Drive Electric on a Budget

20160907driveelectricElectric vehicles (EVs) are more affordable than ever. With competitive prices, rebates, discounts, and low fueling and maintenance costs, EVs are a great choice for the environment and your budget. Over 83,000 EVs are registered to Bay Area drivers, and California’s moderate climate optimizes their range.

You can also view this as a PDF here.


There are 2 kinds of electric vehicles:

  • EVs (all-electric vehicles) run on electricity alone.
  • PHEVs (plug-in hybrid electric vehicles) run on electricity, then switch to gas once the battery is low or the car goes above 60 mph.


  • Fueling is cheaper. EV fueling costs one third what it costs to fuel a gas-powered sedan.
  • Maintenance is cheaper. EVs do not need oil changes, transmission repairs, spark plug replacements, or tune-ups, and don’t wear out consumable parts like brakes as quickly.
  • Unrestricted access to the carpool lane and reduced bridge tolls for EVs.
  • Utility companies discounts for charging during off-peak hours (like night-time).
  • Electricity prices are lower and more stable than gas prices.
  • Pollution: EVs produce 54% less lifetime carbon pollution than gas-powered vehicles and have no tailpipe emissions, resulting in cleaner air quality.
  • Parking perks: Some hotels and commercial buildings offer free and/or prime parking for EVs.
  • Longer life: EVs are estimated to have a lifetime of 1 million miles, compared to gas-powered cars, which are built to run 200K miles.

Level 1 Charging Station comes standard with every vehicle. It’s basically an extension cord that plugs directly into the car on one end and a standard electrical socket on the other end. Fully recharging a low battery takes 10-20 hours.
Level 2 Charging Station reduces charge time to less than 5 hours. It may require an electrical upgrade at your home. Hardware and installation cost around $1,000.
Level 3 Charging Station can restore the batteries of newer EVs to 80-90% in 30 minutes. All Teslas use a proprietary “supercharger.”
Public Charging Stations can be located using,,, or, which are also available as mobile apps.


From Consumer Reports, the ranges you can drive on a single charge in EVs and PHEVs:
2017 e-Golf: 125 miles
2017 Fiat 500e: 87 miles
2017 Nissan LEAF: 107 miles
2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV: 238 miles
2017 Chevrolet Volt: 420 miles (53 all-electric miles)
2017 Toyota Prius Prime 640 miles (25 all-electric miles)
2017 Ford C-Max Energi: 570 miles (20 all-electric miles)

Most EV drivers lease rather than buy. Monthly lease payments are low. The EV tax credit is passed on through the dealership in the form of lower monthly payments. Lessees typically do not pay for any maintenance or repairs. EV technology is changing rapidly, and a lease will not lock you in to outdated technology. You’ll have the option to upgrade to an EV with a greater range once the lease ends. California offers substantial rebates for leased electric vehicles, prioritizing low-income drivers.

Car dealers tend to have a wide variety of used EVs. You can also find great options on pre-owned car sales websites such as and Craigslist. The LEAF is the most common EV on the used market; many are available for under $10,000 with clean driving histories and less than 40,000 miles. Other affordable options include the Mitsubishi i-MiEV with a range of 62 miles and average price of $10,000 and the 2013 Smart ForTwo with a range of 75 miles and average price of about $6,000. Used 2015 & 2016 VW e-GOLFs sell for $15,000 – $18,000. Check Kelley Blue Book for values.

National Drive Electric Week, held annually in September, is a nationwide celebration to heighten awareness of today’s widespread availability of plug-in vehicles and highlight the benefits. They are cheaper and more convenient to fuel than gasoline vehicles, better for the environment, promote local jobs, and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Drive Electric Week events are a great opportunity to learn about models, rebates, and discounts, and to talk with EV owners about their experience.

Edmunds Electric Car Buying Guide & Reviews
Rates the top 10 EVs and PHEVs in 2017:

Plug in America
General info about EVs, PHEVs, and charging:

Sierra Club’s Electric Vehicle Guide
Covers both new and used EVs:

[Photo credit: David Villarreal Fernandez on Flickr]

Return to Blog

3 thoughts on “Drive Electric on a Budget

    • Hi Debbie,

      I sent your question to our help desk, who researched this topic for our blog. This is what they sent back, I hope it is helpful.
      Financing any vehicle is a challenge for those on fixed budgets. Will you be buying a new or used vehicle at any point in the future?

      If you can start saving for the eventual “next car,” it is possible that a used electric vehicle (EV) could meet your budget, since we found some available for less than $10,000 when we researched this in fall of 2017. The prices for used EVs will continue to decline as the market increases. Many more used EVs will be coming onto the CA market, soon. Additionally, if you live in the Bay Area in an eligible zip code, this program may help you finance a new or used vehicle with a low-interest loan:

      If an EV would meet your driving needs, when your current Honda requires replacement, look for the best used EV you can afford. Keep in mind that in the long term, EVs are twice as cheap as owning a fossil-fuel vehicle.
      We hope this helps you plan for an EV. Please contact our help desk at (510) 548-2220 x233 or email with any further questions.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *