Sunday, March 26, 2017

Electric Cars Are Getting Cheaper

A portion of the Ioniq EV's profile on fueleconomy.gov

136 miles per gallon equivalent (MPGe).  That's the combined fuel economy rating of the 2017 Hyundai Ioniq EV (electric vehicle), the most efficient car rated by the EPA on fueleconomy.gov.  Needless to say, that fuel economy rating is off the charts, making my 2015 Prius (48 MPG) look like a Hummer by comparison.  Although, to be fair, the Prius clobbers the average US light-duty vehicle fuel economy of 21.4 MPG.

Even more impressive are two basic facts: 1) the Ioniq EV has a manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP) of $30,000, before tax credits, and 2) it isn't alone.  Several other extreme achievers on fuel economy have MSRPs under thirty grand, meaning they are in the financial reach of a wide range of consumers.  These vehicles include the 2016 Chevy Spark EV (119 MPGe, $25,120+), the 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf (119 MPGe, $28,995+), the 2017 Nissan Leaf (114 MPGe, $29,010) and more.  No need to wait for a cheap Tesla.  Relatively affordable electric cars are on the market today.

I'm really happy about this, even though I'm an urbanist, and I want people to rely on cars less, extremely efficient or not.  The reasons are simple.  More efficient cars and electric drive in particular have the potential to slash air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, particularly in states like California that have aggressive renewable portfolio standards for our electricity generation (minimum 50% by 2030).  This is great news for anyone who lives in a place like Greater Los Angeles and has been breathing sub-optimal air for a long time, and for anyone who cares about having a stable climate for generations to come.

That said, even with lower prices, there are significant barriers to using an electric car.  You'll be hard-pressed to find a charging station unless you own your home (no easy task in many cities) and can charge where you park.  The initial cost is still higher than that of a comparable gasoline vehicle.  The affordable EVs available are limited to small and mid-sized cars (and hence not SUVs and trucks, which are very popular).  There are many plug-in hybrids that are starting to address these issues at affordable prices today, with slightly less stratospheric, but still extremely respectable fuel economy.

We need all solutions on deck.  Extremely efficient cars will only enhance cities that should still strive to be more friendly to people walking, biking and using transit, transportation modes that have been outperforming the efficiency of all cars since the dawn of the automobile.

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