George Simonson with his Tesla Model 3 Long Range.
Ten years ago, you had to be a hardy soul to live with electric vehicles. They were expensive, didn’t go far, and were hard to find chargers for.
Today, a lot has changed — except the old stories. Yet electric vehicles have reached a key tipping point, locally and globally. (You see them all over Harpswell now.) So let’s take a look at the realities beyond the myths.
Myth 1: Electric vehicles cost too much
Yes, today’s electric vehicles still cost more to buy than internal-combustion-engine cars. But they’re much, much cheaper to run. And so, in the end, they’re cheaper overall.
Here’s the math: Kelley Blue Book says the average new gas car costs $40,472. This spring, I did an informal survey and test-drove all the long-range, mid-price electric vehicles sold in Maine at the time, including the Chevy Bolt, Hyundai Kona, Kia Niro, Nissan Leaf, and Tesla Model 3 Long Range. They averaged around $46,000. (I ignored six-figure luxury electric vehicles, because I’m not rich.)
When you buy one, the feds give you a $7,500 tax credit and Efficiency Maine gives you a check for $2,000. Walletgenius.com says average annual fuel costs for electric vehicles are $485 versus $1,117 for conventional cars. And Consumer Reports says average lifetime maintenance and repair costs are 3 cents a mile for electric vehicles versus 6 cents for gas cars. (It’s no wonder electric vehicle owners joke that all you have to do is add wiper fluid and rotate the tires.)
Then on top of that, manufacturers say they’ll be offering electric vehicles at around $25,000 by 2023.
So in reality, electric vehicles already cost less than gas cars — and will soon cost a lot less.
Myth 2: electric vehicles don’t have enough range
Yes, old-time electric vehicles often had a range of 100 miles or less. My 8-year-old Nissan Leaf, for example, only went 88 miles on a good day.
But today’s electric vehicles typically go 250 miles on a charge. The new Rivian pickup truck goes 314 (and tows 11,000 pounds)! My Tesla goes 353. And the 2022 Lucid Air will go 520. Meanwhile, the average American drives … less than 50 miles a day.
So in reality, electric vehicles already have plenty of range — and it’s growing fast.
Myth 3: There’s nowhere to charge
I knew someone once who drove from California to Maine in an old electric vehicle with 70 miles of range — when chargers were rare. Yikes! She was made of stern stuff.
Since then, chargers have been springing up like dandelions as people realize there’s money to be made. I recently re-counted and found, to my surprise, that there are now 36 chargers between my home in Harpswell and downtown Portland — up from the 19 I reported here last June.
Tesla has installed 25,000 super-fast superchargers, is adding 20 more a day, and will soon open them to all electric vehicle drivers. The Hill says there are 102,000 chargers in America right now, and the feds aim to build another 400,000 by 2030. Meanwhile, modern phone apps have made finding chargers (and planning long-distance trips) easy.
Little-known fact: Charging at home is the easiest, cheapest way to go. My charger cost me $600 plus $500 to install. (It’s a 220-volt line, like a clothes dryer.) Like most electric vehicle owners, I do 99% of my charging right here — which means I save money and always have somewhere to charge.
So in reality, there are already plenty of chargers — and thousands more are coming.
Myth 4: Building electric vehicles is worse for the climate
Yes, building an electric vehicle can create more carbon pollution than building a gas car. That’s because of the energy needed to make the battery.
Still, according to the Argonne National Laboratory, the total lifetime greenhouse gas emissions from manufacturing, fueling and driving a conventional car are almost 50% higher than for an electric vehicle. This is because electric vehicles don’t have tailpipe emissions.
So in reality, building electric vehicles is already better for the climate — and will only continue to get better as batteries improve (less energy-intensive to build, fewer rare or toxic materials, and easier to recycle).
Myth 5: Running electric vehicles is worse for the climate
Yes, electric vehicles run on electricity made elsewhere, in power plants. But here in Maine, 75% of ours comes from renewable Canadian hydropower — which is cleaner than solar.
Even in slow-moving states like Oklahoma, where most power still comes from coal, the lifetime carbon cost of mining, transporting and burning coal to make electricity for electric vehicles is lower than the cost of drilling and transporting oil, refining it to make gasoline, transporting it again, and burning it in gas cars.
Meanwhile, the use of coal is collapsing around the world because renewable technologies like solar and wind power have evolved rapidly — and become cheaper than coal. (The cost of solar panels, for example, has fallen 90% over the past 10 years.) The result, thanks to market forces, is that the world’s electric grids are growing cleaner every year.
So in reality, running electric vehicles is already better for the climate — and will only continue to get better.
In the end, here’s what you need to know:
Electric vehicles are good for ordinary people like you and me who try to be smart about their money. They’re fun to drive, with amazing acceleration. And they’re new technology — clean, quiet and beautiful.
They’re good for the environment, too.
And they’re good for Harpswell — our own little corner of God’s green earth. It’s clean, quiet and beautiful here, too, right? I say we try to keep it that way.
G.T. Simonson is a writer from New York City living in Harpswell since 1992. Questions about renewable energy? Contact him anytime at email@example.com.