Electric vehicles are the way of the future. They’re more efficient, better for the environment, and give their owners some great perks. According to the EPA, the transportation industry accounts for 26% of greenhouse gas emissions in the US, with 61% of those emissions coming from light-duty vehicles. By choosing an electric vehicle, you help reduce your carbon footprint and support positive change for the transportation industry. Learn the basics about electric vehicles in this guide.
What are Electric Vehicles?
There are two types of electric vehicles.
All-electric cars are powered by an electric motor using rechargeable batteries. There’s no conventional combustion engine and no tailpipe emissions.
Plug-in hybrid cars are a great mid-point between an all-electric car and a car running solely on gasoline. They have an electric motor and an internal combustion engine so they can run on a battery charge but can switch to the conventional engine if the car runs out of charge.
More and more electric options are coming to market every year. There are electric motorcycles, electric buses and even electric VW van concept cars (if you’re handy with cars and can’t wait for the concept car to go to market, take inspiration from this VW Van converted to solar electric).
Electric is a great option no matter what the vehicle type.
Why Drive an Electric Vehicle?
Some benefits include:
- Electric vehicles are better for the environment. They have no tailpipe emissions, don’t use oil, and have a lot less brake dust compared to regular cars. Oil and brake dust affects our local environment by entering our storm drains and ultimately affecting our ocean health. Electric vehicles powered by the grid produce 54% less carbon pollution than gas powered cars.
- It’s clean fuel. San Diego’s electricity is created domestically from a variety of clean sources like natural gas and renewable resources. Since 2015, our region has derived 33% of our electricity from renewable sources.
- Lower driving costs. On average, electric vehicles have a lower cost to drive than a similar vehicle running on gasoline. Another perk: you can also kiss regular oil changes goodbye since you don’t run on oil anymore!
- Rebates! There are many purchase rebates through California and federal programs to help with this earth-friendly purchase. SDG&E has an Electric Vehicle Climate Credit for EV owners to reduce their electricity bills.
- Save time. Electric vehicles are eligible to drive in the HOV lane, which gives EV owners a chance to save hours off their commute every month.
What to Look for in an Electric Vehicle?
There are over 30 models on the market to fit your individual needs. Some factors to think about when making your decision:
- Type of Electric Vehicle. All-electric vs. Hybrid.
- Charge range. How far is your commute? Do you have access to charging stations at work?
- Charging Options. Most electric vehicle owners charge at home but there are many options on the go around San Diego County. See this map for charging areas. SDG&E is adding more than 3,000 more stations around San Diego to make charging readily available and convenient for more drivers. Request a charging station near you.
- Trunk Space. One of the important factors when ILACSD’s Senior Director of Operations, Natalie, was searching for her perfect EV.
- Cost. Take advantage of rebates! Most plug-in vehicles are eligible for a federal tax credit of up to $7,500.
- Seats. Want a two-seater to cruise around in or do you have a whole family to haul?
- Lifestyle. Do you take frequent road trips? Is this your household’s primary vehicle? How easy is it to charge at home? Decide what makes the most sense for your life so your decision is sustainable for both the environment and your lifestyle.
Take this quiz to see what electric vehicle is right for you.
What electric vehicle did you choose and why?
Electric vehicles are becoming more and more popular and as the demand’s increasing, so is the quality and quantity of offerings. We asked ILACSD electric vehicle owners how they decided on their car.
Natalie: Chevy Volt
When shopping for an EV, I wanted to make sure it was practical for my daily activities with enough trunk space and the right amount of all-electric range, including grocery shopping and occasional camping and road trips. When test driving, I was impressed by how well many models handled, how comfortable they were, the interesting technology they had to monitor energy usage, the fun bells and whistles offered on them, as well as the torque that felt quick and speedy on the road. Considering my daily routine, I will often drive to and from work, and have occasional work meetings off site or errands to run on my way home. I noticed there were free charging stations at my regular grocery store, making it easy to charge up while running errands. Plus, my office had pay charging stations that I could use if I was ever running low. The cost of charging an “eGallon” is much cheaper and better for the environment than a gallon of gas, so I’m more inclined to pay to plug in rather than fill up at the gas station. However, on a normal day, my commute is about 30 miles including a stop on the way home.
The Chevrolet Volt that I ended up selecting has an all-electric range of about 55 miles before switching over to gas, giving me 25 extra miles of buffer for my daily commute to use for errands, meetings, or fun activities. After having the car for several months now, I’ve driven 4000 miles and only used 10 gallons of gas for the few times I took longer drives or road trips. I’ve only been to the gas station one time in six months! Plus, I really like how roomy the trunk is, and that the seats fold down for larger items, which I often need for camping trips or trips to the hardware store.
Lastly, an electric vehicle had large financial incentives for me. Before I got my new car, I was spending $90/month on gas. I was also able to get a $9,000 rebate ($7,500 federal and $1,500 state) due to the higher all-electric range my Volt gets compared with some of the other plug-in hybrids that have lower all-electric ranges – rebates are different based on the all-electric range a car gets. I also recently installed a solar system on my house which gave me another 30% tax credit rebate on the price of the solar system. The EV rebate saved me money on the initial purchase of the car, while the gas-savings and solar offset provided me with ongoing savings I benefit from each month.
I love driving my new car and am proud to be reducing my carbon footprint on a daily basis.
I Love A Clean San Diego: All-Electric Fiat
ILACSD’s mission states, “Through outreach, community involvement, and example, ILACSD leads and educates the community to actively conserve and enhance the environment.” To continue to inspire environmental change, ILACSD strives to set a positive example in our operations to ensure we’re living our mission. Each year, our staff drives to all corners of San Diego County for education and beautification programs. Our educators provided 750 education presentations in 2016, while other staff and volunteers hosted 250 cleanup events countywide. To help lower our organization’s carbon footprint, we decided to invest in an electric vehicle and set an example for the community.
When we began shopping, we wanted to keep our countywide as well as San Diego-specific reach in mind. The all-electric Fiat was selected due to its range of 103-121 miles, which would allow plenty of room for our daily presentations around the County. As a San Diego County-specific organization, we would not be driving on long road trips and also had backup vehicles if anyone needed to travel out of San Diego County. The compact Fiat still has plenty of space for our larger education or cleanup supplies – the back seat folds down for extra trunk space, and also seats four in case several staff want to carpool together. An all-electric was a great fit for us and our staff loves driving the Fiat!
On Twitter, we asked what EV owners liked best about their vehicle:
Rapid acceleration, smooth ride, and ability to refuel (plug-in) at work or at the gym!
The community I meet! Our company has an email thread with just EV owners to communicate.
Being able to track my mileage and energy use!
- Sierra Club’s Electric Vehicle Guide
- How Much Cheaper is it to Drive Electric Calculator
- Electro Motive LA (LA Electric Vehicle guide. Even though it’s not San Diego, great for ideas!)
- Electric Vehicle Rebate Information
- Electric Vehicle Charging Stations around the US
- How do electric cars work?