What to Know Before Purchasing an Electric Vehicle: A Buying Guide

ev-buying-guide-charger-2 illustration by Paul Dolan

So, you’ve decided it’s time to buy an electric vehicle. There are more electric cars than ever, with 30-plus unique models on sale in the first quarter of 2022 and more coming soon. Compared with a gas-powered car, you’ll have to consider how far you can travel before needing to recharge (range), as well as how to “refuel” an EV, including possible home improvements to support EV charging, how long it takes to charge and where to charge publicly. Not all EVs are created equal in their charging capabilities.

Related: More Electric Car News and Testing

Electric cars remain expensive, too, as many fall into the luxury space and those that don’t often command premium prices, though incentives can help if the car and buyer qualify. The purpose of this buying guide is to supply you with the information to help find the best EV for you, but we lead off with picks derived from owning, driving and reviewing EVs. Top EV Picks
How Much Range Do You Need?
Home and On-the-Road Charging Differences
How EVs Drive
Electric Car Pricing Top EV Picks

We named the Tesla Model Y our Best Electric Vehicle of 2022 based on overall characteristics we want from an EV. But with the number of EVs available quickly increasing and consumers having more choices than ever, we wanted to highlight standouts in areas of family-friendliness, commuting, luxury and value. For those categories, we’ve named’s Top EV Picks.

Top Pick: Family EV

2022 Hyundai Ioniq 5

hyundai-ioniq-5-2022-02-dynamic-exterior-profile-silver-suv 2022 Hyundai Ioniq 5 | photo by Christian Lantry

EVs cram a lot of space in a small shape because they’re unencumbered by transmission and driveline tunnels or other traditional limits that gasoline-powered cars incur. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the new-for-2022 Hyundai Ioniq 5. Its roominess is a big reason, but not the only one, why it should be a top consideration for families.

The Ioniq 5’s exterior dimensions are similar to popular compact SUVs like the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4, but it’s more open inside, with loads of flexibility for carrying stuff. Cargo space behind the backseat measures below only the Tesla Model Y in our testing of compact electric SUVs, and that’s with its sliding seats all the way back. But beyond impressive overall space is in-cabin storage: Between the front seats where a traditional center console would usually be is an open space down to the floor that’s perfect for a large purse, diaper bag or backpack.

There’s a lot to get excited about in the backseat, too. In addition to passenger space more like a mid-size SUV’s, top Limited trim levels include built-in manual sunshades, and a nice touch is that the Limited’s large panoramic moonroof has a motorized retractable sunshade versus the Model Y’s unshaded glass roof. The icing on the cake is the Limited’s 120-volt outlets — in the backseat and, if desired, using an adapter in the charging port — that can power anything you can imagine because they have power comparable to your house, unlike most gasoline-powered cars’ AC outlets that can’t power more than light electronics. Large TV? Slow cooker? Hair dryer? All are questionable things to do in the backseat, but they’ll work.

The Ioniq 5 excels at carrying people not only because of its roominess, but also because it’s a comfortable car in which to ride. Unlike the quirky ride quality that many EVs exhibit (details below), the Ioniq 5 drives on the highway with relaxedness and composure. While not earth-shattering, these are features and qualities that normalize the Ioniq 5 and give it nearly equal footing with traditional family-oriented, gas-powered vehicles.

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2022 Hyundai IONIQ 5 SE
15,977 mi.
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2022 Hyundai IONIQ 5 SE
15,258 mi.
$50,000 $2,000 price drop
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Top Pick: Value EV

2022 Volkswagen ID.4

volkswagen-id4-1st-edition-2021-66-angle--blue--charging--exterior--front.jpg 2021 Volkswagen ID.4 | photo by Christian Lantry

The Volkswagen ID.4 compact SUV isn’t the cheapest EV you can buy, but with a starting price of $41,955 (including $1,195 destination charge but no incentives), it offers a lot of electric car for your money.

The ID.4 has seating for five, and its cabin is roomy and comfortable. It also has good cargo space behind the backseat with 18.9 cubic feet, according to measurements. The SUV’s focus on comfort carries over to the driving experience, too. While many EVs have firm suspensions and busy ride quality, the ID.4’s suspension soaks up rough pavement, delivering serene ride comfort.

The ID.4 also gives you a lot of range for your money. For 2022, the base rear-wheel-drive ID.4 can travel an estimated 280 miles, and all-wheel-drive versions can go up to 251 miles. The AWD ID.4 is the least expensive AWD EV available (at the moment) with a starting price of $45,635. All ID.4s have an 11-kilowatt onboard charger for faster Level 2 charging, and the SUV also includes three years of unlimited 30-minute DC fast-charging sessions at Electrify America chargers for no extra cost. The ID.4 is also one of the more affordable EVs to include 150-kW fast-charging capability versus many less expensive EVs with slower fast-charging rates.

The ID.4 is well equipped, too, with the base Pro trim fitted with LED headlights, heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, a 10-inch touchscreen navigation system, wireless device charging and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity. IQ.Drive, VW’s suite of active-safety and driver-assist features, is also standard.

While we like the value the ID.4 offers, its cabin is heavy on touch-sensitive controls that can be frustrating to use. If you’re considering this VW, be sure to take the time to use these controls to see whether you like them or not.

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2022 Volkswagen ID.4 Pro S
2,900 mi.
$53,900 $6,000 price drop
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2022 Volkswagen ID.4 Pro S
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Top Pick: Commuter EV

2022 Chevrolet Bolt EV and Bolt EUV

chevrolet-bolt-euv-2022-23-angle--exterior--front--group-shot--silver.jpg 2022 Chevrolet Bolt EV vs. Bolt EUV | photo by Aaron Bragman

Though it comes with caveats, our pick for commuters is the 2022 Chevrolet Bolt EV, a front-wheel-drive four-door hatchback that has more than enough range for daily commuting — an EPA-estimated 259 miles. It’s quick, fun to drive, and compact enough for congested streets and city parking, yet comfortable, especially with seats improved in 2022. The standard Chevy Safety Assist advanced safety features are a plus, and the EPA-estimated 120 mpg-equivalent rating, which is on the high end, represents relatively low driving costs per mile.

All Bolt EVs include DC fast-charging capability for public stations. At home, the car will add up to 39 miles for every hour of charging with a 48-amp Level 2 charger, according to Chevy. The starting price of $32,495 with destination includes a 120/240-volt mobile charger and the installation of a compatible 240-volt outlet (within limits), but Chevrolets are no longer eligible for a federal tax credit. Starting at $34,495, the longer, raised Bolt EUV provides more backseat legroom and sacrifices only 12 miles of range and 5 mpg-e.

Caveats involve the Bolts coming off a long recall April 4 due to fire risks. The risks of further problems are slim, and lingering distrust might actually improve Bolt availability amid limited inventory marketwide. The greater gamble is depreciation: Though it’s more modern than the competing Nissan Leaf, the Bolts could cease production in 2024 as GM shifts to its Ultium powertrains, and discontinued vehicles usually depreciate faster, decreasing resale value.

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2022 Chevrolet Bolt EV 2LT
$35,240 MSRP $39,640
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2022 Chevrolet Bolt EV 1LT
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2022 Chevrolet Bolt EUV LT
$31,175 MSRP $37,475
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2022 Chevrolet Bolt EUV Premier
$37,290 MSRP $41,090
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Top Pick: Luxury EV

2022 Lucid Air

lucid-air-2022-01-bronze-dynamic-exterior-front-angle-sedan 2022 Lucid Air | photo by Christian Lantry

There are several new luxury EVs arriving for 2022, but one stands out among the rest: the all-new Lucid Air. Lucid is an upstart company formed with the expertise of engineers and executives from both Silicon Valley and the automotive industry, and its first offering is simply a next-level game changer. It offers the interior space of a Mercedes-Benz S-Class in the footprint of a smaller E-Class thanks to extraordinary design and packaging.

The initial Air Dream Edition Performance model makes a stunning 1,111 horsepower and 1,025 pounds-feet of torque from a powertrain unit that weighs just 167 pounds and fits in a roll-aboard suitcase. If speed is less important than range, you can have one that delivers 520 miles of distance on a charge. The Air offers a stunning amount of cargo space, a multimedia system even more responsive and easier to use than Tesla’s (and far more intuitive than the latest Mercedes-Benz MBUX system), styling that somehow manages to be incredibly slippery and still dead sexy, and an interior that rivals luxury-brand benchmarks for opulence and finish. It also handles as well as some of the world’s best sports sedans, provides mind-melting acceleration and still manages to deliver a quiet, comfortable ride over terrible pavement.

The only downsides to the Air are that the initial production run is largely sold out, the first model is horrifically expensive (cheaper trims are hopefully arriving later in 2022), and buying one might be tricky due to Lucid’s still-nascent sales network (no dealers; you order them all online like a Tesla). Still, if you can find (and afford) one, there’s probably no better electric luxury car on the market today.

Honorable Mention

2022 Mercedes-EQ EQS

mercedes-benz-eqs-580-4matic-2022-02-exterior-front-angle-sedan-white Mercedes-EQ EQS580 | photo by Aaron Bragman

Mercedes’ first ground-up electric luxury sedan is also impressive, a dramatically-styled electric full-size model brimming with extraordinary technology. It’s not as powerful as the Lucid Air or Tesla Model S Plaid, making “only” 516 hp and 631 pounds-feet of torque in AWD form, which normally would be quite impressive but pales in comparison to what we know is now possible in a luxury EV. That doesn’t mean the EQS is slow, however — far from it. It also rides and drives like a proper luxury flagship sedan, but with a different bent to it than competitors — this is meant to be Mercedes’ electric S-Class, with a mission to coddle, insulate and pamper its occupants instead of providing an exciting driving experience. It has a beautifully finished interior, featuring rich materials and eye-popping lighting effects, and there’s nothing available in any car, anywhere, matching the spectacle that is the 56 inches of Hyperscreen dashboard.

But what keeps the EQS from our top recommendation are the car’s quirks: The brake actuation is terrible, the driving position is odd and that multimedia system is overwhelming. The packaging is also surprisingly bad, with no frunk room available and a backseat that doesn’t have anywhere near the room of the Lucid Air. But then again, the biggest advantage that the EQS might have over the Lucid Air? You’re much more likely to be able to buy one at your local dealer.

How Much Range Do You Need?

lucid-air-2022-28-infotainment-system-interior-menu-sedan 2022 Lucid Air | photo by Christian Lantry

It’s difficult to say just how much range you need. You might not need as much as you think, or you might need more range than you think. Ideally, your home becomes the “gas” station, so every night you plug in and recharge the car to start the day with range replenished. Most data (pre-coronavirus pandemic) suggests the average driver travels less than 30-40 miles per day, so you’d be in good shape without much variation in daily driving habits considering the average standard EPA-estimated driving range of 2022 model EVs is around 260 miles on a full charge.

The EV with the lowest EPA-rated driving range is currently the Mazda MX-30 with 100 miles (on sale in California only), and the EV with the longest range is the Lucid Air Dream Edition R with 520 miles of range (starting price in the $170,000 range). Most EVs in the $35,000-$60,000 range have between 200-300 miles of range, and to get more than 350 miles of range will cost significantly more.

There are several reasons you might need more range than you think. One is that automakers recommend you charge the battery to 80% or 90% on a regular basis — and try not to drop below 10% if you can avoid it — to extend its life, saving a full 100% charge for long trips. That means you’re immediately cutting the EPA-estimated, manufacturer-advertised range by up to 30% for daily use if you want maximum longevity.

Being able to charge daily (without which you should reconsider EV ownership) also doesn’t account for worst-case scenarios like being away from home when range is falling fast. According to a study from AAA, EVs can lose about 40% of their range when the temperature drops from 75 degrees to 20 degrees Fahrenheit, attributed to battery capacity loss at colder temperatures and the need for heating the cabin, which robs range. Based on a 40% decrease, an EV with a rated range of 250 miles could have only 150 miles of range when it’s 20 degrees outside, if only temporarily. In addition, some reports show EV batteries lose 5%-10% of overall capacity over the span of five years, so worst-case scenario, that 250-mile range might get you only 125 miles in cold weather after five years of ownership. There’s a reason why EVs have been so popular in warm-weather states like California.

How much range you need depends on how far you drive, in what conditions, and your access to public as well as home charging. EVs are less efficient at highway speeds, and the EPA gives a glimpse with usage-specific ratings: A 2022 Chevrolet Bolt EUV’s EPA-rated range drops from 267 miles in the city and 247 miles in combined city/highway driving to 223 miles at highway speeds, while a 2022 Tesla Model Y Long Range AWD drops from 342 miles in the city to 330 combined and 316 on the highway.

If all conditions are favorable, you might not need as much range as you think, but if you have a deficiency in any of the above, it may make sense to pad your range with the higher-range model or version. Sometimes range diminishes on higher-cost versions because they often include all-wheel drive or performance upgrades with the same battery but higher-output motors, which use more power and lower overall range; because of that, sometimes the standard range is also the longest range, but it varies from car to car.

Home and On-the-Road Charging Differences

ev-home-charger-install-17-charging-station-juice-box The JuiceBox 48 in use | photo by Jennifer Geiger

When shopping for a traditional gas car, you don’t have to consider how quickly the gasoline flows out of your local gas station’s pump or how quickly your car can accept gasoline. But with an electric car, comparable limitations do exist, and owning one that can replenish its battery quickly enough for your lifestyle is the difference between a good and bad EV experience. How much time it takes to charge an EV (and how many miles of range it represents) depends on a number of factors, including the battery size, the vehicle’s overall efficiency, its onboard charger, and the capacity of both the external charger (technically the electric vehicle service, or supply, equipment, which is what hangs on the wall and plugs into the car) and the electrical circuit that feeds it.

The three charging levels that loosely bracket how fast an EV can charge are Level 1, Level 2, and DC fast charging, which we detail in our explainer. Your home is filled with electrical outlets, but most are 120 volts; they’re just not practical to charge a modern long-range EV’s huge battery because they can only replenish its range at speeds of 3-5 miles of range per hour, meaning an empty EV with 250 miles of range would take 50 hours(!) in the best-case scenario. Granted, charging from empty to full is rare and also not recommended for battery-health best practices. Replenishing after shorter trips (say, 40 miles) could take between eight and 13 hours.

For modern EVs, we recommend 240-volt Level 2 home charging, which can add 5.5-60 miles of range per hour depending on the car, charger and home charging circuit. Charging power for Level 2 spans 3-19.2 kW, which is the measure of charging-speed potential; Level 1 circuits commonly max at a scant 1.8 kW.

More power (in kilowatts) doesn’t always mean one EV will charge faster than another because of differences in the vehicles themselves. Some simply accept more power, as explained in the first of five things that could slow your EV’s home charging speeds.

Then there’s efficiency. Charge times can vary based on ambient temperature, battery temperature, charge percentage, grid usage, battery age and health, and more. You may be asking why we’re not mentioning battery size, measured in kilowatt-hours; that’s because it’s really not the end spec on which you should be focused. Battery size is equivalent to the gas tank size on a conventional car, which can’t be separated from the car’s efficiency; higher efficiency means more miles of range on the same battery. For charging times, a smaller battery on one EV could actually charge more slowly than a larger battery on another.

ford-mobile-charger-with-pigtails--charging-cable.jpg Ford Mustang Mach-E's supplied charger with interchangeable 120- and 240-volt plugs | photo by Joe Wiesenfelder

While all EVs include a charging cord that facilitates Level 1 charging, some include a Level 2-capable “mobile charger” with the vehicle, including Tesla (though a $35-$45 adapter is required), Ford’s Mustang Mach-E and the Chevrolet Bolts. These standard apparatuses are a good starting point if there’s a lower-amperage 240-volt circuit from an appliance like an electric clothes dryer available, but they aren’t as fully featured as available hard-wired, wall-mounted units that cost hundreds of dollars and are often required for the faster charge time. Mobile chargers of this type are typically limited to 32 amperes, providing around 7-ish kW to the car.

ev-home-charger-install-11-chargepoint-charging-station Finished installation | photo by Joe Wiesenfelder

The more expensive hard-wired installations (required for 48-80 amps) are worth the cost if you’re driving more miles per day because they can charge faster as long as the vehicle can support it. We had six home chargers installed in the Chicago area at an average of around $3,800 per home on a mix of townhomes and houses, which you can read more about in our story detailing what it cost us to outfit six homes with EV chargers.

DC charging is the fastest way to charge and isn’t feasible for homes due to the cost and power levels required, so it’s available only at public or commercial charging stations. While enticing, DC charging is expensive when not included as a limited incentive with a new car purchase, and it’s not recommended for frequent use in order to preserve maximum battery life, so it’s best for longer trips where stations are commonly placed along popular highways or in emergencies. DC fast-charging speeds vary even greater than for Level 2, from 24-350 kW, though even at its most powerful isn’t close to as fast as you can pump gasoline into a traditional car.

Tesla Superchargers commonly span 72-kW, 150-kW and 250-kW speeds, and every new Tesla can charge at each one. DC fast charging for other cars, available from networks like Electrify America, have chargers that span 24-350 kW, though not all cars can take advantage of the higher-power units, and the 350-kW chargers are mostly along popular highway corridors. EVs that can take advantage of the 350-kW chargers include the Audi RS E-Tron, GMC Hummer EV, Hyundai Ioniq 5, Kia EV6, Lucid Air, Porsche Taycan, and Rivian R1S and R1T, but not all EVs can match the charger’s potential. A Lucid Air is limited to 300 kW, a Kia EV6 and Hyundai Ioniq 5 max at 240 kW, Rivians are currently limited to 200 kW initially but plan to offer 300 kW-plus in the future, and the GMC Hummer EV is claimed to charge at just under 350 kW (346 kW).

Fast-charging capability of 150 kW and greater is a relatively new phenomenon introduced on recent EVs like the Ford Mustang Mach-E and Volkswagen ID.4. Earlier EVs, such as the Nissan Leaf, Chevrolet Bolt EV, Hyundai Kona Electric and Kia Niro EV, rarely exceeded 50-90 kW.

In our experience, the claims of being able to charge from “this percentage to that percentage in 16 minutes” are often not repeatable because weather, battery or other conditions prevent maximum charge speeds. To replenish a significant portion of battery, like 15-80%, we still find ourselves commonly waiting 30-60 minutes even on cars with the fastest advertised charge speeds, including our long-term Tesla Model Y. Still, Teslas and other EVs that take advantage of 350-kW chargers have a leg up on those that can charge only at stations up to 150 kW.

How EVs Drive

tesla-model-y-2022-01-dynamic-exterior-profile-sedan-white 2022 Tesla Model Y Performance | photo by Christian Lantry

One of the most exciting experiences of driving an EV is being thrust into your seat after pressing the accelerator, which is experienced even in most lower-powered EVs. An electric motor makes its maximum torque at low speeds, so hitting the accelerator provides instant acceleration. There’s no traditional step-gear transmission, so there’s no waiting for downshifting or the engine’s speed to climb to get more power like a gasoline-powered car.

Unlike a traditional gas-powered car — which can only employ a single, more powerful engine to get more power — an EV can have two or more motors. Traditional all-wheel drive mechanically links the front and rear wheels with a driveshaft, but EVs accomplish the same with one or two motors at each axle. You’re essentially getting two engines when you choose an AWD EV, so that version will almost always be quicker than the two-wheel-drive version. And fast is right: Ford says the Mustang Mach-E GT can hit 60 mph in 3.5 seconds versus 3.3 seconds for the proper Mustang Shelby GT500.

The downside is that range is often diminished with an extra motor (or a more powerful one) when used with the same battery. The least expensive AWD EV is currently the $45,000 Volkswagen ID.4 Pro AWD, so if you live in wintry climates and want an EV, be prepared to pay up. Along with the ID.4, the Ford Mustang Mach-E, Kia EV6 and Hyundai Ioniq 5 are the only mass-market EVs that offer AWD, though that will soon change as the Nissan Ariya, Subaru Solterra, Toyota bZ4X and Ford F-150 Lightning go on sale in the coming months.

With an extra motor, additional regenerative braking can recuperate energy and soften the hit. Regenerative braking, which recycles energy that would otherwise be lost during deceleration, is a characteristic that will vary by EV and is a staple of all-electric driving. It’s often used to maximize efficiency through a one-pedal driving mode where the accelerator pedal is used to accelerate and brake — as you ease up on the accelerator, the car engages its regenerative braking to aggressively slow the car without requiring use of the brake pedal in normal driving. (You still have to use the brake pedal for heavier/emergency braking.)

Unique to EVs is the return of the RWD standard configuration. Many newer EVs have standard RWD with optional AWD (ID.4, Mach-E, Ioniq 5, EV6) versus the common front-wheel-drive layout of most mass-market cars and light- to medium-duty SUVs. FWD cars tend to behave more predictably in slippery conditions, though we only have limited experience with rear-drive EVs in wintry conditions. EVs are heavy because the large batteries by themselves can weigh a thousand pounds or more, so a compact electric SUV like the Hyundai Ioniq 5 at its lightest 4,200-pound curb weight can weigh a touch more than a three-row SUV like the Hyundai Palisade, which is at minimum 4,217 pounds. Because of this extra weight, traction might prove better than in a traditional RWD gasoline-powered car.

Some EVs have peculiar ride quality, and few ride with the inoffensiveness of most mass-market cars. The Mustang Mach-E, for example, not only rides harshly over bumps, but also gets into a pitching-type rhythm on imperfect roads; it’s less noticeable on smooth roads, so your results may vary. The ride quality of Tesla’s Model 3 and Model Y is decidedly firm, but they reward with competent handling; it’s not just harsh and unrefined like a cheaper Nissan Leaf. Some of the least-offensive-riding of the more affordable EVs we’ve sampled are the VW ID.4, Kia EV6, Volvo XC40 Recharge Twin and Hyundai Ioniq 5, which are all tuned more toward the comfort side.

Electric Car Pricing

The average price of all new vehicles (gasoline and electric) per J.D. Power was $44,460 in February 2022, inflated by the notorious inventory shortage. Break out EVs, and their starting price averages around $60,000 for the roughly 33 models that are on sale or will be within 2022 for which we have estimated range (EPA or automaker estimates) and retail pricing; EV prices span from around $30,000 to well over $100,000.

Many EVs come from luxury brands, and even traditional non-luxury brands that offer EVs do so at premium prices. A new Ford Mustang Mach-E averages a $54,000 asking price in’s national listings as of February 2022, and a Hyundai Ioniq 5 averages more than $49,000; the ongoing inventory and parts crunch are likely limiting the offering of a wider variety of versions.

For models that offer multiple battery sizes, getting more range can be a sizable price jump. On a $48,190 Tesla Model 3, it’s a $7,500 increase from the standard 267 miles of range to the $55,690 334-mile long-range version (a 16% increase in price for a 25% increase in range). On a $42,115 base Kia EV6, it’s $5,900 to go from the standard 232 miles of range to the longer, more expensive $48,215 EV6 with 310 miles of range (a 15% increase in price for a 34% increase in range). Be prepared to open your wallet for more than 350 miles of range: A Mercedes-EQ EQS450 Plus with 350 miles of range is $103,360, and a Tesla Model S with 405 miles of range is $101,190. More expensive doesn’t always mean more range, however, as a Porsche Taycan 4S has 199 miles of range and costs $105,150.

National and state-level incentives can help, though you’ll also have to know if you qualify to receive the maximum amount. That’s often best answered by a tax professional because the main federal incentive remains a $7,500 tax credit that will come as a reduction to your tax liability and not a $7,500 check in the mail. Incentives also may exist to help with home charging by offering rebates or tax credits on the purchase of home charging equipment or installation of home charging circuits. Some automakers offer rebates to help with home charging, including Chevrolet for the Bolt EV and Bolt EUV that provide up to a $1,000 credit toward home charger installation. We’ve spent thousands of dollars upgrading our editors’ homes to facilitate EV charging, ranging from $1,738 to $6,920 (including chargers) across six installations. Add home charging installation costs to how expensive EVs are at the moment and cost remains a barrier of entry to many EVs.

As more affordable EVs arrive, the basics outlined above will remain the same on how to pick the best EV for you. Stay up to date on the latest EV news, reviews and research by following’s continued coverage of the growing class.’s Editorial department is your source for automotive news and reviews. In line with’s long-standing ethics policy, editors and reviewers don’t accept gifts or free trips from automakers. The Editorial department is independent of’s advertising, sales and sponsored content departments.

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