Is the future of transportation “all-electric”?

By Mark Sandeen

Q: Is the future of transportation “all-electric”?
A: Certainly Elon Musk would answer that question with an emphatic Yes! He has taken 400,000 orders at $1,000 a pop for one of the most anticipated cars in the history of cars – the Tesla Model 3. He is now sitting on an $18 billion backlog after the biggest product launch of any product ever.

Q: Of course Tesla thinks the future is all-electric. What does the rest of the industry think?
A: A year ago when Norway announced that they would reduce sales of internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles to zero by 2025, most analysts thought it was kind of cute. But this summer when France and the UK both announced a ban on ICE vehicles sales by 2040, even analysts from Exxon and BP started raising their electric vehicle forecasts. OPEC quintupled their forecast for electric cars and Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimated that electric cars would reduce oil demand by 8 million barrels per day, or about 8%.

But the global automotive industry truly changed forever when China announced they would end the “production and sales of traditional energy vehicles”, starting with very aggressive near term requirements that 4% of all cars sold in 2019 and 5% by 2020 be electric. That is over one million electric vehicles per year!

Two weeks later, GM announced that they would transition the entire company to an all-electric, zero-emissions future. Volvo had already announced plans to go all-electric by 2019 and VW said it would offer electric versions of all its vehicles by 2030. Many other manufacturers have followed suit with similar commitments.

Q: Will people want to buy that many electric cars?
A: It all comes down to economics. Electric vehicles based in Massachusetts have half the fuel costs of ICE vehicles, because electric motors are 5x more efficient than gas or diesel powered engines. And electric vehicle maintenance costs are also far, far lower. An ICE vehicle has 2,000 moving parts that need regular maintenance. An electric vehicle has just 20 moving parts. The largest maintenance cost for electric cars is replacing the tires. Tesla provides an 8-year, unlimited mileage warranty on the battery and drive unit.

Q: That’s great, but who can afford an electric car?
A: A friend of mine just bought a 238-mile range all-electric Chevy Bolt for $21,500. She took advantage of an electric car-buying program from Mass Energy called Drive Green. They find the best electric car deals in the area and eliminate your need to negotiate with the dealer. You just arrive with a check and pick up the car! That’s right, you can buy an electric car for around the average cost of a low-end ICE vehicle and without any dealer hassles.
Plus electric car prices are falling rapidly as battery costs decline. By 2021 all-electric cars will cost less than comparable ICE cars. And since the operating costs are already so much lower for an electric car, once the upfront price is lower, the real question will be – who can afford not to drive an electric car?

Q: What’s it like driving an electric car?
A: Electric car owners love their cars. It is an absolutely amazing driving experience. It is hard to overstate what a joy it is to drive in a quiet, vibration-free vehicle with smooth, instantaneous performance available at any speed. Handling is great. The car just sticks to the road due to the battery’s low center of gravity. And electric cars are safe cars – with no engine up front taking up valuable crumple zone space plus the battery’s stiff structure adding significant protection, electric cars earn the highest safety ratings. 98% of electric car owners say they will never buy another gas car!

Q: But how long does it take to charge?
A: Ten seconds. That’s all the time it takes to plug in after you arrive home. I’ve never needed to charge the car anywhere besides home – except when I’m on an overnight trip. And even then, a Chevy Bolt or Tesla can easily drive from Lexington to Burlington, VT or NYC without stopping to charge. On a recent trip to Washington DC, we needed to charge for 50 minutes along the way. And who wouldn’t appreciate a chance to stretch their legs and have some lunch on a 7 ½ hour drive?

Let me ask you a question. How long do you spend every week driving to gas stations and standing in the heat or cold, in the wind, rain or snow, breathing fumes while you are pumping gas? It is wonderful waking up every morning knowing that the car is fully charged. No need to stop at the gas station on the way to work or your first appointment of the day. I saw a T-shirt that said, “I miss gas stations – said no EV driver ever.”


Mark Sandeen is the chair of the Sustainable Lexington Committee


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