Major car manufacturers now sell electric vehicles. We decided to take a closer look to find out what EV buyers might encounter when visiting a local showroom or lot.

Our secret shopping adventures revealed that salespeople representing major car companies at New York City showrooms are inconsistent in their knowledge of EVs and their attitudes toward them. This poses a challenge even for a determined buyer.

Siri, what are the levels of EV charging?

When we asked Siri this question, she performed better than most of the car salespeople we encountered. According to the articles provided by Siri, there are three levels of charging, each of which requires a different amount of time to fully charge your car. According to a salesman we spoke with, there are “plugs and outlets”. Please don’t inquire further about specific technologies or timing.

At many dealerships, salespeople were unable to discuss important aspects of EV ownership.

Here are a few examples that stood out…

  • A salesman at Ford laid to rest our ‘range anxiety’, telling us that all gas stations and malls were required to have EV chargers by 2020. A salesman at Kia also made the claim that – no need to worry – all 7-Elevens will soon offer EV chargers.

    Fact Check: There are no plans for all gas stations, malls and 7-Elevens to offer EV charging stations.

  • A saleswoman at Kia told us that Kia does not make a fully electric vehicle – only hybrids and plug-in hybrids.

    Fact Check: Kia makes the Soul, an all-electric vehicle.

  • Salespeople at two different showrooms – one at Nissan, one at Kia – said that their electric cars feature a lifetime warranty on the battery.

    Fact Check: Neither Nissan nor Kia offers a lifetime warranty on its batteries.

To be fair, several sales representatives knew their EV technologies and could accurately explain how to charge or maintain an EV. Our visit to BMW was one of the most rewarding because their ‘Product Genius’ inquired about driving habits, lifestyle, dwellings and other major factors to determine which electric car was a good fit for us. A Tesla salesman also created a seamless customer experience, providing details like the exact chargers that would take us to our hypothetical cross-country destination using the touchscreen interface of a Model 3.

Tip: Know Your Stuff

Our recommendation is to research all aspects of EV ownership before taking a trip to a showroom. Search for information on the different kinds of EVs available. Determine what charging options might work for you. Look up federal and state rebates and find out if you will be eligible for perks, like reduced toll fares or HOV lane access. Finally, consider safety, repair and maintenance, and services and warranties.

Despite these hurdles, more than 8,000 New Yorkers have purchased an electric vehicle since the launch of the Drive Clean Rebate in 2017.