ASK EARTHA: Electric vehicles are the future

 In Ask Eartha

Dear Eartha, Gas prices are making me cringe. I’ve heard that electric cars can be cheaper to drive than my gas-guzzler – is that true?

I’m cringing, too. Right now, the average price for a gallon of gas in the U.S. is $3.18. But in Summit County, it’s $3.89, meaning it costs over $50 to fill the tank of my little four-cylinder car. So, it’s no surprise that many of us are wondering if there are cheaper ways to get around.

Well, of course there are! In our car-centric culture, it’s easy to forget that riding a bike (if you have one) and taking the bus are totally free in Summit County. And lucky for us, we have both an excellent recreation path and public transit in our community. But these aren’t always practical options, especially if you’ve got a long commute, don’t live near a bus route, work after dark, or need to schlep kids around. If you’re not able to ditch your four-wheeled transportation just yet, maybe it’s time to start thinking about an electric car.

The sticker price

Think I’m crazy for pitching electric cars (also known as electric vehicles or EVs for short) as a way to save money? Hear me out. Luxury EVs get a lot of attention, but not all electric cars are expensive models. And the cost of gas-powered cars is steadily increasing. In July, J.D. Power reported that the average purchase price of a new gas-powered vehicle was over $41,000. Certainly, you can buy an electric car for over $40,000…but there are also plenty of models that don’t cost that much. For example, a 2022 Nissan Leaf starts at $27,400. A $2,500 Colorado tax credit (often offered as an upfront discount) plus a $7,500 federal tax credit  get you $10,000 off the sticker price, making the total cost less than $20,000 for a brand new car.

True, the Leaf and other lower-cost models like the Hyundai Kona or Chevy Bolt aren’t all-wheel drive, but you can buy a burly set of snow tires with those savings. Even better, Xcel Energy launched a new suite of EV programs just last month. Among the incentives are $3,000 – $5,500 rebates for low-income customers who purchase a new or used EV.

Forgotten costs of car ownership

It’s common for people to look at the retail prices of electric cars and dismiss them as too expensive. And certainly, none of us should buy a vehicle that we can’t afford – I am not here to encourage bad financial decisions! But it’s important to remember that the sticker price is just one aspect of owning a car. Fuel and maintenance are additional costs that are easy to take for granted…except, perhaps, when the price of gas creeps up.

EVs have fewer moving parts than gas vehicles, which means they require less maintenance. They don’t need oil, air filters, or spark plugs, and there are fewer fluids to top off. They’re also easier on brakes. In AAA’s 2021 analysis of driving costs, the average operating cost of a car driven 10,000 miles per year is $2,028. For EVs, the operating cost roughly half – just $1,136 a year. Over 10 years of owning a car, that’s a savings of nearly $9,000.

But how much does it cost to “fill up” an EV on Xcel Energy’s grid? To fully charge VW’s new ID.4, which has a range of about 250 miles, you’d pay roughly $10. Compare that to the average 2021 gas-powered car: Using today’s gas prices, it would cost $36 to drive those same 250 miles. EV drivers can save even more by using Xcel’s new EV-specific rates, which incentivize charging at night when electricity demand is lower.

Kicking the tires

Electric cars are the future, but you don’t have to take my word for it! See what all the buzz is about at the Summit EV Ride & Drive on Wednesday, September 22 from 4 – 7 PM at the Frisco Adventure Park Day Lodge parking lot. Hosted by the High Country Conservation Center and the Summit Climate Action Collaborative, several EV models will be available for test drives, and local EV enthusiasts will be on hand to show off their cars and answer all your EV questions. For more information, check out HighCountryConservation.org.

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