As more Americans learn about the benefits of driving electric, the choice (and trade-offs) becomes clearer. So much depends on being critically minded and well informed. The fossil fuel industry has had over a hundred years of growth and political entrenchment; its economic and messaging power are, at times, breathtaking. The EPA even has an EV Mythbusting page on its government website. Misinformation includes vehicles running on “dirty” electricity, a lack of charging opportunities, and vehicle safety.
Each of these myths has a weak foundation, but talking points like these are insidious. The bigger issues facing the clean energy and transportation transition are related to constructing a system whose benefits are accessible to every American, and which consciously places as little burden on the Earth as possible, leading to equity and sustainability.
Equity can be partially addressed by bringing the cost of EVs down to a point where every American has options to purchase and operate them. Currently most luxury vehicle brands do have comparably priced EV versions. Yet auto manufacturers should be planning on creating vehicles that are affordable across all platforms and pricing options - sedans, hatchbacks, pick-up trucks. We don’t need electrified Humvees; we need better transportation choices, including smaller scale, longer range passenger vehicles. While the technology, particularly the batteries, is in its infancy, we can see glimmers of the future with GM’s Chevy Bolt and Nissan’s LEAF as two of the more reasonably priced, longest range vehicles out there.
We also see state-based incentives as having a role in closing the current price gap. Efficiency Maine, for example, offers one of the most aggressive state rebates in the US for low income purchasers- $7500(!) These can be stacked with federal incentives to further reduce upfront costs.
In the US, where gas prices currently hover around $4 a gallon or more, electricity as fuel can dramatically reduce operating costs over the life of the vehicle—and it’s cleaner! ReVision Energy has recently updated our analysis of the value of combining rooftop solar and driving electric to determine the cost per “solar gallon” equivalency.
If you directed your PV array’s electrons to charge your vehicle and compared that energy cost to the cost of a gallon of gas, how cheap is a solar gallon? By our current calculations, we estimate the value of a solar gallon to be $0.84. Yes, that’s less than a dollar per gallon.
Our methodology uses the average fuel efficiency of American cars from 2020 (25.4 mpg) and compares it to the average efficiency of EVs (0.346 kWh/mile). We calculated the cost of a kWh of solar electricity based on about 500 of our recent residential projects, assuming they will be producing clean electricity for 25 years. Standard electricity provides considerable discount as well, $1.85, but clearly residential rooftop solar offers more dramatic savings. The lack of any significant annual maintenance costs only adds to this savings.
Per capita, Americans consumed 356 gallons per year of gasoline in 2020 (down for 414 gallons in 2019, pre-Covid). At $3.80 per gallon, that equates to $1352 per person per year. By comparison, at $0.84 per gallon, it would be $295.48 per person, or a savings of $1056.52 per year. How frequently can you save $1000 a year that benefits the environment and requires no more significant behavior change than learning to charge your cell phone?