I live in an area of the United States where most people think “environmentalism” is a dirty word. Ironic, since it’s the opposite of dirty, but it’s something I have to work around should I want to remain cordial with the people in my community.
I bought an Electric Vehicle (EV) just over three months ago, and boy I wasn’t prepared for the constant bombardment of interaction with strangers because of it. I’m perfectly happy to answer questions, or listen to their criticism, but I learned pretty early on the best way to approach the topic in a place with people who have quite a different world view than I do. So when someone starts out with a snide question such as “So, you must be a tree hugger or somethin’, huh?” I begin like this:
Let’s put aside the whole climate change / global warming debate, and let’s talk about the reasons why you might want to buy an EV.
1) Cleaner air
Doesn’t matter what you believe about what’s bad for the earth, it’s a pretty widely accepted fact that polluted air is bad for humans. It’s also a widely accepted fact that air pollution is primarily caused by cars, particularly in urban areas. Certain cities have it pretty bad, including the one I live in. Since we’re in a valley, inversions are common and people die as a result of bad air days.
If everyone in the city drove an EV, there would be far less air pollution, at least on a local level. The coal power plant that’s far away will spew its exhaust for the cow’s to breathe, not us. So, I drive an EV because air pollution is a public health issue.
The “how far can I go?” question is entirely a moot point for most people. I rarely drive more than 70 miles in a day, and few people need to drive more. Most EVs have more range than that. When I do drive longer, I typically know I’m going to need to ahead of time, and can make plans if that’s what it comes down to. So despite having an EV that can go 265 miles on a single charge (so I don’t have to make plans nearly as much as if I had a car that could only do 100), I never ask myself “am I going to make it?” It’s a simple question of math. You don’t let yourself run out of gas, and you wouldn’t let yourself run out of charge.
That said, I plug my car in when I get home. In the morning, it’s always full. I never have to stop and refuel unless I’m going on a long road trip. And with 4 kids in the car, believe me, I need to stop every couple hours anyway.
People spend more time than they realize at gas stations. It’s not just the time it takes to park, get out, pay, pump, and leave. It’s the detour from your route. It’s the having to hunt around for a gas station on the way home because you drove to work on fumes because you forgot to fill it up over the weekend and you didn’t want to be late to work on Monday.
Then there’s the silly people who drive miles out of the way to get fuel that is a few cents cheaper per gallon. What a waste.
Bottom line, I just get in my car and drive, and snicker whenever I drive past a gas station.
3) Lower Cost
“But your EV is very expensive“. Well, so is your enormous SUV. Or your luxury sedan, or sports car, or pickup truck. Nobody ever makes a big deal about the cost of a gas car. The topic didn’t come up at all when my coworker bought his Lexus (which costs more than my car, by the way, and he now has extreme buyers remorse now that he’s ridden in my car). But the moment you start talking about EVs, suddenly cost becomes the center issue. Really?
Up front cost aside, I’m thinking long term costs here. Gas cars cost a lot to maintain compared to EVs; you have oil changes, spark plug replacements, tubes that leak, and any one of over a thousand moving parts . Let’s hope something like your transmission doesn’t go out before the warranty is up; I’ve had to replace one before, they are NOT cheap. And then, of course, there’s the fuel. That’s a cost that never goes away, is never cheap, and has deep economic consequences that nobody likes to talk about.
It costs me a dollar to drive 30 miles, and that’s assuming I paid for the all of the electricity in the first place. Many work places offer free EV charging. EV charging spots in parking spots of shopping malls and grocery stores and becoming more and more common. Essentially, I’m paying a lot more per mile in tire wear and tare than I am in fuel. Thousands upon thousands of dollars in savings per year. And, of course, the higher your mileage requirements, the sooner you’ll get your return on investment in fuel savings alone.
I don’t mean environmental sustainability, I’m talking about stable fuel costs. The price of gasoline is incredibly volatile. Electricity, on the other hand, has a very predictable cost.
When the price of gas spikes, and the economy slows. The price of everything goes up, because everything requires transport. Businesses make less money, products costs more so people have less money, and, of course, people have to put more of their already hurting budgets into buying more expensive fuel. It’s a vicious cycle.
I could then start to talk about installing solar to charge your car and how it’s cost has grid parity and the predictable long-term energy costs thereof, but I won’t get into that because, well, solar is another dirty word where I live. I’m the only home owner in my entire neighborhood with solar panels. I’m also pretty sure I’m the only one in the neighborhood with an EV. Considering where I live, a part of me is glad my south facing roof faces away from the road.
Like it or not, the United States lives and breathes oil, and most of it isn’t produced locally. Our country is completely and hopelessly dependent on foreign oil. Why? Because we need it to fuel our transportation. It’s a simple as that. Cut off the oil, people can’t drive places, and a lot of very bad things happen as a result.
They say that “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned”. I respectfully disagree. Hell hath no fury like an American who has to adhere to fuel rations, or wait in line to buy gas. It’s happened before, and eventually, it will happen again. I fear that next time it does, it’ll be a lot worse.
If everyone drove an EV, we wouldn’t need foreign oil. Not in the way we do today, anyway.
Honestly, this is a thing I used to not care for. I had a Camaro because it looked nice, not because it went fast.
Well, all it takes is one experience in your Dodge Caravan trying to get onto the freeway when a fleet of Semi trucks won’t slow down for you to make you care about performance.
No matter how little horse power your EV has, it has instant torque. There are no gears to shift through; all the power of your motor is instantly available to you, which means you can get going up to a sufficient speed in very little time.
I consider the ability for a car to accelerate in this way a safety feature. Performance matters, even if you don’t use it all that often.
7) Setting an example for my children
It’s one thing to talk to your children about things that are important, it’s entirely something else to make them experience it. It’s about making abundantly clear what your priorities are, and making decisions with them in mind. Buying an EV is an investment in my personal finances, the long term economics of my community and country, and of course, my commitment to the environment. What better way to show my children that if anything is worth doing, it’s worth doing right?
I could take an expensive family vacation every year, and buy every new gadget that comes out. Or, I can drive and EV. I could buy a bigger, nicer house; or I can install solar panels. And you know what? In the long run, I’ll find myself with more money than I would have otherwise due to the return on investment, so we will, one day, get to have our cake and eat it too.
It is said that for true happiness, you should spend your money on experiences rather than things. While an EV is a thing, driving it is an experience in and of itself, one that I have and enjoy every single day of my life. Trust me, if for no other reason than the driving experience, I will never again buy a gas car.