There’s hardly any excuse anymore not to have an EV (electric vehicle), as a second or third car at least. If you are concerned about climate change, like a good deal, and live in a house in California, you should get an electric car, now.
But MONEY!, you say.
There are currently lots of lightly used EV’s available for just $7-10k.
(Too many in fact! Good lease return EV’s are so cheap in California that many or most are being bought at auctions and shipped overseas – to Europe, Dubai, you name it.)
The savings in gasoline cost will pay for one of these used EV’s. More in a minute.
But RANGE!, you say.
Yes, the older EV’s don’t have as much range as most current new ones. Typical is 80 miles highway, 100+ around town. So I ask, how many people out there usually drive more than 80-100 miles a day???
I bet you or someone in your house normally drives less than 80 miles a day. An EV for that would easily pay for itself in gasoline costs alone.
Or say just 40 miles/day… say 12,000 miles/yr could be done in your clean EV. For that an EV would save about $1,900/yr in fuel cost alone. Even if you keep your existing gas car(s) for when you need it (longer trips etc), that $1,900/yr will cover the added insurance, registration, and depreciation for the EV. (Assumptions below, and if you’d like to read more about how to save money charging, check out this post.)
So the economics are there. And the range is fine for most people on most days.
But CHARGING!, you say.
You just plug it overnight at your house. If you live in an apartment or park your car on the street, you’re probably off the hook because charging isn’t there yet. Otherwise, hey just plug it in.
If the EV will be driven only, say, 30 miles/day, you can get away with just a regular 110V outlet all night (“Level 1” charging). But for those longer mileage days, most people install a “Level 2” charger on a 220V circuit. Then an 80-mile day will easily re-charge overnight, in 3-4 hours in fact. It’s not a big deal. In fact, it is so nice to just plug in each night, and not have to go to gas stations!
But pollution from electricity GENERATION!, you say.
Here in California, we have very clean power, and it’s only getting cleaner, thanks to legislation. Nowadays California often makes more clean solar power during the day than we can use.
The most recent PG&E average rate of carbon pollution was 0.524 lbs CO2 per kWh of electricity generated, half or less than national averages. At that average PG&E carbon rate, driving an EV 12,000 miles/yr means about 1,600 lbs of CO2 pollution; meanwhile a gasoline car will pollute near 8 times that (12,000 lbs CO2/yr).
Start enjoying the benefits of electric cars
OK, what about the fine print?
What cars are we talking about?
To me, the sweet spot is currently 2015-2016 off-lease EVs like the cute and fun Fiat 500e, or the soft and practical Nissan Leaf, or the fast little Chevy Spark EV. Many of these have barely 20,000 miles on them. Go to Craigslist and find them for under $10k. There are even used dealers who specialize in EV’s (eg. in the Bay Area: Green Light Auto Wholesale in Daly City). Or you can pay more and upgrade to a sensible e-Golf, or even get fancy with a used BMW i3 for $15-20k.
These cars make most excellent sense for around town, but some highway driving is fine too.
What numbers did you use?
I used a baseline gasoline vehicle at 20 mpg city, $4/gallon… so 20 cents/mile in gasoline alone. Compared to an EV charged overnight at 16 cents/kWh (EV2-A TOU PG&E rate as of November 2019), getting 4 miles/kWh… so 4 cents/mile in electricity. Saving 16 cents/mile. And I assume these EVs will lose about half their value in 4 years. I ignored the low maintenance cost advantage of the EV. And I ignored both the added cost of a Level 2 charger if needed ($500 plus install), and the value of your time saved not going to gas stations.
- Clean Performance
EV’s are pleasantly quiet, zippy, and simple to drive. And clean!! Most EV drivers hate to go back to gas because they get used to the easy fast quiet acceleration off the line that EVs offer. On the highway? Well the used EVs I suggest will keep up fine, but not by much at high speed.
- Instant Heat and Instant Go
I love this: EVs don’t need time to warm up. You get heat right away. And you can floor it without guilt (mechanical or pollution) as soon as you roll out.
- HOV Lane Access
You might get lucky and get a used EV with a valid sticker to solo access the HOV lane. But if that’s important to you, you probably need to buy or lease a new EV.
- Little Maintenance
EVs need very little maintenance. Mainly just tires. There are no oil changes, and brakes last a long time thanks to regeneration. Just like a gas car, the regular $120 12V battery will need replacement every 5-6 years. EV main batteries are proving to retain their capacity very well, and are typically warrantied for 8 years / 100k miles (though details vary: see https://www.greencarreports.com/news/1107864_electric-car-battery-warranties-compared). A possible exception is older Nissan Leafs, where the lack of a liquid cooling/heating system for the main battery leads to capacity degradation over time (lower range). If that concerns you, avoid the Leaf.
The $ incentives out there mostly apply to new EV sales/leases only. So don’t worry about them. They are partly why your used EV will be so cheap.
- They may not be big but they’re small.
The EV’s I’m talking about are small. Making them so easy to maneuver and fit everywhere. Small is beautiful, especially around town.