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Guide to purchasing an electric vehicle

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This page contains everything you need to know about transitioning to an electric vehicle (EV), including how EVs fit into the transportation system, the benefits of driving a clean car, financial incentives for purchasing or leasing a new or used EV, and other tips to help you get started.
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Switching to an electric vehicle (EV) from an internal combustion engine car can be daunting but purchasing or leasing an EV has never been easier or more affordable. There are state rebates and federal tax credits to help with the upfront cost, EVs have lower lifelong maintenance and fuel costs, and federal, state, and local investments in public chargers are rapidly increasing their availability. 

The role of electric vehicles in Portland 

There is no one solution to achieving the carbon emission targets adopted in Portland’s Climate Emergency Declaration, but transportation electrification – including electric vehicles – are part of the strategy. The Climate Emergency Declaration, adopted in July 2021, committed the City to achieving at least a 50% reduction in carbon emissions below 1990 levels by 2030 and net-zero carbon emissions before 2050. The Climate Emergency Workplan, adopted by Portland City Council in August 2022, presents a plan on how the City will achieve those emission reductions, and includes supporting electrification. 

EVs fit into Portland’s climate plan alongside strategies like building denser, better-connected neighborhoods and more Portlanders choosing climate-friendly travel options like biking, walking, and taking transit.  Switching to clean cars not only helps us achieve our carbon emission goals, but it will also reduce local air pollution such as ozone and particulate matter, which are linked to negative health impacts and are often concentrated in communities where more Black people, Indigenous people, other people of color, and low-income people live.   

However, simply switching to EVs will not solve all our problems. Continuing to drive any car, regardless of fuel source, contributes to congestion, results in local air pollution from tires, and our reliance on automobiles continues to result in unfortunate deaths that undermine our Vision Zero goals. The city encourages Portlanders to continue to walk, bike, roll, scoot, and take transit for as many trips as possible, and to consider switching to an EV if the car-free lifestyle is not for you. 

Purchasing or leasing an electric vehicle

The idea of switching to an electric vehicle can be daunting but purchasing one has never been easier or more affordable.  

Oregon drivers can receive up to $7,500 in rebates from the Oregon Clean Vehicle Rebate Program. All Oregonians are eligible to receive up to $2,500 for the purchase or lease of a qualifying new EV. Low- and moderate-income Oregonians can save an additional $5,000 on purchasing or leasing a qualifying new or used EV on top of the standard rebate. Due to overwhelming demand and limited funding, the program may be suspended. To see whether the program is active or for questions about program eligibility or the application process, contact DEQ.  

Through the Inflation Reduction Act, drivers may also be eligible for additional federal tax credits for the purchase of EVs. A new $7,500 EV tax credit has several eligibility requirements, including manufacture and assembly in North America and consumer income caps, some of which will be phased in over the next few years. There is also a new federal tax credit for used EVs for up to $4,000 or 30% of the final sales price and has a few additional eligibility requirements.  

There are more makes and models of EVs available than ever before – and they come in an array of fun colors! Are you interested in purchasing an EV but aren’t sure which model makes the most sense for you? Resources from local organizations like Forth Mobility can help you out with their Drive Finder, which matches you to the best EV for your budget and lifestyle.  

Cost savings of driving an electric vehicle

Owning an EV has fewer ongoing costs than a conventional gasoline-based vehicle due to EVs requiring less maintenance and having lower fuel costs. While traditional internal combustion engines have dozens of moving parts, meaning that there’s nearly always something that could be tuned up or changed out, EVs don’t have internal combustion engines. This means no more oil changes, fluid top ups, new spark plugs, or replacing a catalytic converter. 

Assessing your charging needs

Before you decide which EV you want to buy or lease, you should think about how much you drive and where you’ll charge. 

According to data from Oregon Metro, the average person in Portland drove 18.40 miles per day in 2019. This is relatively low compared to the national average of about 25.49 miles driven daily per person in 2019. Since the average battery range on a new EV is 250 miles (with the newest models hitting 500 miles!), this means that the average Portlander would only need to charge up every week and a half. To help determine your specific charging needs, think about whether you would drive to work, school, or another destination daily and what type of errands, other activities or destinations you drive to regularly. Don’t forget that if you take public transit, bike, or walk to any of your regular destinations, you'll need to charge even less frequently. 

Once you know about how much you’ll be driving your EV, you can decide what battery range you need. Battery range will vary based on the model of the EV and the age of the battery. While some new models of EVs are boasting battery ranges of over 500 miles, the majority of new EVs on the market have an average capacity of 250 miles. It’s also important to know that battery storage may become less effective over time so an older EV that started with a battery capacity of 200 miles could have a lower range after several years of use. A federal government mandate requires EV manufacturers to warranty batteries for 8 years or 100,000 miles, giving consumers a rough estimate of when batteries start to degrade significantly and will need to be replaced. Replacing a battery the most expensive cost associated with maintaining your EV over its lifetime. This is particularly important to keep in mind if purchasing a used EV.   

While concerns about battery range are understandable, looking at daily travel habits, battery capacity, and the rapidly growing availability of public charging stations may help alleviate some of those concerns. Additionally, many studies have found that range anxiety disappears for most consumers after they purchase an EV and become used to finding and using charging stations. Demonstrating this, 96% of EV owners surveyed by AAA in 2020 reported that they would purchase or lease another EV the next time they were in the market for a new car.

Are you still concerned about being able to charge up whenever you need to? Check out our “charging your electric vehicle” page for more information on public charging in the Portland area.