Electric vehicle sales are only a tiny part of the U.S. auto market. About 2.5% of all vehicles purchased last year were battery-electric, according to Edmunds.com. But surging gas prices are driving up demand.

Automakers are racing to get new plug-in hybrids and all-electric models to market, and critics are taking notice. All three nominees for “World Car of the Year” at this month’s New York International Auto Show were EVs: the Ford Mustang Mach-E; the Kia EV6; and the Hyundai Ioniq 5, which won the award.

The first deliveries of Ford’s new F-150 Lightning, the electric version of the most popular truck in America, began in April. Ford received so many preorders that it plans to nearly double its planned annual production to 150,000 units by mid-2023, according to CNBC.

Paul Eisenstein, publisher and editor-in-chief of TheDetroitBureau.com, has seen and driven many of the next-generation models that will hit showrooms in the next year or so and said he sees huge changes ahead “that will put to rest all the thing you thought you knew about EVs.”

You often get a much larger passenger compartment than a traditional vehicle. In some cases, “EVs are a class or two bigger than what you’d think because of the size of the body,” he said.

Most new EVs also get a front trunk or “frunk.” Eisenstein said the frunk on the new F-150 Lightning is so big that he could fit inside it.

Electric vehicles don’t have all the powertrain noises of a gas-powered vehicle, so they’re exceptionally quiet. And they drive differently; you get full power as soon as you step on the accelerator.

Tax credit may offset higher sticker prices

Right now, most electrics command premium prices. While the average sales price for all new vehicles sold in February was $45,600, the average price for a new EV was $60,000, according to Edmunds. As production increases and new choices become available, prices should come down.

In April, Honda and General Motors announced plans to expand their joint venture to produce entry-level EVs starting at less than $30,000.

Tax incentives can drive down the cost. You may qualify for a $7,500 federal tax credit, and some state and local governments (including Pennsylvania) offer tax credits, rebates, or vouchers.

Under current federal rules, the value of the tax credit decreases and eventually ends as production increases. Consumer Reports says that provision has already affected General Motors and Tesla; Ford and Toyota may reach that threshold before the end of 2022.

Consumer Reports’ Electric Vehicle Incentives Tool shows what’s available for specific models where you live.

Better batteries mean less range anxiety

Many people worry that if they buy a full-electric vehicle, they’ll run out of power and get stranded. That problem is becoming less of a concern as batteries get better and more charging stations are built.

The latest crop of full-electric vehicles can go 200 or 250 miles per charge on the low end, and 300, 350, or 400 on the high end. Some of the new plug-in hybrids now get 50 to 70 miles on a charge; perfect for everyday driving. And there’s always that gas engine if you need it.

When AAA surveyed EV owners, 95% said they’d never run out of a charge while driving. Charging stations have become much easier to find since that survey was taken two years ago. Still, in some parts of the country it can be a challenge to find a place to recharge.

The Biden administration says it plans to spend $5 billion approved by Congress to install charging stations during the next five years, but most of these new chargers will be along major highways. State governments are also building out this infrastructure. New York will invest $1 billion to support EV adoption and infrastructure.

Plug In America has a map showing where public charging stations are located.

Most owners will charge their cars at home, which is significantly cheaper than using a public charging station. But even if you pay a premium price to get a rapid charge on the road, it’s still significantly cheaper than a fill-up at today’s gas prices.

How long will batteries last?

Plug-in electrics use batteries that are designed for extended life, but they will degrade over time and eventually fail. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory indicates that today’s batteries “may last 12 to 15 years in moderate climates (8 to 12 years in extreme climates).”

The standard warranty for EV battery packs is currently eight years or 100,000 miles, but that’s already being expanded. Tesla’s longest warranty now runs eight years or 150,000 miles.

Lower operating costs

Electric vehicles typically require less maintenance than conventional vehicles: no oil changes, no filter changes, and no tune-ups. Brake systems generally last longer than those on conventional vehicles because of regenerative braking.

A Consumer Reports analysis found that EVs save 60% in fuel costs and 50% in maintenance costs when compared with gas-powered vehicles. Put another way: With today’s gas prices, EV owners could save $1,800 to $2,600 in operating and maintenance costs for every 15,000 miles they drive compared with having a gas-powered vehicle, based on CR’s calculations.

Buy now or wait?

Consumer Reports has always advised against buying a model during its first year of production, and that includes the new crop of EVs coming to market in the next few years.

“Let the automakers work out some of those bugs that typically happen with new vehicles,” said Mike Monticello with Consumer Reports Autos. Any time you bring in a whole bunch of new parts, you’re asking for some potential reliability issues.”

By waiting, you’ll get more models to choose from. That means more features and lower-priced options.

With the marketplace changing so quickly, Consumer Reports just published a guide to each manufacturer’s EV production plans for the years ahead.

Access Checkbook’s ratings of electric vehicles, free until June 5, at Checkbook.org/Inquirer/EV.

Delaware Valley Consumers’ Checkbook magazine and Checkbook.org is a nonprofit organization with a mission to help consumers get the best service and lowest prices. It is supported by consumers and takes no money from the service providers evaluated.