Archive

The unexpected benefits of electric cars

A Cadillac ELR was one of the electric vehicles on display during Sustainable Williston’s June 15 event. (Observer courtesy photo)
A Cadillac ELR was one of the electric vehicles on display during Sustainable Williston’s June 15 event. (Observer courtesy photo)

By Luc Reid

On June 15, electric vehicle (EV) owners came together at Williston’s library and Old Brick Church to show EVs, share information and answer questions. As part of Sustainable Williston, I helped organize the event and although I’d already learned a lot about electric cars, one thing took me by surprise: how enormously the EV owners I met enjoyed driving them.
The most obvious benefit of electric cars are that they fight climate change and it’s true: using an EV is like sucking literally tons of greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere and putting them back in the ground. A second argument is that EVs save money, which in the long term they often can. The best reason to own an EV, though, might be that it’s fun.
EVs pack some punch. Unlike gas engines, electric engines can go from nothing to full power instantly
EVs are so quiet that most have “growlers,” devices that make a little noise when the car is moving so that pedestrians and others will realize the car is on.
EV owners rarely or never have to buy gas, depending on EV model and driving habits.You may love your time at the gas pump, but I’d just as soon go home, plug the car in and forget about it.
Owning an EV makes you a part of a very welcoming community of EV owners
Driving an EV feels futuristic and it is. As EV prices continue to fall, range is increasing. There are more than 10 times as many EV owners in Vermont today as there were just three years ago. You may not notice EVs because they look like any other car (EV owner Mark Walker told me the only way to tell his Volkswagon eGolf from a regular Golf on the outside is the logo), but they’re out there in growing numbers.
These advantages are specifically for plug-in electric vehicles, whether they have a backup gas engine to increase range (like the Chevy Volt) or are all-electric (like the Nissan Leaf). I’m not talking about hybrids like the Toyota Prius (the car I currently own), because they depend on gasoline and don’t plug in.
Q: Aren’t EVs more expensive than gas cars?
A: Yes. However, buyers of new EVs can qualify for a $7,500 tax credit, electricity costs about a dollar to move the car as far as a gallon of gas and EVs cost less to maintain. There are also surprisingly cheap leasing options.
Q: How reliable are EVs? Will the battery last?
A: According to Idaho National Laboratory, “Fewer moving parts in the electric vehicle lead to another important difference. The electric vehicle requires less periodic maintenance and is more reliable.”
The battery technology has been in use for years in hybrid cars and has proven to be long lasting.
Q: People say electric cars are good for the environment, but isn’t the fuel burned to make the electricity as bad as gas?
A: No. Even if we completely ignored the emissions from burning the gasoline, just manufacturing a gallon of gas uses more electricity than it takes to move an electric car 25 miles!
Q: What about range? What if I run out of power?
A: Range is a key question when comparing EV models and it’s important to choose an EV that fits your needs. Some EVs have a range of 70-80 miles per charge, more if you drive conservatively—but if you run out, that’s it. Others have a range of 20-30 miles, but switch over to gas if the charge runs out. A few high-end EVs, notably Teslas, have a range of 180 miles or more.
You can find out more about EVs at Drive Electric Vermont’s site at www.driveelectricvt.com, including a listing of all models available in Vermont, costs, benefits and more.
Sustainable Williston (SustainableWilliston.org) involves Williston residents working on issues like clean energy, water quality and planting trees. Members write about a different sustainability topic for the Observer each month. The group’s next event is a roundtable on sustainable transportation options at the Dorothy Alling Library on Aug. 24.