Why You Want an Electric Vehicle
I began my journey towards EVs when I got my first hybrid car, a 2008 Toyota Prius. I liked its fuel mileage, usually in the upper 40s and often north of 50 miles per gallon. Soon we had two of them, but the second was totaled in a crash (no one injured) and the insurance company paid us a lump sum for its value. I decided that it was time for an EV and we bought a used 2013 Chevy Volt. It was the nicest car I had ever owned in more than 40 years of car ownership. I loved the torque and how quietly it rolled down the highway. Well, that experience prepared us for the full plunge to a totally electric vehicle (i.e. EV), a 2019 Nissan Leaf. I’m sold on them. So should you. Here’s why:
I’ve lived in the South (Georgia, Tennessee, and North Carolina) since Jimmy Carter was governor of Georgia. For those needing a temporal fix, that’s 1976. Warm weather is the norm here, but when we moved here we could count on at least one snow fall with enough accumulation to close schools. (Having grown up in northern Illinois, the inch or so of snow was, at first, laughable to me. But going out a few times and seeing southern drivers struggle to stay on the road cured me of my condescension.) We have not seen more than a flurry or two in the past decade here in Durham, NC. The weather has changed in alignment with the climate. (I’m glossing over the wildfires, heat advisories, and other climate disasters to keep this a personal perspective on a global phenomenon.)
As mentioned above, I drive a 2019 Nissan Leaf SV. It gets 160ish miles of range on a single charge. Recharging it at home costs about $0.024 per mile. (Remember the importance of the decimal point. That’s way less than 3 cents per mile.) To recharge a home from “empty” costs about $3.84. Current gasoline prices in my area are, at best, $3.75 per gallon. (Sorry about that California.) That means to fill a 20-gallon tank will run $76.80.
But we are trying to do this in a one-to-one comparison. Hence, an average-mileage car in the US gets about 24.9 miles per gallon. At the costs for fuel above, that works out to $0.15 per mile with gasoline and $0.024 per mile with electricity — six times more with gas.
Yet, you say, what if I need to recharge at a commercial station? That will run more, but not as much as gas. Electrify America charged me $0.43/kWH for electricity the last couple of times I “filled up” on the road in June when we drove to the coast. (kWH is kilo-watt-hour, a standard measurement of electricity capacity in anEV battery. My Nissan has a 40kWH battery. Newer models have bigger batteries.) Therefore, the worst case scenario for fully recharging my battery, aka filling up from empty, would run $17.20. For an ICE car that 160 mile range would cost $24.10 to drive the same distance.
What about the range? I drive more than 160 miles on a tank of gas. Hmmm. You may drive longer on a single tank, but what if you could fill it up every night? The average American car travels only 39 miles per day.
What if I have to go farther than 39 miles for errands or taking the dog to the vet across town? Let me keep this simple, that’s what the other 121 miles of range in my Nissan Leaf is for. Then I “refill” it overnight.
What about a long trip? That’s what Fast Charging stations are for. The lowest number of public charging stations I have found is 49,435 in the US. This includes Level 2 chargers. If we restrict it to DC Fast Charge outlets, the number drops to 6,427. Granted, not as many as estimated 111,000 gas stations, but do you have one at your house?
What is Level 2 and DC Fast Charge? Those are the speeds and connectors used to recharge EVs. Remember when leaded gasoline was outlawed and cars engineered for unleaded gas had smaller holes for the gas pump to prevent people from filling up with leaded gas? Same thing here. Every EV comes with either a standard outlet or adapter to recharge using a J1772 connector. You can use one in your home since you can plug the other end into an ordinary 120-volt AC outlet.
I spent an extra $600 to get a 240-volt version to charge my car. Even adding that to the cost of recharging at home for the ~16,000 miles I’ve driven my Leaf, the total for electricity runs $384. Add the $600 for the charger and it still comes in under $1000. The gas for an average car driving the same distance would be more than $2,249.
What about “DC Fast Charge”? Oh, that’s a different connector that you use at a public recharging station. (My Nissan uses a type called CHAdeMO, being phased out in the US.) Tesla began with its own type but is now transitioning to a standard called CCS Combo 1. That’s what all new EVs in the US now have, even Nissans. It includes the J1772 with a couple of extra connectors to charge at speeds of up to 350kW — that’s the flow rate of the electricity. More is better. The speed is dependent on your car’s systems (Remember the smaller pipes for unleaded? Like that.) I’ll skip over the AC versus DC charging, but remember fast charge means just that. You should be able to refill your battery to 80% in less than 30 minutes.
But, I’m in a hurry. Half an hour is too long. Well, those times are getting shorter and shorter and will soon reach the same amount of time it takes to refill your ICE vehicle. But remember, most people’s recharging takes place at home. You can leave for work with a full battery every morning.
EVs are not for everyone, yet. Things are changing, however, and fast. We seem to be at an inflection point where gas stations will be replaced with recharging stations, and EVs will drop below ICE cars in price. We’re already there on maintenance. There are no oil changes for EVs. I’ve yet to spend money on maintenance. My brakes will last longer than ICE cars’ because of regenerative braking. Consumer Reports notes that “Consumers who purchase an electric car can expect to save an average of $4,600 in repair and maintenance costs over the life of the vehicle compared with a gasoline-powered car.”