Is an electric vehicle right for you? Let’s take a look.
Recent advancements in electric cars are making many of us, who had initial hesitation, take a second look. The electric alternatives offer many benefits compared to gas or diesel vehicles.
Many consumers had concerns early on when an electric vehicle could barely run 100 miles on a charge. Newer electric models offer more than twice that, averaging about 250 miles per charge, with some approaching 400 miles per charge. (The Tesla Model S Long Range has a range of 375 miles on a charge.) That’s much more realistic, especially for those of us in rural areas. We’ll touch more on that later.
Some of the most common electric vehicles (EVs), like the Chevy Bolt and the Nissan Leaf cost about $30,000 to $40,000 new, but check with your dealer for incentives and federal tax breaks. Electric vehicles cost more upfront but that cost is coming down. Just like with geothermal systems and LED lighting, the long-term savings can outweigh the upfront cost. Electric vehicles are typically one-half to one-third the cost to operate compared to gas or diesel vehicles. EVs have fewer moving parts than conventional vehicles and require no transmission fluid or oil; therefore, you can look forward to less maintenance and no more oil changes! In addition, the regenerative braking system of electric vehicles results in less brake wear and longer life than conventional systems.
Newer batteries now offer longer ranges. The basic level-1 battery charger that comes with the car plugs into your typical 120-volt outlet and is the easiest and least expensive option. You can get about 3-8 miles of range per hour of charging. If you’re driving about 40 miles or less per day, and can charge your EV overnight, a level-1 charger should be sufficient.
A more powerful and common faster charger can be purchased that plugs into a 240-volt outlet (like the outlet for a clothes dryer). A level-2 charger can cost $500-700. Unless you have one of these outlets in your garage, there will be an additional cost for installation, anywhere from $500-2,700, depending on the distance from your electrical panel to the charging location. However, depending on the amperage of the circuit and the power level the EV can accept, you’re looking at 18 to 48 miles of range per hour of charging, or figure about 250 miles per 10 hours of charging.
At public charging stations, drivers can use a level-3 DC fast charger and bring the battery up to 80 percent capacity in 30 minutes. According to South Carolina Living (the publication by the Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina who tested a Chevy Bolt on a long-range trip) plan about an hour to get a 150 mile range on a level-3 charger. Keep in mind, though, not all cars come standard with this option (about a $750 upgrade).
Charging stations are growing but still limited. There are several apps to help you find chargers and plan trips. South Carolina Living recommends the PlugShare app to be the best resource for finding public chargers. However, PlugShare doesn’t include private charging networks like Greenlots, ChargePoint, and EVgo, which have their own apps. Keep in mind that just because there’s a charging station, doesn’t mean it won’t already be occupied. Charging station companies are working fast to fill the gaps in the network.
On the bright side, the majority of public charging stations and some private stations are still free. Businesses find that installing a charger will bring in business while customers are waiting for a charge.
It may be more work planning trips for long distance, but you’ll save a lot of time not filling up at gas stations every week for shorter trips. You don’t have a gas station at home, but you can plug in your EV in your garage!
Right now, the registration fee for an all-electric car is only $35 for two years. However, electric car owners aren’t paying the state gas tax used to pay for infrastructure improvements. Be aware that starting January 1, 2020, registration will go up to $251 per year for an all-electric vehicle to cover an electric vehicle owner’s share of road maintenance costs.
One great advantage of an electric car is the reduced environmental impact. An electric vehicle has zero emissions.
EVs must still pass the same safety testing as conventional vehicles including some specific EV-related safety tests. EVs tend to have a lower center of gravity which helps prevent roll over and can improve ride comfort.
One concern is that EVs are very quiet and pedestrians are less likely to hear these cars approaching. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is addressing this concern and may require EVs to emit an audible sound at low speeds. Some EVs already have this feature.
All in all, we think it’s important to take your situation into consideration. If you have a local commute, an electric vehicle is a really great option. If you do a lot of long-distance traveling and you can plan ahead and aren’t in a rush, an electric vehicle can save you a lot of money. If you do a lot of long-distance traveling and have to get from point A to point B in a hurry, you might not want the hassle of planning your route. In this case, having a two-car family with a gas car and an electric car might work for you. You can use the electric car for your shortest commutes and take the gas car on your long-distance trips. As more fast chargers are installed across the U.S., the long-distance trips won’t be an issue.
As electric vehicles (EVs) become more popular, there are more models to choose from. An electric tractor is already in production and an electric pickup and semi truck will be available soon.
Adams Electric purchased a Chevy Bolt with plans to educate members about electric vehicles.
The Bolt has a range of up to 255 miles on a full charge. It can get 119 MPGe (miles per gasoline gallon equivalent). That’s an annual fuel cost of $504, or a savings of $4,483 over 5 years. (*Actual results may vary for many reasons, including driving conditions and how you drive and maintain your vehicle. The average new vehicle gets 27 MPG and costs $7,000 to fuel over 5 years. Cost estimates are based on 15,000 miles per year at Adams Electric’s 11.9¢ per kWh rate.)
Adams Electric’s Chevy Bolt is available for test drives with no pressure to buy one (we’re not selling them just educating members). If you’d like to test drive the Chevy Bolt, call Bill Stalder at Adams Electric Cooperative at (217) 509-7760 to schedule an appointment.