Remember when the idea of electric cars used to be a fantasy? Something from The Jetsons or Tron. I mean, who could imagine not needing to fill up a gas tank every 150 miles? The whole idea was ridiculous. Gas powered engines seemed like they would be the dominant force into the foreseeable future.
Even a few years ago, the concept that electric cars could be widely available seemed a bit far-fetched. Sure, Tesla was producing them, but who could afford one of those? Not most people. Electric cars seemed like an option only for rich, environmentally conscious individuals.
But the days of ubiquitous electric cars are here…or almost here, depending on where you live.
In fact, even the oil industry has the trend on its radar. As Tom Randall wrote:
…battery prices are dropping by about 20 percent a year, and automakers have been spending billions to electrify their fleets. Volkswagen AG is targeting 25 percent of its sales to be electric by 2025. Toyota Motor Corp. plans to phase out fossil fuels altogether by 2050.
Of course, this raises the question: why now? Why are electric vehicles in general so widely available and why are electric cars in particular on the rise?
Here are 6 reasons:
#1 – Increased Awareness of Electric Vehicles
In the last 5 years, electric vehicles have shifted from novelty to everywhere. Fifteen years ago, Razor Scooters were the hot item that kids had to have for Christmas, primarily because they were so different from the standard scooters. Now everyone wants a hoverboard. They’re cool. They’re different. They’re incredibly fun.
Also, you can do really fun tricks on them:
In addition to hoverboards, drones, electric skateboards, and other electric vehicles (EV) are now widely available to the public. Amazon is on the verge of implementing drone delivery. A human transport drone was recently introduced to the public. Frankly, electric vehicles are on everyone’s minds.
Additionally, the issue of burning fossil fuels has gained increasing air time over the last 20 years as it’s become increasingly evident that global warming is a real thing, and that fossil fuels are a big contributor. People have begun to realize that gasoline powered vehicles are problematic. They spew out greenhouse gases at an enormous rate, and it’s become pretty clear that if we don’t figure out a solution, things are only going to get worse.
And so the race to produce inexpensive electric cars has begun. Initially, we only had hybrids, which used a combination of gas and electricity, but we’re now to the point where we’re finally seeing cars able to run long distances solely on electricity.
#2 – Population Explosions
The population in China has exploded, putting a huge burden on the auto industry, which is already serving the world’s largest market. This population boom is forcing the country to speed up its production of electric vehicles.
Why is China leading the way in embracing EV technology? The answer may simply be that China has no other choice. As a country, China has three fundamental paths it may follow. First, it can choose to live with a rapidly growing number of ICE [internal combustion engine] powered vehicles on its roads, with all that implies as far as air pollution and energy independence. Second, the government can restrict the transportation choices of its citizens in an effort to balance environmental concerns. Or third, the country can embrace EV technologies that enable its citizens to have their cars without jeopardizing air quality in its cities.
If China doesn’t adapt, their already terrible pollution problem is going to get worse. They are, in some ways, between a rock and a hard place. Do they want to cut down on transportation options, which is going to annoy their citizens, or simply go all in on the electric boom? It seems like they’ve decided to go all in.
#3 – Because They Can Save You Money
Remember when gas was up to over $4 per gallon? It was absurd. Filling up a gas tank could cost over $100. Thankfully, gas prices have fallen dramatically since then, lessening the sting every time drivers open their wallets. Nevertheless, electricity is cheaper than gas.
Right now, if your car gets 30 mpg (which it probably doesn’t), you’re going to spend around $1,000 per year on gas. If you purchased an electric car that ran equivalent to 105 mpg, you’d spend around $600 per year. Those are some pretty sweet savings given all the costs associated with driving and maintaining a car.
Plus, depending on when you charge your car, you can save additional cash. As How Stuff Works notes:
Most electric cars also let you save by choosing when they charge. You can set the Versa, as well as plug-in hybrids from Ford and other automakers, to charge only during off-peak hours, bringing down your electricity costs. And, though an in-home charging station for the Leaf costs about $2,000, the EPA estimates that a Nissan Versa will cost $1,359 per year in gas. So, in a little over 18 months, the savings on the Leaf should pay for the charging system.
As people look for ways to stretch their budgets, electric cars will certainly be on their radar. Additionally, as batteries become more efficient and the prices of cars drop, we should expect to see more people embrace the electric solution.
As one reviewer noted about her electric car:
The cost of ownership is so low, I will never go back to regular gas-fueled vehicles again if it can be helped. My Miev not only gets me back and forth on my daily commute to work with mileage to spare, but it is so quiet to drive and when I push the accelerator pedal down, it gives a satisfying response for the size engine it has.
#4 – Because You Can Get Subsidized By The Government
The federal government and many state governments are trying to figure out how to cut down on greenhouse emissions, which is why they offer tax credits if you purchase an electric car.
Depending on a variety of factors, you can get a significant amount of cash for purchasing an electric car. For example, if you live in Colorado and meet the right conditions, you could get over $10,000 in subsidies from the federal and state government. This can make the decision to go all electric that much easier.
It’s not clear how long these subsidies will last, but for now, this presents a great opportunity for those who want to purchase an electric car.
#5 – Because Used Ones Are Getting Really Cheap
Depending on the make and model, you can get some electric cars for under $10,000, which is absurdly cheap. While you’re certainly not going to find a Tesla for this price, you can find numerous less fancy cars to fit your price range.
This really is the ideal solution for the budget conscious person. You save on gas, you can get a government subsidy, and you’re not paying an exorbitant sticker price. This really is a win-win situation.
#6 – Public Charging Stations Are Starting To Pop Up Everywhere
One of the big worries with electric cars is charging stations. It’s fine if you’re at home and can always charge it, or never plan on driving beyond the range of a single charge, but what about when you’re out and about and need a recharge? Will you be able to locate a charging station?
Thankfully, that’s becoming less and less of a problem. Electric charging stations are starting to show up in all sort of locations. In fact, the Alternative Fuels Data Center estimates that there are over 16,000 charging stations in the United States. While this is certainly minuscule compared to the number of gas stations, this number will only keep growing.
Additionally, stores like Walgreens are beginning to incorporate charging stations in the services they offer. The pharmacy chain now has them at over 400 different locations.
Yes, if you’re a road warrior constantly making long trips, it might be better to wait till there are more charging stations available to purchase an electric car, but otherwise, you’ll probably be safe.
Electric cars have not reached a saturation point yet. In some senses, they are still a minority. But this is rapidly changing as the technology improves, the price drops, and the environmental matters become more urgent.
And while you may not want to get an electric car now, there will come a point where the deal is too good to ignore. Hopefully, that day will come sooner rather than later.