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What will the future of electric cars look like?

CNET editor-at-large Brian Cooley says it's going to be more affordable.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Car manufacturers have drawn their line in the sand -- or at least the asphalt: the future is electric.

From American auto giants like Ford and General Motors to foreign badges like Hyundai and Volkswagen, carmakers have been busy revealing fully-electrified vehicles and touting concepts. While many brands have had electric cars in their lineup for a while, many of those vehicles were simply electrified remakes of already-existing cars.

It's 2022 now, and the biggest names in personal transportation are shining the lights on their new, electric-first rides. But it seems like right now, those sparkly (and sparky) new cars that are built electric from the ground up can be pricey. Kia's EV6 and its Hyundai cousin the Ioniq 5 both have starting prices around the $40,000 mark, as does the Ford F-150 Lightning. 

VERIFY: How much do electric vehicle drivers pay for a full charge?

If price isn't the pain point for drivers, then driving range has been another concern. The term "range anxiety" comes to mind; it describes the nervous feeling some drivers get when they see plenty of electric cars with smaller estimated ranges than gas-powered competitors.

But some motorists have already flipped the switch (pun not intended) to electric cars. And for those still uneasy about going all-in on all-electric, experts say things are about to improve.

WCNC Charlotte spoke with Brian Cooley, the editor-at-large for technology news website CNET. Cooley in particular knows cars -- he's talked about them during his time as a morning drive radio host in California and has followed the latest developments in car tech since he joined the website in 1995.

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For Cooley, sticker shock is one thing consumers could get over. He also says soon, range anxiety could be assuaged.

"A recent survey by Castrol, the motor oil company, found that most of us are waiting to get about 319 miles on an average charge," he said. "I think a lot of this comes from us wanting to replicate the range of a tank of gas, and I don't think that's the way to approach it. Instead, look at how much you actually drive, which these days is probably even less than the traditional 39 miles a day, which is about 15,000 miles a year."

Cooley said even cars with a smaller battery that gets about 200 miles of range can simply be recharged every few days, and since most electric car owners recharge at home, it helps. He also said in the next few years, likely around 2026-2027, the cost of electric car ownership will come down, even as federal and state tax credits phase out.

"In a few years, by the mid to later part of this decade, we expect to see electric cars come down enough in price, as well as having operational cost advantages," he said. "They don't need oil changes, they have far fewer parts to go wrong, and electricity is cheaper than gas, especially now."

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Let's say getting brand-new cars isn't part of your strategy to getting a new set of wheels. Cooley admits he still has a gas-powered car that he bought used, and he plans to jump to a used late-model electric car when there are enough choices to make his call. Those choices could very well expand as more manufacturing plants are built; Chatham County in North Carolina will soon be the home to a plant for Vietnamese startup VinFast, promising to bring more jobs and more choices of electric cars stateside. Cooley's advice: don't ignore the new kid on the block.

"We certainly expect VinFast to be one of those aggressive competitors on price, being a new entrant in the market," he said," the way Samsung and LG were a few years ago. To say 'we're not just doing a good car, we're coming in with a price you almost can't believe,' -- you're gonna have to have that kind of advantage against better-known brands."

VERIFY: Can electric vehicles get a full charge overnight?

Another worry that's been brought up is the environmental impact, chiefly on the creation of electric car batteries. In Gaston County, leaders have voiced their frustrations with Piedmont Lithium, a company that proposed a lithium mining operation near Cherryville. The company has promised hundreds of millions of dollars in economic investment as they planned to sell batteries to companies like Tesla. County commissioners, however, raised concern with the pollution such an operation could create, along with traffic impacts and effects on property values. Cooley agrees such a mining operation is no small thing and that it's up to companies to show their hand.

"I think companies that are going into this business need to be transparent with how their process works, and what the side effects of it are," he said.

WCNC Charlotte is always asking "where's the money?" If you need help, reach out to WCNC Charlotte by emailing money@wcnc.com.

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