Editor’s Note: Our readers responded strongly to this story when it originally ran; we’re reposting it here in case you missed it.
As more Americans buy electric vehicles, the pitfalls of owning such a car become clear, and one teenager in Florida just discovered a major problem firsthand.
Avery Siwinski, a 17-year-old student in St. Petersburg, was thrilled to join the ranks of electric car owners, thinking she not only was helping to save the environment but also was going to save a ton of money by avoiding high gasoline prices.
But not long after taking possession of her car, she was met with a major crisis unique to EV owners.
Siwinski told WTSP-TV in St. Petersburg she was excited when her parents bought her a used 2014 Ford Focus Electric from AutoNation Ford in Pinellas County. The car was like new with only 60,000 miles on it.
“It was fine at first,” she said. “I loved it so much. It was small and quiet and cute.”
But then, Siwinski said, “all of a sudden it just stopped working.”
Her dashboard started lighting up like a Christmas tree, telling her that a major problem was detected.
After owning the vehicle for only six months, Siwinski was shocked that it needed service so soon. But her shock turned to outrage when she and her family took the car to AutoNation to see what was wrong.
The Siwinskis were told the battery pack was at the end of its life and needed to be replaced — and the bill was going to be $14,000.
The family had paid only $11,000 for the used EV in the first place, and now they were being expected to shell out more than that just to replace the battery pack.
But then things got worse. The dealer said it couldn’t even get a battery.
The car has been sitting at AutoNation for months as the family waits for one to be shipped to the repair shop.
Sadly, Siwinski’s father died of cancer during that time. Her grandfather stepped up to try to help secure a battery for the vehicle, to no avail.
“They could cost twice as much and we still couldn’t get it,” Ray Siwinski told WTSP.
“It turns out that this is a pretty common problem with this particular car,” he said.
To add insult to injury, AutoNation told the family it would buy the car and take the problem off the family’s hands. And what was the offer price? A mere $500 — meaning the family would lose more than $10,000 on the deal in less than six months.
Ray Siwinski said customers should be aware that car dealers are not able to really service EVs because of a lack of qualified technicians as well as parts.
“If you’re buying a new one, you have to realize there is no secondhand market out there because manufacturers aren’t supporting the cars,” the grandfather said.
WTSP had a final message from the family to viewers: “The Siwinskis’ message to you: Do your research before buying electric. They warn it may cost you far more than you realize. “
Fox Business Network reported last month that dealerships were warning new EV owners that they might have a problem finding qualified service technicians when their cars have issues.
The supply chain for EVs is not yet in place, the report said. Parts are not stocked, techs are not trained, and in many cases, EV battery packs have not even been manufactured in quantity to assist aftermarket owners.
The reality seems to be dawning on many.
New EVs cost $50,000 and up, and most Americans cannot afford that expense. The largest number of Americans drive used vehicles — 72 percent of cars bought in the U.S. are used. But as the Siwinski family discovered, used EVs are not so affordable when the cost of replacing a battery is more than the cost of buying the car.
If electric vehicles become the norm, the situation might price many Americans right out of owning a car at all.
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