The Hidden Downside To Buying Electric Cars In Rural Areas

Electric cars might be the future, but they’re not right for everyone, especially if you don’t live in the city. Here are the downsides of EVs in rural areas.

Key Takeaways

  • Limited charging options in rural areas can lead to range anxiety for EV owners.
  • Rural electric car buyers face unique risks, including potential safety concerns.
  • The transition to EVs in rural communities requires careful planning.

Electric cars might be the future, but they’re not right for everyone, especially if you don’t live in the city. Here are the downsides of EVs in rural areas.

The three biggest downsides to buying electric cars in rural areas include limited charging infrastructure, the anxiety of getting from place to place without your battery dying, the availability of service and specialized technicians in the area, and the lack of models suitable for rural terrain.

We are a site dedicated to providing nothing but the best content for our readers. To do this, we don’t just regurgitate what other sites and people say. We have firsthand experience with just about all things automotive, including electric cars. So by taking our own experience and combining it with research and input from others around the country, we’re able to provide you with the best list of the hidden downsides to electric cars that you’ll find on the web.

Table of Contents

Downsides of Buying an Electric Car in a Rural Area

While electric vehicles (EVs) offer environmental benefits and technological advances, their integration into rural areas comes with distinct challenges. Your geographical location can significantly influence your EV experience due to various factors that urban areas may not face.

Limited Charging Infrastructure

When you live in a rural area, finding an EV charging station can be like looking for a needle in a haystack. Unlike urban settings, where charging stations are becoming more common, rural areas have a sparse charging network, making it logistically challenging to own and operate an electric car. You're likely to find very few public charging options, and the ones that do exist may not be conveniently located.

Service stations with EV capabilities are less profitable in rural areas due to low traffic, which disincentivizes investment in infrastructure. As of the last count, there are over 54,000 EV charging locations in the U.S., but these are predominantly centered around urban and suburban areas.

The lack of charging options leads to a reliance on at-home charging, which isn't always feasible. You might not have the proper setup for a Level 2 home charger, which calls for a 240-volt outlet, and standard 120-volt outlets (Level 1 charging) can take over 24 hours for a full charge. This isn't practical if you're using your vehicle regularly and need quick turnarounds.

Moreover, the weather can affect your charging setup too. In rural areas, you may be subject to extreme weather that can disrupt your electricity supply, making it unreliable to charge your vehicle at home. Healthcare emergencies or critical errands can become a significant issue if your vehicle isn't charged and ready to go.

Lastly, the situation isn't likely to change overnight. Even with funding proposals aimed at improving rural infrastructure, it will take time to build out a robust network of charging stations. This could mean years before you see any significant improvement, making an EV purchase more of a future-forward decision than an immediate practical one.

Range Anxiety

"Range anxiety" is the fear of running out of power before reaching your destination or a charging station. In rural areas, where distances between locations can be vast, this concern is amplified. Your nearest grocery store, school, or doctor's office might be several miles away, stressing the limits of your EV's battery range.

With the fewer charging options mentioned before, the fear of being stranded is more realistic than in cities. You may find yourself planning trips around the availability of charging stations, which can drastically reduce the spontaneity and convenience of travel.

The battery range of EVs can also vary based on driving conditions common in rural areas. Hilly terrain, gravel roads, and colder temperatures can all reduce your EV's range. So the manufacturer's stated range might be notably less in the real-world conditions you face daily, leading to even more range anxiety.

Technological advances are improving battery ranges, but they have yet to eliminate range worries altogether. If you're using your electric car for long commutes or don't have the option to charge your vehicle during the day, you need to be acutely aware of the limits and plan accordingly.

Anticipating the need for charging can dominate your thoughts and travel plans. If you encounter an unexpected detour or have to make an unplanned trip, range anxiety can turn a simple drive into a stressful experience. Planning for extra charging time will always be a part of your routine in a rural area.

Service Availability

One concern you might not immediately consider is the availability of service for your electric vehicle. Rural areas tend to lack specialized EV service centers, making it difficult to find a repair shop with the skills and tools necessary to maintain or repair your EV.

Traditional mechanics might not be equipped or trained to handle the high-voltage systems of electric cars, forcing you to travel great distances for basic service. This not only means higher maintenance costs but also potential inconvenience and vehicle downtime.

Parts availability can also be a problem. EV components might not be readily stocked in rural areas, leading to delayed repair times as parts are shipped from other locations. Regular maintenance or unexpected repairs can thus become a logistical headache.

These service concerns extend to emergency situations as well. If you're stranded due to a breakdown, getting roadside assistance that can handle EVs might be more difficult. You could find yourself waiting longer for help or paying a premium for specialized towing services or mobile technicians.

Given that electric vehicles are a newer technology and that their adoption in rural areas has been slower, it's likely to be some time before service availability improves. As a rural EV owner, you'll need to be proactive about where and how you can service your vehicle to ensure it stays in good running order.

Availability of Specialized Technicians

Finding a skilled technician to service your EV is another major concern. Although electric cars generally require less maintenance than gasoline vehicles, when they do need servicing, specialized knowledge is essential for issues like battery health or electrical systems.

The specialized nature of electric vehicles means that finding a qualified technician isn't just about proximity; it's about expertise. Regular mechanics may not have the necessary training or certifications to work on the electric drivetrain or high-voltage components, which can create safety risks or further damage if not handled properly.

You might also have to consider the cost and time involved in locating and visiting a technician with the right expertise. This can be especially challenging in rural areas, where there may not be many – or any – certified EV technicians within a practical distance.

Training for such technicians is becoming more common, but the pool is still relatively small. With rural areas already experiencing a shortage of mechanical services, the scarcity of EV-trained professionals only complicates matters.

Furthermore, this can have implications for the warranty service of your EV. To maintain warranty coverage, repairs often need to be done by certified technicians, meaning you could forfeit aspects of your warranty if you resort to non-specialized repair services out of necessity.

Limited EV Models Suitable for Rural Terrain

Selecting an electric vehicle that is suitable for rural living can be quite restrictive due to the limited number of models that are designed for rugged terrain. Rural life often necessitates a vehicle capable of handling unpaved roads, steep inclines, and variable weather conditions.

The majority of EVs on the market are designed with urban use in mind, which means they may not have the ground clearance, four-wheel drive, or durability that rural settings demand. If you live off the beaten path, you'll need an EV that can cope with the rougher conditions, but your options are limited.

This limitation affects not only the adaptability of the vehicle to the terrain but also its battery life. Harsher driving conditions require more power, which can decrease the range of the vehicle – compounding the issue of range anxiety mentioned earlier.

Furthermore, rural areas can have harsh weather that requires a robust vehicle with all-wheel drive or high ground clearance. Not many EVs offer these features yet, and those that do are often at the higher end of the price spectrum, putting them out of reach for some buyers.

Lastly, if your rural lifestyle involves towing trailers or hauling heavy loads, finding an EV with the necessary towing capacity poses yet another challenge. Most current EVs are not equipped to handle such tasks, pushing rural residents to choose traditional gas-powered trucks or SUVs that meet their needs.


Charles Redding

Charles Redding

I've spent many years selling cars, working with auto detailers, mechanics, dealership service teams, quoting and researching car insurance, modding my own cars, and much more.

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