By Dave Roberts
For the past five years of plug-in electric vehicle (EV) availability, you could select from a multitude of EV models that covered two out of those three characteristics in the title. Over the past six months, a remarkable shift has begun that is getting automakers closer than ever to meeting this triumvirate of EV needs and getting more consumers seriously considering a switch to “driving electric.”
The 200-plus-mile range now arriving in more affordable EV models is handy for long commutes, the occasional road trip and countering the coldest northeast winter conditions which can bring 20-40% EV range reductions in sub-zero temperatures.
The all-electric Chevrolet Bolt is now on dealer lots across the northeast. This award-winning vehicle offers 238 miles of range at a starting price just under $30,000 after a $7,500 federal tax credit. Feedback from early buyers of the Bolt is that range concerns are essentially a thing of the past. Buyers are pleased with the zippy performance and practical qualities of the surprisingly spacious hatchback design. Two optional equipment items are recommended for EV drivers in the northeast. The Comfort Package includes heated seats (great in winter) and DC Fast Charging, which can speed your on-the-go charging from five hours to under an hour for an 80% charge in most conditions.
The Bolt is first out of the gate, but several more long range models similar in price are coming over the next few months. The Tesla Model 3 started early deliveries on July 28, 2017 with up to 310 miles of range and a starting price in the same neighborhood for the 220 mile version. Tesla reports delivery estimates of late 2018 if you haven’t reserved one. More affordable Teslas are already available today through their selection of used vehicles. Used Tesla inventory is growing and includes vehicles in the range of $40,000. The second generation Nissan LEAF is another longer range option due to arrive this September. Many more models from other automakers will be following over the next few years, including options with all-wheel drive and increased ground clearance helpful in northeast winter conditions.
Several states continue to offer incentives which can further reduce the price (see table). Leasing is a popular option for EVs as the federal tax credit is passed through as part of the lease. Leasing also allows consumers to trade up after a few years to more advanced vehicles with longer range as they enter the marketplace.
Wondering where all these EVs are going to charge up? It can be as simple as plugging into a standard 120V outlet. That will provide about five miles of range per hour of charging. Those driving more than 50 miles per day will likely find investing in a 240V “Level 2” charger where they park overnight especially worthwhile. Charging availability at workplaces continues to grow and public EV charging is getting better all the time. Tesla has a dedicated network of fast charging for long distance trips through their nationwide Supercharger network. Other automakers, charging network providers and electric utilities are making steady progress in building out EV fast charging along travel corridors and in metropolitan areas. A visit to Plugshare.com, often referred to as “Yelp for charging stations,” will show charging available near your travel destinations and can help you plan out a route with stops for charging on longer trips.
Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) remain a great option for many drivers who can take care of their daily transportation needs on 10 to 50 miles powered by the battery, and then fall back to gasoline anytime their travels take them farther afield. The Toyota Prius Prime, Chevrolet Volt and Ford CMax Energi are among the top selling models and have received recent updates with automakers offering competitive pricing compared to gasoline powered models.
Recent research from the Union of Concerned Scientists estimates plug-in vehicles traveling on electricity in the New England grid region achieve the greenhouse gas equivalent of a gasoline vehicle traveling 103 miles per gallon, and as more renewables and low carbon electricity get integrated into the grid, these emissions will continue to go down.
This is a great time to go electric – you can save money, reduce carbon and worry less about maintenance and costs. A wealth of resources is available online for those wondering if a switch to an EV will work for them. You can start your journey at DriveElectricVT.com
David Roberts is the Drive Electric Vermont coordinator. He has driven an all-electric Nissan LEAF for the past five years and says “if you have to drive, drive electric.”