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Is it time to buy an electric vehicle? These owners say ‘yes’ (with a few caveats)

We talked to several electric vehicle drivers in the Fargo metro and asked them what they would recommend to someone considering an electric vehicle right now.

Todd Tesla.2
Tesla owner Todd Lefor in downtown Fargo on Mon., May 16.
Chris Flynn / The Forum
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FARGO — As gas prices climb higher, you might start thinking about a new vehicle, maybe a smaller car with better mileage, an upgrade for lower maintenance costs, or you might be considering scaling down to something like a motorcycle.

An electric vehicle — a car, bike or scooter — might also enter into your calculus. After all, paying nothing for gas right now seems like a pretty great deal.

We talked to several electric vehicle drivers in the Fargo metro and asked them what they would recommend to someone considering an electric vehicle right now.

Take a ride in Todd Lefor's Tesla

These owners generally fit the bill of early adopters, and most were outspoken about the environmental benefits of an EV, so it’s not surprising that they all recommend them. But they are just as frank about the reasons why an electric vehicle might not be right for everyone.

For Daniel Bohmer of Moorhead, driving habits are the biggest factor to consider. He’d been driving a Jaguar I-PACE, one of the first in Minnesota, he claims, and the range between charges just wasn’t enough for long road trips.

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“Drive 200 miles, charge for two hours, drive 200 miles, charge for two hours ... you can see how long it takes,” Bohmer said. “A trip down to Rochester, Minnesota, instead of five hours, took me eight hours.”

Like most of the owners we spoke to, however, Bohmer is quick to point out that if your driving habits mean mostly in-town driving, like daily commuting and running errands, an electric vehicle makes a lot of sense.

“If you primarily drive around town and you rarely go out on the road, you can buy a car that’s comparably priced to a Honda Civic, like a Chevy Volt or a Nissan Leaf,” he said.

Bohmer brought up a second concern for EV shoppers: the initial cost, which is made more complex right now thanks to supply chain shortages and high demand, which affect availability. Like non-electric vehicles, the costs of a new or used EV vary widely and can range up to $100,000 for the most expensive Tesla model.

You might also install a charger at your home so you can charge your EV more conveniently, and depending on your contractor and your situation, that could run up to a couple thousand dollars.

For Dave Vacha, of Fargo, those up-front costs were relatively minimal. Electric cars depreciate quickly due to battery advancements, he said, and he was able to buy a used Nissan Leaf for about $6,000 and had a high-capacity charger installed in his garage for about $200.

He and his wife keep a gas-burning car for road trips, but their electric car and a couple electric scooters handle the bulk of their day-to-day transportation needs. The big savings come through fewer maintenance expenses and the stable price of electricity, he said.

“(There’s) so much less maintenance, the cost to operate is astronomically less, that’s obviously because of a few thousand less moving parts,” Vacha said. “I’m definitely spending less than $1,000 a year in fuel, and that includes the electricity we’re putting into the vehicles.”

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Tesla owner Rolf Brakvatne, of Fargo, put the fuel savings in a way that might make more sense to the driver of a gas-powered car.

“I did a road trip last year. Gas prices back then were obviously a buck and a half cheaper than they are now, but I calculated that I was getting the equivalent, on the highway, about 55 miles to the gallon,” Brakvatne said.

There are other potential downsides, these owners say. The range of an EV drops quite a bit in cold weather, which is worth noting for our rough winters. And if you live in an apartment and can’t install your own charging station, charging your electric car might not be very convenient.

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The screen on the dashboard of Todd Lefor's Tesla as he drives through downtown Fargo Monday, May 16.
Chris Flynn / The Forum

But just about anyone can still get some cost benefit from an electric vehicle, even if you don’t use it year-round, one owner said. Byron Snider uses an electric bike to commute, pick up his son and run errands when the weather permits, 16 out of the last 20 days at the time we spoke in mid-May. Each time he does, he offsets some of the cost of driving the diesel truck his family primarily uses to pull an RV, and the savings are significant, he said.

“To pull the RV, we bought a nice, big diesel pickup, and the cost of diesel has gone up quite a bit,” Snider said. “I filled up on Sunday for the first time in quite a bit, and it was $133 to fill my truck. I’m pretty sure a year ago that would have been $75, so the motivation on why I’ve (ridden my e-bike) 16 out of 20 days is the price of diesel.”

He figures he’s cutting his fuel usage in half while he’s using his bike, and it won’t take long for the e-bike to pay for itself.

“I would say I’m going to save $125 to $150 bucks a month for six months, so a thousand (dollars)? I think your payback is one summer to two summers,” he said.

If you do decide to look into an electric vehicle, there are many resources online that can help you price them out and look at options, including buyer guides on popular consumer websites like Car and Driver and Edmunds. Be sure to check those out.

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And you won’t be alone in considering an electric vehicle. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, sales of light-duty fully electric vehicles have risen sharply in the last two years, although they only comprise just over 3% of all vehicle sales.

Plus, the industry is working hard to get them to you. A recent New York Times report says car companies will pump nearly a half-trillion dollars into electric vehicle construction in the next five years, meaning your options are only likely to increase.

Related Topics: ELECTRIC VEHICLES
Kris Kerzman is the social media manager for InForum.
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