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Thursday, April 23, 2020

Are Electric Vehicles Worth Getting Charged Up About?

By Catherine Powell

Image courtesy flickr

I know you thought this blog was going to be all about electric vehicles, but since I don’t own one, I thought I’d start off by telling you all about my electric lawn mower.  Having owned a number of gas-powered lawn mowers over the years, I thought I’d try a battery-powered electric mower last year when my old Toro push mower gave up the ghost.  A friend of mine had bought one and he waxed poetic about how quiet and maintenance-free his electric mower was.  No gas to store in the garage, and no trips to the small engine repairman every year or so to have the spark plugs and air filter changed. What’s not to like?  While the unit he had cost about $100 more than a comparable gas mower, the savings in fuel and maintenance seemed to me like a no-brainer.  It was certainly going to cost less than paying the kid next door $40 bucks to mow my lawn every week or so.  So, I plunked down a little less than $300 and bit the bullet. 

Guess what? It was one of the best investments I ever made.  After charging the lithium ion battery for about an hour, the mower has juice enough to mow both my front and back yard with power to spare.  The unit is so quiet I no longer have to wear hearing protectors when I mow the lawn.  I can even get up at the crack of dawn to mow in the summer without having to worry about waking the neighbors.  No fuss, no muss, no gas.  The thing paid for itself in less than a year and started up without a hitch when I did my first cut of the season in March.  In short, I love it.  So, what does that have to do with electric vehicles, you ask?  Read on.

When was the last time you took your vehicle to a mechanic?

Image courtesy flickr
Just like electric mowers, EV’s spend a lot less time in the shop than their gas-powered brethren.  That’s because electric vehicles are much simpler mechanisms.  No gas engine means never having to pay for an oil change, a tune-up, spark plugs, engine air filters, coolant, fuel injector cleaning and every other kind of maintenance related to the internal combustion engine.  You’ll never be forced to pay through the nose for transmission repairs either, since EV’s have no transmission.  The electric motors on the wheels produce thrust directly to the vehicle. 

Here are a few other ways in which EV’s outperform gas-powered vehicles:

1.      Regenerative brakes used on EV’s almost never need to be replaced, plus they recharge the battery while you drive.

2.      The lack of an engine and all related accouterments mean that most EV’s have way more cabin space. 

      3.      When it’s cold outside, EV owners can start their car’s heater while the vehicle is still inside the garage.

      4.      An EV will never leave an unsightly oil stain on your driveway or garage floor.

      5.      If there’s a power failure, EV owners can use their vehicle to power their home by purchasing an inverter.  

      6.      You never need to put a penny in OPEC’s pocket ever again.  This means saving money every month when your credit card bill rolls around.  The average EV user spends only about $1.20 per mile based on average electric utility rates.

      7.      Zero pollution makes EV’s the most eco-friendly vehicles on the planet.  Driving an EV produces 54% less carbon dioxide even when you factor in the electric power generated to recharge the vehicle.

      8.      Driving an EV can qualify you for federal and state tax incentives.

So, what’s not to like about EV’s?

While my electric mower was an easy purchase for me to make, the current makes and models of electric vehicles are still a little difficult for some consumers to swallow.  Here’s why:

Image courtesy flickr
      1.      Sticker shock is a big factor at the moment.  While my mower was only about $100 more than comparable models, EV’s are significantly more to purchase or lease.  They range from base prices of $30,000-$80,000.  Of course, when you consider the average price of a gas-powered vehicle in the US is $36,718, some EV models like the Nissan Leaf, Hyundai Ioniq, VW e-Golf, Tesla Model 3, and the Chevy Bolt aren’t that much more expensive.  

      2.      The biggest downside for some is their limited range.  If you’re an outside sales rep or commuter who drives more than 200-300 miles per day, you’ll be required to stop for an hour or more to recharge your vehicle.  This means if you want to take your family on a cross country driving vacation or you live in Florida and your relatives live in New Jersey, either be prepared to make stops at charging stations along the way or seek an alternate means of transportation.

      3.      If you plan to keep your EV for decades, eventually the battery pack will need to be replaced and this can run into the thousands of dollars.  The average life expectancy of a battery pack is between 5-20 years depending on how often you charge it. That’s the bad news.  The good news is with the advances being made in battery technology, by the time your EV needs a battery change, the prices should come down significantly and the range and longevity of the battery pack should rise.

      4.      The hassle of charging. Depending on the make and model of EV, it can still be difficult to find charging stations around town.  While it takes a couple of minutes to fill your gas tank, recharging an EV can take hours.  Therefore, you need to do your homework as to how much of a dent in your electric bill your EV of choice is going to make month in and month out.  Obviously, the more miles you drive, the more of an effect an EV will make on your utility bill.

Not only is battery technology improving by leaps and bounds, so too are choices and prices as other car manufacturers climbing aboard the EV bandwagon.  This means that in a few years there should be plenty of affordable EV’s for consumers who are eager to go electric.  In the meantime, I’ll have to be content with driving my electric mower back and forth across my yard.

Catherine Powell is the owner of A Plus All Florida, Insurance in Orange Park, Florida.  To find out more ways to save on flood insurance, check out her website at http://aplusallfloridainsuranceinc.com/



1 comment:

  1. Remember the General Motors EV 1 that was sold in California in the 1990's? If it wasn't for entrepreneurs like Elon Musk, we'd have probably never seen another EV in our lifetime. Now most every car manufacturer is rushing to get one to the market.

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