- Today’s electric car buyers have a lot of questions.
- They want to know about charging, batteries, and how an EV fits their lifestyle.
- Dealers should be able to answer these questions about EVs.
The next wave of electric car buyers have a lot of questions about these vehicles that they should be able to ask their dealer.
EVs made up about 6% of auto sales in the US in 2022, indicating there’s still a long way to go to educating and convincing prospective car-buyers to go electric. That means that the automakers pouring billions of dollars into developing and launching these cars are banking on the fact that their customers will get their questions answered and concerns assuaged enough to pay a pretty penny for one.
Potential EV drivers have plenty of questions, and there’s plenty you need to know before buying an electric car. GM VP of EV Ecosystems Hoss Hassani told Insider in November that consumers ask its “EV Live” call center representatives about home and public charging, battery longevity, serviceability, and warranty — and even whether they can run an EV through a car wash.
Of course, not every EV is sold by an automaker that relies on dealers. Tesla and the EV startups hoping to emulate its success operate direct-to-consumer models instead. Regardless, here are some tips on what to ask your dealer or sales advisor if you’re considering buying an EV.
It’s important for car-buyers considering an EV to ask about how it fits into an average driver’s lifestyle.
Will the range an EV gets me fit into my lifestyle?
There’s something to be said about not conflating an EV itself with the experience of driving one or plugging it in, but one negative experience or misunderstanding could be a turn-off and a lost sale.
It’s why, while most consumers seem to be getting past their range anxiety (after all, the average driver doesn’t need more than 300 miles of range), it’s important to ask about how an EV fits into an average driver’s lifestyle.
“The biggest thing for people is understanding range and understanding how much they actually drive,” said EV educator and sales specialist Nigel Zeid. “Explaining about not draining your battery down to nothing — those are still, I think, the key things.”
How do I charge this thing if I don’t have a garage?
One of the most notable shifts from a gas-powered car to an EV is how it’s powered. Navigating charging infrastructure can be challenging and intimidating for first-time EV buyers; they’ve indicated that it’s a barrier to their adoption.
“We’ve consistently talked about the time burden and the cost burden for installation and other requirements for electric vehicle owners as a significant impediment to driving an electric vehicle,” said Patrick Anderson, CEO of consultancy Anderson Economic Group. “This is a significant barrier to mass adoption of EVs.”
From where to plug in, to how to plug in, to what levels of charging there are, to the types of charging, and what to do if a charger is broken, dealers need to address concerns about how charging might be inconvenient, costly, or inaccessible.
A majority of EV-charging can be done at home, especially overnight.
“They should be able to tell you right off the top of the head how long it’s going to take you to charge at home,” said Buzz Smith, an EV educator and retired auto salesperson who goes by “The EVangelist.” “It’s important that they describe why it’s okay to take 10 hours to fill a car.”
But not all EV-buyers have access to a garage. Those in multifamily living arrangements should ask about reliable public options.
Warranties are crucial for EV buyers to know about.
What kind of warranty does an EV come with?
Car-buyers don’t need to know the ins-and-outs of their EV batteries’ chemistry. But given how much this market depends on improvements in battery tech, dealers should still be ready to talk about what separates their EV’s battery from competitors.
Warranties are also crucial.
“They do need to at least understand what that drivetrain warranty is. Unlike the gas-engine, three years, 36,000 miles, there is no standard right now,” Smith said. “You need to make sure you’re not getting a battery that has a really short warranty period.”
Plug-in hybrid EVs bring some nuance with two drivetrains, so it’s important to ask what is covered on the electric side versus what’s covered on the gas-powered side.
What kind of service does an EV need?
Many consumers want to know the difference between servicing an internal-combustion engine vehicle and an electric one. Gas-powered vehicles require some maintenance that EVs simply don’t, like oil changes. EVs also don’t have components like transmissions or spark plugs.
Prospective EV-buyers should ask their dealers about an annual battery inspection, and tire rotation every six months, Zeid said — the nuances of EVs.
The Inflation Reduction Act’s new and used EV tax credits can be confusing, and some aspects of the new credits will change come March.
How can I qualify for EV tax credits?
Addressing the total cost of EV ownership, and ways to tap into crucial tax credits, is key to EV market penetration. The average new EV cost $61,448 in December, per Kelley Blue Book (compared with the $49,507 paid, on average, for a new internal-combustion engine vehicle).
The Inflation Reduction Act’s new and used EV tax credits can be confusing, and some aspects of the new credits will change come March. The used credit (launched for the first time this year) will remain the same, but the Internal Revenue Service and US Department of Treasury are expected to release more guidance about whether new EVs qualify for the credit based on critical minerals and battery components criteria.
That’s where things can get tricky.
“Auto salespeople are not tax advisors or financial advisors,” Smith said. “Now, we should be able to point the consumer to the government websites, as difficult to understand as they are, and say here’s the information.
“They also need to know: are there any incentives in your state, in your county? If you can choose your electric utility, even the electric utilities may have EV incentives for purchase of the vehicle or leasing a vehicle or even putting in a charge station,” Smith added. “It’s like handing the consumer a discount. It’s another motivation to buy right now, if you can help them through that step.”