Apr 18, 2022 - News

Do the math: An electric vehicle could be the cheaper option, advocates say

Photo courtesy of Logan Kureczka/Duke Energy

One day in the future, electric vehicle owners could outnumber those who own regular gas-powered cars.

Before that happens, we have to clarify misconceptions about pricing and practicality that serve as cultural barriers to some people, according to electric vehicle owner Jose Alvarez.

  • “Do the research, do the math, it might be cheaper for you,” he said, having done so himself.

Why it matters: Elected officials like Gov. Roy Cooper and President Biden are creating policies with the goal of making EVs more accessible.

North Carolina is receiving $109 million from the Infrastructure Bill to expand the network of EV charging stations across the state, and the state can apply for additional federal funds.

  • But as Alvarez points out, some communities simply believe that EV ownership is out of reach: “Cultural and language barriers worsen some of these issues.”

Context: Alvarez bought his used 2015 Nissan Leaf a little over a year ago and aptly named it Celeste, “because she’s light blue,” he says. 

  • Alvarez loves Celeste, and tells me it’s saved him money in the long run.
  • When he first bought it, his friends and family were skeptical. “Most of my friends and relatives looked at me strangely or immediately thought that purchasing an EV is a mistake.”

Driving the news: Earlier this year, the city unveiled a new PoleVolt charging station, which uses a streetlight as its source of energy. 

  • Leaders immediately faced questions about the decision to locate the station off Beatties Ford Road, at the new Ritz at Washington Heights, a new public space in a historically Black corridor, explains Axios’ Danielle Chemtob.
  • But folks like Alvarez would tell you that’s where charging stations need to be. 

Backstory: Alvarez, who immigrated to the United States at 18 from Venezuela, has dedicated his career to integrating immigrants into the community through entrepreneurship as a VP at Prospera USA.

  • After buying his EV, Alvarez came to a realization: “I discovered how challenging it is for immigrants, minorities, and underserved communities to adopt this new technology.”

The cost: I looked up used EVs on Carvana and found this one for 12K and this one for 14K.

Alvarez and Celeste. Photo courtesy of Jose Alvarez
  • Alvarez tells me he put down $2K on his car and his monthly payment is about $160.
  • Plus, he says there’s little-to-no maintenance. The only maintenance he’s put into his car was a tire rotation.
  • His EV drives about 50 miles on a full charge, which is less than his daily commute, and says that for low-income residents who live in the city, “it might make sense because if they only do inner-city driving like I do, then they’re going to save money,” he said.

Zoom out: Advocates say that EVs aren’t just for urban commuters like Alvarez.

  • “In rural communities, where you have a longer commute distance … your operational costs go down as your usage goes up,” Jacob Bolin, program manager of Plug-in NC, tells me. “You’re saving more money compared to a gasoline vehicle.”
  • Before EVs can become “the norm,”Alvarez and Bolin say, there need to be more charging stations, not just for the people who live in rural or urban communities, but for people who are driving across the state.

Data: U.S. Department of Energy; Map: Axios Visuals

The big picture: Many organizations are dedicated to educating North Carolinians about EVs and expanding charging stations throughout the state.

  • Plug-in NC, for example, is a statewide program that promotes electric driving through education and outreach. They also have a section on their website in Spanish, which Alvarez says he found quite helpful. 
  • Duke Energy has an “EV garage” which drives around the state, offering interactive lessons on how easy it is to charge an EV at home or in public.
  • Locally, Neighborhood FORWARD — a nonprofit that focuses on equality and reform— took part in the National EV Charging Initiative Summit recently, which was presented by the EV Charging Initiative.
  • “As our leaders piece together a map for electric vehicle chargers, they should start with those areas they can help the most,” Michael Brown of Neighborhood FORWARD wrote in an OP-Ed for The Observer.

The bottom line: Adoption of new technology will always take time. But there are things we can do today to build a better tomorrow.

duke-energy-ev-trailer-0261 (1)
Duke Energy’s “EV Garage.” Photo courtesy of Logan Kureczka/Duke Energy

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