Dream about dumping the pump one day and going all-electric? Wondering if you could save money by upgrading to a more fuel-efficient vehicle? Here are four things that are useful to know when considering a switch to a hybrid or all-electric vehicle.
1. There are three types of electric vehicles.
Hybrid electric - here a battery and electric motor work together with a small gas engine. No plugging in is required. Common models include Ford C-Max Hybrid and Toyota Prius. These get approximately 50 miles per gallon.
Plug-in hybrid electric - These require plugging in to charge the battery, which power the the vehicles entirely, with ranges of 20-80 miles. Once the battery is depleted, the vehicles run like hybrid electrics, using their gas engine for longer trips. Chevy Volt and Toyota Prius Prime are two common models. On average, these get an equivalent of 70 miles per gallon, counting both gas and electricity usage.
All-electric - These operate solely with battery power charged from the grid. Some common models include Nissan Leaf (150 mile range), Chevy Bolt (238 miles), and Tesla Model 3 (220 miles). These get an equivalent of approximately 100 miles per gallon, using EPA calculations.
2. They are less expensive than you think. Don’t be fooled by the sticker price. There are significant incentives available: a federal tax credit of up to $7,500, and a NYS rebate of up to $2,000. The MSRP for a 2018 Nissan Leaf is $29,990, which comes down to $20,490 after applying the incentives. (Note you have to have a tax liability to claim the tax credit.) And this does not include dealer discounts, which can make vehicle pricing more attractive. Maguire Chevrolet in Lansing is offering a $6,126 dealer discount on a 2018 Chevy Volt, which, combined with the federal and state incentives brings down the car from MSRP $36,125 to $20,799. They also offer a lease on the Volt for $200 a month.
In addition, there are sometimes extra discounts secured through special promotions, such as one organized by non-profit Mass Energy in our neighboring state, which several Tompkins County residents took advantage of last year, helped in many cases by a volunteer Energy Navigator. We mention these examples here not as endorsements of particular models, dealers, or discount programs, but as real cases that give a better sense of the scale of incentives available.
3. They cost much less to operate, especially since they consume less fuel. We estimate that an average driver who puts in 15,000 miles a year will save $5,500 in fuel savings over five years by driving a plug-in hybrid or all-electric vehicle as compared to a vehicle with average fuel economy (currently around 25 mpg), even with current relatively low gas prices. (And if instead of fueling your car with 3,000 gallons of gasoline over five years you powered it with electricity from the sun, you would reduce your carbon by 6 tons a year!) In addition, electric vehicles have fewer moving parts, which means fewer things to break down and lower maintenance costs.
4. They do work in winter and with hills. Yes, plug-in hybrids and all-electric vehicles can work in Ithaca (as many local owners can attest). However, it is true that the batteries are less efficient in cold weather (one test found 20% reduction in range on the coldest winter days). Since battery power is also used for heating, lights and wipers, this can further compromise driving range on cold days.
Want to learn more? Find more information on electric vehicles and hybrids on the Get Your GreenBack website, and read a story of a manager at a local dealer who recently purchased a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle on our blog. Or request free advising from a volunteer Energy Navigator.