Can an all-electric vehicle work in Tompkins County? How long can you travel? Are they that much better for the environment? Aren’t they expensive? Can they save you money? If you’re thinking of going all-out on an all-electric vehicle, read on to learn the answers to these questions and more.
(Before we go on, we should point out that not all electric vehicles are all-electric. An all-electric vehicle runs entirely on battery power charged with electricity from the grid. This is different from both a hybrid-electric and a plug-in hybrid electric, which both have gas engines in addition to a battery. Read more about the difference in a previous blog article. There are quite a number of all-electric vehicle models, including the Chevy Bolt, Nissan Leaf, Volkswagen e-Golf, and various Tesla models. Now back to the questions.)
1) They can go the distance: The driving range for current all-electric models is well over 100 miles per charge, and increasing every year. A 2018 Nissan Leaf gets 151 miles; a 2018 Chevy Bolt 238. A local EV owner said her Toyota Rav4 gets 130 miles to a charge—enough for a trip to Syracuse and back (read the article here). It is good to point out, however, that battery range is reduced during winter and when driving in hilly areas.
2) They are easy to charge: As of this writing (September 2018), there are at least 27 public charging stations and one fast charging station in Tompkins County, and over 2,200 throughout the state. And you don't need to use a public station to charge the battery. You can charge almost all all-electric vehicles via a standard power outlet and an everyday extension cord. This so-called “Level 1” charging using a regular 120V outlet (like one you’d plug a lamp into) provides 4-5 miles of driving each hour of charge, or about 40 miles from an overnight 8-hour charge. A “Level 2” charger, uses a 240V outlet (like one for an electric dryer), and can provide 15-25 miles per hour of charge, fully recharging most batteries overnight. Most public charging stations use Level 2 technology. “Level 3” or “DC Fast-Charging” are less common (a few exist in Ithaca), but can provide 50 to 90 miles of driving from a 30-minute charge. While some such charging stations currently exist, Governor Cuomo has announced plans to install enough Level 3 charging stations along the New York State Thruway to drive the entire state without exiting for a recharge.
3) They have a reduced environmental footprint: No tailpipe means no tailpipe emissions! According to this study by the Union of Concerned Scientists, the greenhouse gas emissions produced by an all-electric vehicle over its lifetime are far less than those of conventional or hybrid vehicles. This assessment includes production, which is where the carbon emissions of an all-electric vehicle outweigh those of conventional vehicles. Emissions from operating the vehicle do depend on how clean the electricity is. In Tompkins County, only about a third of the energy in electricity comes from fossil fuels, which means low carbon emissions from driving. A conventional vehicle would have to get over 200 miles per gallon for it to have similar carbon emissions to an all-electric vehicle charging from the grid. And, aside from production, a vehicle run on solar energy has zero emissions!
4) They save you money: The obvious reason for this is not spending any more money on gas. An all-electric vehicle will save over $5,000 over five years in fuel, as electricity is much less expensive than gas: an average conventional car will spend roughly $11.20 in fuel to drive 100 miles versus $3.30 for the electricity. And some charging stations in Ithaca are free! Additionally, since there is no gas motor, there is no need for routine oil changes. Not having a conventional motor also eliminates the need for many common repairs. According to one local EV owner, switching to an EV has saved her approximately $800 per year. Battery replacement may eventually be an issue, though models typically come with an 8- to 10-year battery warranty. And while all-electric vehicles may have higher ticket prices than their gas counterparts, there are currently generous federal and state incentives that reduce the cost of purchase by up to $9,500. Combining these incentives with dealer discounts can bring the purchase price down significantly.
Excited about all-electric vehicles? To learn more, including current incentives for purchasing electric vehicles and EV FAQs, head to the Get Your Green Back Tompkins’ website. Or read this article on two local residents who are making all-electric vehicles work for them.