Electric vehicles: Is the future now for some local drivers?
As American and world consumers continue to face rising fossil fuel prices and increasing environmental regulations related to greenhouse gases, the popularity of electric and hybrid passenger vehicles continues to rise.
Sales figures across the globe are projected to continue a steady rise through at least 2030, with industry groups predicting 25.1 million units operating on American roads in eight years, up significantly from 2.9 million in 2022.
Electric vehicles are expected to comprise 29.5 percent of all new vehicle purchases in 2030, according to evaadoption.com, up from just 3.4 percent in 2021.
Two local drivers who have entered the world of plug-in vehicles say their experiences with electric vehicles have been positive, and they have no plans to ever return to a vehicle with an internal combustion engine.
Waldie entered the EV world after a test drive
Scott Waldie, who splits his time between Hancock County and Florida, owns a Tesla Model X. Waldie purchased the vehicle in March 2020 after hearing the vehicles were fun to drive and decided to just take a test drive.
“We weren’t really looking to buy a new car,” Waldie said. “But after a test drive, we were so impressed with the car.”
The base Model X has an advertised range of about 330 miles, but Waldie said it’s more realistically 300 miles. The vehicle is completely interactive with a number of customizable options which can be adjusted through an application Waldie accesses with his mobile phone.
“The autopilot gets a lot of the attention from people, but there is so much more to the vehicle,” he said. “There are software updates from Tesla from time to time, which can be downloaded by connecting to my home WiFi.”
Waldie said one of the biggest differences in driving the vehicle – of course, after there being no fossil fuel engine – is the option to adjust braking.
“The car has regenerative braking, which can generate electricity and return it to the batteries,” he said. “As well, I can adjust the vehicle to use the brake pedal or I can use engine braking, which is one-pedal operation. It takes some getting used to, but it’s popular with most owners. I rarely put my foot on the brake pedal.”
Waldie said a friend who also owns a Model X was curious how much charge would be added by coasting into Gatlinburg, Tenn., from the top ridge above the town at Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
“Just coasting down the mountains into town generated 11 miles in range,” he said. “I think a lot of people would love these type of vehicles. I never thought I would, but I love it more than any other car I’ve ever owned.”
The Model X starts around $104,000, though Tesla does offer more affordable consumer models for less than half the price of the luxury vehicle.
“Tesla really does limit their options on the vehicle,” Waldie said. “That streamlines their production, but there is so much a driver can do to make their vehicle a bit unique in how it drives.”
Model X has the pep to get you there
The Model X specs on the Tesla web site indicate a top speed of 155 miles per hour, 0-60 in 3.8 seconds and a quarter-mile run of 10.96 seconds.
“If you are going to ‘punch it’ from a standing start, you better lay your head back on the headrest,” Waldie said. “You are going to feel the G’s when you take off.”
Charging the vehicle is not really a problem, Waldie said.
“I will charge it overnight at home, but there are more than 5,000 Tesla charging stations across the country,” he said. “If I am driving between Kentucky and Florida, I plan accordingly. The app lets you know where the charging stations are along the way.”
Waldie can charge his vehicle for free on trips, though that benefit has been dropped by Tesla after he bought his Model X.
“When I charge at home, I have solar panels which offset the drain,” he said. “Some might say the car is not carbon-neutral, but I think it works out to a benefit in my case. Another thing I never really thought about; I have no idea what the price of gas is. Someone asked me recently how prices were in Florida, and I could not answer. When I drove a gas vehicle, I always knew from several places and communities.”
Charging time for 200 miles of range takes about 45 minutes at roadside charging stations, while reaching 75 percent of battery capacity takes about an hour. Waldie will charge fully before taking a road trip, but said doing so consistently can affect the life of the batteries.
The Tesla Model X is all-wheel drive, with an electric motor on each axle, generating from 670 to 1,020 horsepower.
McCarty opts for Chevy Bolt EUV
After years of driving a hybrid Toyota Prius, Judge John McCarty purchased a 2021 Chevrolet Bolt EUV after testing the vehicle at Don Moore in Owensboro in August 2021.
“I had been getting 48 to 50 miles-per-gallon with the Prius and knew I could never go back to getting mediocre mileage,” McCarty said. “I drive quite a bit in my work, so economy is important to me. I had long been interested in electric vehicles; we tested it and loved it.”
The Bolt is akin to a small SUV and is intended for those who drive from 100 to 150 miles per day. Range in the summer is about 250 miles, dropping to 200 miles in the winter, McCarty said.
The vehicle is charged at McCarty’s home on a 220-volt circuit, though it can be charged using the common 110-volt circuit. Charging time is significantly increased with the reduction in voltage. On the road, McCarty utilizes an application to plan his trips and carries a DC fast charger, which can cut charging time down to 45 to 60 minutes.
“Improvements continue to be made in the industry with each model,” McCarty said. “I would never go back to a gasoline vehicle. Batteries continue to improve, the industry is growing and I believe consumers are changing their way of thinking.”
McCarty said it costs him about $8 each month to keep his Bolt charged, but with the lack of high fuel and maintenance costs, those utility bills are well offset.
“Maintenance is pretty much just tires and washer fluid,” he said. “I recently took it in for routine service and the guys said, ‘You’re here for an oil change.’ I told them if they could find oil in the car, let me know. And with engine braking, the wear and tear on braking is greatly reduced.”
When traveling between Hawesville to Chattanooga to visit family, McCarty said planning for charging is made easy with a phone app. As well, some charging stations are free while charging at Electrify America stations is 16 cents per minute. He typically stops in Nashville before proceeding on to east Tennessee.
“You just have to plan accordingly, which is true no matter the type of vehicle you drive,” McCarty said. As far as insurance rates, McCarty said he has noticed no discernible difference other than typical higher rates expected with newer vehicles.
And as for the hands-free driving mode, McCarty said he has driven through Nashville entirely hands-free and feels very safe. The Bolt features a camera mounted on the steering column which will disengage the hands-free mode if it detects the driver has taken their eyes off the road.
“An electric car is probably safer and more responsive than a gas car in heavy traffic,” he said. “It has a low center of gravity and when you step on the accelerator, the response is immediate. There is no switching of gears or lag; the power you need is immediate.”
McCarty said he sometimes feels like a train conductor in hands-free mode as he sits “watching the car go down the road.”
Tax credits of $7,500 could still be available
An income tax credit up to $7,500 was enacted in 2008 for purchasers of electric plug-in vehicles. The credit is administered for the first 200,000 units sold by manufacturers. The credit is calculated differently for each model available on the market.
Tax credit quotas for Tesla and General Motors models have already been reached. The Congressional Research Service said that from 2018 to 2022 about half of the claimed credits have gone to corporate buyers.
Most individual taxpayers claiming the credit have an adjusted gross income of $100,000 or more.