The math: I saved $30,000 US dollars in gas and maintenance driving an e-Golf over eight years. Government rebates saved another $20,000 US dollars. My second electric vehicle (EV), a luxury Polestar: Free.
Most drivers don’t realize that EVs pay for themselves in eight to ten years. Buying an electric car isn’t just good for the environment in the long term, but it’s great for your bank account in the short term. For some reason, drivers and automakers don’t spend enough time explaining the numbers. So here they are.
The electricity to power my Volkswagen e-Golf costs $60 US dollars (roughly 60 euro) per month total—yes, per month—to drive one thousand miles (1600 km). And no, I do not have solar panels. But I do program the car to charge itself at the lowest nocturnal rate. In addition, my amazingly efficient, economical, and sporty e-Golf saved me at least $8,000 US dollars in car maintenance over that time span, as electric vehicles don’t require oil changes or regular maintenance. The total cost of powering my EV annually: $720 US dollars.
There are many options out there now for all kinds of EVs, and YouTube is a good place to start. Some even come to your doorstep for a test drive. Thank you Elon Musk for starting the EV revolution, but now you can take that spaceship to Mars if you want to.
Driving my first EV over eight years has saved me so much that it paid for a second, luxury EV with a 270-mile range, Volvo’s new Polestar, which came with (optional) leather seats, loads of power—and another $10,000 US dollar rebate. But the bulk of the savings come from skipping the gas and maintenance, not the government rebates. So while gas is in short supply, I don’t use any of it.
Few consumers realize that all EVs have seamless and faster acceleration, which can actually help drivers avoid near-accidents, and accelerate better on short highway on-ramps. EVs also make garages more useable because there is no lingering exhaust smell. My $500 US dollar charger can service two EVs, alternating charging overnight. In eight years, I also saved myself some 400 trips to the gas station.
The gorgeous Polestar worked great on a recent road trip, where for twelve dollars I got a full 270-mile charge at Electrify America’s supercharger in a mall, in the thirty minutes it took to drink a cup of coffee. Of course, we need more chargers, especially in apartment complexes. But there are actually chargers everywhere if you look more closely and search for them online by brand. Chargers can be found in any car dealer that sells EVs, in many grocery stores (e.g., Whole Foods, Walmart, Target), and hotels, motels, schools, and government and office buildings all over the country. So no, you do not need a backup fuel car or a hybrid for most of your driving. With a little planning, you can do it. More rental companies should stock EVs, as EV drivers dread having to go back to the duller acceleration of fuel cars. Remember, hybrids have higher maintenance costs as they still have combustion engines.
Electric vehicles are a matter of economic independence and national security, in addition to reducing costly climate disasters in the long run. For these reasons, all governments should consider starting or expanding EV rebate programs—and removing unnecessary conditions placed on such rebates.
In the US, the $7,500 US dollar federal rebate and the California $2,500 US dollar rebate certainly helped me in 2014 become an early EV adopter. The rebate again allowed me to upgrade to an e-Golf with a bigger battery a few years later, and push the old one into the used car market.
By converting more drivers to electricity, flexible government rebates effectively reduce the demand on gas (and therefore its price). They also reduce the cost of fuel-car oil changes and maintenance ($300-1000 US dollars, a year), putting more money in their citizens’ pockets.
Rebates for used EVs should also be part of any incentive program. But used EVs will not be entering the market fast enough if more drivers don’t buy new EVs to begin with. In an ideal world, most wealthier drivers would buy new EVs because they can afford them. But, in fact, wealthier and often older drivers also need a little incentive to try a new technology, especially when new model EV prices are sometimes similar to the luxury combustion brands they are used to buying.
Finally, drivers want a greater variety of brands and models. They don’t want to be all driving the same three EVs. So keep those rebates flexible, instead of imposing numerous restrictions like the “inflation reduction” bill will be doing in the US starting in 2023. The bill would serve consumers and the environment better if it didn’t add new conditions on EV rebates, such as where the car was made, its price, and how much its buyer earns. A better way to encourage automakers to manufacture EVs locally would be to offer them production incentives separately. Any consumer restrictions on EV rebates effectively make it easier for automakers to sell more fuel cars. In the US, for instance, many automakers invested heavily in EVs with the understanding that their first 200K units sold would carry an unrestricted consumer incentive.
Meanwhile, automakers should start educating their consumers about how buying an EV today will pay for itself in eight to ten years; rebate or no rebate. So don’t wait for the government. As consumers, we can make the choice today to save our money, our planet and our time; not to mention saving ourselves from the blackmail of oil-producing countries.