Electric Vehicle Meet and Greet

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Tompkins Weekly   9-27-23

By Cathleen Banford, Eric Banford, and Holly Payne

On Saturday, October 14, 2023, from 10AM to 1PM, come to Stewart Park to check out a variety of the most affordable electric vehicles (EVs) on display and chat with EV drivers. Try Ithaca Bikeshare’s electric bikes, climb aboard electric buses (from our local public schools and from TCAT), or ride your electric wheelchair up the TCAT bus ramp to strap in. Join America’s transformative way of getting… everywhere!

Cornell Cooperative Extension is the event organizer, and EV show participants include TCAT Bus, ICSD School Bus Garage, Ithaca BikeShare, and participating Electric Vehicle owners.

New York State has set ambitious targets to reduce harmful CO2 emissions. Transportation is high on the list and responsible for spewing nearly half (47%) of the state’s CO2 into the atmosphere. What can we do at the local level? The most powerful individual contribution is to avoid driving alone! Can you get to your daily destinations on foot, by bicycle, by e-bike, by public bus (some of which are electric), or by combining those options?  If you live far away, can you creatively organize a carpool? (For more, see Way2Go.org.) And last but not least, could your next vehicle be an EV?

Attendees view the cars at the 2022 CCE Electric Vehicle Show. Image provided.

“Our event invites all members of the public to familiarize themselves with EVs by chatting directly with EV drivers, and exploring eBikes, EV cars, and electric buses for themselves, to understand how this new technology might fit with their lifestyles,” says Holly Payne, an Environment Educator for Cornell Cooperative Extension – Tompkins, the host of this event. “For most people EVs are a great option. But there are a couple exceptions: Folks living on the upper floors of rental properties sometimes cannot stretch their Level 1 (or Level 2) charging cable to reach their EV cars. And although they are  projected to drop well within reach next year, current EV prices tends to run a little higher.”

Payne notes that, according to an extensive annual survey, “EV drivers love their vehicles, with 90% of owners reporting they are likely or very likely to purchase an EV as their next automobile. That’s the voice of experienced people using this new technology, even before the nation’s charging infrastructure has been fully rolled out.”

The convenience of charging EVs varies. There are three options, each at costs that increase with charging speeds. Slower “Level 1” home chargers come with every EV. “Level 2” can fully charge in a few hours but needs a washer/dryer type outlet and is approximately $500 plus installation costs. To sweeten the deal, the Federal EV Charger Tax Credit offers up to 30% off (up to $1000) on Level 2 installations. “Level 3” are heavy duty, expensive “Direct Current Fast Chargers” which can fully charge in 20 minutes. Level 3s have been rolled out across the nation and the network is expanding fast across well traveled routes.

If (like most EV drivers), you charge at home, your electric bill will increase, but compared with gas, electricity is far cheaper and more stable (60% cheaper on average per mile – and deeper savings whenever the cost of gas spikes).

And the savings don’t end there. Fully electric EV motors require a fraction of the moving parts of a gasoline engine. Due to their beautifully simple design, the cost of maintaining an electric vehicle averages about half that of gasoline-powered vehicles (there are no spark plugs, radiators, oil or fuel filters, exhaust systems, or other gasoline-burning components, and no transmission). In place of the transmission, EVs manage speed through their electric motor, providing the fastest acceleration of any car. Most electric cars also use regenerative braking to supplement their regular friction brakes, providing little bursts of recharge to their battery. Regenerative braking dramatically reduces wear and tear on friction brake pads and rotors, once again lowering maintenance costs.

EVs can be either fully electric, or hybrid electric + gasoline. Although the fuel savings of hybrid EVs also tend to be superb, they do not boast the same maintenance savings as the fully electric EVs. Hybrid EVs are popular for folks who regularly have long commutes.

Prices of new and used EVs still tend to be a little higher than comparable gasoline cars, but they have been dropping, and are projected to compete very well against gas vehicle prices by 2024. The NY State Drive Clean Rebate reduces the purchase price of new EVs by up to $2,000. In addition, the Federal Tax Credit for New EVs (2023 or after) offers up to $7,500 in savings on American made EVs! (Note that you will not receive more than what you pay in income taxes.) And this year, if you buy a qualified used EV costing less than $25,000 from a licensed dealer, you could be eligible for a $4,000 tax credit. Note that EVs are in high demand, and although the market is rapidly expanding, it can be difficult to find a good selection.

“The way this event benefits the public is to help people re-think their best transportation options. On average, Americans drive fewer than 40 miles/day (which is significantly less than the average range of an EV). Maybe some of those miles could be traveled on an eBike or an electric bus! When you need a car, fully electric EVs manufactured in the last three years routinely go over 250 miles before needing a charge! And although it is still being rolled out, America’s EV charging network benefits from the Inflation Reduction Act’s seismic investment in electric transportation infrastructure. “When you are able to budget for the long term, or take responsibility for reducing climate emissions, going electric should be part of your planning process”, says Payne. “Electric vehicles tend to have reliable track records and are safe (and fun) to drive! Once you own one, you’re looking at strong savings that add up over the long term, often recuperating the purchase price of the EV over the first few years.

Payne quotes Paul Wellstone saying “‘We all do better when we all do better’. That overarching statement should just be said more often. When individuals keep carbon out of the atmosphere by driving an electric vehicle, we all do better. Fortunately, Tompkins County draws from Upper New York State’s electric grid. When EVs plug in here, they’re actually fueled by the cleanest grid in the entire country, which is pretty wild! Our electricity comes from a variety of sources, principally hydroelectric. Even in other states, including those running the dirtiest electric grids (eg. principally powered by coal), the amount or electricity used by an EV causes far less damage than burning the equivalent amount of gas to fuel a car”, Payne explains.

“Every person who shifts to walking, biking, or using electric transportation is helping reduce the emissions that provoke flooding and climate chaos right here on the home planet”, says Payne. We can do this!

For more information, visit: ccetompkins.org/environment/electric-vehicles

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