Cost vs. Carbon: Should You Buy an Electric Car?
We were driving a 2014 Cadillac ELR luxury coupe, about to enter the freeway, ZZ Top’s “I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide” booming through the speakers.
“Watch this,” my wife said. She tapped her foot ever so slightly on the accelerator. We zoomed from 40 to 85 mph in a heartbeat. I gripped the door handle tighter as she weaved around cars on Highway 13, laughing maniacally.
“Are electric motors awesome, or what?”
For years, my lovely wife has been giving me grief about my desire to own a sports car. After 172 years behind the wheel of a minivan, I think I deserve one. But just three days of driving a candy-apple-red ELR and she’d turned into Mario Andretti.
Cadillac ELR Luxury Coupe.
When she reluctantly relinquished the wheel, I understood why. This is not your daddy’s Caddy. As with most electric cars, the ELR’s acceleration was instantaneous — think the Millennium Falcon with wheels. It hugged the curves like it was never going to see them again. Driving the thing, I alternated between giddy exhilaration and sheer terror.
But while the ELR is indeed a Cadillac, it appears to be built for speed, not comfort. We could feel every bump in the road, and everything inside the cab felt cramped or in the wrong place. My 6-foot-3-inch son had to fold himself into origami to fit into the back seat. And with a base price of $75,000, the ELR was out of reach as a way to assuage my ongoing midlife crisis. It’s a fun ride, but these thrills ain’t cheap.
Vroom at the top
A few years ago, after we test drove a Chevy Volt for a week (the Volt shares a lot of tech with the ELR) and loved it, we vowed that our next car would not be a carbon-belching fossil-fuel-devouring beast. Even with the federal tax credit for purchasing an electric vehicle, though, the Volt was still just a bit too rich for our blood. And the Caddy is twice the price of the Volt.
There are essentially three kinds of electric car, and they all come with gotchas. Most plug-in electric hybrids like the Volt and the ELR can run for up to 40 miles on a single battery charge before they switch over to a gas-powered engine. There are dual-fuel hybrids like the standard Toyota Prius and the Infiniti Q50, which use batteries and a motor to augment the gas engine while starting and idling, increasing your mileage by roughly 25 percent, but they’re still primarily internal combustion vehicles (there’s a plug-in version of the Prius, too).
(Tesla Model S)
Then there are all-electric vehicles like the Nissan LEAF and the Tesla Model S, which need to be recharged every 80 to 260 miles. They’re emission free on your commute, but you’ll need to plan your road trips carefully.