Gen180’s Year in Review

December 22, 2021

Whether you’ve been part of the Gen180 community for years or just joined recently, we’re glad you’re on board! You might have joined to get resources from the Solar for All Schools campaign, to attend an Electrify Your Ride event, to get the weekly Flip the Script newsletter in your inbox, or for a variety of other reasons. 

However we first got connected, our goal is to inspire and equip you to take action on clean energy—in your home, your workplace, your community, your state, and beyond. The big idea behind all of our work is that the transition to a clean energy future is not only possible but fully underway—and you have a critical role to play in accelerating it

As 2021 comes to a close, we wanted to offer up a visual overview of what Generation180 has been up to—and why. Some of the work you may be familiar with, and some of it might be new to you. Whether it’s our work around humorous content, illustrative or video storytelling, arts and culture, research, or resources, you might find something that piques your interest. So head over to this page and take a look!

Screenshot of Gen180's portfolio website
Click on the image to visit our portfolio website

Here’s an overview of the work we’ve been putting out into the world:


Esteban Gast video

Humor is a powerful tool that has been underutilized in the climate movement to date. It can lower defenses, subtly (or not so subtly) provide new perspectives, and travels much further than facts do online. That’s why we’ve made videos, comics, and a recently launched podcast featuring comedians.

Illustrative Storytelling

Where words, facts, and figures fail, images can often succeed. Our illustrative work spans a variety of formats, from weekly comics to long-form pieces. We’re always looking to try new techniques and formats that will surprise and engage our audience. Did you catch our long-form comic covering America’s EV love story’?

Video Storytelling

A key capability from day one, video production continues to be one of Generation180’s strong suits. With a combination of in-house expertise and best-in-class creative partners, our aim is to be imaginative, bold, responsive, and effective. In this example above, we used video storytelling to help raise up the voices of Virginians who care about clean air and clean cars.

Arts and Culture

It’s a well-known fact that politics lives downstream from culture. We take this adage to heart by partnering with artists and helping clean energy advocates integrate their priorities into their lifestyle. It’s why we co-created a children’s book about voting, sponsored the creation of a mural, and have shirts, hats, mugs, and more that you can wear and use out in the world.

Research and Analysis

Our original research, reports, and resources have helped establish Generation180’s credibility as a player in the climate and clean energy movement and an issue leader on solar schools and electric vehicles. We’ve leveraged these assets to earn media coverage, influence policymakers, and equip decision-makers with actionable information. Just last month we published the 2021 edition of our Virginia Drives Electric report.

Ambassador Resources

Inspiring and equipping individuals to impact those around them is one of the fastest and most effective ways to accelerate change. This is at the heart of Generation180’s theory of change. That’s why we’ve provided these “ambassadors” with training, peer-to-peer networking, and occasions to engage with media and everyday audiences. Check out our Clean Energy School Leaders Network or our newly published EV Ambassador Library.

We hope you have a fantastic, safe, meaningful holiday season. Stay tuned for 2022 as we are scaling our work nationally and to new states including, PA, NC and more. Onward!


All Grown Up: EV Charging in 2022

December 22, 2021

If you’ve been watching the new auto releases with an eye toward going electric, you may have seen the breathless coverage of the new F-150 Lightning, which debuted earlier this year. “No truck has any business being this quick,” wrote one reviewer. Another called it “a thunderbolt that strikes at the heart of an industry hurtling toward adoption of electric cars.” 

The fact that Ford has electrified its popular pickup truck—the top-selling vehicle in the country—is yet another sign of the clean energy times. So is the reservation list for the new model, which got so long that Ford recently stopped accepting preorders

Amid all this enthusiasm for electric vehicles (EVs), it’s smart to check in on the state of EV charging infrastructure. The U.S. buildout of charging stations has been growing, for sure, but still has a ways to go. Here’s a look at the changes on the horizon aimed at making EV fueling easy and faster than ever.

On the road

Last week, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm announced a Joint Office of Energy and Transportation tasked with establishing a national network of 500,000 EV chargers. The press conference location was fitting: RS Automotive, a service station in Takoma Park, Maryland, that in 2019 became the first in the nation to stop selling gas and convert its stalls to EV charging instead. 

The new government office will distribute the $7.5 billion allotted to an EV charging network in the infrastructure law President Biden signed earlier this fall. There’s work to do: As of the second quarter of this year, the U.S. has a little over 100,000 public charging ports installed. That’s not enough to support a scenario where 15 million light-duty EVs fill the roads in 2030 (up from a little under 2 million in 2020). Right now, the U.S. has about 68% of the DC fast chargers and about 16% of the Level 2 ports needed for that many EVs, according to the government’s latest tally. More than half the fast-charging ports are only usable by Tesla drivers.

Hence the aggressive charging buildout. If all proceeds according to plan, you’ll see a lot more charging stations popping up across the country. Especially “in rural, disadvantaged, and hard-to-reach locations,” which the White House says it will prioritize to fill gaps. 

Also expect to see more charging options in general. The Biden administration wants to take a more “uniform approach” to the current patchwork of chargers, which vary in plug types, data availability, and payment options. Tesla has launched a pilot program in the Netherlands to open its supercharger network to non-Tesla drivers, and GM says it is adding 40,000 chargers in North America starting next year.

At home and off the road

Establishing a national charging network is important for cementing consumer confidence in EVs and making them as competitive as possible with gas-burning cars. But most EV owners won’t regularly be hunting for charging stations on the road: They’ll be charging at home. 

We just published a handy breakdown of charging options and other decision-making tips about buying an EV here. As mentioned in that post, a Level 1 charge—plugging into a standard wall outlet—is the cheapest way to go. It’s slow, but if you’re charging overnight at the end of the driving day, that will serve you just fine. 

That said, this year the marketing research firm JD Power rolled out its first study of consumer sentiment around home charging and found that EV drivers are happiest when they have a dedicated Level 2 charger, which will get you about five times the range as a Level 1 charge in the same amount of time.

Home charging can be trickier for apartment dwellers and renters, but some property owners recognize the value of installing chargers. At Green Rock Apartments in Minnesota, chargers “are a major draw for tenants and make the units more valuable,” the owner said in a Department of Energy case study. 

Pro-charging policies are also helping to expand access. As this post at Grist points out, “right to charge” laws in a handful of states give tenants the right to install charging equipment. Some cities are beginning to address this need through building codes. A law passed for Washington, D.C., this year that goes into effect for new construction and major renovations in 2022 requires commercial and multi-unit buildings to provide EV-ready parking spaces. San Francisco has a similar law on the books, and so does the entirety of the United Kingdom. The latter law, which will require charging ports for new U.K. commercial and residential as of next year, will add up to 145,000 plug-in points in 2022, according to government estimates.

The overall goal should be to make chargers ubiquitous, so that they eventually become even easier and more accessible compared to gas stations. To that end, Jeep is even installing Level 2 charging stations at off-road trailheads, starting in Utah and California.

Under the hood

As charging stations proliferate, the EVs themselves continue to get more range in less time. Kia’s new record-setting model set to ship in January, the EV6, reportedly can charge from 10% to 80% in 18 minutes. The 2022 Hyundai Ioniq 5 achieved the same feat in this review. Scientists are hard at work on developing batteries that can charge even faster. The eXtreme fast charge Cell Evaluation of Lithium-ion Batteries, or X-CEL, initiative, which is led by Argonne National Laboratory, has a goal to develop batteries that recharge within 15 minutes or less. This isn’t just about passenger cars: Better, more powerful batteries overall are also key to electrifying the trucking sector.

So, while you might have to wait a little bit for some of them, good things are in store for EV drivers this coming year and into the decade. Here’s to 2022!



Event Recording: Virginia Drives Electric Virtual Town Hall

December 20, 2021

This live event occurred on December 16, 2021 as part of Generation180’s event series.

On December 16, Generation180, Virginia Advanced Energy Economy, Climate Cabinet, and the Chesapeake Climate Action Network hosted a virtual town hall event with Virginia General Assembly members focused on transportation electrification, with special guest Don Hall from the Virginia Automobile Dealers Association.

Virginia recently took significant strides to reduce pollution and accelerate the Commonwealth’s transition to a clean energy economy by passing policies that support electric vehicle adoption, such as the Advanced Clean Car Standards. Now it’s time to build on this progress and further solidify Virginia’s future as a leader in advanced transportation and transportation electrification.


Toward the Greater Grid: Modernizing the US Power System

December 15, 2021

You might not think about what it takes to bring power, 24/7, to your home, but the end result is pretty amazing. To get the juice we need to run an appliance or device, any time of the day, we just plug it into an outlet or flip the switch and…voila… instant electricity! But the current power system faces major challenges, especially when clean energy sources like wind and solar enter the mix. It’s overdue for an overhaul. Fortunately, there are solid ideas for how to do this—if we can get our act together.

How it works and where it’s headed

Unless you’ve installed rooftop solar, the way your home is powered probably hasn’t changed much since it was first built. For nearly a century, large power plants (typically fired by fossil fuels like coal or natural gas) have generated most of the country’s electricity, which then travels, via the “transmission system,” over long distances along high-voltage wires. Once it hits the network of substations, this power enters the “distribution system” and is progressively transformed to lower voltage and carried over local lines to homes and businesses. Along the way, key players—from baseload power plants and specialized back-up plants to system operators to local utilities—perform a “perfectly synchronized dance” to ensure that supply matches demand, at the right time and with the optimal mix of resources. 

This model was well and good until we discovered that generating electricity from fossil fuels releases harmful greenhouse gases, which are slowly wreaking havoc on our climate. Electricity itself isn’t the culprit though, and is actually an important part of the solution as we shift to a low-carbon world. By “electrifying everything”—from how we get around to how we heat our homes—and then powering it with clean energy, we can more rapidly wean ourselves from our fossil fuel addiction. The keys to decarbonizing the energy system are clean energy and energy efficiency, in combination with increased electrification. 

Evidence of the energy transition is growing every day. The explosion in cost-competitive clean energy technologies like wind and solar has expanded our options for getting zero-emission power. Emerging technologies like electric vehicles, home batteries, and smart meters—known broadly as “distributed energy resources”—are making it possible to generate, store, and/or manage power at a local scale, as opposed to relying on a distant, centralized location. Combined with advances in information and communications technology, the opportunities seem limitless: from using your electric vehicle battery to store energy to power your home, to networking small-scale solar generators into a “virtual power plant.” 

The grid is… so last century

But this exciting future—which seems to be arriving at warp speed—isn’t a great fit with the current grid structure (and that’s a big understatement). Our existing power system was designed to accommodate the technologies and goals of the fossil fuel era, and the grid was built toward a single end: to support the one-way flow of power from a centralized power plant to consumers. Power markets, in turn, are designed to optimize the buying and selling of “dispatchable” fossil fuels like coal and gas, which can be ramped up or down as needed to harness power from afar at a moment’s notice. 

In contrast, clean energy sources like solar and wind are not easily dispatched, because the sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow. To ensure a reliable electricity supply based on these variable energy sources, the power system needs additional flexibility to fill in any gaps in coverage. Typically, coal and gas plants have provided these services, but they aren’t compatible with a climate-constrained future. That’s where emerging distributed solutions like battery storage, demand-side management, and smart charging of electric vehicles could swoop in, complemented by game-changing digital technologies that can efficiently monitor and manage system operations in real time. 

Wind and solar power have low operating costs, which is a plus for many reasons, including making electricity more affordable and increasing “energy democracy.” But here, too, there’s a poor fit with the existing power system. Today’s grid is designed to support (and enrich) a handful of big players, including the transmission system operators that oversee the dispatching of electricity and compete to supply it on the wholesale market, and the more localized “distribution system operators,” typically the utilities we pay to deliver power to our homes. As low-cost clean energy enters the mix, it messes with this finely tuned market, causing wholesale power prices to drop and introducing costing and valuation challenges. As a result, the big energy players, including regulators, have been reluctant to grant small-scale energy producers (like rooftop solar) access to lucrative wholesale markets. 

A decision point and a better way

Rather than forcing a square peg into a round hole by trying to tweak our misaligned power system, we have an opportunity to take a holistic (systems) approach to reshaping it, focusing on more optimal ways to provide affordable, reliable, and clean energy for all. Fortunately, there are many good proposals for designing a decentralized electricity system that works for clean energy resources and the planet. Most solutions involve flipping the power system on its head and rebuilding it from the bottom up. This means shifting from a top-down system that’s supply-led to one that’s demand-led. The average person goes from being a passive consumer of electricity to being able to play a lead role in its production and distribution. 

Energy writer David Roberts has described what he calls a “layered grid architecture,” in which most of the real action in electricity—its generation, sale, and delivery—would happen at the local (distribution) level, rather than at the transmission level, like it does today. In this decentralized approach, each “layer” of the distribution system (for example, a campus-based mini-grid or a household solar array) is essentially its own separate entity, responsible for finding the optimal balance between supply and demand and ensuring reliability of supply. Only if there is extra (unused) power would this then be fed into the grid and the wider transmission system, aggregated and sold on the wholesale market

In this model, a customer seeking power might first tap into a hyper-local source (like rooftop solar or an electric vehicle battery), to ensure optimal electricity supply and self-sufficiency. But if that supply wasn’t enough, the system would cast a wider net to higher layers of producers (community solar farms, micro-grids, etc.) until, as a last resort, power might need to be purchased from the top-most layer (the transmission grid and big power plants). This way, the customer would be ensured reliable back-up power in case local sources weren’t available, but the transmission grid wouldn’t be the go-to power source. Prioritizing local sources would bring added benefits to the local economy, job creation, and overall decarbonization efforts, and would allow for scalability, citizen empowerment, and innovation

Getting there

Importantly, designing the power system from the bottom up would address one of the biggest myths about the clean energy transition: that variable renewables like wind and solar aren’t reliable enough to provide the power we need, 24/7. In the layered approach Roberts describes, we would never be faced with the black-and-white choice of relying either on big power plants or on small, self-sufficient local production. Instead, the power system structure would have many shades of gray, with the appropriate mix of centralized and distributed assets and a wide range of actors on both the supply and demand sides to provide clean energy and the flexibility required to deliver power where and when it’s needed. 

The decentralized, layered solution is practical, economical, and equitable. That’s also why it might be difficult to achieve in the time frame that’s needed. It requires big changes not just in the grid infrastructure, but also in regulatory and legal structures. It entails radical shifts in control and oversight and a possibly rapid “stranding” of fossil fuel assets, from polluting power plants to gas-powered cars. Already, utilities, regulators, and other actors that could lose out from the energy transition are throwing up roadblocks that make it hard for distributed energy resources to enter the power market. That’s why it’s important for these key stakeholders to get ahead of the curve, so they can identify new roles to play in the emerging (and inevitable) localized markets for power distribution and related services. They have an opportunity to collaborate with the different new actors that are developing and managing distributed energy resources, from back-up storage to electric vehicle fleets. Ultimately we’d all be better off under a revamped, decentralized power structure: with a more resilient and reliable energy supply, stronger local economies and communities, and a more climate-friendly energy system. All told, this will enable us to catapult from the dinosaur age to the clean energy era we need.


Student Solar Project Bridges Digital Divide in Rural Virginia

December 8, 2021

A school district in Virginia harnesses solar power to create wi-fi access throughout its county, helping to bridge its community’s digital divide and preparing its high school students for jobs in the solar energy industry.

Marcy Pennella relies on a mobile hotspot device for internet access at her home in Louisa County, Virginia. “I live surrounded by woods, so it works if it’s not cloudy or dark out,” Pennella said. 

Pennella, a kindergarten teacher, usually tries to finish her work at school. But since the start of the pandemic, she and members of her family occasionally drive five minutes away from their house to a solar-powered wi-fi station on wheels, designed and built by Louisa County Public Schools. These stations are called WOW, or Wireless on Wheels.

In one instance her older daughter needed to take a midterm but their hotspot device was too slow.  “She went to [the] WOW station and it worked really well,” Pennella said. “It was fast – no spinning or delays or anything. No login information required. And she took her midterm in 30 minutes.” 

Local Solar, Local Solutions

Photo courtesy of Louisa County Public Schools

Educators and administrators at Louisa County Public Schools had families like Pennella’s in mind when stay-at-home orders took effect at the start of the pandemic last year in March. 

“Many of our families in our community do not have internet connectivity,” said Doug Straley, Louisa County Public Schools superintendent. The county, which is 514 square miles with a population of about 37,000 people, is largely rural and about two to four years away from having fiber optic internet access across the county. 

Straley said his school district anticipated students’ need for internet access to learn from home as well as people’s need for internet access as they work from home.  

To bridge this digital divide during the pandemic, the school district set up 32 of these WOW stations throughout the county in parking lots at churches, grocery stores and any other businesses willing to share their parking lots. 

Louisa County Public Schools Superintendent Douglas Straley successfully lobbied the county’s school division to support these WOW units with local funding. Photo courtesy of Louisa County Public Schools

“At that time [in March 2020] the amount of fear and anxiety to even leave your house was so high,” said Kenny Bouwens, who directs the Career and Technical Education and STEAM and innovation programs at Louis County Public Schools. He said going to Starbucks, McDonald’s or the library for internet access was not an option. 

So Bouwens and his colleagues designed these WOW stations so that 1: wi-fi could be powered by the sun — no need to keep them plugged into an electricity source — and 2: people could feel safe accessing the internet while they stayed in their cars. 

The school district also adapted its teaching style. “A lot of that [school] work is interactive stuff you could do offline and then upload,” Bouwens said. “Students go to WOW units for maybe 10 to 15 minutes to upload their assignments, download their new assignments, and then go back home. And that was the only model that we felt would work really well at that time, with how quickly we had to transition to a virtual hybrid learning model.”

Video courtesy of Louisa County Public Schools

Real World Solar Training for Students

High school students enrolled in both construction and energy and power classes helped build  the WOW units.

“We hit the ground running and knocked them out pretty quick,” Bouwens said. 

The school district offers a rich curriculum on energy generation, focused on both solar and nuclear energy (the county is home to a nuclear power plant). It’s expanding its solar energy curriculum with more hands-on learning. 

“We’re in the process of building something we’re dubbing the Solar House,” said David Childress, the school district’s director of technology. This is the building where high school students will learn all about solar power installation and about adding distributed energy to the power grid.

“We’re also getting ready to build a solar array in the central office that is going to offset the power utilization for EV chargers that we’re planning to put at each of our locations,” Childress said. “It’s going to offset the electric bills at our other locations, so we’ll still be net zero on it.”

“A big part of this push is giving our students training so that they could nail a job interview with companies like Dominion Energy, Sun Tribe Solar or Sigora Solar or any of these big solar installers,” Bouwens said.

A big part of this push is giving our students training so that they could nail a job interview with …any of these big solar installers.

Bouwens said he and his colleagues keep close track of projections on employment data. “And the solar industry right now overall is growing,” he said. “But really one of the areas that’s exploding is the install. Companies are looking for people who can work on solar install projects, whether it’s residential or commercial.”

Bouwens said the school district wants its students to be able to “get some of the certifications and industry credentials they would need to start out and be successful right off the bat in kind of an entry level to mid-entry level install position.”

Louisa County Public Schools is wise to put their students on that path. To reach President Joe Biden’s goal of reaching 100% carbon-free electricity by 2035, the nation will need to quadruple its workforce and add 900,000 more trained workers

Beyond training for future well-paying careers, students at the start of the pandemic not only worked on amazing hands-on projects, Bouwens said, “but they [also] got that feeling of citizenship and helping their community, which is something that we always push here in Louisa County Public Schools.”

The benefit of the WOW units continues to be widely felt. “They’re everywhere,” Pennella said. “It’s a great tool for the community.” 


When Should I Buy an EV?

December 1, 2021

This post was written by Matt Turner, Creative Manager at Generation180

When we got our first electric vehicle (a used 2016 Volkswagen e-Golf) two years ago, my family, friends, and neighbors became curious. Many began asking me if they should buy an EV. Now, as EVs have quickly become more mainstream and the number of available models has skyrocketed, the question changed from if they should buy an EV to when? Is the price at the right point now, or should I wait a couple of years? Are there enough models to choose from that fit my lifestyle? Is it hard to find a place to charge?

Maybe you have a traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) car that works fine…for now. But within a year or two, maybe you expect to be needing a new (or new to you) car. Should it be an EV? Does it make sense to swap my ICE car a little early to begin saving money now? When do I pull (or plug in) the plug? 

In this post, I share my decision-making process — one you can follow to help you make the right decision at the right time that makes sense for you. Buying any vehicle is a big decision with lots of variables and nuance, but hopefully, I can help you get pretty close. 

For the sake of simplicity, whenever I mention an EV, I will only be discussing Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) and not Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs), unless I specifically call them out. 

After studying the many questions Generation180 gets around EVs, and from lots of personal conversations I’ve had, it seems to me that there are two main determining factors to see if now is the time to buy an EV:

1. Practicality: Can I do the same things with an EV that I usually do with my ICE vehicle?
2. Cost: Can I afford the initial cost, and will I save money compared to an ICE vehicle?

Note: each section contains a “short answer” and a “long answer”. If the short answer gives you all you need, feel free to move on. Or if you want a little more detail, check out the long answer. Each section has a “the bottom line” at the end to give a quick summary.


The fact of the matter is: EVs are cars just like traditional ICE vehicles, but with a different (and better) way of moving from place to place. Manufacturers know what Americans’ needs are, and they are meeting them. It seems most EV models coming out are mid-sized SUVs, and a mid-sized SUV just so happens to be the best-selling non-truck vehicle in America so far this year. 


The second most popular question I get about EVs is “What’s the range?”—we’ll get to the most popular one later.

The short answer:
It’s probably more range than you need. The average driver drives only 39 miles round trip per day. Considering there isn’t a single new battery electric vehicle available that has less than 110 miles of range (and the majority have more than 250), it’s safe to say no matter what new EV you get, most people will have enough range to do their daily driving. 

The long answer:
The average range doesn’t work for everyone, so let’s discuss some more specifics. Especially in rural areas, the miles driven are higher. In states like Wyoming, the average daily drive is the highest in the nation at 65 miles per day. However, even the smallest range EV will have nearly double the needed range.

What about long-distance commuters? There are at least 26 BEV models available in the U.S. right now, and 22 of them have more than 200 miles of range standard, and they offer as high a range as more than 400.

The bottom line:
If your daily commute is within 200 miles roundtrip, it’s very easy to find an EV that has enough range as your daily driver without the need to charge during trips.


Speaking of charging, it goes hand in hand with the range conversation. Most EV owners charge at home (81% at home, 7% at work, and the rest at public chargers). Think of charging your EV as you charge your phone. By and large, most of us charge our phones at home overnight, but at times you may want to plug it in somewhere away from the house. EV charging is like that. So what does charging look like with an EV?

The short answer:
Just like there are three main types of gasoline available at the pump, there are three main types of charging available for EVs. Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3 (being the fastest). Charging at home is either Level 1—plugging into a standard wall outlet—and gets you 4-5 miles per hour, or Level 2—think of a dryer or stove plug—and gets you 25-75 miles per hour. Level 3 chargers are usually the ones you see out in public and can get you as fast as 180-300 miles per hour depending on the charger and the car.

The long answer:
Level 1 charging is the cheapest way to get started charging your EV. Every car comes with a cord that you plug directly into any standard wall outlet in your home. While slow, it still covers what most people drive on a daily basis. For example: if you drive 30 miles per day, plug in your car when getting home at 6:00 PM, and unplug it when you leave for the day at 7:00 AM, you still charge at least 44 miles.

Most Level 2 chargers can be installed in your home for around $1,200. This price can be reduced as many states and localities offer hundreds of dollars in rebates when installing.  The convenience of being able to more quickly charge your car can make this install worth it. Many Level 2 chargers also have capabilities for more advanced charging schedules and energy monitoring to see how much money it’s costing to fill up. While I used a standard Level 1 charger for my EV for months without issue, I highly recommend getting a Level 2 charger installed if possible.

Both Level 2 and Level 3 chargers are usually what you will see in public charging areas. Some of these are free, and some cost money to use. There are a number of different companies that offer the services, and you usually need to download an app to your phone to use the chargers. Like gasoline prices, the cost to use varies depending on location and service provider. The one thing you can count on is that if the charger isn’t free, then it will likely cost more to charge at a public station than at your home.

One nice thing about charging stations around town is they are often installed at places your car will be parked at for some time like shopping centers, restaurants, and grocery stores. While on road trips you can find charging stations at popular hotels to charge overnight, at national parks, and more and more, large gas stations are installing EV chargers. Both Apple Maps and Google Maps show electric vehicle charging stations within their route planning, and there is a growing movement of smart planning options to help you find charging stations while you stop for lunch or to stretch your legs.

The bottom line:
You’ll do the vast majority of your charging at home, which is more convenient than having to go to the gas station. If you do need to charge, the network is large and growing, and there are tons of resources to make it easier.

Model availability

So now you’re thinking “All of the above is fine and dandy, Matt, but are there any EV models that actually do what I need them to? I have kids, a dog, and we go mountain biking on weekends an hour away. Is there an EV that lets me do that?”

The short answer:
Probably. Check out the list of currently available models to find the features you need. But most EVs available today are SUVs with hundreds of miles of range. I personally know a few families who fit the above description and love their EV. I have three kids myself, and we love our EV too.

The long answer:
Probably. When thinking about what car to purchase, it’s important to think about needs. What do you most need your car to do? Many EV households still maintain one gasoline-powered vehicle and drive their EV 70% of the time. This is probably the most difficult question to answer as every person’s lifestyle has its own unique needs. To help illustrate the potential of EVs, I’ll lay out a few lifestyle examples below.

Frugal local commuter. I live really close to my work, grocery store, and favorite restaurants. I probably drive 10 miles a day and love to take my dog to the local dog park and enjoy my city. On the weekends I might go to the next town over to visit a friend or family member.

What EV works for me? Basically any of them. If this describes something close to your life then your only real decision is what style you like and what your price point is.

Outdoorsy couple: The local commute isn’t what concerns us, we need to make sure our car can get us an hour out of town and back with a trunk full of camping gear and our mountain bikes in tow.

What EV works for me? More and more every day. Look at the Hyundai Kona EV, Volkswagen ID.4, and the Ford Mustang Mach-E. These have hundreds of miles of range, roof racks and trailer hitches for equipment, and space in the trunk for more gear.

Family with 3 kids: It’s not camping gear I’m hauling, it’s three kids in car seats. Please tell me there is an EV with a third row!

What EV works for me? The Chrysler Pacifica PHEV, Tesla Model Y, and Tesla Model X. Third-row EVs are currently limited but still available, and next year and the following, a slew of third-row EVs will hit the market.

Personally, my family has three kids, all in car seats, and we do 80% of our driving in a 2016 Volkswagen e-Golf that has 85 miles of range. It’s not uncommon for the five of us to go to the grocery store and still fit an overflowing diaper bag and a trunk full of groceries comfortably enough. When you weigh in what you actually need from a vehicle, often you come to different conclusions than what the manufacturers are trying to upsell you.

The bottom line:
Especially in two-car households, there is an EV model that fits just about everyone’s needs. List out your needs and see how an EV can fill them.

Bonus: Lifetime emissions

This question is one I hear a lot. Given the materials needed to manufacture electric vehicle components, and the fact that many electrical grids in America are still majoritively powered by natural gas, do EVs actually have a lower carbon footprint?

I won’t get into a “long answer” here as this topic warrants its own article. But the short answer is:  yes. From cradle to grave, electric vehicles are better for the environment than conventional cars everywhere.

Three separate, independent, high-quality studies have shown that even if you take into consideration all lifecycle stages of an EV, including vehicle production (extraction of raw materials, processing, assembly, painting, etc.), vehicle use (driving, charging, maintenance, etc.), and end-of-life (re-use, recycling, disposal to landfills, etc.), electric vehicles, hands down, are better for the environment and produce far fewer emissions than ICE vehicles.


When we discuss costs, it’s helpful to think in terms of the total cost of ownership over time.  That just means that over the course of the time that I will own the car, will it cost me more, or less money than a comparable ICE vehicle would’ve cost me. 

To figure this out, let’s start with the initial investment. The fact is that many EVs have an initial sticker price that is higher than a comparable ICE vehicle—which is a big deal for most of us. For example, the most popular non-truck vehicle of 2021 so far is the Toyota RAV4 which has a starting price of $26,350. A comparable EV is the Hyundai Kona Electric which has a starting price of $34,000. That’s a $7,650 price difference.

But those numbers are a bit deceiving when we think about the total cost of ownership. Overall, you will spend less money when owning an EV than an ICE vehicle. Let’s dive into why.

Tax incentives

The short answer:
Most new EVs on the market today qualify for a federal tax credit of up to  $7,500. This generally brings the cost of a new EV in line with a traditional ICE vehicle.

The long answer:
Once you file your taxes, you can use the $7,500 federal tax credit towards reducing your tax bill. In the above examples I gave, this immediately brings the EV and ICE vehicles to an almost identical price point. And even better, it looks like that tax incentive may be increased up to $12,500 next year, which would put those EVs at around $4,500 less than their ICE counterparts.

On top of federal incentives, take a look at state incentives for EVs where you live. Some states like California and New York offer grants and rebates from $500-$5000 depending on the model. As more and more states adopt friendlier EV policies, we should see more states adopt more incentives.

The bottom line: tax incentives often bring the upfront cost of an EV to a similar (or cheaper) price point as an ICE car.

Filling Up

This is by far the most common question I get: “How much does it cost to charge?” Just like with ICE vehicles, this varies depending on the model, how much you drive, and how much you pay for electricity.

The short answer:
One simple way to suss this out is to compare the cost of a gallon of gasoline to a similar amount of energy you get from electricity (called an e-gallon). In Virginia, I spend about $1.00 per “e-gallon” at the time of this article. Compare that to the gas station near my house which is currently selling gasoline at $3.19 per gallon—more than three times as much.

That’s a very generalized figure, and it varies from state to state, but feel free to try it out here. If that number is as detailed as you need, skip down to the next section. But if you’re interested in figuring out exactly how much driving an EV would cost/save you, I’ll lay out a (hopefully) simple illustration here.

The long answer:
To compare appropriately, I’ll use the two vehicles I mentioned earlier, and some current US averages on gas and electricity costs. I’m also assuming you’re charging at home like the vast majority of EV owners do.

U.S. Average miles driven per year: 14,263
2021 Toyota RAV4 efficiency: 30mpg
U.S. Average price per gallon of gasoline: $3.29
2021 Hyundai Kona EV efficiency: 2.7 kilowatthours (kWh)/mile
U.S. Average price per kilowatthour (kWh): $0.14

ICE Driver: I drive my Toyota RAV4 14,263 miles per year and get 30 miles per gallon. It costs me $3.29 per gallon of gasoline, and so I spend $1,564.18 on gasoline for the year. (14,263/30) * 3.29 = $1,564.18

EV Driver: I drive my Hyundai Kona EV 14,263 miles per year and use 2.7 kWh of electricity per mile driven. It costs me $.14 cents per kWh, and so I spend $739.56 on electricity for the year. That’s more than 50% cheaper than driving an ICE vehicle. (14,263/2.7) * 0.14 = $739.56

This equation gets even better if your utility has a time-of-use rate that lets you pay cheaper rates when charging on non-peak times. For example, I schedule my electric car to charge from 12:00 AM to 5:00 AM when electricity is only 7.3 cents per kWh. Meaning driving 14,263 miles only costs me $359.03 compared to more than $1,500 in one of the most fuel-efficient ICE vehicles on the market.

The bottom line:
EVs are far cheaper to drive on a daily basis; conservatively ½ as much and as little as a ¼ as much.


Let’s move on to normal wear and tear costs. You may know that EVs have far fewer moving parts than ICE vehicles, which is a great thing when it comes to maintenance costs (a Chevy Bolt, for example, has 80% fewer moving parts than a comparable ICE vehicle). More moving parts means more wear and tear. EVs also have no exhaust system, less need for cooling, less wear on braking, and no need for oil changes, fan belts, timing belts, head gaskets, spark plugs, etc. The list goes on.

The short answer:
EVs can save owners $4,600 in maintenance costs over the life of the vehicle. In general, most of the more expensive repairs for cars happen at around the 5-year-mark, so that’s where you will really begin to avoid potential repair costs.

The long answer:

There aren’t zero repair costs for an EV, of course. Like an ICE vehicle, you still have a heating and air conditioning system, tires, and suspension components, but those are the same to maintain as an ICE vehicle.

There are two main things an EV has that an ICE vehicle doesn’t: an electric motor and a large battery. How much do they cost to repair? The good news is that while an electric motor is expensive to fully replace ($6k-$9k), it almost always outlasts the life of the vehicle and lasts much longer than a traditional internal combustion engine. It’s not something you’ll need to worry about.

Replacing an EV battery outright could cost you $5,500 (about the same price as replacing an engine in a midrange gasoline vehicle). EV battery warranties are as generous as eight years and 100,000 miles. Even if there was an issue with the battery, they don’t usually need to be fully replaced. Unlike gasoline engines that can unexpectedly blow a gasket and leave you stranded on the side of the road, an EV battery simply degrades over time. So after 10 years, your EV’s range may be reduced from say, 300 miles to 270 miles — still more than most people will need on a daily basis.

The bottom line:
Over the course of the vehicle’s life, EVs can cost $,4600 less to maintain. Even if you don’t own the vehicle that long, it still costs less to maintain than an ICE vehicle.

Next Steps:

We’ve covered the main things you need to know to help you determine if you should purchase an EV or not. Now use this handy decision tree we made to determine if it makes sense for you.