By Neal Denton
“How can I reduce my impact?” is a question many ask. Switching your vehicle from an internal combustion engine to electric is one significant way to reduce your greenhouse gas emissions. Transportation accounts for approximately half of most people’s carbon footprint. And, studies show that this choice will save you money in the long run. Pairing an electric vehicle (EV) with a home renewable energy system realizes additional savings and benefits including powering your car with sunlight!
If you can afford to spend more money up-front on an EV, research shows you will spend less over the lifetime of the vehicle, depending on the vehicle. This is largely due to the lower price of electricity compared to gasoline but is also due to lower maintenance costs. With fewer moving parts, EVs require significantly less maintenance. They do not need oil changes. There are no valves to clog up, no cylinder heads to machine, and no spark plugs or gaskets to replace. This also makes EVs more reliable, as fewer moving parts means fewer parts that could break down.
In 2016, the Electric Vehicle Transportation Center at the University of Central Florida compared 16 vehicles sold in the U.S. for the total cost of ownership, which includes purchase price, salvage value, fuel, tires, insurance, maintenance, state tax and financed interest payments. Using the 2016 average annual mileage of 12,330, the two vehicles with the lowest annual cost of ownership were both EVs. On average, they were $1,300 less expensive per year than the conventional vehicle with the lowest annual cost of ownership. According to the study, depending on the price of the “fuel,” more than $7,000 can be saved over a 10-year period by paying for electricity instead of gasoline.
Another study, conducted by the Electric Power Research Institute, compared the total cost of ownership of 2013 models of the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid and the Nissan Leaf battery EV to comparable internal combustion engine vehicles. The study quantified the cost of purchase, electricity, gasoline, maintenance and battery replacement over that period. With the higher purchase price factored in, the study revealed cost of owning a Nissan Leaf was roughly $8,000 lower than the average comparable vehicle with an internal combustion engine over a period of 150,000 miles. The total cost of ownership for the Chevrolet Volt was roughly $1,000 lower.
While EVs are generally $10,000 more expensive up front than a comparable internal combustion vehicle, they are expected to reach price parity by 2025 in the U.S., according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. This is largely due to the dropping cost of batteries as production increases. However, base vehicle costs, such as body and chassis, are also expected to drop due to simpler design and easier manufacturing. Meanwhile, by factoring in the federal tax incentive of $7,500 for purchasing new EVs, the starting price is roughly $2,500 higher. That money can be recouped in as little as three years as you save money on gasoline. The more you drive, the quicker you will recoup that money.
PNM customers can currently take advantage of a promotional offer to take an additional $3,000 off the price of a new 2018 Nissan Leaf. This offer is only available until Sept. 30, 2018. Combined with the federal tax incentive, that is $10,500 of savings on a new vehicle. Visit https://www.pnm.com/evoffer to learn more.
There are currently 10 non-luxury EVs and 12 non-luxury plug-in hybrid vehicles sold in the U.S. at prices ranging from $25,000-$42,000, and many major motor companies have indicated they are increasing the number of EVs they will offer in coming years. General Motors announced their commitment to an all-electric future and said it will launch more than 20 new zero-emissions vehicles in global markets by 2023. Ford plans to release 40 hybrid and fully electric vehicles by 2022.
The driving range of EVs is increasing every year as battery technology improves and other advancements are made. Current models offer driving ranges of 68 miles to 238 miles, with an average range of 146 miles, enough to get from Santa Fe to Albuquerque and back without charging. These numbers exclude the luxury models of Tesla, which offer up to a 335 mile range. However, they include the Tesla Model 3, which is offered at $35,000, a much lower cost than other Tesla models. If that driving range will not meet your needs, consider purchasing a 2018 plug-in hybrid. You can travel just as far as you would in a conventional vehicle, and the first 12-53 miles rely on the electric charge before transitioning to the gasoline engine.
So many EVs on the market now offer a longer range than ever before. The $7,500 federal tax incentive only applies to the first 200,000 EVs an automaker sells, after which the amount of the tax credit starts to drop. Purchase an EV now and be kind to your wallet and the planet.
The Santa Fe County Sustainability Office offers free, impartial advice on transitioning to a clean commute. If you have questions about EVs or any other ways to reduce the impact of your transportation, please contact me at 505.992.9832 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The Sustainability Office can also advise you on “solarizing” your home.
Neal Denton is a sustainability specialist for the Santa Fe County Sustainability Office, where he focuses on transportation and solid waste issues in order to reduce adverse impacts on shared resources and increase the community’s resiliency. Denton has a background in education and outreach related to resource conservation and environmental quality.