I am what would be called an “early adopter.” That is, if I can afford it, I tend to quickly embrace new technology. I purchased my first computer in 1980, a Commodore Vic-20. At the time, I was in my graduate program at UCLA, learning ancient Near Eastern Semitic languages, and I immediately recognized the potential help a computer could give me with my studies.
I was using online services by 1983. I started doing my banking online in 1985. When I began teaching at the Master’s College full time in 1986 I was one of but two professors on campus that had a computer in his office. I’ve run a website since 1995. I started blogging before the turn of the century.
I do not fear the new. I find it generally improves my life. I do not understand the reluctance, the fear, the negativity, and the opposition which so many express toward innovation.
Currently I am enamored of electric cars, and with every news story about them that I read on the web, I find people leaving amazingly negative and critical comments that frequently border on—or cross over to—the irrational. The hatred some have for electric vehicles is visceral. And I don’t get it.
My intention, should I ever have money again, is to someday buy a new car to replace my now ten year old automobile. When I do so, I intend to get an electric vehicle. I never want to buy a gas powered car again. And the reason is very simple.
I think an electric car will save me money in the long run.
I know that current electric cars have some issues. At present, their purchase price is usually somewhat higher than that of traditional autos. Also, many of them have limited range per charge, compared to gasoline powered cars.
There is, however, one exception to the limited range issue: the Tesla Model S. Built in Fremont, California in a factory originally owned by General Motors, the five passenger sedan can go 265 miles on a charge—which equals the distance my gasoline powered car can go with a full tank of gas.
More significantly, at least to me, the cost of electricity is considerably lower than the cost of gasoline. Filling up my 18 gallon gas tank to go 265 miles costs me about 63 dollars at the current cost of gasoline: my cost per mile is around twenty-four cents.
Here in southern California, electricity costs about 8 cents per kilowatt hour. A Tesla Model S battery pack holds 85 kwh of electricity. Thus, to fill a Tesla to go 265 miles costs $6.80: a bit less than the current cost of two gallons of gasoline. To put it another way, I’m paying about 250 dollars a month for gasoline right now (sometimes more). If I had a Tesla, I’d pay about 32 dollars for a month’s worth of driving. That’s a significant savings in the cost of running a car.
Something else to consider when thinking about electric vehicles: the reduced cost of maintenance. An electric car has no transmission, no radiator, no water pump, and no alternator. There are no belts to break or replace. Even the brakes will last longer thanks to what’s called regenerative braking: the motor itself acts as the brake whenever you take your foot off the accelerator—an action that also returns electricity to the battery pack. You’ll never have to pay for a smog check. Instead of regularly visiting a gas station, you’ll usually just charge the car at home overnight like you charge your cellphone. Over all, an electric car has far fewer maintenance issues: they are simpler and longer lasting machines.
Of course, the upfront cost of a Tesla is a huge sticking point. Its base price is about eighty thousand dollars. Compared to the cost of say a Honda, it would take you a lot of years to actually save any money with a Tesla. Therefore it probably doesn’t make much economic sense just now to get one—if you’re in the market for a Honda. If you’re in the market for a luxury car, however, it’s hard to see why you’d get anything else, unless you enjoy burning money. And even when it comes to performance, since a Tesla goes zero to sixty in 4.2 seconds, it outruns Porsche, Mercedes, Audi—and really any other production car, regardless of price.
And Tesla has one other trick up its sleeve that its competitors lack: the SuperCharger network.
Currently there are over 70 Tesla SuperCharger stations around the country, with more being added every week. They make it possible now for a Tesla owner to drive from San Diego to Vancouver, or Miami to New York City, or New York City to Los Angeles—for free. A Tesla owner can pull up to a SuperCharger, plug in, and drive away twenty minutes later with a fully charged battery without paying a dime. You could leave your wallet behind, stay with friends, and your cross country trip would cost you nothing at all.
For the rest of us, there are some more reasonably priced electric cars available from other manufacturers. Unfortunately they all face the problem of being able to go only around eighty miles per charge. Of course, since most people drive less than forty miles per day, that’s not necessarily such a serious issue. Mitsubishi offers the least expensive electric car at about twenty-two thousand dollars. Nissan’s Leaf, the Chevrolet Spark, and Renault’s 500e are just slightly more expensive at around thirty thousand dollars. And those prices—including Tesla’s—are before you factor in the ten thousand dollar tax credit you get with any electric vehicle purchase.