The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District is encouraging the use of electric cars by offering Valley residents a $3,000 rebate.
Combined with other rebates and fuel savings over time, this narrows the price difference between gasoline and electric power cars.
Bill Roven’s all-electric Tesla Roadster may be the fastest car for miles around, except when it’s time for a pit stop.
It gets about 200 miles on a charge that takes 3 or 4 hours.
He says he spends $20 a month to charge it.
Like high-end gas-power sports cars, the Tesla is expensive, has no back seat and little trunk space. But instead of a heavy engine, a heavy block of batteries. Roven says there are seven thousand of them and they weigh 900 pounds.
The Tesla was the first mass-produced electric car sold in the United States and originally cost as much as a house. Now most auto makers have electric models and the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District will give you $3,000 to buy one.
Electric cars move the source of air pollution from a car’s tail pipe to the power plant. But even there they account for far less air pollution than their gasoline-driven counterparts; no emissions are produced when sources like wind, solar or water are used.
The District’s $3,000 rebate gets added to a $2,500 state rebate and a $7,500 federal tax credit. In all, electric car shoppers in the Valley can knock $13,000 off the price tag. The district’s rebate significantly narrows the gap between the costs of electric and conventional vehicles.
For comparison, consider a new gas-power Toyota Corolla MSRP $17,720.
After subtracting $13,000 from the price of a $29,975 electric Mitsubishi-iMiEV, it costs less than the Corolla at $16,975.
More savings add up over time.
Driving an average of 40 miles a day at today’s gas prices ($3.95 /gal) costs $150 a month in the Corolla. A month of the same driving in an electric car costs about $50.
Month after month, the savings are enough to offset the price difference of more expensive electric cars.
A Nissan Leaf becomes cheaper than the Corolla in 4 years, an electric Ford Focus in 5.5.
These numbers assume the car is charged at night when rates are lower. The electrical systems in some homes may need to be upgraded.
PG&E has an even lower rate but homeowners must invest in installing a separate electric meter for the car.
Even if a homeowner spends thousands on such upgrades, it’s still possible to ‘break even’ in a few years because of the $1,500+ savings each year in electricity over gasoline.
Cost is far less of a barrier than it used to be. But electric cars still have other limitations.
There are very few charging stations. The same grants that pay for the rebate also provide funds to encourage more charging stations.
Most electric cars can be adapted to plug into a conventional outlet, but a full-charge this way may take all day.
The car’s resale value depends on battery health. Batteries today are built to last 10 years. They may need to be replaced.
The many tradeoffs are worth it to Rovin, “It’s one of those things where you starting thinking about the world and what we're doing to it- how could you not? And even if you don't care about the environment you have to realize that the oil is going to run out and that's going to be a major problem so why not do it now?"