EV buying guide: 10 key things to consider when buying your new electric car

With an increasing assortment of electric cars in India, along with the government pushing for electrification of cars, our EV buying guide lists the key factors for you to consider.

The industry of electric vehicles (EVs) has been on a steady growth pace. Right now in its infancy, the EV segment in India looks set to take off. Case in point: a December 2021 industry report on the status of EVs in India underlined that while electric cars account for just over 1 percent of all cars sold in the country right now, the industry is poised to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 90 percent between 2021 and 2030. While this may initially seem like a tall number, in reality, it’s quite on point — which is also why you may need an EV buying guide to consider today.

Electric cars have started taking off slowly in metropolitan markets. As car manufacturers such as Tata Motors, Mahindra, and MG Motors bring an increasing number of mainstream EVs to the market, more startups are now focusing on bringing charging infrastructure to mass availability. As this mass adoption increases, car prices are slowly but surely set to decrease. The government, including various state governments, are also subsidising EV purchases and offering benefits for buyers to reap.

With the market, therefore, being highly conducive if you’re in the market for a new car, what are the key factors for you to consider? Here’s our comprehensive EV buying guide to help you make the right choice.

EV buying guide: List of all electric cars to buy in India today

Mahindra e-VeritoRs 10.15 lakh+
Tata TigorRs 11.99 lakh+
Tata NexonRs 14.29 lakh+
MG ZSRs 21.49 lakh+
Hyundai KonaRs 23.79 lakh+
Audi e-TronRs 1 crore+
Mercedes-Benz EQCRs 1.06 crore+
Jaguar I-PaceRs 1.08 crore+
BMW iXRs 1.15 crore+
Porsche TaycanRs 1.5 crore+
Audi e-Tron GTRs 1.79 crore+
Audi RS e-Tron GTRs 2.04 crore+

Key things to consider when buying an electric car

Buying an EV is not just about picking the most affordable one on the market, or the one that offers the longest range. There are a large number of factors that would define whether an EV makes for a good purchase for you.

Let's take a look at those factors:

Personal driving range and pattern

The first factor to account for when considering an EV is how much you drive every day, and where most of the driving takes place. For most city commuters, the maximum average daily commute should not cross an average of 100-kilometres per day. However, that's not the only pattern that you must account for.

electric car vs petrol car

What you must also account for is how frequently you travel between cities and on the highway. If you do take to the highway frequently, the next thing for you to consider is the distance of your highway travel. Tally this with consideration of a new EV being an alternate purchase for you — standing in your garage alongside a conventional, internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle. What this would do is give you the option of using a conventional petrol or diesel car for your highway trips, leaving the EV at your disposal in the city.

To sum up, if you have a petrol or diesel car for highway travel and your per-day city commute does not stretch beyond 100-kilometres per day, buying an EV makes sense for you. If your highway commute is too frequent and city travels are less, then you should not buy an EV right now.

Charging facilities at home

Most cars that are sold today come with their own, home charging solution.

The reason why the above is an important point to consider is purely because of the state of EV charging in India. Before getting into the public EV charging infrastructure debate, one big factor to note is that even in many residential complexes, a power socket may not be readily available in parking lots.

As a result, if you live in an apartment complex, getting your hands on a power source to set up your EV's charging port could be a task. Most cars that are sold today come with their own, home charging solution. Before narrowing down on your purchase, make sure that you have a fixed parking slot at your home, and a safe to use, always accessible power source is available near your parking slot.

Having this available at your parking slot makes sure that you can buy an EV and charge it overnight, therefore suiting your everyday, city commute usage pattern. However, before you tick this off, head to the official website of the EV that you are planning to buy, and check for its minimum and recommended power requirements (mentioned in any EV's brochure). As a preliminary check, ensure that your available power source matches the minimum requirements of the car that you wish to purchase.

Range of the electric car

If you have ticked the checkboxes with the above-mentioned points, the next thing to consider is the overall range (i.e. the distance it travels on a single charge). Every electric car has its own range, which too can vary quite a bit in terms of the maximum range mentioned by a manufacturer and the car's actual, on-road range. The range is defined by a number of factors apart from the size of the car's battery pack, which includes driving style and weather conditions, among others.

If your average commute per day is lesser than the maximum range offered by an EV on paper, this clears your initial inspection. Subsequently, read up on user reviews ideally within your own city to understand what kind of driving range are fellow buyers getting from the same car. Do note that factors such as usage of air conditioning and driving with aggressive acceleration would reduce the range of your EV, so keep a margin of error under consideration as well.

For example, based on most user reports, the Mahindra e-Verito, which is the most affordable electric car in India right now, offers an on-road range of about 110 kilometres in one full charge. The proprietary fast charging setup that it offers can juice up 80 percent of the battery in 90 minutes. In comparison, the more expensive MG ZS can go up to 320 kilometres in one charge.

Maintenance and running costs

If a petrol car costs a buyer approximately Rs 4.5 lakh towards upkeep after about six to eight years of ownership, the same for an EV takes about Rs 1 lakh at the time.

The one big factor to consider for buying an EV as your next car is maintenance and running costs. In comparison to conventional combustion engine cars, EVs are significantly easier to maintain. One of the key reasons behind this is the lack of a number of parts in the car that lead to failure in ICE vehicles, such as the fuel injection system or the transmission of the vehicle. As a result, while the initial period-wise cost of maintenance could be higher for the first one or two servicing visits, this cost comes down over time as EVs have fewer core components that could break down abruptly.

Then comes the running costs. Along with the lesser maintenance charges, running an EV on roads over longer times is cheaper, as compared to the classic, fossil fuel cars. Rising fuel costs mean that accumulated fuel expenses over the years add up to significantly higher running costs than electric cars. According to an estimate, if a petrol car costs a buyer approximately Rs 4.5 lakh towards upkeep after about six to eight years of ownership, the same for an EV takes about Rs 1 lakh at the time. This showcases that if the range and style of driving suits you, buying an EV can actually help you save quite a bit on your running and maintenance costs.

Servicing facilities by car company

When gearing up to make a purchase, be sure to check on the kind of service facilities that the car manufacturer has on offer in your region. Lookup user reports on dealerships and service support for the manufacturer whose car you are about to purchase and be sure to call up your nearest dealer or service station to check on whether they have a dedicated servicing queue for EVs.

In India, EVs are currently being sold by Mahindra, Tata Motors, MG Motors and Hyundai in the mainstream range, and Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar, BMW and Porsche in the luxury range. While none of the above is known to offer particularly bad customer service (particularly those in the luxury bracket), you would be better off by aligning your purchase with the company whose facilities are closest to your home. Also, inquire about which of the companies that are offering EVs in your budget have on-road and round the clock customer services on offer, and make your call accordingly.

Government subsidies on offer

The Indian government offers first-time electric car buyers a subsidy of up to Rs 1.5 lakh against the loan taken to buy an EV. Under the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric Vehicles (FAME-II) scheme, EV buyers can get their hands on a new car and claim a deduction of Rs 1.5 lakh when filing their tax returns. This benefit is not available to any other car buyer — for instance, no petrol or diesel car loan gives tax deduction benefits to buyers, since the latter falls under the luxury category in India.

Alongside this subsidy, it is also important to note that various state governments have also been mulling over the possibility of extending additional benefits to buyers, in order to push their own electrification goals and agenda. In this regard, be sure to check with your car dealership and your state government bulletins to know if you could be eligible for further benefits as well.

Price of the EV vs comparable petrol/ diesel car

Once the above key factors are cleared, the next big factor for you to consider is the price. At present, the number of EV options available for you in the mainstream car market is by far limited in comparison to the usual petrol and diesel vehicles. As a result, if you are planning to buy an EV, be prepared to pay a premium in most cases, even with the government subsidies at hand.

The mainstream EV range starts at Rs 10.15 lakh for the Mahindra e-Verito and goes up to Rs 23.79 lakh for the Hyundai Kona (ex-showroom prices only). Tally these prices with what options you have for your budget in petrol and diesel cars, and see which appeals to you more in terms of practicality and the overall feature set. For instance, for an ex-showroom price of Rs 10.15 lakh, you may be able to get better overall cars than the e-Verito. If an EV does not appeal to you wholeheartedly, opt to either delay your purchase by some time, or look for a mild-hybrid option (such as the ones offered by Maruti Suzuki) before switching to fully electric in the coming years.

Public charging infrastructure

Of late, there have been many debates about the availability of public charging infrastructure in India for electric cars. In December 2021, union power minister Raj Kumar Singh told the Parliament that India had 1,028 public charging stations, of which more than 300 were in the Delhi-NCR region. Tracking such information can be key to understanding if it might be prudent for you to buy an EV.

For instance, people residing in EV charging hubs such as Bengaluru and Delhi NCR may find it more prudent to buy an electric car, as opposed to those living in cities without any prominent charging infrastructure. A host of startups are working to establish their own charging networks, so if you are keen on buying an EV, you may try running a quick check by them as well to see if your town could come under coverage any time soon.

Alternate cars owned

Since the EV market in India is at an early stage, it's important to consider that you may not be able to replace your conventional combustion engine cars with electric cars right away. As a result, be sure to take into consideration the prospect of owning at least one alternate vehicle in your garage, which could be your car of choice for long journeys — or when your EV is out of charge, and you don't have an hour to sit around while it charges up to a driveable level.

Industry experts have repeatedly stated that the evolution of the EV market in India will start with evolving car battery technologies. The latter will reduce battery charging times, which in turn may push more mainstream car makers to bring EVs to the market. This, as an effect, will bolster the public charging network as more car makers steadily go electric.

However, the above is a longer journey into the future, possibly over the next decade. Until then, do consider the car that you already own, before deciding on the type of EV that you'd want.

Car features

Finally, buying an EV does not always mean that you'd get something highly futuristic at hand. For instance, the Tata Nexon and Mahindra e-Verito are largely close interpretations of their combustion engine models, without leaving many features at hand. The fancy stuff, including futuristic dashboards and larger screens everywhere, belong in the more premium segments such as the luxury ones.

Nevertheless, when buying, look for an EV that makes sure that you do not need to upgrade too soon, or feel that you purchased a rather basic car in favour of going electric. With snazzy infotainment units and all creature comforts at hand, the likes of the MG ZS are well-heeled choices to make. Also, check out our electric scooter buying guide in case you don't want to spend a lot on a four-wheeler.