher or lower, depending on make and model; all-electric vehicles currently range 100-400 miles.
There are two types of EVs – battery electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids. A battery electric vehicle is fully powered by an electric motor, while a plug-in hybrid has both an electric motor and a fuel-powered internal combustion engine.
There are a number of models of each type of vehicle for sale in the U.S., ranging from compact cars to SUVs to pickup trucks. You can browse and compare available models at fueleconomy.gov.
EVs and plug-in hybrids come in a variety of shapes and sizes to meet a variety of needs. The Department of Energy (DOE) provides up-to-date information on available EV and plug-in hybrid models here. DOE also allows drivers to compare cars side-by-side, comparing EVs to gas-powered cars, plug-in hybrids, or other EVs on features such as cost, range, and fuel economy. You can compare cars at fueleconomy.gov.
Only you will know when it’s the right time to buy an EV. Certain buyers who can wait to replace a vehicle may do so until a certain EV model they have been eying hits the market. Others might be waiting for technological improvements or upfront costs to go down. These are certainly valid reasons to wait. EV technology is rapidly improving, particularly in terms of battery range and efficiency. Costs are also likely to improve as the price of batteries decreases, market availability increases, and the cost of production goes down. However, the market can be difficult to predict, and there may be unexpected setbacks such as chip shortages and battery supply constraints that drive up prices and waitlists for EVs.
There are at least four major cost considerations to buying an EV:
Upfront costs for EVs are much higher than their gas-powered counterparts, although it’s expected that over time, the difference will not be so stark. (Certain analysts believe EVs will reach price parity with gas-powered cars as early as 2025). As of January 2022, according to a Kelley Blue Book report, the average cost of a new vehicle in the U.S. is over $47,000. According to the same report, the average transaction price for an EV at the end of 2021 was $63,821. However, EV costs vary widely by make and model. Model year 2022 prices range from $27,000 to well over $150,000. A federal tax credit is currently in place to help owners recover some of these higher costs. Owners can claim up to $7,500 in federal tax credit the same year they purchase a new EV. Several states have their own financial incentives in place as well, although Virginia has yet to fund its EV Rebate Program, established in 2021.
Total cost of ownership is typically lower for EVs. It’s estimated that for every $30 an owner spends on a gas-powered vehicle, an EV owner will spend $7. With fewer moving parts, there are not as many maintenance costs. Repairs can be costly, however. For instance, replacing the battery of an EV can cost anywhere from $5,000 – $15,000, depending on the model, and not including cost of labor. That said, repairs such as battery replacements are not expected to be needed as frequently for EVs.
Fuel costs for EVs will vary based on the electric rates where you live. But overall, costs to “refuel” an EV are much lower than gas-powered vehicles. In 2021, the cost to refuel an all-electric car cost an average of $500 - $850 per year, at least two times lower than gas-powered vehicles.
The Department of Energy (DOE) has an Electric Drive Cost Calculator, where users can compare fuel costs and emissions of an EV to a conventional vehicle. See: Alternative Fuels Data Center: Hybrid and Plug-In Electric Vehicles (energy.gov).
As an added incentive, certain auto manufacturers may offer limited-time free charging of new vehicles via certain charging networks. See: Here Are All the EVs That Come With Free Charging | Edmunds.
Insurance costs may be higher for EVs, as their purchase and repair costs are higher. However, certain providers are beginning to offer discounts for drivers of EVs and hybrids.
New EVs may be eligible for a federal income tax credit of up to $7,500 and used EVs eligible for a credit up to $4,000. Buyer and vehicle qualifications may be found here for new vehicles and here for used vehicles.
It’s important to remember that the federal tax incentive is not applied at point of purchase. The tax credit may be claimed for the year in which the vehicle is placed in service. The full credit can only be claimed if an individual’s tax bill is $7,500 or higher for new vehicles or $4,000 or higher for used vehicles. If lower, the IRS will not issue a refund for an amount higher than one’s tax liability figure. Any unused tax credit cannot be applied to future years’ taxes. Instructions on how to claim the credit may be found on the IRS website.
Leasing any vehicle comes with pros and cons that are not unique to EVs. Leasing may be a good option for those who are not yet willing to make a long-term commitment to EVs and want to see how driving an EV fits with their lifestyle. As EV technology continues to rapidly improve, leasing may also be a good option for those who would like to drive an EV but would like to see certain technological advancements before committing to a particular make or model.
Buying a used EV can be one way to avoid higher upfront costs. Starting January 1, 2023, used EVs are eligible for a federal tax credit of up to $4,000. However, there are other considerations to weigh besides cost: In the U.S., EVs only account for 2 to 3 percent of the market, meaning there may be fewer used EVs available to purchase compared to other types of vehicles. A used car also means you would be investing in older technology. EV batteries degrade over time and are costly to replace. Factors such as the previous owner’s driving and charging behaviors as well as what climate the EV was housed in could all impact battery life, which could in turn affect the range of the vehicle. Before buying a used EV, talk with the owner or dealer about battery health and range.
Data provided by an insurance comparison website show that insurance for EVs tends to be marginally higher than comparable gasoline models. The brand and model of the car also matter, as most available EVs are considered “luxury vehicles,” which are more expensive to insure, regardless of whether they are electric or gas. It is shown that, on average, the higher insurance cost of EVs is usually covered by the money saved due to lower repair, maintenance, and fueling costs.
In terms of range, many EVs entering the market today are typically able to travel 200 miles or more before needing to be recharged. As the average American drives about 30 miles a day, EVs are likely to meet your day-to-day needs. However, when estimating mileage needs, keep in mind that factors such as extreme temperature, highway driving, and use of appliances can all impact battery range. For instance, according to AAA, an EV range can drop by as much as 41 percent when temperatures drop below 20 degrees. In warmer temperatures, when using air conditioning, the range can drop by an average of 17 percent.
For those concerned about range for longer trips, you may want to map out your route identifying opportune charging stations along the way. Depending on where you purchased your EV, certain manufacturers will loan customers a gas-powered vehicle for longer trips at no charge, up to a number of times a year. Renting a gas-powered vehicle may also be an option for a longer road trip.
Long-term, according to the Department of Energy, EV batteries may last 12-15 years in temperate climates, and 8-12 years in severe climates (including very cold or hot climates). Replacing EV batteries can be very costly. However, there are federal regulations in place that offer some protection to EV owners. EV power cells must be covered under warranty for at least eight years or 100,000 miles. Some automakers will cover an EV battery against total failure, while others will replace it if it reaches a specified reduced capacity percentage (typically 60%-70%) while under warranty. Climate, driving behavior and charging patterns are all factors that can impact the battery over its lifetime.
EVs and plug-in hybrids must plug in to the wall or an EV charging station to refuel. There are three different types of charging stations that have different charging rates and electrical needs (Level 1, 2 and 3). A Level 1 charging system can be plugged into most grounded electrical outlets, and charges at the slowest rate (about 2-5 miles per one hour of charge). A Level 2 charging systems requires a dedicated 240-volt circuit and charges at a rate of 10-20 miles per one hour of charging. Finally, A Level 3 charging system (often referred to as DC fast charger) is used in commercial applications, and charges at a rate of 60-80 miles per 20 minutes of charging. When and where it’s feasible, most EV drivers will recharge their vehicles using a Level 1 or 2 system at their home. However, an extensive network of EV charging stations is available in this region for those who can’t charge at home. Use the Alternative Fueling Station Locator to see where publicly available charging stations are.
EVs sold in the U.S. can have different types of plugs. Before connecting your EV to a charger, you will need to make sure you are using the right kind of plug or have an adapter on hand. Most European- and American-made EVs use a CCS plug. Japanese-built EVs use a plug design called CHAdeMO. Most public charging stations can accommodate both. Tesla uses its own proprietary plug design and operates its own network of chargers called Superchargers. Tesla may be opening its U.S. charging network to drivers of other EVs in the near future.
Many choose to charge their EV at home using Level 1 or 2 charging systems. Installation of these chargers may require permitting and fees through Fairfax County. For questions related to permitting, please see Fairfax County’s Land Development Services.
For those who cannot install EV chargers at home, there is an extensive network of Level 2 and 3 chargers throughout the region. Users may search for a station by using locator maps, such as the Department of Energy’s Alternative Fueling Station Locator, PlugShare or ChargeHub.
In addition to test driving an EV at your local dealership of choice, prospective buyers of EVs may be able to view or test drive a vehicle during National Drive Electric week. Typically occurring in the September-October timeframe, National Drive Electric week offers drivers a chance to talk to local owners of EVs and plug-in hybrids. This site includes information on upcoming events: National Drive Electric Week. You may be able to find other virtual or in-person EV showcase events through organizations like Virginia Clean Cities, Drive Electric Earth Day and Plug In America.
In many ways, EVs are very similar to their gas-powered counterparts, although there are some key differences worth noting before buckling into an EV. Acceleration and breaking can be quite different than what you’re used to in a conventional vehicle, for example. With an electric motor, EVs are able to accelerate almost instantaneously (from 0-60 mph in under 8 seconds for some models). They are also able to do so relatively quietly.
Most EVs are equipped with regenerative breaking, which recharges the battery when the driver breaks or releases the accelerator pedal. The feel of this is likely to differ by model. For instance, in some cars, you’ll be able to feel the car breaking as soon as you take your foot off the accelerator. In others, there is more of a coasting feeling. Drivers may be able to adjust the level of regeneration in their car, depending on preference.
Finally, in EVs, riders may notice the car has a lower center of gravity, as the battery is located in the center of the vehicle floor (which can improve vehicle handling and decrease the risk of rollover).
Yes and no. Currently, there is no service that provides roadside charging for all EVs. In some areas, AAA has a pilot program for mobile electric vehicle charging, but this is limited mainly to large metropolitan areas. For Fairfax County, AAA will tow your car to the closest charging station, if you run out of charge while driving. AAA has said they will continue to expand as the electric car market does.
Electric vehicles can experience a lower range in winter months due to the added power demands that come from operating in cold temperatures, like warming the cabin and other heating systems. On average, cars can lose 20% of their range in colder weather. You should keep a close eye on your car’s battery percentage during cold weather, and if you’re taking a long trip, plan out charging station stops.
If there were to be another snowstorm that causes a major motorway to shut down, like in the I-95 shutdown in the winter of 2021, don’t worry about running out of power. An electric car can idle for many hours, but the larger the battery, the longer you can idle your car with the heat on. The best way to find out how long your future EV car can idle with the heat on is to consult your car’s owner’s manual.
A Tesla Model Y owner was stuck in this traffic jam and sat for 16 hours with Tesla’s “camp mode,” and only used 13% of the battery. Another EV owner said he was grateful for his EV in the I-95 shutdown, saying “Throughout my entire experience in the I-95 quagmire, I knew exactly how much power my EV was using, how much power remained in its battery, and how far I could drive.”
Demand for EVs is high, and the current supply is low. Some models of EVs may be more readily available than others, and some models have a waitlist to purchase. Car manufacturers have said that since electric vehicles are becoming more popular and there are more federal incentives, inventory will improve.
If you're looking for an EV now, you may want to consult your regional dealership of choice and ask about inventories before you stop by.
Yes! Dominion Energy has an EV charger rewards program that incentivizes residential customers to have a Level 2 car charger. Residents who opt-in will allow Dominion to adjust their charging behavior during periods of high electric demand. Learn more about this reward program at this link.
Virginia is a right-to-charge state, meaning absent certain conditions, HOAs cannot prohibit a resident from installing an EV charger on their own property. However, convincing an HOA to install EV chargers in common areas may be harder to address. OEEC has some guidance on EV charging for common interest communities.