Kicking off an Electric Vehicle Search

Our family is in the market for a new car. We currently have two vehicles, which is two too many for some folks, especially given we live in Chicago, a city with good transit options. We’re able to walk most places but, like a lot of folks, we enjoy the convenience of a personal vehicle for some tasks. But, in particular, my wife runs a business that has her moving around the city quite a bit on a day-to-day basis making at least one personal vehicle a near basic necessity.

We have a 2011 Jeep liberty we bought used and we’ve had for it for 10 years. We also inherited a 2011 Chevy Volt last year. Since getting the Volt, we’ve used it exclusively unless we’re toting a lot of cargo. Both of our vehicles are beginning to show their age and maintenance is piling up on each of them as they become less and less reliable. In thinking about a new vehicle, we’re aiming to replace at least one of these completely.

We’re starting with a base assumption that we want to get a fully-electric vehicle. It’s clear that that’s where the trend-line is heading. So, unless a strong argument against presents itself, that’s where we’ll start our search. With the Volt, we already have some experience with EV’s and have already installed a 220v charger in our garage, which adds to our momentem toward EVs.


Our closest family is about 8.5 hours drive away and, getting close to 40mpg highway after swiching to gas, the Volt has been a welcome improvement to the cost of making those trips. Though, we do have to pack lighter given the given the reduced cargo space coming from the Liberty. Our family joins with some close friends a couple of times a year for camping trips and the Liberty is the only way we can make the trip with all of the gear and all of the kids.

Our typical route for family travel is around 550 miles. In a gas vehicle, we usually make 2 or 3 stops for lunch, fuel, and restrooms. My standard thinking has been that I can only imagine switching to an EV if we can make the trip with stops for charging totally no more than an hour or so. We have two small children, so stopping more times for extra long charge times is … obnoxious.

Accounting for typical battery range and charge times, my hope has been that a model we liked would be released with well over 400 miles of range with a charge time of 60 minutes or so. With good timing, we could make 1 extended pit-stop, charging while grabbing lunch. The logical conclusion of this path of optimization would be a vehicle with gargantuan capacity allowing you to trek cross country on a single charge.

I was surpsired to learn, however, that there are some recent models that flip the equation a bit, still packing pretty decent range, but introducing much faster quick-charging to near near-full capacity. These would make 2 or 3 rest stops for charging practical. Mapping out our route on plug-share reveals plenty of DC fast-charging sites, so the charging network seems to be up to the task as well.

Vehicle Size

As for vehicle size, we have 2 small children, one still in a car-seat, so we want at least a 5-seater vehicle. As mentioned before, we have the not-so rare need to tote a good amount of gear. I also do a lot of handy-work around the house where it’s not unusual for me to bring home 8-foot material from the home store. Our Liberty is the vehicle of choice for these tasks.

Sedans that provide a good amount of legroom in the back and through-trunk storage are rare these days as the trend has been toward small SUV and hatch back shaped vehicles. I’ve done a bit of looking at larger vehicles, but as of now there don’t seem to be any EVs in a 7-seat capacity available unless you’re willing to fork over for a Tesla Model X.

Tax credits and rebates

Even though a goal is to reduce one’s carbon footprint, trying to drive cleaner while reducing fuel costs, EV’s are still very much a luxury good. They’re quite expensive. However, governments are trying to make choosing an EV a sensible choice.

With the introduction of the IRA, the Federal government is offering a new $7500 federal income tax credit on the purchase of a new qualifying “clean” vehicle. This can be a hybrid, PH-EV, or fully-EV. Caveat, the vehicle has to be assembled in the US and have an MSRP of under $55,000 for “cars” or under $80,000 for trucks and full-size SUVs.

Federal tax credit info

The state of Illinois is also offering a $4000 rebate on the purchase of a new or used fully electric vehicle. The program is somewhat confusing, though. The website lists provisions for the rebate running through 2028, but the rebate is run in quarterly cycles, with the current cycle ending Jan 31, 2023. Another cycle starting depends on if there’s remaining dollars in the fund and/or additional if additional funding is made available. With J.B. Pritzker’s re-election this year, it seems possible that the program will continue, but it’s not guaranteed.

Illinois rebate info

What about PH-EV?

Plug-in Hybrids, PH-EV for short, are also eligible for the $7500 Federal credit. A plug-in hybrid has both an internal combustion engine and a battery pack, typically with 30-40 miles of range after a full charge. The idea is that you can perform typical commuting and day-to-day driving on battery without using any gas. Meanwhile, the internal combustion back up battles range anxiety, giving you hybrid-like efficiency on long trips. Our Volt, in fact, is a PH-EV.

So far, the PH-EV has been a really great compromise. We’ve found that we only fill up the 9-gallon tank on the Volt once every 3-4 months or whenever we take a trip longer than a couple hundred miles.

However, plug-in hybrids have additional complexity to worry about. There’s both a complete battery system and an internal combustion engine. That means there are twice as many motors that can fail. As battery systems gain longer range and quicker charging, the gas backup will become less necessary and it’s my bet that EVs are at a point where I can ignore the PH-EV option already for my needs.

I’ll definitely consider PH-EV, but the battery range and price would have to be very compelling to do so.


Hoping to keep the Volt as our backup, we’ll be searching for an all-electric 5-seater cross-over SUV body style. Also, we live in Chicago, so the icy Chicago winters are pushing us toward all-wheel drive models. I’ve started to compile notes on the vehicles that we’re looking at, and I’ll post a living document for those shortly.

Update: My working notes comparing possible EVs.