10 Things I learned buying an EV in Central Oregon

a young woman wearing a black tshirt and green pants sits on the hood of a black electric vehile. she is posing with a smile and her hand in the air

This winter I found myself without a car and only a motorcycle to get around town in our Central Oregon snow storms. That is to say, I did not end up riding much this winter and I tried out our local bus system (that could be an entire article within itself!). As I looked at the used car market, I realized that I would need to save up quite a bit to buy even a 15 year old vehicle! I started asking my friends and coworkers about their cars and for the first time, I actually considered buying an Electric Vehicle(EV). After a few long phone calls with a local EV expert, I realized that it was actually the perfect time to buy an EV. With the Oregon Clean Vehicle Rebate Program launching on April 3rd, 2024 and the Federal Clean Energy and Rebate Program, there were big incentives available that I could take advantage of! So, after a month and half of researching and learning, I bought my first EV. I learned that buying an EV can be affordable, but it takes a lot of time to learn about the ins and outs of purchasing and owning one. I wanted to share this knowledge and make it easily accessible, so that others might also feel supported and encouraged to buy one! Despite all the challenges, I am SO happy to have bought an EV and would recommend it to anyone looking to buy a vehicle right now! Hope you too can learn something new!

1. Is it right for YOU?

    First, think through if an EV is a good choice for you and your needs. A vehicle is essentially a tool and is not perfect for everyone’s wants and needs. Does your town have public charging stations? Do you often go on long road trips? Are you trying to lug a trailer and a raft around all summer? Does your work or home have charging capabilities? Are you a multi-vehicle household and could benefit from an electric, around town car? After learning about the EVs out there, you may even be surprised that they are capable of some of the things you previously thought they couldn’t do, thanks to longer ranges and other new technologies. 

    2. Do you qualify for savings?

    Right now there are two big incentives out there for Oregonians to help you purchase an EV or hybrid vehicle. 

    The Federal Clean Energy and Rebate Program has been out for a while and is still active! This is a tax credit, meaning that you will receive a rebate from the Federal Government when you file your taxes (not a check or cash incentive). For a new car, you can take up to $7,500 off the MSRP (manufacturer’s suggested retail price) and for a used car you can take up to $4,000 off any QUALIFYING VEHICLE. There are of course stipulations on which cars qualify: year, make and model, price and the number of previous owners (list of qualifying vehicles). To compete with qualifying American made dealerships, foreign dealerships (like Hyudai and Nissan, that do not qualify for the federal incentive) are giving out $7,500 cash off of the MSRP!

    Oregon Clean Vehicle Rebate Program– “Cash on the Hood” is only active from April 3rd, 2024 through June 6th, 2024. So, if you want to use this incentive, it is best to check to see if you qualify and submit a prequalification application(takes 3-4 weeks to process). This program will give you up to $7,500 off a new QUALIFYING vehicle and $5,000 off a used QUALIFYING vehicle. Once again, there’s always stipulations to the type of vehicle that qualifies, but you can find more information about those qualifications here. This program is wonderful because it is a cash incentive program. If you prequalify, you can take your voucher to a participating dealership and they will automatically take the rebate amount off of the MSRP, which will allow you to finance a lower amount or purchase the car outright (the dealership applies for the cash and you have nothing to do, other than present your voucher)! 

    Depending on the vehicle you choose, the route you take (used or new) and your estimated household annual income, you can use both incentives at the same time! However, it is important to check with the dealership and review the approved vehicles for each incentive to make sure your purchase qualifies for both incentives. 

    3. Do you have a way to charge at home?

    I drove my car home from Portland late Sunday night and went to plug in my new car to the outlet in my garage and ….. It didn’t work! Panic set in. Did I make the right decision? Turns out our garage outlet was not grounded and an electrician had to update our outlet. Before you buy, check your garage/side of your home/wherever you’re hoping to charge, to make sure you have a working outlet. One more thing! Check to see if you can run the standard Level 1 charger (about 16-18ft) from the outlet to where your vehicle would be charging, without an extension cord (it is not recommended to charge your EV with an extension cord as it can heat up and potentially cause a fire!). Bonus! If you are a Pacific Power customer, you may qualify for a rebate on a home charger

    4. EVs available in your area

    Because both of the incentives rely on dealership participation, it is important to look at the list of participating dealerships for the state incentive and CALL the dealerships and ask them if they are participating in the state program. It is also important to ask if they are willing to take the federal incentive for you (the better option) and take the rebate amount off of the MSRP at the dealership. This way, you do not have to wait to file your taxes to get the funds. Some people (including myself) did not pay $7,500 to the federal government in taxes in 2024 and thus, would not get a full $7,500 back upon filing their taxes in 2025. Since it is a tax rebate/credit, you need to pay the government that amount to get it back. If you only pay $4,500 in federal taxes, you will only get $4,500 back. Many dealerships in our area will take the federal incentives for their customers right now, and make it one less step for the buyer! 

    Pro-tip! Many EVs are being bought out right now with these exciting new incentives, so if you’re interested in buying an EV, think and buy quickly! 

    5. Research before you buy

    Buying a car at a dealership can be stressful (to say the least), and in my experience the sales  people were not very educated about electric vehicles. Be sure to ask plenty of questions and challenge them if you think the information you are getting is not accurate (there’s a good chance it is not!). If they are trying to sell you on the 110 mpg it gets on the highway and not the range (how far the EV can go on one charge, usually in miles eg. 247 miles), they probably don’t know much about EVs. 

    6. Consider buying used

    Used EV’s can be a great idea! Oregon also has two great options for used EV dealerships, out of only a handful of used EV dealerships across the United States! Platt Auto and EV Rides LLC are used EV dealerships located in Portland and are a VERY good resource for used EVs. Compared to other dealerships, these people know what they’re talking about! EV Rides LLC will also allow you to purchase a new battery with your used car purchase (practically like putting in a new engine to a used car). They are also participating in both state and federal incentives! Buying a used EV can be a very affordable option, especially when you can apply both state and federal incentives to your purchase.

    7. What is range?

    Unlike gas powered cars, EVs are not categorized by miles per gallon, they use range to identify how efficient they are. Range is defined as how far your EV can drive in *near perfect conditions* until their battery runs out. Some smaller EVs can go for 100-130 miles (like the Nissan Leaf), while others can go for 250-360 miles (like the Hyundai Ioniq 5 and the Chevy Bolt). The range is impacted by changes in outside temperature, elevation/hills, heating/AC, tires, battery size and driving style. 

    8. Prepare for public charging

    Each charging station uses a different app or runs off of a different system, so it can be jarring and take some time to learn. If you are going on your first trip, give yourself some extra time to look over where you can charge, what type of chargers are available at each location (Level 1, Level 2 or DC fast charger) and allow yourself some extra time to arrive to your destination (to download apps and learn about each new station). Once you do a specific road trip a few times, you will know which chargers you like and where is best to fill up. However, according to energy.gov, “most plug-in electric vehicle (EV) drivers charge their vehicles at home more than 80% of the time. This is because charging at home is the most efficient and affordable option.” 

    9. Rain or shine!

    As I write this it is pouring down rain in Central Oregon (a rare occurrence) and I googled “Can I charge my EV in the rain?” The verdict is yes! EV’s are safe to charge in the rain AND in all weather conditions! This fact was news to me, as I always figured you needed a garage or covered area to charge your EV.

    10. Ask your friends and test drive

    Ask around and see if you can test drive your friend’s car or go to a dealership and test drive a new car. They drive and feel just like a gas car! Get in and try one out…you might just end up driving one home! 

    I am sure I will be learning more as time goes on, but I’m excited to be lessening my reliance on fossil fuels and trying something new! Catch me charging my new Bolt EUV at The Environmental Center employee charging stations!

    Have more questions? Feel free to reach out to me and let me know!

    Al Kolenda (she/her)
    Development Manager