Electric cars are here to stay

Oct 19, 2017

Mill Creek resident Bob Walters and his wife were among the first to purchase the innovative Nissan Leaf.  Six years and 40,000 miles later, Walters is a firm believer in electric technology, and as an early adopter.

“I thought I would have more issues.  If I had to do it all over again, I would still get an electric vehicle."

Imagine our community with no gas stations. Won't it be strange to see people in a car facing each other with no one using a steering wheel?  This is part of the electric car revolution that has arrived and will only get stronger.

This year will go down as a historic year for electric vehicles. While it is true that electric cars have only reached 1 percent of market penetration, the writing is on the wall for the end of gas powered vehicles.

Tesla and Chevrolet both released new electric vehicles at prices considered to be competitive for the market. The range for these vehicles on a full charge also continues to increase. Tesla became the highest valued car maker in the United States based on the market's belief that the future is electric and the that the internal combustion engine is on its way out.

Nissan introduced the all-electric Leaf in 2010. The automobile company had its first major up-grade for 2018 with a focus on an extended range with a full charge of up to 107 miles. Other car makers like Volvo made the stunning news that every vehicle they made starting with the 2019 model year will have an electric motor.

General Motors, Land Rover, Volkswagen Group, Mercedes-Benz and even Lamborghini have all announced that they will have an electric or hybrid electric version for every model they produce in the coming years. Norway, France, and India all set deadlines to phase out gas powered vehicles. China is expected to do the same. When it does, the game will be up for the internal combustion engine.

If there was one strike against Tesla, it would have been that their promised reveal of an all-electric truck did not happen in July as promised. Instead Cummings revealed a Class 7 heavy-duty truck cab with a 100-mile range in September. Production was scheduled for 2019. Meanwhile, in a rare case of catch-up, Elon Musk has set October 26 as the new date to reveal its first electric "big rig." Musk is reported to have set a time table of 18 to 24 months before his trucks roll of the assembly line.

Also in 2017, the record distance for a vehicle running on an electric battery was established by a bus. California manufacturer Proterra claimed their bus traveled 1,102 miles on a single charge. The bus seats 40 people and reach a speed of 65 mph. Everett Transit uses four buses made by Proterra.

The biggest reason why an electric car is in your future is cost. As production, technology, and competition increase, the cost to own is expected to come down. According to a study by AAA, electric vehicles were less expensive than pick-up trucks when purchasing new vehicles. Naturally, electric cars were least expensive when it came to fuel costs at 3.7 cents per mile compared to 13.9 for trucks.

Electric vehicles depreciated the most in the AAA study, but that made the cost of used electric vehicles a very cost-effective purchase. A new Nissan Leaf costs $30,000 but used models are available for $7,000 according the AAA study published in Motor Trend.

Convenience is another factor with new twists in the transportation industry. The gas compression engine requires a lot of parts and generates a lot of heat. Spark plugs light a small fire as it ignites gasoline. The energy moves the car, but the heat needs a cooling system to keep the gas engine from overheating.

Your electric car doesn't have a carburetor or a radiator. Electric car owners report few maintenance requirements. There is no oil or oil filters to replace. Maintenance for an electric car is usually to check and rotate tires. Brakes need to be checked for wear. Over time, batteries will run down. Warranties for new electric cars cover the battery pack and either guarantee it that it will maintain a certain level of charging or guarantee it from overall failure during the length of the warranty.

Your new electric car will come with an adaptor to a normal electric outlet. For faster charging, you may purchase a level 2, 240 volt charging station for $700 and the cost of an electrician to install it. A level 3 charging station will charge your electric vehicle in about 30 minutes compared to six to eight hours to fully charge the batteries using a level 2 charging station.

Level 3 charging stations cost thousands of dollars and reduce the life of electric car batteries due to the increase heat exchanged during the faster charging. A new battery pack for a Nissan Leaf would cost under $6,000 after the warranty.

Still not convinced that an electric car is in your future? Consider the fact that auto-makers are planning to use all-electric vehicles for autonomous cars. Self-driving cars will seem unnatural at first for veteran auto drivers, but the advantages should make them safer and more convenient. Imagine no more fender benders and no more drunk drivers going full speed the wrong way on a freeway. Autonomous cars will to talk to one another and react faster than humans to avoid accidents.

Besides you won't need to own an electric car. One will likely be available to pick you up using a service on a cell phone. Since cars are used by their owners only 4% of any given day, car makers like BMW are betting that they can make more money from a single vehicle by renting it by the mile or the minute. They already have a service in Seattle and have purchased another, Car2Go.

Finally, making a profit on gasoline is based on thin margins. The corner gas station owner is only making enough to pay the mortgage at home through the sale of corn dogs and Red Bulls. Sweet crude, the easiest and least expensive to refine, is now found under water where it is more expensive to refine.

Oil is also a volatile commodity. It has sold for as high as $141 per barrel in June of 2008 and dropped to $38 a barrel in February of 2009. It was $56 a barrel the first week of this month. As electric car sales grow, the cost of gasoline will have to increase. As the cost of gasoline increases, electric car sales will grow faster.

Progress is like the experience of the Walters and their electric vehicle. Once you move forward, you rarely go back. If you are buying a gasoline powered car today, you must estimate how long it will be before no one wants to buy your used gas-powered car. How much longer will the local gas station be around?

Revolutions usually happen faster than anyone expected.

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