With gas prices in New Jersey averaging $4.20 a gallon thanks to Vladimir Putin and the Wall Street Journal reporting that car buyers are now looking more seriously at EVs, I’m republishing this piece, originally entitled “Five Reasons to Buy an Electric Car” from 2020. I’ve made a few updates, which are in italics.
I was having my hair cut the other day and chatting with the guy with the scissors when the conversation turned to automobiles. He had recently test driven a Tesla Model 3, I learned. His original plan had been to buy a Subaru, but he figured it was a good opportunity to see what all the EV (electric vehicle) fuss was about. That drive was all it took. “It was amazing, so fast and smooth,” he told me. Now he’s planning on buying a Tesla. He bought one and loves it.
I didn’t need any convincing. For close to three years (now four-and-a-half) I’ve been driving an electric Chevrolet Bolt. It’s persuaded me that, indeed, the future of transportation is electric and that the internal combustion engine (ICE) will soon be a curiosity relegated to transportation museums, right next to the steam engine.
- The driving experience is much better. I like sporty cars that are fun to drive. My previous car was a Volkswagen GTI, a classic “hot-hatch” known for its pep and handling. My Bolt is better in almost every way. It’s quicker because unlike an ICE, the power is immediately available. There’s no revving the engine or searching for a better gear because most EV have only one gear. In traffic, you tap the accelerator, and you’re off like a slingshot: no lag. Think Han Solo switching to hyper space in the Millennium Falcon. Moreover, the engine is virtually silent and free of vibration. It’s so quiet, in fact, that manufacturers have had to add fake sound so you don’t mow down unsuspecting pedestrians.
- EVs are virtually maintenance free. According to Tesla, their drivetrain has only about 17 moving parts compared to the 200 or so in a typical ICE vehicle. My Bolt has 80% fewer moving parts than your average ICE vehicle. And this holds true for all EVs. There are no belts, spark plugs, oil changes, you name it. I’ve yet to take my Bolt in for any maintenance (though yes, you still have to rotate tires and change windshield wipers). Of 141,000 Chevrolet Bolts made, 16 caught fire due to an extremely rare manufacturing anomaly. My car was recalled and a brand new, better battery with longer range, was installed free of charge. It was like getting a brand new engine in an ICE vehicle.
- The “Gas” is Cheap. One of the joys of owning an EV is never having to visit a gas station. But beyond keeping your hands clean and avoiding the fumes, you pay substantially less per mile to drive an EV. My Bolt has a range of 239 miles (259 with the new battery). At 17 cents a kilowatt, charging its 60kW battery at home costs approximately $10. (Public charging will cost approximately 30 cents per kilowatt.) With the average car in the U.S. getting 25.1 miles per gallon and the average price of regular gas in New Jersey at $2.22 (now $4.20) per gallon, you would drop $21 (now $43) bucks to travel the same distance. That savings adds up over time.
- You’ll be Fighting Climate Change. I won’t belabor the issue of global warming. You’ve all heard the science. What I will point out is that even if your electricity comes from coal—which in New Jersey it doesn’t—EVs are still better for the environment, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists.
- You’ll Be the Life of the Party. Not really. But people will corner you and want to know all about your car. And at a party where the conversation is lagging, that can be a godsend. (Not so much anymore as Teslas are all over.)
What about charging and the much discussed “range anxiety?” Well, as to charging, if you’re lucky enough to have a driveway or garage or own a brownstone, you’re golden. For $500, you can buy a “Level 2” charger and fill the “tank” up every night. If not, public chargers — which cost a little more per kilowatt — are sprouting up everywhere, including here in Jersey City.
And as for range anxiety? Well, if you’re going on a long trip—more than 200 miles in a day—you’ll launch your trusty Chargepoint or PlugShare app on your phone before heading out the door, and it will tell you where you can stop for lunch and use a fast “Level 3” charger. (During these stops my wife likes to get exercise. I hit the nearest restaurant.) Yes, it requires a little planning, and there are still rural areas lacking fast chargers. But, really, aren’t these minor inconveniences a small price to pay to change the world?