Electric cars are having a moment. While they may still be only the choice of an enthusiast or the environmentally conscious, that may be coming to a change – and soon. One of the most popular vehicles in America, the Ford F-150, is currently slated to be fully electrified in 2022. Ford is currently building a new $700 million factory for it in Michigan, and it will be an interesting experiment to see if driving the electric version will fuel the necessary bravado that most truck buyers desire. GM announced that they would be investing $20 billion on a next generation of all-electric vehicles. Needless to say, more electric options are coming.
By now, everyone has at least heard of Tesla, and you have probably seen one on the road. They launched their first lower-cost electric vehicle, the Model 3 way back in 2017, and it’s now available for as little as $35,000 (even if you have to call to get this cheapest variant) and has sold more than 500,000 units.
This still pales in comparison to traditional cars with internal combustion engines of course, but the seas of change are certainly moving. When I get asked about electric vehicles, the questions are mostly about 1) the price 2) how to charge 3) how far do they go.
As far as price, the costs will continue to come down. There is a $7,500 federal tax credit that is still available, but it’s limited to 200,000 uses per manufacturer. As of June 2020, only GM and Tesla have exceeded their allotment, so with all other manufacturers you would be eligible for the tax credit. One of the better current EVs is the Chevrolet Bolt. It’s good, but without the $7,500 federal tax credit, it’s not nearly as competitive, so Chevy is actually doing a factory rebate that matches to drop the price. Currently the cheapest electric cars are the Mini Cooper SE ($30,750), Nissan LEAF ($32,535), and Hyundai Ioniq ($34,000) which all still qualify for the $7,500 federal tax credit, dropping their prices into the mid $20s, which is much easier to swallow.
Charging an electric car is not nearly as much of an issue as you would expect. If you are going to own an electric car, it makes the most sense to install a high-speed charger in your garage. Almost all electric cars come with a standard charger that you can plug into any 120V outlet, but charging times can be quite long. The Nissan Leaf takes more than 14 hours to charge its relatively small battery to full charge. High-speed chargers can cost as little as $500, but you’ll need an electrician to wire them up; they utilize 240V outlets and take eight hours to fully charge the battery. Also available in public are DC Quick Charging stations which can give you an 80% charge in as little as 40 minutes, but those are not installed for in-home use. For road trips, while Tesla has its enormous Supercharger network, anyone can use public networks like Electrify America, which provide fast charging points in areas between major cities for road trips. You really don’t need public charging points for your electric car unless you are on a road trip because you’ll be charging your car each night in your garage.
With average daily commutes in Houston being only 24 miles, the entry-level Nissan LEAF would suffice for most everyone with a 149-mile estimated range. The shortest available range is the Mini Cooper SE with only 110 miles in range. One of the big selling points for the Bolt is the much longer 259 miles range. The longest currently available range is the Tesla Model Y Long Range with 316 miles in range.
So the answer to the question I posed in the headline is maybe, but the answer for most is going to be: not yet. There is still a price premium for an electric car versus a traditional internal combustion engine car, but the gap continues to narrow. The global car manufacturers see the writing on the wall, and change is coming sooner than later. Even gas stations are looking at integrating electric charging stations to help on road trips. When Bucc-ee’s finally introduces electric car charging, I think we will know that it is time that electric cars have made it in Texas.