Electric Vehicles 101: How to Drive Without Direct Carbon Emissions
In recent years, electric vehicles sales have surged from 1,919 in 2010 to 233,411 in 2018, and analysts predict the trend will continue upward. This increase in sales is due to several factors including price, longer-range batteries and market competition. In 2019 alone, five automakers introduced EVs that are able to deliver more than 200 miles of range on a single charge.
The rapid growth of EVs is also good news for the environment. The oceans are warming, the ice sheets are shrinking and sea levels are rising, as the climate crisis becomes worse every day.
The recent surge in EVs is excellent news for consumers and the planet. If you’re ready to drive a vehicle without direct carbon emissions, here are a few things to consider when purchasing an EV:
Newer EV models tend to be more expensive than their gasoline counterparts. In April 2019, Sen. Debbie Stabenow introduced a bill called The Driving America Forward Act. This bill expands on the 2010 Electric Vehicle Deployment Act, which incentivized the purchase of EV’s with a $7,500 tax credit. If the bill passes, automakers will be allowed to extend a tax credit of $7,000 to $400,000 new EV owners. If the tax credit is not extended, what’s left of the current bill will be phased out by the end of this year.
To find out what incentive you might quality for, visit energy.gov and check the box for “federal” and your state. This search will generate a list of tax credits and other incentives available in your area.
While the advent of newer models with longer range capacity has significantly reduced range anxiety, the nation’s infrastructure is not yet ready for your cross country road trip. In fact, as EVs become more popular, the barriers to building more charging stations remain.
Some older EVs have a range of about 84 miles, but with battery depreciation, they may only travel 60 miles over time. In urban areas, where driving distances are shorter, this isn’t as much of a problem, but can be a hindrance in other areas.
When choosing an EV, make sure the car’s range will be sufficient to meet your needs. The average American drives 29.2 miles per day. Daily commutes, of course, vary from person to person, so it’s a good idea to map out your daily route and add a 5% margin of error.
Various parts of the country are embracing EV technology at different rates, with San Francisco leading the charge with over 4,000 charging stations city wide, but that isn’t the case everywhere, which is why the next thing you should consider is how and where to charge your EV.
Charging Your EV
If you live in a house, charging your EV can be as simple as plugging your car into an outlet in the garage. EVs plug into standard 100-volt outlets (Level 1 charge), but charging can take anywhere from 8 to 24 hours. You can also install a 240-volt station (Level 2 charge), which reduces your charging time to four hours. But a third option, known as DC Fast Charging (Level 3 charge), can charge your EV in as little as 30 minutes to an hour.
For those who have shared garage or parking areas, installing a charging station may require permission from the owner of the building. The stations cost between $437 - $1,700, plus the cost of installation. You can use Home Advisors estimate calculator to help determine the price in your area and get quotes from local electricians.
While on the go, it may not be convenient to drive home, charge your vehicle and then continue about your day. Luckily, several apps are available to help you locate public charging stations nearby. Before you buy an EV, download one of the apps and do a quick search of the areas you frequent most. The app will give you a feel for how accessible charging stations are in your area.
Quick note: Electricity to charge your EV from the standard electric grid most likely contains dirty energy from fossil fuels, like coal, oil and natural gas. Driving EVs are still far cleaner than traditional gas-powered vehicles, but if you are interested in lowering your fossil fuel use, you can install solar panels on your home or offset your carbon consumption by signing up for CREDO Energy.
EV Ownership Cost
Although the cost of purchasing an electric vehicle has gone down, your insurance premium may go up. The price hike doesn’t mean that the EVs are any less safe. In fact, the 2019 Chevrolet Bolt has a 4.9/5 safety rating on Kelly Blue Book. The higher value and cost to repair a damaged EV are the culprits behind insurance premiums being about 21% higher for an EV.
The benefit of an EV is, of course, that it requires zero gas, but owners should expect to see a rise in their electric bill. While many public charging stations continue to be free, some do charge, and the prices vary.
The Environmental Protection Agency maintains a searchable database that shows the cost of fuel/electricity for any given car. For example, a 2017 BMW i3 has an annual electricity cost of $550 compared to the fuel-efficient 2017 Honda Civic, which costs $1,050 in annual fuel costs.
Unlike gasoline or even hybrid cars that have a lot of moving parts, EVs have no corroded fuel or oil lines (yes, that means no oil changes!). And with fewer moving parts in general, there is little maintenance. What consumers do need to be concerned about is the cost of replacing the battery.
Electric vehicle batteries do lose their charge over time. However, federal regulations mandate an 8-year/100,000 mile warranty on all new EV batteries, and Hyundai has taken this a step further by offering a lifetime battery warranty on their new 2019 Kona Electric.
SAE international lists a BMW i3 battery replacement cost at $16,000. However, battery costs should decline as EV production increases. Experts project battery replacement costs to be as low as $125-$150 by 2030.
Extreme weather can also affect your battery life. During the polar vortex of 2019, many EV owners saw a 41% reduction in their EV’s battery life. Once the temperatures returned to normal, the battery life returned as well, but it’s a necessary consideration if you live in an area with freezing temperatures.
In some cases, the battery pack required to operate the EV’s emissions-free technology takes up more room resulting in less cargo space in the vehicle. Some models like Tesla have accounted for this with additional storage located in the front of the car, but other automobiles like the Fiat 500e, simply have less cargo space. Measure or look up the cargo space for your current vehicle to help you choose.
Whether you are buying a new or used EV, there are many factors to consider. What we know for sure, though, is our dependence on fossil fuel is one of the root causes of climate change and EVs can help get us off fossil fuels while also helping to reduce carbon emissions.
We’ve outlined here many of the potential benefits as well as drawbacks to help inform your decision. As with any car buying experience, don’t be shy about asking questions when you visit a dealership to test drive an EV.