As we have seen through the wildfires raging throughout the state, climate change and its devastating effects aren’t slowing down, and it costs Colorado a lot. But a big climate change solution can actually save us money--electric vehicles.
Transportation is the largest source of climate change pollution in Colorado. Electric vehicles are a way to reduce the climate change pollution we produce when we travel because they don’t have tailpipe emissions. They are getting more and more popular in Colorado, but many people, businesses, and governments still don’t know how much money they can save with electric vehicles or about all of the resources that can reduce the cost of getting one.
We hosted a webinar with the City of Denver, Consumer Reports, and CALSTART to talk about the savings you can get when you switch from gas-powered vehicles to electric vehicles and available resources that make electric vehicles more affordable. Here’s some of the key things we covered:
Businesses are already converting to electric vehicles, and the market for heavier duty electric trucks is going to boom in the next few years. According to Tom Brotherton, Director of Market Acceleration for CALSTART, an international non-profit that connects businesses and governments with companies that will help them transition to clean vehicles, heavier-duty electric trucks are already being used. Transit agencies and companies like FedEx, UPS, and Amazon are already using electric vehicles because “they have a home base, they come to the same location every night” where they can be charged and worked on if there is anything wrong.
That means that we are already reducing our greenhouse gas emissions from transportation by a lot.
Delivery trucks like Amazon’s drive a lot, and converting them from gas to electric will have an outsized impact on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Right now, they cost more than their gas-powered counterparts, but that will get better soon. According to Tom, “an electric truck might cost about $100,000 more than a gas-powered truck, the biggest piece of that cost is the battery.” But that cost is going down over time, and the newer, cheaper batteries that are being developed are also more powerful than the older ones, some of them getting over 200 miles of range. Things are looking up for businesses who want to make the switch from gas to electric.
Governments and taxpayers are saving thousands of dollars each year by using electric vehicles instead of gas-powered vehicles. According to Denver’s fleet manager, Brad Salazar, we learned that electric vehicles save the city -- and taxpayers -- a lot of money. According to him, the city spends 29 cents per mile for each gas-powered vehicle in their fleet and only 8 cents per mile for each electric vehicle in their fleet. If each of the vehicles in Denver’s fleet drives as much as the average Coloradan drives -- 13,443 miles per year -- then the city and taxpayers save $2,823.03 per electric vehicle each year.
Denver is saving money on maintaining their electric vehicles. Electric vehicles need less maintenance than gas-powered vehicles because they work without many of the parts that gas-powered vehicles have and don’t need things like oil changes to stay running smoothly. The electric vehicles that Denver currently has in its fleet need maintenance so infrequently that they’ve had to create a whole system to require them to come in periodically, otherwise they’d rarely see them.
Electric vehicles can save us hundreds of dollars each year, and more options are becoming available. We stand to save a lot of money by switching to electric vehicles, at least $600 each year on fuel alone. According to Alfred Artis, a policy analyst with Consumer Reports, a non-profit dedicated to protecting consumers for more than 80 years, more SUV options will be available soon from companies like Rivian so that we can pack our gear and head to the great outdoors in cars that don’t pollute the air of the places we love. These cars are also getting longer ranges between charges, so we can go farther than ever with our electric vehicles. They’re smooth to drive, “gliding effortlessly,” he said because they don’t have all of the connecting parts that gas-powered cars have, so “when you hit the gas, you just go.”
But how do you make a new electric vehicle more affordable? Depending on where you live, you can access different tax credits at the state and federal level to make it easier to get an electric car. For people who live in Colorado, we can access a tax credit of $4,000 if we purchase a new electric vehicle before the end of 2020 and $2,500 if you purchase a new electric vehicle between 2021 and 2023. Colorado law allows car companies to allow you to use the tax credit to lower the sticker price of the vehicle at the point of sale instead of having to wait to get that money returned to you when you file your taxes. Not every car company is implementing this so ask them when you are shopping around.
There’s also a federal tax credit that can be up to $7,500, depending on the make and model of the car you want. For the federal tax credit, you have to wait until tax filing season to claim it, and you should talk to your trusted tax professional when doing your taxes. You can read more about the tax benefits here.
Electric vehicles also have the potential to lower electricity bills for everyone, even those of us who don’t have an electric vehicle. This is because electric vehicles pay more into the grid than it costs the grid to charge them. This is especially true if these vehicles are charged at night when there is little other energy being used - it can put even more money into the system and that money can be returned to all electric customers in the form of lower electricity bills.
We’ve all heard the names - Pine Gulch, Grizzly Creek, Cameron Creek, and Williams Fork. One way that we can work to ensure these massive wildfires don’t become even more common is to make sure that we reduce greenhouse gas emissions. One way we can reduce those emissions is by driving electric vehicles, which can save you more money than you think.