EVs are sexy and expensive and it's starting to get complicated
California's push to ban gas-powered cars by 2035 is making travelers take another look at electric vehicles. Here's what they see.
Look both ways before you cross the street in Norway.
You can't hear the traffic. Norway has the highest EV adoption rate in the world, with 64 percent of the new cars sold last year being electric.
And, as I discovered on a visit to Bergen last week, EV traffic doesn't make the same loud noise as internal combustion engines. It's a barely audible whine.
We're about to cross a metaphorical street in the United States. California just banned the sale of gas-powered vehicles by 2035. Other states will undoubtedly follow. EVs today are sexy but expensive, and travelers are developing a complicated relationship with them.
All of which brings us to the question for you: What would it take for you to switch to an EV? And if you already own an electric car, what did it take for you to make the change?
EVs: Everyone wants one, but …
Let me get my bias out of the way: I want an EV.
When I get back to the States, I'd love to get my hands on a Lucid Air. With 1,200 horsepower and a 520-mile range, I could take one back home to Sedona and not suffer from the debilitating range anxiety that has stopped me from going electric.
But then there's the price, which starts at $87,400.
On a consumer advocate's salary? Not gonna happen.
How did Norway do it? Jon-Ivar Nygard, Norway's transport minister, recently told The Times it came down to a few things.
Fuel taxes mean Norway's gas prices are among the highest in the world (a gallon of gas costs $8.73 in Oslo). Tax cuts on EV imports also helped. EVs get free parking and are allowed to use the bus lanes in Norway's cities.
"You could sum it up by saying incentives work," says Nygard.
If Arizona eliminated taxes on EVs and started offering similar incentives, that might take me a step closer to my dream car. But Arizona offers tiny incentives, like a $250 rebate to buy an EV charging station. That's not enough to move the needle to "affordable."
Let's not kid ourselves. In the United States today, with relatively low fuel prices and gas-powered cars that cost half as much as an EV, the incentive is not to buy an electric vehicle.
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The upside-down pricing model extends to travel
Have you tried renting an EV lately? A one-day rental for a Tesla Model 3 costs $165 through Hertz at Los Angeles International Airport.
A larger gas-powered Chevrolet Equinox rented from the same location on the same day is $17 less.
Of course it does: The Model 3 costs $46,990, and the MSRP for the Equinox is $26,300.
What's the incentive to rent an EV if it's smaller and more expensive than a comparable gas vehicle? And when you add the range anxiety issues, the rental decision becomes a no-brainer. The better choice will never be the EV.
What has to change? The EV can't be more expensive than the gas vehicle. (And maybe it isn't, if you do a little mental math — once you factor in the higher costs of fuel) There have to be .plenty of charging stations. The batteries have to last longer. I start to feel much more comfortable with Lucid's 500-mile range.
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Wait, now we're the bad guys?
So the government has failed to incentivize us, as it has in Norway, to switch to EVs. The travel industry is charging more for smaller vehicles in its electric fleet. And when travelers admit that they're not ready to switch to an EV, we become the bad guys? We're killing the planet or we're climate change deniers because we still drive gas-powered cars.
But travelers aren't the bad guys. They're making reasonable decisions to rent the less expensive, more practical vehicle. They're not going to spend a fortune on an EV because it doesn't make sense — and besides, they don't have the dollars.
Something has to change, and it isn't us. No one can guilt us into spending more for a car, despite what vehicle manufacturers and car rental companies may think. The change must come from those in power who can pass new laws that encourage the responsible adoption of EVs.
Is there a better way?
All of which brings me back to Bergen. Here, "car" is already synonymous with "electric car." The government expects to stop selling gas-powered vehicles long before its target date of 2025. EVs are a settled matter, much like universal health care and free college tuition.
I have mixed feelings about a government so thoroughly engineering a country's transition to EVs. Yes, it's probably better for the environment, but at what price? And there's also the irony that Norway's switch to EVs is partially funded by the Sovereign Wealth Fund, derived from extracting oil and gas from the North Sea.
In a perfect world, wouldn't it be better if EVs made more economic sense? The cars are already way cooler than their fossil fuel-guzzling counterparts. Now manufacturers need to drop the premium EV pricing. A little nudge from the government might not hurt. As more care companies start producing electric cars, I'm sure prices will come down.
Question is, can we afford to wait?
What will it take for you to switch?
What would it take for you to rent an EV? How about buying one? I'd love to get your comments. Please be nice to each other. Please note: Comments are for subscribers only. Here’s how to become a member of Elliott Confidential.
About the art
Illustrator Aren Elliott remembered his pandemic lockdown in Sedona, Ariz., and imagined inflated EVs as a balloon rising over the red rocks on a Sunday morning. “It’s a pleasant thought,” he says, “until the bill comes due.”
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