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CEC is committed to creating a more resilient and just region in the face of climate change. Through our work with the Central Coast Climate Justice Network and elsewhere, our vision includes an end to racial injustices and their resulting environmental inequities.

My love for driving electric began in 2012, when I purchased a Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid. Completely happy with the experience, in 2018 I took the next step and moved to a Tesla Model 3 long range pure electric vehicle (EV). An avid outdoorsman, these clean-fuel cars fit my lifestyle without a hitch – both vehicles were easily able to fit three surfboards and three people in them (or a nine-foot longboard without racks). My wife and I take our EV to remote trailheads in the Sierras for backpacking trips and this summer we went on a 2,500 mile camping road trip – easily finding fast charging stations along the way, even in rural parts of Utah.

© 2020 Michael Chiacos
Our EV made it 2,500 miles from Santa Barbara to Utah and back, including beautiful remote campgrounds down dirt roads like this one, near Canyonlands National Park – and we easily found fast charging spots all along the way.

I’m not the only one who loves driving electric – check out some of the stories CEC has gathered recently:

  • It only took one test drive for Dona to get hooked on EVs and buy her used budget friendly VW eGolf.
  • Cesare leveraged the Clean Vehicle Assistance Program to find his new Italian love, a fuel efficient and sporty Fiat 500e.
  • Krystalin made the switch to a BMW i3 after stumbling upon an article about BMW rebates – and realized that she could afford a sustainable car that has all the features she was looking for.
  • Halen, a college student, knew he wanted to drive a more environmentally friendly car but didn’t think he could afford one – until he discovered a lease with rebate option on a Chevy Bolt that he can charge for free most of the time.

It’s no surprise many more drivers are choosing electric: accelerating into its second decade, the EV market has evolved significantly, with more vehicles in more shapes and sizes, affordable options for all income levels, longer ranges and more public charging locations. Beyond being a fun experience, driving electric and driving less are the single largest things most individuals can do to reduce their environmental impact and kick the gasoline habit. In California, as much as 40% of our greenhouse emissions come from moving people and goods, and personal transportation is the largest portion of that. That’s why our state currently has a goal to have five million zero-emission vehicles on state roads by 2030, and why Governor Newsom recently gave an executive order that all new car sales in California be zero-emission by 2035.

With National Drive Electric Week coming up, we hope you’ll join us for CEC’s Electric Vehicles 101 webinar at noon on October 2 to learn how affordable, more efficient electric vehicles are now more accessible than ever. We will discuss financial incentives, charging, range, and how to pair home solar with your EV for maximum savings. EVs produce zero tailpipe emissions and cut greenhouse gas emissions by 75% when charged from the grid – and even more if an owner pairs their EV with solar or a green tariff through their utility. In advance of the webinar, read CEC’s stories from numerous EV drivers who are driving on sunshine to take advantage of these attractive benefits.

I encourage you to take an EV learning journey with CEC and consider one for your next vehicle. Trust me, it is very fun. Below, we offer a guide and several resources to help you get started.

A Basic Guide to EVs: The New Normal

EVs are normal now. They are easy to own, fun to drive, and come in sizes and price ranges that fit every lifestyle – from sedans and hatchbacks to SUVs, luxury vehicles, and minivans.

What’s more, they are easy on the environment and your pocketbook. The nearly 40+ models of plug-in EVs can be less expensive after incentives than the average new car. Used EVs start at $5,000 – and charging at home can cost as little as the equivalent of $1.50/gallon of gas. This is why 726,145 Californians have made the switch from gas to electric autos – well on the way to reach the state’s goal of five million EVs on the roads by 2030.

Next, we’ll walk through the basics you need to know about clean-fuel vehicles.

Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs) vs. Pure Electric Vehicles (EVs)

Plug-in cars come in two basic groups:

Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs)

  • PHEVs like the Toyota Prius Prime or the Honda Clarity travel 20-50 miles in electric mode, achieving 100 mpg equivalent.
  • For longer distances, a gasoline engine kicks in and many achieve 40-50 mpg in hybrid mode, allowing fuel-sipping long distance travel.
  • Since they have a backup gasoline engine, PHEVs may be a good choice choice for single car households or drivers who don’t have access to charging at home.

Pure Electric Vehicles (EVs)

  • Most pure EVs such as the Nissan Leaf, Chevy Bolt or Tesla’s four models all have a range of 150-400 miles and have no gasoline training wheels. These vehicles will never visit a gas station and are part of the solution to replace the oil age.
  • The majority of owners charge their EV overnight at home or while at work and use the rapidly expanding public fast charging networks to add as many as 100 miles in six minutes.
  • EVs are simpler than PHEVs, can be less expensive, and rarely need maintenance.
  • Used EVs (which often have a range under 100 miles) may be more appropriate for households with multiple cars, but newer long range EVs can work well for single car households – especially for those with access to charging at home.

Used or New, EVs Are Truly Affordable Now

Whether you purchase used or new, or lease, EVs are truly affordable now. With home fueling costs less than half that of a gasoline vehicle, many drivers also save significantly on gasoline expenses. Before you decide which option is best for you, consider the purchasing costs and incentives:

Purchasing Costs

  • New EVs, such as the Nissan LEAF can be purchased for $20,000 after incentives and new PHEVs, such as the Toyota Prius Prime can be purchased for a few thousand dollars more.
  • Older, lower range EVs such as the Nissan Leaf, Fiat 500 electric, or Ford Focus EV can be purchased for $5,000-$10,000 and used PHEVs such as the Chevy Volt and Honda Accord PHEV can be purchased for $10,000-$15,000.
  • Leasing can also be a great way to affordably try an EV without making a large purchase. Those in the position to take advantage of pandemic sales can find manufacturers are offering great deals right now – some leases are coming in under $200/month after incentives.

California Incentives

  • Southern California Edison offers a Clean Fuel Rewards $1,000 rebate for used or new EVs.
  • Pacific Gas & Electric offers an $800 rebate for new EVs.
  • Drivers with low or moderate income (e.g. $104,800 for a family of four) are eligible for the Clean Vehicle Assistance Program, which offers a $5,000 grant to purchase or lease a new or used hybrid or electric vehicle and a free home charging station (or up to $2,000 paid toward it) for your new or used EV or PHEV. Those looking for a new EV can take the federal tax credit of $7,500 and a $2,000 rebate through the Clean Vehicle Rebate Project. Low- or moderate-income drivers (e.g. a family of four that makes less than $78,600) get an enhanced $4,500 rebate.
  • These incentives can push the cost of approachable EVs like the Nissan Leaf or Toyota Prius Prime below the price of a Toyota Corolla – with less expensive fueling.

A note about used electric vehicles: now that EVs and PHEVs have been on our roads for almost 10 years, the used electric vehicle market is larger than ever – and taking advantage of the incentives listed above can help make these used cars the lowest cost option on the lot. Furthermore, COVID-19 has caused a surge in used vehicle sales making now a great time to consider selling your gasoline powered car and going electric.

More Charging Options Than Ever

EVs come with charging cables, but additional chargers can also be purchased for around $500. Thanks to growing demand, it’s getting easier all the time to find places to charge, whether or not you have access at home. And in every scenario, you skip visits to the gas station.

At home:

  • Many EV drivers charge up overnight with a normal 110 volt outlet. A suitable outlet is often already available in the garage or driveway, and is a great, low-cost solution for those who drive less than 50 miles per day.
  • Another option is to add a 240 volt outlet, which allows for a full 300+ mile charge overnight. Depending on the home, installing the outlet can cost as little as $500-$1,000.

Away from home:

  • Drivers can utilize the growing public charging network, which recently hit 1,000 chargers throughout Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo counties.
  • Many workplaces are adding charging stations (UC Santa Barbara and the County of Santa Barbara are leading the way).
  • When you charge while on the road, fast charging breaks can be planned to coincide with bathroom or lunch breaks.

EVs for Non-drivers

There are also a growing number of EV options available for those super-green people who don’t drive or don’t want to own a car:

  • Electric buses are becoming commonplace, and transit fleets like Santa Barbara MTD are leading the way with one of the largest electric bus fleets in California and a commitment to 100% electric buses by 2030.
  • Electric car share and subscription services have continued to operate safely during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has given people an alternative to public transit if they need it. Some EV car share programs also provide discounts to low-income residents, providing more equitable access to clean and economical transportation options.
  • Electric bikes are also capitalizing on rapid decrease in battery prices, with more affordable models hitting bike stores every year.

Additional Resources

  • Read our National Drive Electric Week press release for more information about CEC’s #driveclean initiative and our planned events.
  • Visit our Electric Drive 805 website to learn more about the program and how CEC is working to reduce emissions from the largest source of pollution in the 805 region: the cars we drive.
  • Find answers to commonly asked questions about EVs on our website.
  • Join CEC’s Electric Drive 805 Facebook group, a space for people interested in electric vehicles to share ideas, ask questions, and learn more about the latest in electric vehicles.

Michael is the Energy & Climate Program Director at CEC and, as part of this, oversees our work in transportation. He has led dozens of CEC’s programs, from forming the regional electric vehicle readiness group to working on state policy issues at the Public Utilities Commission. He is the principal author of CEC’s Transportation Energy Plan, a comprehensive look at the various technologies, strategies, policies, modes and other options for reducing fossil fuel use in the transportation sector.

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