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Don't Get Sticker Shock from Your Electric Vehicle!

You're most likely to purchase an electric vehicle because you'd like to do better by the environment than you can with an internal combustion engine. But with crude oil currently hovering near $100 a barrel again, you might just save some money by going electric as well. Of course, the value you get depends a great deal on the vehicle you choose.

A recent article in the Los Angeles Times suggests that those cute little cars from Smart may not be…well, so smart. The Smart Fortwo Electric Drive is a two-door, rear-engine two-seater whose price may exceed its benefits. Powered by a 30-kilowatt permanent magnet motor and 16.5-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack, the electric Smart can travel 63 – 98 miles on a charge. While speed (a maximum of 65 mph) and acceleration won't take your breath away, it's adequate for most of the driving you'd want to do in a vehicle of this stature. Despite this, the coupe's $599/month lease (four years, with a $2,500 down payment) means it's half the car for twice the price of it's competitors.

The Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt lease for about $350/month (three years, with $1,999 and $2,500 down, respectively). Yet these cars offer better range and more room than the Smart car. The Fortwo Electric Drive is at a disadvantage even when compared with the all-electric, lease-only BMW Mini E ($850/month for one year, dropping to $600/month if renewed). The BMW lease required no money down, included installation of a wall charger, and promised more Mini-like performance.

In the end, electric vehicles (EVs) can offer several advantages over vehicles powered by internal combustion engines: they use less/no gas, create less pollution, and can be less expensive to operate. In order to get the best value, though, you have to shop around!