Union Of Concerned Scientists’ President: Electric Cars Rock

Chevy Bolt, Model 3, Nissan Leaf


But he also identifies why electric vehicle ownership remains out of reach for many.

Earlier this year Ken Kimmell, President of the Union of Concerned Scientists, purchased a Chevrolet Bolt EV. After about 6 months, he has found electric vehicle ownership to be everything he had hoped. The car is fun to drive, has a low cost of ownership, and far more efficient than a gasoline car.

Mr. Kimmell has uncovered what many EV owners have already come to realize. For a home owner with a garage, an EV is more convenient (not less) than a gasoline-powered vehicle.

I charge the car once or twice a week overnight.  Plugging it in takes about five seconds, and the charging takes between 4-8 hours.  When I wake up, the battery is full.  No more trips to the gas station.  (…) Because of the long range, I rarely need to use public charging stations while on the road.  I’ve used them five times since I leased the car, typically to add about fifty miles of range.

Owning an EV like a Chevy Bolt, Tesla Model 3 or Nissan Leaf is also much more affordable than it appears at first blush. In addition to taking advantage of the $7,500 federal tax credit, $2,500 of his down payment was paid back by the MA rebate program. Similar programs are available in many other states. That is just the upfront savings:

At the same time, I am saving about $60/month in fueling costs, as electricity cost per mile is less than half of  gasoline, even in a state like Massachusetts that has relatively high electricity costs and relatively low gas prices.  And not paying for oil changes, air filters, belts, brake pads and many other maintenance expenses for a gas-fired car also saves money.

Chevy Bolt EV

Now that the tech is well developed, broadening EV access should be prioritized.

Once charging questions are answered and a vehicle is purchased, all of these benefits became apparent to buyers. However, not all drivers will be as motivated as EV advocates to figure these benefits out on their own. Early adopters need to be champions not just for individual brands but for the electrification of the automobile.

While the federal tax credit has been an excellent motivator, many Americans simply do not have enough tax liability to take advantage of it. Most importantly, for the 2 major electric vehicle manufacturers in the United States (General Motors and Tesla) the credits will soon be phasing out. Strong state rebate programs can offset the loss of the federal credit. They can also be more accessible if they are unrelated to the taxes of the buyer.

Electrify America fast charging station - BTC Power chargers

Tesla’s Superchargers and Electrify America are charting a course for long distance travel. However, more practical charging is also needed in dense urban areas. Urban Superchargers and DCFC stations installed in public locations are one option. A more practical long term solution is to provide strong incentive for L2 charging station installation in condos and apartment complexes.

Mr. Kimmell believes a surge of political will and commitment from automakers could hasten the wide adoption of EVs. But despite the difficulties ahead, he sees electric cars as the future:

The past six months of EV driving has been illuminating for me.  It has shown me that the technology is here now, and it is a pleasure to take advantage of it.

Source: Union of Concerned Scientists

Categories: Chevrolet, Tesla

Tags: , ,

Leave a Reply

32 Comments on "Union Of Concerned Scientists’ President: Electric Cars Rock"

newest oldest most voted

Is “simply do have enough” supposed to be “simply do not have enough” with regards to the EV tax break?

Yep. Good catch. Thank you.

No problem!

Most Americans do not buy new cars. When current long range EVs are available on the used market for $10-20k, that will also help adoption.

Precisely. Once there is the option to buy a 3 year old EV for $10k to $12k that will serve its purpose for another 10+ years, then we have EVs becoming reality for low to middle income families who buy used vehicles.

Yes, and that low price reflects the 7500 incentive so people can get that 7500 incentive passed on to them without having to qualify

Absolutely true. But the incentive was nonetheless badly designed, giving manufacturers a reason to wait (since the phase-out is purely time based, a manufacturer can get much more credit in total by waiting until EVs are more mainstream before introducing any EV models) and being anti-social (since you can’t get more credit than you owe in taxes).

I think it is as much the case manufacturers haven’t waited, but have acted deliberately in favor of their higher margin gas cars. Toyota, for instance, is giving up many of its 200k tax-credits on PHEVs where the credit isn’t worth nearly as much. When a battery is only 4KWh-8KWh, the customer doesn’t get more than half the $7,500, yet it still counts against Toyota’s 200k.

I’d agree there may have been a better way to “sunset” the credit, but then what if the sunset just beat Tesla’s Model 3 ramp, etc.?

You can now. There are tons of lease turn in Volts and 500e’s for cheap. My ’13 Volt was $11k. I just looked at an older leaf for 5k. They’re out there now. Not everyone has to roll in a Tesla.

LEAF’s may be cheap, but at that price range of $5k or so you are NOT buying a vehicle that will be useful to you for more than a couple years. LEAF’s have such bad battery degradation issues so that’s the reason their so cheap and will be a very limited use car! For sure NOT the type of EV you want to shout about buying.

Disagree with you Brandon. With over 340,000 Leafs on the road globally, they do not have “such bad battery degradation” as you point out. Otherwise, we would hear of thousands upon thousands of complaints and probably more noise then is out there. Yes many owners have reported issues, however on the grand scheme of deployments out there, I think it’s probably less than 1%. So enough with the generalized Leaf bashing and state facts and numbers if you are going to make such a claim. Comments like this will turn people off of what is potentially a very valid BEV for many to use, as the Leaf is still a bit more affordable than many other the other current BEVs offered. The point is to promote BEV adoption and with the Leaf still the number 1 BEV sold in the world, we have to recognize that.

How long do you think most $5k cars are useful for? At least the Leaf will probably be trouble-free in that time.

Yes used short range EVs are available. I’m talking about gen 2 cars. There’s a good chance I’ll buy my 12 year old daughter a used Bolt EV when she’s 16.

Yeah, a Bolt is great, but it’s a well known fact that LEAF’s are degrading at a minimum of 3% a year. Most are actually around 4%. Go research Kenneth, and you’ll see. What this means is that most 2011 and 2012 LEAF’s are at least around 3 bars lost, on the way to losing their fourth. Many have already. This (4 bars lost) means 33% capacity loss, which in the winter significantly affects range. Like only 35 miles range. IMO the flood of LEAF’s rendered to this limited capacity is only just beginning. There are actually a lot of people out there wondering what they can do besides pay the $7,500 price Nissan is now quoting for a replacement battery installation. If you look at LEAF’s for sale on places like Cars dot com it’s evident that even 2015 LEAF’s are losing their first capacity bar, which represents 15% lost capacity. Although at this stage the range loss is not significant or even noticeable, it shows that even 3-4 year old LEAF’s are heading down the same path of 3-4% capacity loss per year. The fact is that most LEAF’s are going to be quite limited in use because… Read more »

My 2013 with 58k miles has 11 bars.

Exactly. 3-4% per year loss.

Are they truly greener though ? Most electricity in the United States is still produced from coal

Go check carboncounter com

Yes, they are truly greener, even in States with a high percentage of coal in the energy mix. Don’t be taken in by FUD funded by Big Oil.

From the Union of Concerned Scientists: “Cleaner Cars from Cradle to Grave (2015)”


..that was true a decade ago, now it’s around 30% and still falling.
So, yes, despite living in a cave even you can understand, that evs are, much cleaner than ice, and 5 times more efficient. Both nuclear and natural gas produce around the same amount of electricity as coal, renewables account for 15% or so, and that is on the rise, get with the program.

Do people think that repeating this crap will actually make it true? The other issue with general (false) statements like this is that they omit (intentionally) the fact that the states that have the biggest numbers of ev are the greenest power production states.

Yes, they are still greener even on 100% coal when compared to anything getting less than mid-30s for MPG. Other grids around the country that higher penetration of non-coal sources see MPG equivalencies well past 100 MPG and the national average is around 80 MPG. I can’t think of anything without a plug that can get 80 MPG.

I find it quite depressing that we have to work so hard to get across a message that is so obvious and supported by simple math.

The problem is that people are stuck in the mindset of fossil fuel vehicle ownership and can’t get there head round topping up a shorter range vehicle overnight whilst asleep, as opposed to going to the petrol station once a week. Or the opportunity on a long journey to go to the toilet or have a coffee or food whilst there car is on charge, which is certainly something you can’t do whilst filling up a petrol car. Here in Scotland nearly all the rapid chargers are free and petrol is £1.33 per litre, which I think is around $6 per U.S. gallon, so you would think the country would be full of electric cars but, no it isn’t. People still winge about range, charging time etc even my local Nissan dealer doesn’t sell any electric vehicles, but Renault does so guess what most of the locals that have taken the plunge drive.

My first EV replaced a minivan. Saving on 15K miles a year was around $2500. My second EV replaced a V8 SUV netting over $3000/yr on gasoline alone. Including savings on regular maintenance, total savings are over $7000 a year. In the long run (5 years or more) total cost of ownership is better than equivalent ICEV.

Buy a used one, make it your second car.

Great suggestion. Used Volts and Leafs are available for $5-15k.

Instead of being the “second” or ” extra” car, EVs tend to become the first car for their owners: the preferred car for most of their driving. The old ICE vehicle becomes the “extra” car, and is only used for long trips.


“. . . EVs tend to become the first car for their owners: the preferred car for most of their driving. ”

Oh Boy! Is that ever true!
Leased myself a Leaf in 2014, then 2018. My EV-skeptical wife took one drive in the ’14 and hasn’t let me near it since (except for trips together).
For our usage scenario, everything about this car is better than using our #2 gas guzzler!

No need to preach to the choir here, so no point listing attributes.
But it’s notable to me that having waited most of my life for sensible, clean, efficient, low running cost transportation the impact on personal well-being is real!

Buy a used on and make it your 90% car. There, I fixed for you.

Awesome! and rent a car through car-sharing programs (like Modo in Vancouver, Canada) when you need to go on a long drive.

A *major* barrier is lack of different styles. There are a lot of small, sedan-style EVs, but not a lot of choice of different styles.

Unless you’re buying a premium SUV, there’s only the Outlander as a choice for an SUV.

There’s only *one* choice for a minivan.

My Volt has convinced me that from now on, all of my cars will have a plug. But I have a growing family and we’re looking at Minivans. That means we have exactly one choice: the Pacifica Hybrid.

In the US, at least, trucks are the #1 selling vehicle followed by SUV/CUV. Sedans and hatchbacks are such a small part of the market! We need Plug-in versions along the entire spectrum!

There are rumors about an Odyssey PHEV being in the works, so there might be two options on the minivan front soon.