The Rise of the Electric Car

It has been a great summer for electric cars. Norway has announced a goal of selling only electric cars by 2025, and India wants to stop selling gas and diesel cars and transition to electric vehicles by 2030. Volvo announced that starting in 2019, they would build only plug-in electric and hybrid cars - and they have a goal of selling 1 million electric cars by 2025. A day later, France announced that they would end sales of gas and diesel cars by 2040.

Those dates may seem far away, but by setting an actual date of the death of the internal combustion engine these companies and countries have set the silent revolution of electric vehicles into motion. The research and development branches of Volvo are already well on their way to solving major roadblocks for electric vehicle ownership and there is now added pressure on other automotive companies to do the same.

There are some major roadblocks to owning an electric vehicle right now, and many people are understandably wary of them. I've decided to dive a little deeper into what it actually means to own an electric car so that you can make the best decision.

First off, electric cars are undeniably better for the environment. While it's not technically zero-carbon (unless of course it was manufactured in a zero-carbon manner, but so far I don't believe any automotive companies are running completely on renewable energy and using recycled materials), it is as close as you can get for non-bicycle transportation. I recently went to a discussion about sustainable living and one point really stuck with me; the idea that you can make small sustainable choices every single day but what really matters is that you make the sustainable choice when making big purchases like a car, a home, remodeling, etc. I'm nowhere near ready to buy a house, but a car is closer in my future and the idea of making the sustainable choice and buying an electric car has firmly rooted itself in my brain.

Sadly, it's pretty unlikely that you'll find a used electric vehicle on the market right now, so you're looking at buying a new car. Most electric vehicles start around $30,000, but of course they can get much more expensive. The good news is that the federal government offers a tax credit of $2,500 to $7,500 for your new electric vehicle purchase. The amount of the tax credit depends on the battery capacity of the car and the size of the vehicle. The fine print you have to be careful of here is that the tax credit is only being offered for the first 200,000 electric vehicles sold by each manufacturer in the United States. Currently, the tax credit is available for all manufacturers but I expect that once improvements are made to electric vehicles that make them more user friendly, those tax credits will go quickly. Some states and cities also offer tax credits, vehicle rebates or vouchers, special low-cost charging rates, and high-occupancy vehicle lane exemptions to encourage purchasing electric vehicles.

One of the major issues with electric cars is their range. The average range of one charge of an electric car goes from 84 miles (2017 Fiat 500e) to 335 miles (2017 Tesla Model S). If you want to take a long trip with any of these cars you'd have to plan a 20-30 minute long charging stop every time your battery ran low. This requires a lot of extra planning, and could leave you in a tricky situation if you're somewhere that doesn't have a lot of battery charging stations.

Luckily there are many people that don't view the issue of range as a deal breaker. Electric vehicles are perfect city cars. They provide a low-carbon alternative to getting around, and you're more likely to find charging stations in cities.

For those who view range as a deal breaker, don't worry! Electric car technology has improved rapidly over the last few years, and with the new deadlines in place for phasing out the internal combustion engine I believe we're about to see great innovations for improving the electric car battery. Once the battery improves more people will buy electric cars, which will drive up the demand for charging stations and get rid of the other big roadblock to owning and enjoying an electric car. So, if you want to make the sustainable choice but don't think you're ready to buy an electric car consider following me in continuing to bike and take public transit until the time is right.

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