Cars, trucks and other forms of transportation are one of the biggest producers of air pollution in our country. Emissions from the transportation sector significantly contribute to ground-level ozone pollution (also called smog) and particle pollution, both of which are very harmful to health, and can even be deadly. Cars and trucks also emit carbon dioxide, which is one of the greenhouse gases responsible for driving climate change. Further compounding the issue, climate change makes air quality worse, as warmer temperatures lead to greater formation of ozone pollution, and more frequent and intense wildfires result in more particle pollution. The 2020 “State of the Air” report found that nearly half of U.S. residents are breathing unhealthy air. We need to clean up our dirty cars, trucks and buses if we are going to continue to make improvements to our air quality.
Types of Electric Vehicles
Electric Vehicles, or EVs for short, are powered by electricity instead of gasoline, making them a much cleaner alternative to traditional cars. There are a number of different kinds of electric vehicles. Pure Electric Vehicles (EVs) run entirely on electricity and produce no tailpipe emissions; these vehicles can be powered by plugging into an electricity source or fueled by hydrogen. Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles use a combination of electricity and internal combustion, meaning a greater range when powered by gasoline, but they are not as clean as EVs running fully on electric power.
Even though EVs are so much better for the environment and our health, some people still have hesitations about them. The common concerns about EVs are costs and range anxiety, which is the fear that you will run out of power and not be near a charging station.
Do They Really Cost More?
Despite popular belief, when you look at the total cost to purchase and operate an EV, they may not be more expensive than traditional gas or diesel-powered vehicles. While the initial purchase price is often higher, prices are trending downward and there are federal and state tax credits that help make EVs even more affordable. In fact, EVs may be eligible for a federal tax credit of up to $7,500 as well as additional state tax credits, depending on where you live. You can learn more about whether or not you are eligible for tax credits on their website. Like traditional cars, there are a range of EV models you can buy – from high-end models with lots of features to more basic versions. There are EVs available that fit most budgets. Within the next five years, EVs are expected to be cheaper than equivalent gas-powered models.
The real cost-savings comes when you look at the cost to fuel and maintain your EV. Electricity is much cheaper than gasoline, costing about half of what gas would cost. Studies show the average EV owner can save thousands of dollars in fuel costs.
The simplicity of EV design also means that they have fewer parts that may wear out and need replacing. EV owners don’t have to worry about spark plugs, transmissions, radiators, or oil changes, leading to lower maintenance costs than gasoline-powered vehicles. Most electric cars also have regenerative braking, which uses the electric motor to do much of the braking. This can help save the brake pads and rotors in electric vehicles, further reducing maintenance costs. With all this considered, experts agree that although the initial purchase price is currently higher for an EV, at around 50,000 miles, they actually become the better buy. At that point, the EV owner has earned back the up-front costs and will see cheaper operational costs for the life of the vehicle.
How Does It Handle?
In addition to lower costs, EVs are pleasant to drive. EVs generally have a lower center of gravity which offers better handling, comfort and responsiveness. The electric engine provides smooth acceleration and deceleration, and a quiet ride, which all leads to a better driving experience.
Another benefit of EVs over gas powered vehicles is improved acceleration and more horsepower. Electric car motors don’t have a transmission and deliver the power directly to the wheels. As a result of this, they can go from 0-60 much faster than a traditional car. That’s why the acceleration is so much faster in an EV.
Electric motors can also use their horsepower more efficiently because they have fewer moving parts. Electric vehicles will seem to have more power than a gas-powered car with the same horsepower. That’s why EVs are faster and more powerful.
How Far Can They Really Travel?
Often the primary reason that prevents people from purchasing an EV is range anxiety. Range anxiety is the fear that an EV will run out of battery power before reaching its destination, leaving the owner stranded or unable to find a place to charge the battery. The battery range for most new EVs is from 200-400 miles per charge. The average person drives about 30-40 miles a day so many EV owners only need to charge their vehicles a couple times a week.
Most EV owners only need to charge at home or work. If an EV owner does need to charge on the road, it’s becoming easier to find a charging station. There are currently over 26,000 public charging stations throughout the United States, with many located along highways where anxieties about low battery power could begin. There are also apps available to help EV owners plan their trips and find the closest charging station along their route. The federal government, along with many state governments and the private sector, is working to greatly expand the number of charging stations in the United States, to the point where they will be as common as gas stations.
The next time you are in the market to buy a new vehicle, please think about the air that we all breathe. By making your next car an EV, you will help improve our air quality and slow down the impact of climate change. When it comes to protecting our health from air pollution and climate change, everyone has a role to play. Simple individual steps can make a collective difference. The more people stand up, the bigger our impact will be.
Blog last updated: January 7, 2021