Summary: EVs are fun, quiet, convenient, practical… and fun… did I mention fun?

Page updated June 2017

Prior to electric vehicles coming on the scene, fuel efficient vehicles were usually only accompanied by words like: sensible, level headed, practical, and reasonable. With EVs you can forget level headed. You can own an electric car and have the kind of head where things roll right off. If you want to know about the environmental and practical benefits, go ahead and skip down to here. If you want to hear about the fun stuff first, just keep reading.

To give you an idea about how much you will like EVs, here is a little story. In order to sell cars in California, major car manufacturers have been required to sell a very small number of fully electric cars. Thus the “compliance car” was born. This type of car is only sold in states where the electric vehicle (EV) mandate was in place. GM’s compliance car offering was the Chevy Spark EV. It was outsourced to be built in Korea and sold in very limited numbers. Even with almost no emphasis placed on EVs, GM’s Spark EV had more torque than a Lamborghini Huracan LP 580-2 (torque is one of two common measures of a car’s power). The Lamborghini has a retail price of about a quarter million dollars. GM accomplished the same thing for a few thousand. Car manufacturers can make EVs fun without even trying.

If you are driving an EV, you can beat almost any gasoline powered car off the line. You never have to worry if you have enough power to accelerate into highway traffic. You don’t have to shout over engine noise to have a conversation or hear every note of your favorite song. What’s more, an EV give you the convenience of being able to fuel up in your garage. Goodbye gas station. Every EV sports all of these advantages.

…and then there is the electric vehicle company that takes fun to a whole new level, the kind that makes your great aunt swear like a sailor… before she says to do it again. Tesla Motors.

Tesla, the Definition of an Electric Car:

Tesla makes a four door sedan capable of acceleration from 0-60 in 2.5 seconds. That’s more G-forces than jumping out a window. The acceleration makes it the quickest mass production vehicle. The only way to get a quicker car would be to hire a company to build a custom car just for you, for well over a million dollars.

Until Tesla’s Model 3 debuts in a little over a month, most people still won’t be able to afford a new car from the best car company (the Model S base price is $69,500). In 2017, Tesla will begin building the Model 3, a $35,000 vehicle ($27,500 after the $7,500 federal tax rebate) which will have Tesla’s standard and impressive torque, a 0-60 time of less than 5.6 seconds, access to the most extensive fast charging network in the world, and autopilot hardware. And that’s just the base model.

A new option for getting a more affordable Model S does exist and might actually be preferable to waiting in line for a Model 3. Tesla has recently been expanding their used vehicle offerings. Now you can find vehicles with 50,000 to 80,000 miles on them that can occasionally be purchased for less than $40,000.

Not only that, but the average car owner will save over $1,000 per year in fuel or more if you own a solar array. EV cost of ownership is lower than its gasmobile counterparts (including repairs, regular servicing, etc.). Plus, the Model 3 base configuration will have over 215 miles of range per charge. Considering that 93% of cars travel less than 100 miles per day, that range, should easily handle all of one’s around town driving. If you are interested in the best electric car available, the decision is easy. Go to Tesla Motors and reserve a Model 3, or buy one of their other cars if it fits your needs and budget.

If you aren’t completely sold on the idea of a Tesla and want to check out other options in the pure EV category, the next best vehicles are:

Nissan Leaf:

  • The first EV to sell over 100,000 units worldwide
  • List Price: $30,680 (base model)
  • 107 mile range

Chevrolet Bolt:

  • The first affordable EV with over 200 miles of range
  • List Price: $37,495 (base model)
  • 238 mile range
All the Practical Stuff:

…which, being a nerd, I find almost as exciting.

EVs are also the best way to reduce your carbon footprint, strengthen national security, and wipe out hundreds of thousands of occurrences of childhood asthma. These three benefits also apply to plug-in hybrids with electric ranges of over 30 miles per charge. Let’s go over these one by one.

Carbon Footprint:

Every so often I hear that electric vehicles cause more emissions than their internal combustion engine (ICE) counterparts. The argument goes that by manufacturing batteries, which is energy intensive, and by charging that battery from the grid, some of which is powered by coal plants, you end up with lifetime emissions that are higher than a gasmobile.

That makes some sense on a superficial level, but it is wrong. The Union of Concerned Scientists ran some numbers and compared charging your EV from the grid to simply driving an ICE car. Then they put it all into an easy-to-read map of the US based on regional grid energy mixes. The map shows how efficient an ICE car would need to be in each area to have the same emissions as an EV charged from the grid. I’ve included the maps created using the grid emissions from 2009 and 2014. The grid is getting cleaner very quickly.

The light blue areas are the ones that make it nearly impossible to drive a ICE powered vehicle with lower emissions. As of 2016 the best combined gas mileage of any ICE vehicle was 56 miles per gallon claimed by the 2016 Toyota Prius Eco. If you’re thinking, “56 mpg is better than the 54 mpg covering the state of Iowa,” the answer is yes, absolutely. However, between the 2009 and 2014 findings, the Iowa grid improved by 15 mpg, or 3 mpg per year. The real question is can we expect improvements to continue as quickly as we have seem between 2009 and 2014?

In 2015 more coal power capacity was retired any year in U.S. history followed up by significant retirements again in 2016. Those retirements were replaced with large additions of wind and solar capacity. If anything, the cleaning of the grid is accelerating.

The average vehicle has a lifespan of almost 20 years. Who knows how clean the grid will be 20 years from now, but it will likely be much much cleaner than today. Even the most efficient hybrid no longer competes with an electric vehicle charged off the grid. Assuming the trend continues, electric vehicles will have lower emissions each year of their life, meanwhile an ICE vehicle’s emission will only get worse (exhaust manifold leaks, catalytic converter breaks, etc.).

Here’s another interesting tidbit. As I noted earlier, electric vehicles save you money on fuel costs, and they save you even more if you charge your vehicle with solar panels. It would appear that this has not escaped the attention of electric vehicle owners. California’s 2013 EV owner survey found that 48% of owners either had, or planned to install, solar panels.

2013 CA EV survey

Since 40% of EV sales are in California, that means at least 19% of the country’s EVs have zero emissions per mile, or likely will soon.

National Security:

According to this study by Roger Stern, a professor at the University of Tulsa National Energy Policy Institute, the U.S. spends half a trillion dollars annually protecting oil trade routes in the Persian Gulf. If the U.S. were to spend only half of that annually on solar arrays, the U.S. could replace 100% of its energy use. – Not just its electricity usage either; its entire energy usage. Imagine what could be done with the resources used to protect all of the oil trade routes.

By driving electric cars, fewer soldiers would have to be deployed worldwide to guard oil trade routes. Also, by using electricity for transportation, energy sources would be locally based. Locally-based energy sources stimulate the local economy, reduce the risk of power disruption, and decrease price fluctuation. All of this tremendously strengthens national security. In 2011 the Center for Naval Analysis put together a report on the U.S. transportation sector that strongly recommended decreasing U.S. oil usage.  The 13 retired admirals and generals who signed the report stated: “Weaning America from oil in substantive ways will make us safer as a nation.”

Eventually, just as the Center of Navel Analysis suggests, we need to head toward a locally-produced national energy source. Depending on international trade for one of our most important resources, with often hostile trade partners, makes the country less secure for no reason.

The next reasons for driving electric boils down to our every day health.

Asthma and Premature Death:

As noted earlier, there are significant health consequences of transportation-based pollution. A University of Southern California study found that at least 8% of childhood asthma cases can be attributed to children living within 250 feet of a busy roadway.  That means over 24,000 cases in Los Angeles County alone. If that percentage holds nationwide, the number of children with transportation pollution-related asthma stands at over half a million.

According to the EIA, U.S. transportation consumes 28% of primary energy, and 92% of that energy is generated by the burning of petroleum products. According to a 2005 MIT study, U.S. air pollution caused deaths attributable to road transportation stood at approximately 53,000 deaths per year. Worldwide air pollution causes 5.5 million premature deaths annually. Our cars are so dirty they’re killing us.

That’s it. But instead of ending on such a down note, take another second to go back to the video of people having fun driving electric cars. Then, check your finances and see how soon you might be able to switch to an electric vehicle. If you live in California, it might be sooner than you thought. As of the date of this writing, several California dealerships are leasing electrics for less than $79 per month after state rebates (click on “EV Lease Deals” tab on linked page)!

The Next Step

Want to learn how to switch to clean energy even if you live in an apartment? This article shares an ideal way for anyone to access clean energy. If you are inspired to learn about other ways you can increase your clean energy usage, check out the how-to pages: Easy, Intermediate, and Total Commitment.

At ButItJustMightWork, we strive to make your life more fun, more convenient and more affordable with clean energy.