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Car culture is changing—EVs are the new normal

September 28, 2022

This week’s blog is a firsthand account from the desk of Stuart Gardner, Electrify Your Ride Program Director. With over 10 years of auto industry experience and multiple cars and motorcycles, you could say he’s a “car guy.” 

My first car was a 1971 Volkeswagen Type III Fastback.  A lot has changed since then, but it sparked what has become a lifelong appreciation for all things automotive. This week is National Drive Electric Week, and as more and more Americans consider making their next car purchase electric (see Gen180’s brand new National Drive Electric Pledge campaign here), we thought it would be fun to take a tongue-in-cheek approach to the classically American automotive technological breakthroughs that brought us the electric car.

In the early 1900s, cars were started manually with a hand crank. The driver would turn a crank in the front of the car in order to start the internal combustion process of the engine.  Sometimes, the crank would bend, so a useful tool many drives carried was a hammer to bang it back into shape. I really miss those days. The electric starter ruined everything. 

Until 1914, the bodies and frames of cars were made of wood. Then the Dodge Brothers came along. Steel has since become the standard.

Rowing the boat, three on the tree, four on the floor. Manual transmissions are cool and connect the driver to the vehicle. Then in 1939 General Motors came along and introduced the “Hydra-Matic.” Today, manual transmissions make up only about 2.4% of new cars. Sure, today’s automatic transmissions are more responsive and shift faster than even the quickest manual, but I miss spilling my coffee while trying to drive and answer the phone and shift into third. 

The blast of hot air in the summer, you can see the heat rising up from the tarmac. Feeling my skin stick to the boiling hot surfaces of my seats. Can you believe some nut came around in the 1940s and introduced air conditioning in a car?  Ridiculous.

Did you know there isn’t a new car to be found in the US with a carburetor?  How am I supposed to tune this thing?  Sure, fuel injection is more efficient and prevents many of the issues carburetors have to deal with (altitude, flooding, hard starting, etc.), but what am I to do with all my wooden clothespins to prevent vapor lock? (motorhead alert)  

Seatbelts, airbags, anti-lock brakes, and the review camera. Can you believe all of these things are now REQUIRED by the government?  Absurd, right?  

Which brings us to cars powered by an electric motor.  They’re insanely fast, amazingly quiet (they can rumble loudly if you’re into that), and require nearly zero maintenance. But they are new. And while new may sometimes mean different, it doesn’t mean bad. Electric vehicles dramatically open the aperture of what’s possible, enabling designers to push the limits beyond what’s already been done with an internal combustion engine. Electric vehicles do not have a drive shaft, fuel tank, or transmission. This opens up all sorts of possibilities for interior passenger space, and of course “frunks.” Cool, right? 

And U.S. car companies are certainly taking notice. General Motors recently launched a marketing campaign, “EVs for everyone, everywhere,” which debuted during the kickoff of the NFL season this month. This complements the eight EV ads that aired during the 2022 Superbowl, not to mention the expectation that more than half of US car sales will be electric by 2030.

New GM spots w/ Fleetwood Mac music

The evolution of something as culturally beloved as the automobile may take time, but we don’t have to fear electric vehicles will kill American car culture. No one is taking away the cool classic cars of the past. We’re talking about new cars. We can embrace electric vehicles for how amazing they are in both design and performance. We can wax nostalgic when we think back to the hand crank, lack of air conditioning–and soon, oil changes.  

Car culture is changing. EVs are the new normal. Don’t fall behind on the trend—sign the Going Electric pledge.

— Stuart (a car guy)

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Our Electric Future: When Will Gas Cars Go the Way of the Horse and Buggy?

September 7, 2022

When Henry Ford unveiled his history-changing Model T in 1908, there hardly was any infrastructure to support widespread transport by car. Paved roads were scarce, gas stations were few and far between, and horse-drawn carriages were the preferred way to travel.

Despite these challenges, it didn’t take long for the clearly better transportation option to go mainstream. In a little over a decade, Model T’s were everywhere, replacing the horses that had moved people for hundreds of years.

Though not a perfect comparison, the switch from the internal combustion engine to the electric one has a lot in common with the horse-to-car evolution. Many automobile prototypes preceded Henry Ford’s version. Combined with the creation of The Office of Public Roads in 1905, Ford’s unique assembly line approach unlocked the broad-based adoption earlier producers only dreamed of.

Thanks to federal and state incentives, EVs are rapidly approaching cost parity with combustion engine vehicles, and are projected to get cheaper as the cost of owning the latter rises each year depending on unpredictable global oil markets. The recently-passed Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) includes provisions to accelerate the cost reductions for Americans and the nationwide charging infrastructure to support the new models.

However, we shouldn’t declare victory yet. Passenger cars are just one way people get themselves and goods around.

Electric buses and bikes, like EVs, are popping up everywhere. But that’s the low-hanging fruit—electric planes, trains, medium and heavy duty trucks, and cargo ships will be a much harder nut to crack, and spew out a significant amount of GHGs.

So, where do we stand today with the transition to electric transportation? What are the biggest barriers, and how can you play a role in hastening the movement?

To help answer these questions, let’s widen the scope and learn from other tectonic changes in technology.

Shifts in technology happen slowly, then all at once

While no one reading this remembers the horse-to-car conversion, you may remember the sudden proliferation of smartphones at the start of the century. Looking back on it now, it seems obvious—of course computers would get smaller until they fit into our pockets.

But even experts in the field had no idea what was coming. Back in 1980, Motorola expected that “car phones” would dominate the market, and projected a little over 1 million phones would be sold in the year 2000.

The actual number? 109 million.

Widespread adoption of new tech often happens faster than people think, after a long period of low growth. The kicker is usually when the new, better product reaches a competitive price level with the legacy product and consumer demand begins dictating supply. For EVs, industry experts predicted this tipping point would be reached when a vehicle hit the market that could last 200 miles on one charge and cost less than $30k.

Well, Tesla hit that mark in 2017 with its Model 3, and EV sales have been growing exponentially since then, as shown in the chart below.

Credit: EV Volumes

That’s a textbook exponential curve, and a promising sign for reducing GHG emissions from passenger cars. Although EVs represent less than 10% of global car sales, if this trend continues, they’ll make up the majority of new vehicle purchases by 2050.

This is great news, but there’s a catch.

Unfortunately, despite projections of EVs dominating new car sales very soon, gasoline cars are expected to hold onto their lead, even in 2050.

Even if you’re an environmental champion, changing vehicles takes some thought. Most people need to see cost competitiveness and enticing new benefits to make the switch from a current vehicle that works just fine.

Credit: The New York Times

Suggested remedies for this issue include more EV tax credits and government gasoline-car-buyback programs. But, with enough gas-powered cars currently in the world to stretch from Sydney to London many times over, it’ll take a while before gas cars go the way of the horse and buggy.

Armed with this historical perspective, let’s take a look at where the electric transportation transition stands today.

Range-bound

Electric cars are incredible machines. We didn’t merely come up with a way to get us around sans-combustion. We cranked the power way up in the process.

EVs have better acceleration than gas cars, mainly due to their uncomplicated engines compared to the internal combustion variety. These simplified engines also require less maintenance.

People absolutely love these things, and all signs point to mass adoption in the near term. The question is how soon that point comes.

Two key variables will affect the timeline—price and range. The comfort in knowing that you can refuel at a gas station just about anywhere in the country is important to people. As a result, “range anxiety” will persist until charging stations proliferate, ranges increase, and charge time go down.

Component shortages and other supply chain woes have kept EV prices elevated in spite of tax credits, increasing economies of scale, and other industry tailwinds. An uncertain economic future looms on the horizon, and a recession could set the market back.

As the chart above shows, gas cars will be stubborn to stamp out. For a fully electric future to become reality, gas cars probably have to phase out of the market by 2035. California recently committed to this timeline, reinforcing the world’s fifth largest economy as a leader in shaping our clean energy future.

Renewed hope for federal electrification support

Just when climate change advocates had given up hope on federal action, Joe Manchin came to the table at the last minute and emerged with a deal. The IRA may be labeled as an effort to tamp down inflation, but includes a whopping $370 billion in investments for energy security and electrification.

Labeled as “the United States’ biggest and most ambitious climate change legislation ever,” the IRA marks a renewed commitment from the U.S. to combat climate change. It’s expected to reduce U.S. GHG emissions 40% by 2030, which seemed like a pipedream just a few months ago.

Some of the highlights of the law include tax breaks for new and used EVs, language that strengthens the EPA’s regulatory authority, projected energy bill savings, and investments for new clean energy jobs. Plenty of good stuff!

This law is a game-changer, but we shouldn’t declare victory just yet. Better to think of the IRA as setting the stage for more drastic action, as public and private actors now have the financial incentive to invest in economy-wide electrification solutions.

The U.S. Postal Service made a splash this summer when it announced that half its new mail trucks would be electric. But the IRA enables it to go even further—a $3 billion allocation for more EVs and charging infrastructure sets the stage for a fully-electric mail delivery system in the near future.

Charging stations remain a thorn in the side of EV advocates, and the IRA tackles it head-on. The “Alternative Fuel Vehicle Refueling Property Credit” grants producers a 30% discount on the cost of new charging stations with cities, states, and private businesses already installing chargers.

Even the number of electric school buses, a favorite among Flip the Script readers, stands to grow. Class 6 and 7 school buses are eligible for the $1 billion in funding for new electric commercial vehicles outlined in the law.

The IRA was a historic step forward for America, but a lot of work lies ahead. So, now that the foundation is set, what are the biggest barriers still facing mass electrification?

A great start, but a long way to go

President Biden came into office promising to halve U.S. GHG emissions by 2030. While the 40% reduction estimated post-IRA is great, it falls short of that mark.

That doesn’t necessarily mean a 50% reduction is out of reach, though. Government agencies like the EPA have been empowered to pitch in. The Hill thinks the “EPA should use its expanded capacities to help the U.S. bridge that remaining 10 percent gap.”

While the EPA will look to reassert its authority with this new mandate, utilities across the country need to step up too.

Grids need to be updated to handle the increased loads caused by the EV surge. In its current iteration, the U.S. grid can’t handle massive increases in load demands. Luckily, experts are aware of what’s coming.

Pre-IRA, Biden passed a law promising $5 billion in funding for grid updates that would enable a nationwide charging network. Private and public utilities, along with EV companies, are expected to put some money on the table as well, as all have a shared interest in a well-functioning charging network.

So that’s the current state of the electric transportation transition in a nutshell. Now what can you do to support the movement?

Ways you can plug-in

Similar to the climate change fight, small actions from each of us can make a big difference over time and send the market signal that EV producers need.

Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Pledge to make your next car electric. Not everyone is able to run out and buy an EV tomorrow, but promising to make your next car electric when the time comes is still a huge step.
  2. Publicly support charging stations for EVs and electric school buses. If you live in a complex without any charging stations, see if you can rally support to put one in. You can ask your workplace to install a charging station, too.
  3. Talk to your local representatives about implementing a municipal electrification program. Cities like Columbus, OH have reached stunning EV adoption rates when considering infrastructure and EV purchases together.

With the tipping point for mass EV adoption right around the corner and the urgency of climate change, we have no time to waste. Let’s use the IRA as a jumping point for even more significant action to make widespread transportation electrification a reality. 

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The ten best things about being an EV owner

August 17, 2022

It’s no secret that the most effective messengers and advocates for electric cars are electric vehicle owners themselves. They drive awareness and adoption in their neighborhoods, communities, and networks. If you’re curious about making the switch to an EV, get inspired by an existing EV owner!

As we eagerly await the best week for EVs of the year—just 26 days left until National Drive Electric Week— we conducted an informal survey of EV owners to ask them their favorite part about owning and driving an EV. Check out their answers below and learn about the multitude of benefits of EV ownership.

Some of the answers may surprise you—they surprised us, too!

EVs consume about one third the energy as a similar ICE vehicle, and depending on the energy mix from the electric COOP, about half of that energy is from non-fossil fuel sources.  In the future, EVs will become even cleaner.  You can make your own power at home with solar, and reduce the fossil fuel component to zero. Of the many advantages of EV driving, that’s my favorite.

Mark B., Clinton, TN

The joy of driving an EV is well documented but one of my favorite aspects is talking to strangers who have dozens of questions and are genuinely interested in how “this new technology” works in day to day life. I meet a lot of nice people and have fun telling them and also pulling pranks on them. Pranks such as “do you want to see the engine?” …and then opening the front trunk to reveal only another storage area!

Roger V., Charlottesville, VA

The best thing about my EV is that it runs on the sun.  We have solar at our home so I charge up on sunny days and have the benefit of knowing that my car is powered by 100% clean energy.

Sara R., Amherst, MA

The best thing about owning an EV is “filling up” each night for the equivalent of $1/gallon and starting each day with a “full tank”.

Dan H., Birchwood, WI

When passing gas stations, feeling good about independence and freedom from excess profits going to oil companies and their expansions thwarting mitigation of climate change.

George R., Boston, MA

The best thing about driving an EV is how fun it is to drive.  I bought a used 2015 Ford Focus Electric and it’s the best driving car I’ve ever owned.  I look forward to driving it every time I need to go somewhere.

Alexis S., Falls Church, VA

When you have an electric car, the best thing is to have a charger at home, because every time when you go home, you just plug it in and every time when you leave the house, you are fully charged and it only costs a few dollars.

Julian C., New York, NY

There are several things I enjoy about driving an EV. First, they are incredibly quiet; the only noise is from the tires on the road. Second, the acceleration is incredible. You feel like you truly have command of the vehicle and can adapt to any traffic conditions. I also enjoy the savings realized from not burning gasoline now that prices have shot up. It is also a pleasure refueling in my own garage and not having to visit a gasoline station. Finally, just knowing that I can travel without adding pollution to the air provides a deep feeling of satisfaction.

Warren R., Mishawaka, IN

There are so many great things about owning an EV! When I looked at all the new cars on the market, the new EVs just looked cooler than the others. I can tell this is the car of the future, so why buy something that will be outdated soon? I am one of those people who always forgets how long it’s been since I’ve changed my oil. PROBLEM SOLVED. I don’t have oil. Or any other pesky maintenance issues with an EV. Plus, plugging in at home is so easy and inexpensive. Everyone is complaining about gas prices but I’m all set with inexpensive and easy fueling.

Brooke B., Richmond, VA

In 2017, I bought my first electric vehicle after experiencing my grandparents’ Nissan LEAF who are very conscientious about their environmental impact and were my inspiration. Today, everyone in my family drives one—we are three generations old with six EVs. Both my sisters’ first cars were plug-in vehicles, and any of our childrens’ certainly will be, too.

Leah T., New Orleans, LA

Fun to drive, supporting energy independence, saving money on maintenance, meeting new people—the list goes on and on. There are so many great reasons to make your next car an EV.

Ready to take the pledge? Head here!

Still have questions? Find out when you should buy an EV, check out our EV resource library, or learn the first steps to take if you’re ready to buy an EV.

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I want to buy an EV… now what?

July 20, 2022

With many of us grappling with months of high prices at the pump, it’s no wonder that 36% of people recently polled by Consumer Reports said they plan to buy or lease an all-electric vehicle (EV). Hundreds of thousands of prospective EV owners have pledged to make their next car electric. If you’re ready to go electric today, after talking to an EV owner – what’s your first step?

1. Consider your driving habits

Do you live in an urban area where you routinely take short trips (the average daily commute is only around 30 miles) or will you need a vehicle with a greater range? This will impact what type of EV you’re looking for: an older EV model (typically with a smaller battery capacity) or a newer model with an extended range. (The Hyundai Ioniq 5 can go more than 300 miles on a single charge!)

2. Map out your accessibility to charging infrastructure

In the Consumer Reports poll, 61% of those responding they were not planning to get an EV cited charging logistics as a barrier, while 52% pointed to costs. Many EVs can charge using a common 110 volt electrical outlet (the same type of outlet you’d plug your toaster into), but it will take longer to charge the battery. Faster charging options cost more to install, but give greater certainty you’ll get into a car with a fully charged battery. 

Charging infrastructure now is widely available in many cities across the country in shopping centers and other areas where people tend to drive and leave their cars for long periods of time. More workplaces are even jumping on the charging infrastructure wagon to encourage employees who may want to return to the office. You can also have a Level 2 charger installed at home for even faster charge times—it runs on the same power as your dryer—but requires an electrician to install. Many dealers can help you find an experienced local electrician to help.

3. Check your insurance coverage

With any large, long-term purchase, you’ll want to protect your EV whether you are leasing it or outright buying it. Calling ahead to check auto insurance rates will give you a full picture of any potential changes in coverage amounts, deductibles, or other unanticipated costs. While you’re at it, confirm with your homeowners or renters insurance carrier of any changes that might occur to that policy should you install a charging system. 

4. Check for incentives to cash in on all of the benefits of EV ownership.

Many states offer their own financial incentives – in addition to the federal rebate – for EVs. Remember, the federal government also offers up to a $7500 rebate on most models to EV drivers when they purchase the vehicle – and that’s money that can go toward insurance, charging infrastructure, or buying a car with even more range. 

5. Review your past three months of electricity bills. 

While you’ll no longer be at the mercy of the world oil market prices, you’ll still need to fuel up your EV. Being aware of your current electricity rate will give you a sense of the long-term savings after the upfront installation costs. Also think of the time you’ll save not taking those trips to the gas station and charging up at home—that’s time and money you get back.

6. Plan your trip to the DMV. 

Most U.S. states treat electric car purchases no differently than a traditional fossil-fuel-powered purchase. Whether you get your car in or outside of the state you live in, the DMV of your home state will want the following information. Tip: if you buy from an auto dealer, they do all of this for you.

  • The vehicle’s title 
  • A record of the odometer mileage (if the vehicle is less than 10 years old).
  • A smog certification (check with your state – no tailpipe might mean no smog test)
  • Applicable state and EV fees and a use tax.

7. Start Shopping

It is a seller’s market for EVs right now with most models being very tough to come by, but that shouldn’t stop you from jumping into the test drive process. Start by contacting local dealerships to see if they carry the model or meet the criteria of the type of EV you’re looking for. If they don’t have a model currently on the lot, ask if they anticipate a delivery or get their recommendation for who to contact next. You can also search car sites like carmax.com, edmunds.com, or carvana.com to learn more about inventory in your area and where you’ll soon drive off with the EV vehicle of your dreams. 

8. Can’t get your hands on an EV? 

You can still sign the pledge to make your next car purchase electric and become an ambassador for electric vehicles to drive public adoption and bust misconceptions. Already signed it? Send the link to a friend (or teenager and soon-to-be-driver) who should join you. 

Remember, at the end of the day, an electric vehicle is still just a car—it’s just a better car that is more fun to drive, saves you money, and has zero tailpipe emissions.

Want more? Here are some excellent resources that won’t leave you driving a lemon.

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Gen180 at the 2022 New York International Auto Show

April 27, 2022

This past weekend Generation180 hosted Ask an EV Owner events at the New York International Auto Show.  We introduced hundreds of potential future electric vehicle owners to our EV Ambassadors who have already made the switch.  We addressed common misconceptions, highlighted benefits, and demystified EV ownership.  Oh yeah, and we had a lot of fun too!  Here’s a look at our top ten favorite things from the show:

#10 – So Many Cars, Trucks, and SUVs

The New York International Auto Show is pretty impressive. With over 600,000 attendees (2019 statistic), they’ve been doing it for over 120 years!  It’s THE place to be to see all of the new vehicles coming to market. See here for everything that was on display: https://autoshowny.com/vehicles/

#9 – Everybody’s Getting into Electrification

Going electric isn’t just for passenger vehicles, the show also highlighted electric transit buses, street sweepers, and refuse collection vehicles, all with zero tailpipe emissions. Just imagine how much quieter (and cleaner) our streets could be!

New York City all-electric street sweeper

New York City Electric Transit Bus

New York City electric garbage truck

#8 – Where are all the Family-Sized EVs?

True, things are getting better with new electric compact SUVs and pick-ups coming to market, but where are the electric mini-vans and electric mid-sized three-row SUVs?  In the US, midsized SUVs sold more than 3 million units last year. Hey, auto manufacturers, let’s make it easy for families to go electric too, shall we?

The Chrysler Pacifica Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle is currently the only minivan with the ability to drive in an all-electric mode.

#7 – More Electric Trucks, Some Clever Marketing

Chevrolet had its new electric Silverado pickup truck on display to challenge Ford’s electric Lightning F-150. The Silverado sold over 500,000 units in 2021. Imagine if some of those were electric!  Also, check out Chevy’s creative use of color on its display to highlight its commitment to going electric.

#6 – New EV Brands Coming to Market

There were some new faces at the auto show this year, VinFast and Indie EV both had products on display or on the test track.  Read more about them https://vinfastauto.us/  and https://driveindi.com/.  These slick electric SUVs certainly were turning heads!

#5 – Not Just Four Wheelers

It’s understood: not everyone drives a car. So it was great to see the auto show embrace micro-mobility as part of the experiencer this year.  On-site were representatives of electric scooter and bicycle companies with a test track to actually ride some of these cool two-wheelers.

#4 – Signing the Going Electric Pledge

Seven out of ten show attendees are actually in the market to buy a car… and based on the number of Going Electric Pledges signed during the weekend, everyone is going electric.  Whether new or used, in 1 month or 5 years, electric vehicles are increasingly making it onto car buyers’ shopping lists. But, we can do more.  Right now EVs account for only about 3% of the US market share.   Check out the link here https://generation180.org/going-electric-pledge/ to learn more and sign the Pledge yourself!

#3 – Ride and Drives Galore

Since EVs have zero tailpipe emissions, for the first time ever, the auto show hosted an indoor track for test-rides as part of the show’s 250,000-square-foot EV display. Research shows just riding in an EV can increase an individual’s consideration rate by three times.  The participants’ smiles post-EV ride totally proved this statistic!

#2 – No Idling

Apparently, there is a New York City Administrative Code establishing that “no person should allow the engine of a motor vehicle to idle for longer than three minutes while parking, standing, or stopping.”  After a long day talking about zero tailpipe emissions EVs, we had to laugh at the irony!

And the #1 thing we loved at the New York International Auto Show…

 EV Ambassadors

There is an old saying in the auto industry, “the car is the star”.  However, I’d argue the EV owners were the highlight.  During the Ask an EV Owner panels, attendees heard first-hand from actual EV owners about the benefits of driving electric.  And did you know, word of mouth has the biggest impact on what vehicle people buy?  These panelists knew what they were talking about based on driving EVs: you could see the audience growing increasingly inspired.

We hope to see you at a future Ask an EV Owner event, either as a panelist or in the audience!  In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you, you can contact me at hello@generation180.org.

— Stuart Gardner, Program Director, Electrify Your Ride

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EVs: Won’t the market take it from here?

April 13, 2022

Electric vehicles seem to be having their moment. Seven out of nine star-studded car commercials during this year’s Super Bowl advertised EVs. Sales of EVs in 2021 soared even as the auto industry struggled to produce gas-powered cars. And major automakers have committed to adding more EVs to their fleets over the next decade.  

These are promising signs. The Biden Administration set a goal to ensure that half of all new cars sold in 2030 are zero-emissions cars. The Rocky Mountain Institute estimates that the total EVs on U.S. roads will need to number 40 to 50 million by 2030 in order to align with the country’s climate goals. With all of this momentum, the market will surely take it from here and get us there, won’t it? We don’t need subsidies anymore nor do we need to keep spreading the word about why we need an EV revolution, right? 

Wrong.

The truth is the market will not take it from here alone. Automakers are still making and selling more gas-powered cars than they are battery-powered EVs. Electric cars make up less than 1% of the 250 million cars, SUVs, and light-duty trucks on the road today in the United States. And automakers still spend way more money advertising combustion-engine cars than they do on advertising EVs. In 2021, the auto industry spent $248 million on advertising EVs and plug-in hybrids compared to the $3.1 BILLION (with a B) it spent on traditional gas-powered cars. 

Most Americans don’t even know that some automakers make EVs. Even in California, which has the largest electric car market in the country, awareness of EVs remains low. Let’s not forget about the active push against policies that promote electric vehicles around the country. Some legislators in Virginia, for example, tried to repeal clean car standards just this year.

So while it may seem as if EV awareness and adoption are growing, it’s not growing as rapidly as we need it to.  The decisive decade is no longer a decade. The urgency of the climate crisis demands that we move away from our dependence on fossil fuels in the next eight years before the changes cause irreversible harm. We don’t have time to wait for a slow adoption of EVs.

To drive a true EV revolution, we need to overcome remaining challenges, from affordability to infrastructure. We all have unique roles to play to solve these hurdles.

The collective work ahead

According to Pew Research Center, roughly 67% of Americans say that electric cars and trucks are better for the environment compared with gas-powered vehicles. But 66% of Americans also perceive electric vehicles to be more expensive. These days with a growing number of options, the price of EVs is narrowing and comparable to the price of many gas-powered cars. 

Low-income households spend a larger percentage of their income on transportation costs and are affected disproportionately by car pollution. They stand to benefit the most from the clean air and from saving money on transportation. 

And governments at all levels – local, state, and federal – still have a major role to play in breaking down these barriers. They need to build on clean car standards and continue to offer tax credits and other incentives to make EVs accessible and affordable to more people beyond those who earn middle to high incomes.

This is how other countries around the world have gotten ahead of the United States with more EVs on their roads. Governments around the world have put in place policies and offered massive subsidies that encourage the switch to electric vehicles. 

China, for example, is planning to cut back its subsidies but is requiring carmakers to sell a certain percentage of electric vehicles or face monetary penalties. European countries, such as France and Spain, are also offering deep subsidies and tax credits to encourage people to replace their old gas-powered cars with EVs.

Governments, utilities, and power generators also need to deeply invest in building a robust charging network and modernizing the energy grid. The Biden Administration plans to use $5 billion from the infrastructure law to build a network of EV chargers. And many utility companies already offer cash rebates so that EV owners can install level 2 chargers at home. Others offer rewards programs for charging EVs during off-peak hours. This kind of support needs to continue.

Another perceived hurdle to overcome is people’s fear about running out of battery power. The truth is that almost all EV’s on the market today offer more than 250 miles of range, and the average American only drives 39 miles per day—that means you could make it through your entire work week without needing a charge. Charging an EV can be much easier than filling up a gasoline-powered car as the majority of charging happens at home. And battery technology continues to improve. The range of EVs has increased 15% over the last few years, and it’s bound to keep increasing. The auto industry plans to invest half a trillion dollars in EVs and batteries. 

This is where nonprofit advocacy organizations like us come in. We need to continue raising awareness about EVs, addressing misconceptions, and advocating for their widespread adoption through education campaigns.  

How you can help

While most Americans are very concerned about climate change, they aren’t driving like it. Personal cars make up 60% of transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions – that’s one-third of all emissions contributing to climate change. Last year alone, fifteen million Americans bought a new car or truck and only 3% of those were fully electric. 

If you are serious about doing something about climate change, then switching to an electric car, especially if you were already planning to buy a new car, is something you can do today to make a difference. If you can’t purchase a car now, take the pledge to make the next car you do purchase an electric one.

If you already own an EV, share your experience with family, friends and co-workers. Word-of-mouth has the biggest impact on what vehicle people buy (yes, even more than those fancy Super Bowl ads). Tell them about which federal and state incentives you took advantage of and how much money you expect to save. Give them a lift in your EV and show them how fun and safe they are to drive. Even just riding in the passenger seat of an electric vehicle makes someone three times more likely to consider purchasing one in the future.

Importantly, tell your legislature to continue to offer incentives and pass policies that promote an EV revolution (and protect the policies that already are in place). Being a clean energy voter also means being a clean car voter.

In the end, this is still an “all-hands-on-deck” effort to get more electric vehicles on the road, and more gas-guzzling polluting cars off the road. We should capitalize on the momentum that EVs are having to propel them into a full-throated adoption nationwide.

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Electrifying Education in Austin

March 23, 2022

Picture this. At a school parking lot in Austin, Texas, high school students gather in front of an electric car with its hood popped open. When they look inside, “kids see what’s not in there,” Amy Atchley said. “There’s hardly anything in there but a battery. And that’s super exciting.”

This is a scene that Atchley has seen countless times since 2018 and it never gets old. “Seeing them light up is everything,” she said. 

As Austin Energy’s senior lead of its electric vehicle energy program, Atchley created a pilot program called EVs for Schools through a public-private partnership with Austin Independent School District. 

Charging stations at some schools are known as “Living Labs,” because students collect data from the charging stations and measure usage. They learn about the role electric vehicles play in clean energy and sustainable transportation.

Students interacting with EV chargers

The program started out in 2018 as a pilot at four Title I schools: three high schools and one middle school. Title I schools have high numbers or high percentages of children from low-income families. They receive federal grants to help ensure that all children, regardless of household incomes, meet state academic standards.

“We wanted to start with schools that would not typically have these resources,” Atchley said. 

The utility company also wanted to start the program with schools that had at least some employees who drive EVs. 

“We wanted that championship in the school community,” Atchley said. “We thought that might be a challenge. But we found that a lot of our teachers were driving used EVs, and were totally excited to have workplace charging.” 

One of those champions is Ed Hill, a faculty member in the technology department at AISD who owns a plug-in hybrid. He takes advantage of charging stations at schools because he travels throughout the school district for work. 

EV and plug-in hybrid drivers can pay about $4 a month for any charging station in the Austin Energy charging network, including charging stations in the school district. 

“We have businesses and companies making sustainable changes,” Hill said. “Even without being mandated.” 

Not every school that teaches the curriculum has charging stations. But the school district renovated many of its school parking lots to be ready for charging stations to be installed in the future. Newly built schools are also EV-ready. A 2017 voter-approved education bond to create 21st-century learning spaces in the school district made this parking lot remodel project possible. 

Reaching the next generation where they are

EV for Schools expanded to serve 122 schools in Central Texas with curriculum offered in both English and Spanish.

“I knew that if we could reach young people, we would be able to reach their parents,” Atchley said. “And we also know that… young people really understand that climate impact is going to be one of the greatest challenges of their generation. And they are on board with this [technology]. They really want to be a part of the solution.”

The curriculum, with 10 lesson plans, is designed to meet the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills standards, while influencing generations of future drivers to make sustainable choices.

Amy Atchley (center) and students in front of a model of a wind farm

One way kids learn about EVs is through virtual reality. “They put on the goggles and they go into this virtual world,” Atchley said. 

That virtual world is actually right in their backyard. Downtown Austin has a mobility hub called “Electric Drive,” which features bike-share and EV fast charging options. The hub is outfitted with fast chargers for EVs and solar kiosks where people charge their e-bikes, cell phones, and computers. 

Students get to drive through Electric Drive in a Tesla through this virtual reality activity. They also get to visit a virtual wind farm where they learn that Austin’s network of charging stations is fully powered by Texas wind. 

“They embrace it and they love it,” Atchley said. “So this is reaching kids where they are and where they’re going. It also makes them realize this is happening now. It’s something that they have access to and kind of helps to normalize this shift of behavior and new mobility.”

Equity

It’s no surprise that EVs for Schools started out with a strong focus on equity, because its parent program, EVs are for EVeryone, is also equity-focused. Austin Energy created EVs for EVeryone and E-Bikes are for Everyone to make electric vehicles and e-bike sharing programs affordable and accessible to people who earn low to moderate incomes. 

“Transportation is the number two household expense in Austin [for families in extreme poverty],” Atchley said. “That’s heavy. It’s right behind housing. So housing and transportation are intrinsically connected.”

Often programs that promote electric vehicles, solar panels or energy efficiency are unaffordable to people with low to moderate incomes. And yet they spend the most money on energy – both to fuel their cars, and heat and cool their homes. People of color also breathe more particulate air pollution on average.

To address these inequities, The City of Austin launched a climate equity plan with ambitious goals: net zero emissions in Austin by 2040. “And in terms of transportation, that means by 2030, we need to have 40% of those miles traveled on the road [to be] electric,” Atchley said.

Austin Energy’s programs raise awareness and improve access to electric transportation by offering everything from test drives on both EVs and e-bikes, to training programs on how to use them, to subsidies to make ride-sharing programs affordable. And the utility company in collaboration with partners is bringing some of these ebike- and ride-sharing programs to affordable housing.

“When communities see electric bikes or electric vehicles coming to their neighborhoods, the first thing that signals [to them] is gentrification,” Atchley said. “So we’re trying to break that barrier down. We want residents to realize: this is for you.”

EVs for Schools also sends that message to kids and teenagers by leveraging education to raise awareness about clean and renewable energy technology. It’s a powerful way to inspire young people to consider careers in clean energy.

“We know we weren’t reaching any students [before EVs for Schools],” Atchley said. “We know that [these days] we’re reaching nearly 7,000 students with the educational Living Labs in the Austin area. And nearly 800 teachers have gone through the training so that they can teach the curriculum to their students.” 

Austin Energy is working with other cities, utility companies and even some school districts to help them create their own EVs for Schools programs. A clean energy future looks bright in Texas as EVs for Schools continues to grow not only its program, but its influence around the state.

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Driving an EV can mean driving with your values

March 16, 2022

Chevy Pham weaved in and out of crowds with her family as they walked through a festival in Bend, Oregon, in 2012. A small, futuristic-looking car parked amid vendor and sponsor tables caught her attention. “What is that?” she thought. It was a Leaf, Nissan’s relatively new at the time all-electric vehicle. A Nissan representative showcasing the car waved her over. “I thought it was a toy car,” Pham said. “I had never heard of an electric vehicle before.” The fact that the car didn’t have a gas tank amazed Pham. At the end of the day, she put the EV in the back of her mind. 

For the next year, each time she started her engine, drove in stop-and-go traffic, or idled at intersections waiting for freight trains to pass, Pham continued to feel the weight she’s always felt about her carbon footprint. “I was putting out a lot of fumes and it just didn’t feel right,” she said.

Pham is a Buddhist meditator. Her belief in karma and rebirth, and deep care for this planet and the people on it, motivated her family to get solar panels back in 2009. She became an early adopter of solar because she recognized that conscious individual choices can help slow the Earth’s average warming temperatures—and have a positive ripple effect on those around her. And that’s what motivated her to be an early adopter of an electric vehicle, too.

Chevy Pham and her blue Nissan Leaf in the background.

Pham believes it’s her responsibility as a future elder in her family to create conditions in the present day that will allow her children, her grandchildren, and perhaps even herself to flourish in the future. “If I am lucky, I’ll be reborn as a human being again in a subsequent life… and I will be inheriting a polluted Earth [if we don’t do anything about climate change],” Pham said. “So it’s in my best interest to take care of this Earth, because I may suffer under those [degraded] conditions.” 

Reading an article about EVs took her back to the festival where she first saw a Nissan Leaf. “I just drive around town,” Pham said. “I don’t need a gas guzzling vehicle to do that, right?” It took more than a month to convince her husband to sell his relatively new SUV so they could replace it with a 2013 Nissan Leaf. They installed a level two charger in their home when they initially leased the Leaf and eventually bought it when the lease term was up.

Buying an EV made financial sense for Pham’s family, too. First of all, they bought an EV model they could afford. They kept their minivan for only family road trips and once-a-month trips to Portland to shop at Vietnamese grocery stores. Secondly, they reaped savings immediately. In 2012 and 2013, gas prices rose close to $4 per gallon. As of the writing of this article, the average gallon of gas in Oregon costs $4.30. With their solar panels at home, the EV added about $10 to their electric bill during the hottest summer months, and they saved at least $80 a month in fuel costs.

It didn’t take long for Pham’s husband to fall in love with their Leaf. It’s fun to drive. “He loves it more than I do because he likes to brag about it,” she said. In the early days of owning the Leaf, he would chase down other Leaf owners in parking lots to bond over their EV connection. When they lived in Bend, they drove it at least a couple of times to Mt. Bachelor for skiing trips. They outfitted their EV with studded tires in the winter and used chains whenever they needed extra traction. 

If you can afford it, why not be responsible?

Pham recognizes her family is privileged to be able to make these investments. “If you can afford it, why not be responsible?” She believes we have a responsibility to support new technologies that help address our climate crisis regardless of whether we recoup the costs of those investments. “There’s a cost to just living on this Earth,” she said. “We’re not taking into account the cost associated with the damage [of using fossil fuels].”

She wishes more humans operated with the seventh generation principle in mind; the decisions we make today should result in a sustainable world seven generations into the future. “Indigenous cultures worldwide – they tend to think long term and big picture, and interconnectedness and interdependence,” Pham said. “When you remove humanity from how you consume resources, then you’re only thinking about making money… What’s the point of living if you don’t care about the people that come after you?”

Pham said the Nissan Leaf is a keeper. She and her husband are waiting for the price of batteries to go down so they can swap out the Leaf’s battery pack for a larger one with a longer range. “Because the Leaf has so few components to maintain, it’ll last a long time and we take care of it,” she said. How long? Pham hopes the electric car will be in her family for another 30 years.

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The Lowdown on Clean Energy Incentives

January 26, 2022

We’ve written a lot about the financial benefits of solar, electric vehicles, and energy efficiency (spoiler alert: there are a ton of them). Speeding the transition to a clean energy future means getting these game-changing tools in the hands of as many people as possible, as fast as possible. One way to help do that is through financial incentives that make the initial purchase of these products easier. 

A plethora of tax credits, utility incentives and other rebates for electric vehicles, solar panels and energy efficiency make it easier to transition to a clean energy future. Let’s break down a sampling of federal and state incentives and how to use them.

Electric vehicles

The federal government offers a $7,500 tax credit for most new electric vehicles. Many new EVs are price below $40,000, which equates to nearly 20% off the sticker price. This dollar amount does decrease for each manufacturers as it hits certain sales thresholds, and at the time of this initial post (early 2022) some of the more well-known names like Tesla and GM no longer qualify for the credit. However, the vast majority of car makers such as Ford, Hyundai and Kia still qualify for the full $7,500 incentive.  

Almost every state offers some incentive to purchase an EV,  (check out both of these resources here and here to see what your state offers) from tax exemptions in such places as Washington state and Washington, D.C., to cash rebates in such states as California, Massachusetts and Oregon. These incentives range in value based on a person’s income and/or the size of the purchased electric vehicle’s battery. Additionally, many utility companies across the country offer cash rebates for EV owners who want to install Level 2 chargers in their homes.

So how are these credits and incentives applied when you’re at the dealership ready to buy your EV? You have to pay for the EV’s sticker price upfront — in cash or through a loan — and apply for those cash rebates after your purchase. 

At tax time, Uncle Sam would knock off $7,500 from your federal taxes due. If you don’t owe that much in taxes, the credit rolls over to the following tax year. For state tax exemptions, you either wouldn’t have to pay a sales tax at the time of purchase or you wouldn’t have to pay other types of car taxes, depending on the type of exemption your home state offers.

What about would-be EV purchasers that aren’t able to take advantage of tax credits (which give the most benefit to households that have a large tax burden)? The Biden Administration proposed big changes to this program in its Build Back Better plan — changes that would help address that inequity and encourage the widespread adoption of EVs. 

Among the proposed changes, it would make the tax credit refundable – meaning you’d get back any money left over after the IRS applies the EV credit to your tax bill. Used electric vehicles also would be eligible for the tax credit. And the credit would go up from $7,500 to $10,500 specifically for EVs made in the U.S. by union workers. 

Though the Build Back Better Act failed to pass the Senate, Democrats in Congress want to move forward with the bill’s climate portion as a standalone climate bill. So there’s still some hope the Biden Administration will revamp the federal tax credit program for EVs and make it more accessible to individuals and families who earn low to middle incomes.

COMEDIANS CONQUERING CLIMATE CHANGE

Check out the latest episode from the podcast

 

Solar panels

This year (2022) is the last year people can get a 26% federal tax credit on the cost of home solar panels. Starting in 2023, the tax credit goes down to 22%. The tax credit for solar panels works in the same way as the tax credit for EVs. You pay for solar panels upfront or finance it through a loan. When it’s time to file your taxes, this nonrefundable tax credit lowers your tax bill for the tax year when the solar panels were installed. If the credit for your solar panels is more than you owe in taxes, then the tax credit carries over to the next tax year.

Several states also offer incentives to install residential solar. Just like with EVs, these incentives vary from state to state. In Oregon, the state is offering rebates for both solar panels and battery storage. It pays the rebates to the solar contractors who then pass on the savings to the consumers. In Rhode Island, the state offers a 10% to 25% subsidy through a special grant program. In other states, utility companies or cities offer these financial incentives. 

You can search for these financial incentives by starting with your local utility company or your city’s or state’s energy department – or start with this database.

Energy efficiency

The federal government offers a range of tax credits for energy efficient home equipment and improvements. You could get up to a $500 tax credit for insulating your home or up to a $200 tax credit for replacing your drafty windows with Energy Star-certified ones. 

You can pair these federal tax credits with cash incentives or discounts offered by many nonprofits, collective groups and utility companies throughout the country. For example, National Grid, a utility company that operates in New York, Rhode Island and Massachusetts, offers home energy assessments and steep discounts – up to 75% – for energy efficiency improvements. The Energy Trust of Oregon, a nonprofit, offers cash rebates for a variety of energy saving solutions (e.g. new windows, insulation, heating and cooling). 

Even without subsidies, investing in electric vehicles, solar panels and energy efficiency saves money in the long run. These incentives, however, do make the transition easier, particularly because many utility companies and nonprofits have a mission to serve low- to middle-income individuals and families. These clean energy transitions not only benefit our pocketbooks, but also benefit our collective health by reducing carbon emissions and speeding the transition to a clean energy future.

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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!

 

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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.

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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.

Practicality:

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. 

Range

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.

Charging

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.

Cost

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.

Maintenance

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.