Dyer: Buying an electric car

Kristy Dyer is a columnist for Black Press Media who writes about the environment

Should I get an electric car? I get asked this question constantly, and the short answer is “yes”.

Then the follow up questions go like this:

  • I only drive a few kilometres a week…
  • Isn’t making electric cars much worse for the environment than gas powered cars?
  • My gas vehicle is paid for, is it worthwhile to buy an electric car?

So this week let’s tease apart some of these claims, focusing mainly on the financial. First it helps to understand that for annual cost of owning a car, only two items differ between an electric vehicle (EV) and a conventional vehicle: the amount of money you spend on gas, and the amount of repairs.

Only two items differ between an EV and a conventional vehicle: cost of fuel and the amount of repairs.

So the largest cost associated with a vehicle is related to the purchase price: depreciation and the interest you pay on the car loan. Buying an EV means paying less for your “fuel” and expecting fewer repairs (electric engines are much simpler than combustion engines). That still leaves 65 percent of the costs of car ownership identical for EV and gas-powered cars.

I only drive 35 km per week…

Remember “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”? For cars it should be “Drive less, use public transit, buy an EV”. If you drive very little (or better yet, do most of your errands on a bicycle) you will not see much of an improvement in your carbon footprint from buying an electric car. I recommend that if you drive less than 300 kilometres per month, rather than buy an electric car.

My gas vehicle is paid for, is it worthwhile to buy an electric car?

The best calculator I’ve found to compare total costs of any random vehicle (of any value) to electric cars is the US Alternative Fuels Data Center. You will have to live with imperial units such as MPG and choose Pennsylvania as your location (for the price of gas). However it offers a built-in list of cars back to 2005 and has the ability to add a “custom car”. What you will learn from this site is identical to the advice you would get from Cartalk: it’s always cheaper to repair a vehicle you have paid off, than to go out and buy a new one.

READ MORE: Kelowna student to drive electric vehicle to Ontario conference to raise awareness about climate change

Isn’t making electric cars much worse for the environment than gas powered cars?

The tricky bit of EV manufacturing is the lithium battery that allows EVs to drive 200 miles on a full charge. Currently, if you add up all the bits that go into an EV and all the bits that go into a gas powered vehicle, the creation of an EV emits about 20% more carbon than the gas vehicle. But this is not written in stone. All the countries participating in the Paris agreement are working hard to “decarbonize” their electricity: as that happens each years new EV models will have less and less carbon embedded in their creation. Additionally as we decarbonize the electric grid, you are charging with lower-carbon electricity, and your EV will make up for their lithium-debt after driving fewer miles.

The Union of Concerned Scientists state “Battery electric cars make up for their higher manufacturing emissions within eighteen months of driving”.

READ MORE: Vernon businessmen cruising with e-ride electric vehicle rights

Keep in mind that we already have an active and successful recycling program for your lead starter battery: you pay a core charge when you purchase the battery, and get it back when you return your old battery for recycling. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: Lithium batteries can be reused as is: there are already entrepreneurs waiting for discarded batters to hit the market in large numbers.

What we are not exploring here is the leverage you wield if you buy an electric vehicle now. If you purchase an EV you are voting with your feet. The more EVs that are purchased, the more the price will drop. The cost of building a lithium battery has dropped by about seven percent per year. Owning an EV states to anyone on the road, and your relatives and friends that you have invested in a greener future. OK boomer, there you have it.

Missed last week’s column?

Dyer: The road we didn’t take

About Kristy Dyer:

Kristy Dyer has a background in art and physics and consulted for Silicon Valley clean energy firms before moving (happily!) to sunny Penticton. Comments to Kristy.Dyer+BP@gmail.com

Kristy’s articles are archived at teaspoonenergy.blogspot.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Environment

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

This historic photo is of Meikle's Department store on Bernard Avenue, circa 1950.

Currently, Blendz Coffee is situated where Meikle's Department store used to be.

In 1937, the name of the business was changed to George A. Meikle Ltd., and for the next thirty years, Meikle's and Fumerton's competed as the town's two leading 'department' stores, according to the Old Kelowna Facebook page.

Meikle's was sold to Field's Stores in 1969.
A look back at Kelowna’s past

Meikle’s Department store cira 1950

(Kelowna Capital News)
B.C. Labour Board orders Peachland cannabis company to reinstate laid-off employees

The B.C. Labour Relations Board determined the employees were laid off due to their plan to unionize

École de L’Anse-au-sable. (Google Maps)
COVID-19 outbreak at Kelowna Francophone school

Three cases of the virus have been identified at École de L’Anse-au-sable

In this file photo, snow is seen falling along the Coquihalla Highway. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)
Weather statement issued for Coquihalla, Hwy 3, as arctic front approaches

The early season snowfall expected to hit Fraser Valley, Friday, Oct. 23

BC Green Party candidate Amanda Poon (left) and BC Liberal Party candidate Renee Merrifield (right). (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)
Person who attended BC Liberal candidate’s Kelowna home event tests positive for COVID-19

Kelowna-Mission candidate Renee Merrifield has not exhibited any symptoms of the virus

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry presents modelling of COVID-19 spread in B.C., March 25, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. sets another COVID-19 record with 203 new cases

up to 1,766 active cases in B.C., two more deaths

Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau is seen as she leaves media event during a campaign stop in West Vancouver, B.C., Tuesday, October 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. Green leader hopes voters see value in minority government

The Greens received nearly 17 per cent of the popular vote in 2017 yet received just three seats

Local candidates Pam Alexis, Abbotsford-Mission, and Preet Rai, Abbotsford-West, look on as NDP Leader John Horgan main streets in Abbotsford, B.C., Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. NDP takes snap election risk during pandemic in quest for majority government

Green Leader Sonia Furstenau said the election was unnecessary and irresponsible during the pandemic

Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson speaks during a drive-in car rally campaign stop at a tour bus operator, in Delta, B.C., on October 17, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. Liberal Leader maintains confidence as campaign tests party identity

Liberal campaign has been disrupted by controversy

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
British Columbia man dies during ski trip near glacier west of Calgary

Kananaskis Public Safety and Alpine Helicopters responded around 2:30 p.m.

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrives on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, Oct. 19, 2020, following a week-long break for the House of Commons. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
One crisis after another for Trudeau since last federal election one year ago

It has been a year of unprecedented calamity and crisis

Curtis Sagmoen
Public warning issued to North Okanagan sex trade workers

RCMP warns workers to stay away from Salmon River Road area

Most Read