If you’re at all cost-conscious—let alone eco-conscious—the day-to-day costs of driving an an all-electric vehicle make a lot of sense: Fueling an EV costs roughly 75% less than fueling a car with gas. Considering the average household spent $2,900 on gasoline in 2012, that’s an annual savings of $2,175.
In Sustainable America’s 2013 Public Opinion Poll, we indeed found that 7 in 10 Americans say fuel economy is “very important” when deciding which car to buy, and 31% are considering buying an EV when they make their next auto purchase.
The interest is there, it seems, but battery electric vehicles (BEVs) account for less than 4% of vehicle sales in the U.S. for the first four months of 2013, according to data from the Electric Drive Transportation Association. Our survey found that 63% of Americans are concerned about the limited number of miles electric cars can go between charges (range anxiety), but slightly more people—65%—cite the high perceived cost of EVs as another barrier.
But what if you could drive an electric vehicle for virtually nothing? In some states, this is actually possible, as a recent Wall Street Journal article reports. Several car companies are offering discount leases this year, the federal government offers a $7,500 tax credit, and several states offer additional credits and incentives. Here’s how Georgia resident Bronson Beisel, featured in the article, fared on a lease for a new Nissan Leaf:
> “With $1,000 down, Mr. Beisel says he got a two-year lease for total out-of-pocket payments of $7,009, a deal that reflects a $7,500 federal tax credit.
> “As a resident of Georgia, Mr. Beisel is also eligible for a $5,000 subsidy from the state government. Now, he says, his out-of-pocket costs for 24 months in the Leaf are just over $2,000. Factor in the $200 a month he reckons he isn’t paying for gasoline to fill up his hulking SUV, and Mr. Beisel says ‘suddenly the car puts $2,000 in my pocket.’
> “Yes, he pays for electricity to charge the Leaf’s 24-kilowatt-hour battery—but not much. ‘In March, I spent $14.94 to charge the car’ and a bit less than that in April, he says. He also got an electric car-charging station installed at his house for no upfront cost.”
Sales figures show that consumers like Beisel are starting to take advantage of these deals. In April 2013, consumers bought 4,403 BEVs compared with 775 in April 2013.
In addition to low lease deals from Nissan, SmartCar, Chevy, and Fiat, car makers and the government are taking other steps to make electric vehicles more affordable and attractive. Tesla is adding more fast-charging stations to address range anxiety. Fiat and BMW are offering free rental cars to owners of their EVs when they want to take trips that fall outside of the car’s range. Nissan moved production of the Leaf to the U.S. from Japan, which allowed them to lower prices. And the government is encouraging trying to spur the buildout of more public EV charging stations.
It’s too soon soon to say whether these efforts will make EV ownership more mainstream, but they certainly sweeten the deal for those who were already considering buying an alternative-fuel vehicle. At Sustainable America, we’re working to reduce the country’s dependence on foreign oil for transportation, and fueling more cars on electricity is one piece of that puzzle. To see a list of incentives for buying electric vehicles in your state, visit pluginamerica.org.