By Randy Bryan, Drive Electric NH
I have talked a lot about the future of electric cars, but there’s a lot to be said about the immediate future, too. Namely, should your next car be a plug-in?
A recent national survey of car owners showed interest in buying an electric car increased from 15% in 2017, to 20% in 2018. That’s a substantial increase for one year. Still, only about 1% of cars and trucks bought in 2017 were plug-in. Many of us reading Green Energy Times already have electric cars on our radar. A few own or lease them already. But, the big car companies are not pushing electric cars (except Tesla). So, early adopters have an outsized role to play in providing first-hand knowledge about the car’s worthiness. It is word of mouth and shared rides that will win the day.
Electric cars are fun to drive; with full torque from a stop, the quietness, and braking regeneration. Tesla’s “Ludicrous Mode” can outrace any combustion car, including the $250k ones from Ferrari and Porsche. And then there’s the financial benefits of driving electric; fuel at half price, one-third maintenance costs, and home charging. Electric vehicle (EV) owners save about $600-$1000/year in fuel and maintenance versus a combustion car.
Lithium battery research has kicked into high gear. Battery prices are halving every four years, and capacity has doubled every six to seven years. By 2025, the typical EV will cost less than the combustion car. For now, there’s the federal tax credit to even the cost. And don’t forget, EVs are much lower cost to operate. In many cases, total cost breakeven comes within 2-4 years.
The first generation of plug-ins, with 80+ mile EVs, and 20 mile PHEVs (plug-in hybrid), at $30-$40k price were great cars. But the limited range and long charge times kept the market small. Luckily, Tesla supplied the EV-envy with their 250-350 mile cars that were fast as lightning for $100k. But, few could afford this price.
Now, we have the next generation of $30k to $40k EVs with 150 to 250-mile range (and 30-50 e-mile PHEVs) with half hour charge times. For EVs, the Chevy Bolt offers 238 mile range, the new Tesla Model 3 offers 210 miles for $35k to $40k, while the 2018 Nissan Leaf offers 150 miles for about $5k less. Tesla alone will make as many Model 3s in 2018 than all electric cars sold in 2016. These EVs make great second cars for most families. Some might even get them as first cars, with occasional rentals. How many of us spend over 98% of our time driving within 150-250 miles per day in one of our family cars? Charge up at night at home, then drive all day, then fill up again the next night, etc. Occasional long trips? You’ll save more on e-fuel and maintenance than you’ll spend on a rental car. Or, use the other family car.
For primary cars, plug-in hybrids with 20-50 mile e-range (350+ mile total range) at $30 to $45k are a great fit. About 50 to 80% of your driving can be done in all electric mode, then you have the gas engine for longer drives. Great PHEV examples are the Chevy Volt, Toyota Prius, BMW i3re, Chrysler Pacifica, among others. The Pacifica is a large mini-van! Even more style varieties are coming in 2018 and 2019. Look at the compilations of new electric cars at Plug-in America or Sierra Club.
What will your next car purchase be? Here’s the Test: Does an available e-car provide the range, style and space you need? Is power available where you park? If an e-car fits, can you afford the price? You’ll save thousands over time. If not, you might lease one or get a used e-car. The 80 mile Nissan Leafs and 20 mile Volts are already selling in the $10 to 15k price range. Lots of choices.
Still not sure? It’s lack of public familiarity that holds back EV sales. Consider attending a local Drive Electric event or go to the dealership. When you’re ready, drive the future. See you on the road.
Randy Bryan is one of the co-founders of Drive Electric NH. Randy has been an advocate for electric cars for eight-plus years. His company, ConVerdant Vehicles, has converted vehicles to plug-in hybrids, including his own Prius in 2008, and developed and sold inverters that turn a Prius into an emergency generator.