To understand why more EVs are being sold in California, UCS teamed up with Consumers Union to field a representative survey of drivers in California and 9 Northeast states that assessed driving behaviors and vehicle needs, and also attitudes and understanding toward EVs.
Our survey found that Northeast drivers are ready for electric vehicles. Over one-third of Northeast survey respondents said they would consider an EV for their next vehicle purchase or lease, and over half had some interest in EV technology.
Not only are people interested in EVs—and for good reason, driving on electricity is generally cheaper and cleaner than driving on gasoline—but the EVs on the market today are ready to meet millions of driver’s vehicle needs. We found that over 43 percent of drivers in the Northeast could use a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle today.
Interestingly, the survey results also found that nearly the same percentage of Californian drivers could use an electric vehicle. The difference between the two jurisdictions was less than a percentage point.
Despite the strong interest in EVs in the Northeast, several barriers must be addressed for EVs to become more popular. For example, almost 39 percent of survey respondents thought there were too few public charging stations, and 30 percent found it difficult to find credible sources of information about EVs (hint: UCS is a good place to start).
Another large barrier to EV adoption is that there are fewer EVs for sale in the Northeast compared to California.
We ran searches on Edmunds.com beginning at the start of 2016 and found some striking differences in the availability of EVs in the Northeast compared to California. For example, searching Edmunds.com for plug-in vehicles within 50 miles of Oakland and Los Angeles yielded over 5,800 and 8,200 plug-in vehicles, respectively. Searching Edmunds for EVs in Northeast, on the other hand, only resulted in 733 options in the Boston region and only 1,744 within 50 miles of New York City. Moreover, some electric vehicles like the Fiat 500e aren’t even available on the East Coast.
The Northeast is ready for EVs and there is broad support for EV policy. Over half of Northeast respondents thought that government policies should make it easier to own plug-in vehicles, and over 60 percent thought that electricity providers should offer special rates to make it cheaper to charge plug-in vehicles.
Of course, there are already policies in place that can help you go electric—you just might not know about them. Eighty-two percent of Northeast drivers didn’t know about the federal tax credit for EVs, which can cut the purchase price of EVs up to $7,500.
Also, many Northeast states and California have additional tax or other incentives you can find here. Considering that 34 percent of Northeast survey respondents thought that a lower purchase price was a top attribute for making it more more likely to consider owning an EV, yet only 15 percent were aware of any state EV incentives, it is important to begin addressing this knowledge gap by sharing what you know about EVs with your networks. The Department of Energy is trying to better inform consumers too, and recently launched their “EV Everywhere” campaign that includes a bevy of information.
So join me, UCS, and Consumers Union in sharing these results to spur more consumer demand for EVs and help inform people about the benefits of driving on electricity. Click here for the full survey results and find out how you can get involved.]]>
Considering that this vehicle will enter pre-production a full year ahead of the Tesla Model 3, it’s difficult to bet against the all-electric Bolt. The 2017 Bolt will offer 200 miles of electric range from a battery that can be recharged to 80 percent in an hour using a high-speed quick charger, and could be yours for an anticipated sticker price of around $30,000 after the federal electric vehicle tax credit.
This test driver thinks the Bolt might be the “perfect EV package.” It’s relatively roomy, doesn’t look like a total clown car and, like all pure electric vehicles, is amazingly fun to drive. Expected to hit dealers nationwide in 2017 the Bolt will gain a head start on the Model 3, which will have a similar price and electric range. If you’re curious about electric vehicles, test driving the Bolt would be a great start. Just don’t confuse it with the Chevy Volt, the Bolt’s older sibling that can drive on both gasoline and electricity.
If you’re in the market for a Prius, you might want to hold off until 2017. The 2017 Prius Prime builds upon Toyota’s dominance of the gasoline-hybrid market by including a larger battery pack that is rechargeable from any regular wall outlet or electric vehicle charging station. This upgraded battery capacity enables the Prime to be driven either in an “all-electric” mode for an estimated 22 miles or as a traditional gasoline-electric hybrid that is estimated to achieve over 50 mpg.
While 22 all-electric miles may seem paltry, it is a step up from the previous plug-in Prius range of 6 all-electric miles. Toyota claims that 22 miles of electric range is enough to accommodate 51 percent of average daily driving needs. Also, don’t forget that driving on electricity tends to cost less and produce fewer emissions than driving on gasoline, so increasing the electric range of plug-in hybrid vehicles like the Prius Prime is important to help drivers cut emissions and fuel spending.
Pricing has not been announced, but the Prime should qualify buyers for around a $4,500 federal tax credit and potentially additional state tax credits, depending on where you live. Plug your zip code into this tool to find out whether your state has EV incentives. Also check out this array of pictures that showcase the new Prius styling.
The Ioniq is Hyundai’s first foray into the electric vehicle market and is poised to make a decent splash in 2017. This vehicle also marks the first time American car buyers will be able to choose between a conventional hybrid, a plug-in electric hybrid, or a battery electric version of the same model. (Confused about the difference? Check out this explanatory post).
Though the EPA mpg estimates have not yet been released, the plug-in hybrid version of the Ioniq will include a 8.9 kwh rechargeable battery pack that can provide more than 25 miles of all-electric driving before the gasoline engine kicks in; the all-electric version will ditch the gasoline engine altogether in favor of a 28 kwh rechargeable battery pack that will provide an estimated 110 miles of electric range.
Given its inoffensive styling and techno-inclusions like Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and wireless smartphone charging, the Ioniq may challenge the Prius for hybrid sedan market share—a welcome sight for clean car enthusiasts everywhere.
Captain Obvious just popped into my office and let me know that Americans love SUVs. Good thing Toyota has begun to offer one of the first full-hybrid crossover vehicles since Ford abandoned the Escape Hybrid five years ago. The 2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid AWD can’t be plugged into an outlet to recharge it’s 1.6 kwh battery pack, but it does deliver an estimated 33 combined mpg while providing all-wheel drive, seating for 5, decent cargo space, and a faster 0-60 time than the non-hybrid RAV 4 AWD.
The RAV4 has traditionally been a best-seller for Toyota. Offering a fuel efficient hybrid version is sure to entice additional buyers, especially since this model starts at an estimated $29,270 and only costs an additional $500 for the hybrid package compared to the base AWD model. Considering how minimal $500 will be when spread out over a typical 5 year financing repayment term, it’s an easy investment to drive the highest-mileage AWD SUV on the market.
If you’re like my brother and need more space for 2 babies, a 150 pound drool machine dog, and cargo, then take a look at the 2017 Toyota Highlander Hybrid, which is getting a new hybrid powertrain that could boost its combined mpg to 28, though the official EPA numbers have yet to be released. Volvo also recently introduced a plug-in version of the XC90 full size SUV that can seat 7.
Tesla’s first “mass-market” all-electric vehicle will go 0-60 in under 6 seconds, seat 5 adults, include standard autopilot features, and achieve a 215-mile range, all for $35,000 (and that’s before any additional state credits or rebates or the $7,500 federal tax credit that will be available to some Tesla buyers). The Model 3 will also be able to gain 170 miles of range from a mere 30 minutes of charging from Tesla’s growing network of high-speed “Superchargers.”
I’ve already discussed what the Model 3 means for the electric vehicle market writ large, but I’ll reiterate that if Tesla delivers on the 325,000 pre-orders (in one week!), the Model 3 could be a game changer. At the very least it has already generated the most “buzz” (spark?) I’ve seen for an electric vehicle, which can only help get more people thinking about whether their next vehicle can be electric.]]>
The Model 3 will also be able to gain 170 miles of range from a mere 30 minutes of charging from Tesla’s growing network of high-speed “Superchargers.” These features, combined with an iPhone-like rollout, got more than 325,000 people to put down a $1,000 deposit on the Model 3 even though it won’t start shipping until the end of 2017 at the earliest.
Skeptics may not have been surprised that there were lines to put down a deposit in San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, or other cities where electric cars are more common. What they may have been surprised to see is that there were lines for the Model 3 across the U.S. and around the world. Places like Lone Tree, Colorado and Dallas, Texas each had over 1,000 people wait to put down a deposit, and similar lines queued up in Switzerland, Australia, Canada and beyond. I think even Tesla CEO Elon Musk was surprised at this initial level of enthusiasm.
As I’ve previously written, there are many reasons to choose a Model 3 or any of the 20-plus other electric vehicles on the market. They are cheaper and cleaner to drive than gasoline vehicles, get strong safety marks, and include the latest and greatest vehicle technology like assisted driving and wireless connectivity.
Dive deeper on the benefits of driving on electricity by checking out our “EV emissions calculator” and take note of this Department of Energy page that tracks how much it costs to drive on electricity. Using a national average price of electricity, fueling an electric vehicle is like paying only $1.09 per gallon of gasoline when gas currently costs an average of $2.07 at the pump. Moreover, the price of electricity has been remarkably stable over the last several decades, so electric vehicles allow you to better plan for how much you will spend on fuel.
It doesn’t take much to own an EV. All you really need is a place to park and plug-in and a general sense of how far you need to drive each day, though plug-in hybrid electric vehicles like the Chevy Volt can be fueled from electricity and gasoline, helping alleviate any electric range anxiety on long road trips.
It’s easy to forget the pivotal role public policy has played in enabling Tesla, and other electric vehicle makers, to succeed. For example, Tesla received a $465 million loan from the Department of Energy ATVM program that helped kick start their vehicle production and which they’ve repaid in full (plus interest).
The federal tax credit of up to $7,500 has helped offset the purchase price of hundreds of thousands of electric vehicles across the country, and a number of states like California, Massachusetts, New York, and Connecticut have created their own electric vehicle incentive programs. In addition, the Zero Emission Vehicle program in 10 states has put pressure on both automakers to accelerate the switch from gasoline to electric engines and on utilities and other companies to build out public electric vehicle charging stations.
The excitement over the launch of the Model 3 and upcoming electric vehicle offerings like the Chevy Bolt and Hyundai Ioniq (both of which I’ll detail in my next post) demonstrate that automakers are starting to realize that Americans across the country—not just in California—want electric vehicles.
In 2014 we found that 42 percent of American households could use an electric vehicle based on their driving habits, so it’s not a matter of whether electric vehicle technology is at a state at which it would work for millions of Americans. It’s a matter of whether all auto companies can step up and give the people what they want.]]>
Although cold weather impacts electric vehicles, the real question is whether that impact matters. To find out, I interviewed UCS members who drive electric vehicles in frigid places across the U.S. Here’s what they said.
The most common theme I heard was that although electric vehicles do lose some range when it’s cold outside and the heater is running, the change in available range had little or no impact on whether they could use their electric vehicle. For example, let’s suppose your daily commute is 30 miles round trip, you drive a Nissan LEAF, and it’s a balmy -10 degrees F outside. Data from Fleet Carma shows that the typical range of the LEAF would be over 40 miles, so you could still get to and from work, even though you would have a diminished range. Assuming that the temperature is a more reasonable 30 degrees F (still chilly in my book), the LEAF’s range would be over 60 miles—enough for your daily commute and then some.
Everyone who I interviewed mentioned that when it’s cold outside they “pre-condition” their electric vehicle, meaning that they turn on the cabin heat while the vehicle is still plugged in. Doing so allows the vehicle to get toasty without draining battery life since the heater power will come directly from the charging source. After the vehicle is warmed up, most owners shut the cabin heater off and only use the steering wheel and seat heaters during their drive, which allows them to stay warm while not reducing their range from using the cabin heater.
My LEAF has the ability for me to use an app to remotely pre-heat the car while it’s still plugged in. ~Mike B., Denver, CO
Another theme that came through was that electric vehicle drivers are planners. They know how far they would drive on an average day and know whether their electric vehicle has enough range to get them where they needed to go and back home again to charge, especially when it’s cold outside. Of course, some drivers take advantage of the many public charging options—at electric vehicle dealerships, workplaces, or along transit corridors—giving them extended range for when they need it. No one said that they ever ran out of charge and many use helpful apps like Plugshare to find charging stations along their drive.
Dealerships in my area have been offering free fast charging, and it takes only 20 minutes or so to top off my range if I ever need to drive outside my normal range. ~Jeff G., Hartford, CT
Even though cold weather can decrease electric vehicle range, everyone who I talked to remained happy with their electric vehicle. I’m not surprised since after each electric vehicle test drive I’m always amazed at how much of a better driving experience they offer compared to gasoline vehicles. It’s hard for a small decrease in range to diminish the joy people get when driving a vehicle that is cheaper, cleaner, and more fun to drive than a gasoline-powered alternative. I’m sure no electric vehicle drivers miss having to brave stepping outside in freezing temps to pump gas either.
In addition, many commented on their electric vehicle’s ability to tackle snowy and icy conditions due to its low center of gravity and weight distribution—engineering points that make electric vehicles ideal for cold climates and one of the reasons (along with generous policy support) why electric vehicles are crushing it in cold countries like Norway.
As my colleague Dave noted, as electric vehicles improve their range—like the upcoming Chevy Bolt and Tesla Model 3, both of which are estimated to go over 200 miles per charge—the effect of cold weather on battery performance will matter less. That’s because even if an electric vehicle takes a 20 percent range hit, losing 40 miles of range on an electric vehicle that gets 200 miles per charge will leave plenty of range for most drivers. Indeed, 80 percent of respondents to a survey UCS and Consumers Union ran on driving habits in 2012 reported that they drove less than 100 miles each day—well within the range of a 200 mile electric vehicle, even in cold climates.
So if you live in a cold climate and are interested in an electric vehicle, be prepared to plan ahead, understand your driving needs, and pre-condition your ride. These simple tips may help you join the herd of electric vehicle drivers from Maine to Oregon and everywhere in between.]]>
Should you be concerned that the Koch Brothers may turn their eye toward electric vehicles? Perhaps. Electric vehicle sales slumped an estimated 90 percent after policy support was removed in Georgia, although this drop could be attributed to savvy consumers waiting for updated models of the best-selling electric vehicles to hit dealerships. On a more positive note, the Koch campaign may bring added attention toward electric vehicles, which would provide opportunities to cite the facts. Electric vehicles are cheaper, cleaner, and more fun to drive than gasoline vehicles. One of the few caveats of today’s electric vehicles is their sticker price, which is exactly why the $7,500 federal tax credit and additional state-level incentives are needed to help electric vehicles compete in the marketplace.
Claiming that the government should not be in the business of picking winners and losers is akin to claiming that the government should just stick with the current winners.
For example, the current suite of tax breaks for fossil fuels cost the U.S. taxpayer around 10 times more than the federal electric vehicle tax credit. According to the U.S. Treasury, the fossil fuel tax provisions cost the U.S. government $4.7 billion every year and are scheduled to continue in perpetuity. The federal electric vehicle tax credit, on the other hand, cost $580 million in FY2015 and is expected to ramp down to cost $180 million in FY2024. How, exactly, does that make electric vehicles a current winner?
“No, no, no,” Charles Koch might say, “the government should not provide any support, to oil companies, electric vehicles, or any other industry.” Instead, the free market should decide what vehicles to offer. If there is a sufficient business interest in favor of making electric vehicles, then automakers will make them.
The major problem with this approach is the costs of climate change are too external to one single company, or even a single industry, for them to factor the global warming pollution their products create into their business decisions. It is estimated that climate change will cost the U.S. an annual $12 billion increase in electricity bills due to added air conditioning, $35 billion worth of coastal property and infrastructure damage from higher sea levels and potential surges in hurricane activity, and a risk of losing 50 to 70 percent of average crop yields.
On a global scale, Citigroup estimates that the world could lose up to $44 trillion if we don’t act on climate change. But to an oil company or automaker these are indirect costs, the majority of which will be borne by tax payers or other countries, and not for decades. So why factor them in when, for some, producing electric vehicles is already a financial loser?
Whether government support should incentivize products that can cut our global warming emissions comes down to whether individuals or corporations should be responsible for paying for climate change. The answer probably lies somewhere in between, but at the very least consumers deserve the choice to reduce our emissions. Of course, electric vehicles create emissions too, but as I’ve previously discussed, the average electric vehicle is responsible for half the emissions of a comparable gasoline-powered vehicle. Electric vehicles also have the potential get vastly cleaner as our nation moves to a better electricity grid. Oil, on the other hand, is only getting dirtier.
Absent government support for electric vehicles or strong policies like the federal fuel economy standards that are set to double the average fuel economy of light duty vehicles by 2025, we would be stuck with vehicles that make the automakers the most profit, large SUVs and pickup trucks. Automakers didn’t even want to install seat belts for fear of increasing vehicle costs until Ralph Nader’s book, Unsafe at Any Speed, precipitated the creation of a federal transportation safety agency and sufficient public outcry to reduce the costs of traffic accidents that were borne by taxpayers, not the auto industry.
The same arguments that were volleyed in the regulatory fights over seat belts, air bags, and catalytic converters will likely be reused by the Koch’s in their attempt to remove electric vehicle incentives. It’s critical that these incentives remain on the books and help electric vehicles get past the consumer acceptance tipping point and become an engrained part of our transportation future that can maybe, just maybe, help us avoid the very worst impacts of climate change. Electric vehicles are too fun to drive, too efficient, and too clean to lose out to gasoline vehicles. Test drive one for yourself. You’ll be amazed.
So bring it on Koch Brothers! I’ll be waiting.]]>
The 2017 Chevrolet Bolt, which I recently checked out at the DC auto show, will deliver a GM-estimated range of 200 miles on a single charge (a conservative estimate) and a price as low as $30,000 after the federal tax credit. If you’re scoffing at the price tag, don’t forget that driving on electricity is still cheaper than driving on gasoline, even with today’s low gas prices. Available nationwide in late 2016 (according to the sales rep at the auto show), the Bolt will fully charge in just 9 hours, seats 5, and looks like a small crossover SUV. These features and the impressive range could make the Bolt a great choice for the millions of Americans who could use an electric vehicle today.
So the Bolt has excellent all-electric range and a decent price, but what about the emissions? As I’ve previously discussed, the emissions of electric vehicles vary depending on where you plug them in—but no matter where you charge an EV in the U.S., the average battery electric vehicle sold today is responsible for less than half the global warming emissions of comparable gasoline-powered vehicles.
To help you estimate how much global warming pollution you would avoid by driving the Bolt, head on over to our handy EV emissions tool that calculates electric vehicle emissions for every zip code in the U.S. and now includes the Bolt (based on preliminary figures of 60 kWh battery capacity and estimated 200 mile range). Stoked about your results? Share them with your networks and let everyone know about the benefits of driving on electricity.
So yes, EVs are awesome for the environment – and your wallet. But just how awesome? To help you #humblebrag about how clean EVs are in your neck of the woods, we developed this handy online tool that calculates emissions for almost every EV on the market for every zipcode in the U.S. Check it out and share it with your networks. I’ll give you unlimited internet points.
Already own an EV or thinking about purchasing one? Use the calculator to see how EVs stack up against each other and against their plug-in hybrid and gasoline-powered counterparts in your zip code.
Because the way electricity is produced varies across the country, the emissions of EVs vary depending on where they are plugged in. Residents of Lexington, Kentucky, for example, get over 50 percent of their electricity from coal, which emits between 1.4 and 3.6 pounds of carbon dioxide equivalent per kilowatt hour (lb. CO2e/kWh). Natural gas, by comparison, emits between 0.6 and 2 lb. CO2e/kWh and renewables like wind or solar emit nearly 0 lb. CO2e/kWh, though there are relatively small amounts of emissions associated with the construction and transport of solar panels or wind turbines.
But driving an EV in even a relatively dirty electricity grid is still clean. A 2015 Nissan LEAF driven in Lexington, KY is responsible for about as much GHG emissions as a gas-powered vehicle that gets 50 mpg. And, in areas of the country that have relatively clean electricity grids, EVs crush. Charging and driving that same LEAF from my friend’s pad in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, New York, produces the emissions equivalent of a gas-vehicle that gets 88 mpg. See how EVs fare in your area.
Since we first published our State of Charge report in 2012, the environmental performance of EVs has improved. Two-thirds of all Americans now live in areas where driving an EV produces the climate emissions equivalent of a 50 mpg gas-powered vehicle, up from 45 percent in 2012, and UCS has continued to push for policies like the Clean Power Plan that would reduce national electricity sector emissions by an estimated 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.
But the environmental performance of EVs can get even better. Reaching the UCS goal of a national grid composed of 80 percent renewable electricity would reduce driving-related EV emissions by 84 percent while continuing to save you money on fuel and repairs compared to their antiquated gasoline-powered counterparts.
Read more by downloading the full report, or use our interactive tool to explore EV emissions in your area.]]>
Longer electric range, an updated interior, and the addition of a somewhat passable 5th seat in the back are the highlights here. The 2016 Volt will get 53 miles of all-electric range, 40 percent more than the previous version. Even when you run out of juice, the gasoline-electric hybrid backup engine will get you 42 mpg. This adds up to being able to drive the 2016 Volt 420 miles on a tiny 8.8 gallon gas tank and full electric charge, according to the EPA.
More range means more savings. You can save $4,250 in fuel costs over 5 years by driving the 2016 Volt compared to an average new 2015 vehicle. The EPA estimates that each year Volt drivers will spend only $600 on gas and electricity combined. What you do with those savings is up to you, but I couldn’t afford not to have this in my 10 sq ft backyard.
Chevy recently began shipping 2016 Volts to dealers in California and will begin taking orders in early October for Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont. The rest of the country will have to wait until the spring for the 2017 model.
OK, I’m sold. What’s the damage? The 2016 Volt MSRP starts at $33,170, but taking the maximum available federal tax credit of $7,500 lowers the price to $25,670. You could also live in a state that has additional state tax credits for EVs, which would bring the price of the new Volt down even further. Though it’s a bit more than other 4-door sedans, don’t forget how much you can save by driving on electricity and how electric vehicles will reduce your emissions, no matter where you plug in.
Check out the updated interior and some additional thoughts from the Detroit Free Press here.
On September 10, Nissan announced a refreshed version of the LEAF, one of the bestselling EVs on the market. The 2016 LEAF gives buyers the option of a 30 kWh battery, boosting the LEAF’s EPA-estimated range to 107 tailpipe-free miles, 27 percent more than previous models. Nissan also touts the LEAFs “highly responsive, fun to drive experience,” which is probably accurate given how awesome it is to feel the instant acceleration provided by an electric motor.
Want an EV that’s relatively affordable? Take advantage of the full $7,500 tax credit and the 2016 LEAF base S model can be yours for $21,510, or even lower if you qualify for additional state incentives for EVs like the LEAF. There are also SV and SL models, which have the larger battery pack and are priced at $26,700 and $29,290 (after the federal tax credit), respectively. The higher trim models also allow remote connection to the vehicle, providing monitoring of battery state-of-charge and turning on the heating and air conditioning system prior to entering the vehicle.
Head on over to the Verge for some nice hi-res pictures of the new LEAF, which is sure to be a good fit for some of the 42 million American households that could use a plug-in vehicle today. The 2016 LEAF is expected to be available nationwide later this fall.
Fellow EV geeks are geeking out pretty hard over the Tesla Model X. 0-60 in 3.8 seconds, falcon wing, yes, falcon wing doors, massive “panoramic” windshield that makes the cabin feel like a helicopter cockpit, driving range of 257 miles, a self-proclaimed “five star” safety rating, and a bevy of electronic sensors, gizmos, gadgets that are likely a precursor to a future autonomous driving mode – all packaged in a 7-passenger crossover SUV.
Back in 2013, when the Union of Concerned Scientists calculated how many American drivers could use an EV, we disqualified anyone as a potential EV owner if they needed to carry 5 or more passengers on a daily basis. Well, we might need to do another survey because the Model X’s seating capacity of 7 may be its biggest selling point.
As a married dude in his mid-30s, many of my friends are moving toward bigger vehicles to accommodate growing families. When I recommend they try an EV as their next vehicle, they usually respond with “but I need more space for my 2 strollers, 2 car seats, 84 reusable bags, 16 cases of diapers, and unlimited mangled boxes of tissues. A four-door sedan just isn’t big enough.” Well friends, if you have around $130,000 to spend on a vehicle, the Model X could fit all your needs.
Of course, for most of us, spending $130,000 on a vehicle is as ludicrous as the optional $10,000 ludicrous mode upgrade to the Model X. But even if we can’t afford it, the release of this car illuminates an exciting path forward for transportation. Americans don’t love SUVs because we love spending thousands of dollars on gasoline each year. We love SUVs because they can make life easier. The Model X and future SUEVs (sport utility electric vehicles), will let drivers have cake and eat it too. Bigger EVs will give families the opportunity to ferry kids and run errands around town in a vehicle that can be powered by clean, renewable energy—helping cut emissions, reduce oil use, and send fuel expenditures to domestic power producers rather than multinational oil companies.]]>
The most glaring example of green privilege, Gross argues, is the $7,500 federal tax credit for electric vehicles (EVs). Not only are federal and state tax credits for EVs helping yuppies save money on fuel and reduce their emissions, but Gross’s town of Westport, Connecticut is allowing EV drivers to get preferential parking at train stations too. Oh the horror! Someone get this guy a gas guzzler and a crappy parking spot, stat!
But let’s get real. If you can afford a $70,000 Tesla, you probably don’t need too much financial help. But the federal EV tax credit and the additional state incentives for EVs aren’t just helping the rich. They are helping drivers from a range of income brackets access advanced vehicles that cost less to fuel, lower transportation-related global warming emissions, and are a key solution for cutting our oil use in half in twenty years.
Putting Tesla aside for a moment, it is important to note that automakers are offering EVs priced more toward car buyers who don’t have huge vaults filled with gold coins. For example, the federal EV tax credit lowers the purchase price of the 2015 Nissan LEAF to $21,150, the 2015 Chevy Volt to $26,670, and the 2015 Kia Soul EV to $26,200. Considering that the 2014 average prices of a new midsize car like the LEAF or Volt and a small SUV like the Soul EV were $24,800 and $26,100, respectively, the post-tax credit prices of these EVs are in-line with what people are spending on vehicles on average anyway. So, I would argue that tax credits for EVs are helping middle-class drivers afford advanced clean vehicle tech – not just yuppies.
I agree with Gross that we need to talk about green privilege. Incentives and programs should be structured to help people from low to moderate economic backgrounds and should not be merely a handout to wealthy car buyers. We’re already seeing this sort of structuring happen in California, the leading state for EV adoption in the U.S. California’s Air Resources Board just approved policies that would provide additional incentives for EVs to lower income families and eliminate state rebates for California’s highest earners. This sort of progressive policy is exactly the kind that will continue to spur EV sales, and can serve as a model for other states and ultimately the federal government to follow.
The Golden State is also required to direct significant portions of the revenue generated from their cap and trade program to disadvantaged communities. This past fiscal year, for example, California spent more than $200 million to benefit these communities, including investing in electric trucks and buses.
As Gross notes, EV incentives and policies are helping create a market for this advanced vehicle technology, thus helping EVs reach economies of scale and lowering the price for everybody. But the many types of EVs for sale today are not just for the rich, and neither are the policies spurring their adoption. I wouldn’t classify owners of a $20,000 vehicle like the Nissan LEAF as rich, necessarily. Yet these drivers take the train and would like preferential parking too, right? It takes a small leap of faith to become an EV driver, but it’s a leap that needs taking; let’s reward it beyond a little help with the purchase price.
So, let’s ditch the green guilt, and work together to help the 42 percent of American drivers who could own an EV today access this critical oil saving technology.]]>
I recently took the 2015 Kia Soul EV home for lunch, and was amazed at how much I enjoyed driving on electricity. I’ve previously driven several EVs, but never alone, and never for an extended period of time. Having the Soul EV for a couple hours allowed me to better understand what, exactly, it would be like to own an EV – and I loved every minute of it.
The Soul EV produces only 109 horsepower, but the electric motor’s ability to produce 210 lb-ft of torque makes this crossover SUV accelerate like a Mazda Miata (which, by the way, only produces 140 lb-ft of torque). Zooming past slower moving traffic (while staying well under the speed limit, of course), I kept waiting to hear and feel a transmission momentarily lurch me forward as it switched gears. But the Soul EV doesn’t have a traditional transmission, so pushing my foot on the accelerator created a steady swell of smooth power that seemed limitless. This is a shared feature among battery electric vehicles, but one that makes driving on electricity simply a better experience.
I drove in “B” mode, which engages the Soul’s maximum regenerative braking, helping charge the batteries and increase energy efficiency. This mode causes the Soul EV to slow down if the accelerator is not engaged, an effect so strong that I was able to brake for stop signs by gradually taking my foot off the accelerator – ignoring the brake pedal altogether. Though this “one-pedal driving” took some getting used to, on my trip back to the office I didn’t need to use the brake pedal once. Perfect for a lazy driver like me, who doesn’t want to expend any unnecessary foot energy.
Driving the Soul EV was a blast, and I’m pleased to report that the Soul has equally impressive functionality. The 3 passenger rear seats fold down to provide 49.5 cubic feet of cargo space, and the cabin felt roomy, comfortable, and intuitive. I hit every button on the Soul EV’s center console and found navigating the menu options to be fairly easy. However, I am not a big fan of touch screens in vehicles, and this one seemed a little gimmicky with apps like Yelp or Pandora, and too much potential for distracted driving. Hence the 0.5 Erlenmeyer flask deduction.
You can check out the full Soul EV specs here, and potential owners should recognize that the Soul’s 27 kWh battery pack will provide an estimated range of 93 miles. The Soul does a great job at reminding you how much juice is left with an easy-to-read display where you would expect to find the tachometer. The battery pack can be charged to 80 percent in around 30 minutes using a DC fast charger and Soul EV users can plug the vehicle into any regular 120v house outlet for overnight charging too. For more charging info, check out this table.
My UCS colleagues and I are bullish on EVs because of their potential to save drivers money on fuel and dramatically cut transportation-related emissions in the U.S. – especially when paired with renewable sources of clean energy like solar or wind power. But after driving several EVs, I am beginning to suspect that the main catalyst for the coming EV revolution will be the simple joy of driving on electricity.]]>