Electric Vehicles Become More Mainstream As New Models Debut, Charging Stations Pop Up
National Drive Electric Week, which runs through Oct.4, is putting a focus on electric vehicles as Florida expands its charging infrastructure and traditional gasoline-powered automakers roll out more EV models.
BMW, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Ford, Fiat, Mini, Subaru, and Volkswagen are among the list of traditional automakers that are already selling cars with plugs, with many more headed for production.
While battling climate change is often cited as the primary reason to switch to a pure electric or plug-in hybrid car, many EVs also now match or exceed their gas-fueled counterparts when it comes to performance, technology and total cost of ownership.
For one, the Chrysler Pacifica minivan is available with either a traditionally powered 6-cylinder engine or as a plug-in hybrid that can go about 30 miles purely on electricity. The federal government estimates the cost to drive 25 miles at $2.48 for the gas minivan versus a $1.33 for the plug-in version.
For those who choose purely electric vehicles, like the Ford Mustang Mach E, which will go into production later this month, or the Mini Cooper SE, which is already on Jacksonville streets, the charging infrastructure is also rapidly improving.
While most EV owners charge at home, starting each day with a full “tank,” the Achilles heel of EVs used to be road trips.
Tom Larson is the chairman is of the North Florida Clean Fuels Coalition and owns a Chevrolet Bolt EV hatchback.
“I’ve been able to drive all the way to St. Petersburg without stopping,” he said on WJCT News' First Coast Connect with Melissa Ross on Thursday. The 2021 Bolt, which has a 66 kWh battery pack, is rated at 259 miles on a single charge, according to the GM Authority blog.
Now that Level 3 fast-charging stations are becoming common along major routes, “filling up” on road trips is finally becoming less of an issue. The sleek Porsche Taycan all-electric sports car can add up to 60 miles of charge in about four minutes, while the Mini Cooper SE charges to 80% in about 35 minutes.
Floridians will be seeing more of those high-powered stations soon with Gov. Ron DeSantis' recently announcing an $8.6 million expansion of the fast-charging infrastructure in Florida. The fastest DC CCS Electrify America chargers can deliver up to 350 kWh of power in an hour, although most EVs can't accept that much juice that fast - yet. To put that in perspective, the Porsche Taycan's battery capacity is 93 kWh.
EVs and plug-in hybrids are no longer just aimed at environmentalists or high-income drivers. Automakers are also rolling out models aimed at the biggest segments: SUVs, crossovers and pickup trucks. Cars like the Subaru Crosstrek plug-in hybrid, Toyota Rav4 Prime plug-in hybrid, Audi E-Tron all-electric SUV and BMW X3 plug-in hybrid are already on the streets.
Affordability is also a big focus.
“Tesla believes by 2025, I believe it is – it could be 2022 – they’ll have a car that costs only $25,000,” said Larson.
While that’s still a considerable sum of money, the average estimated cost of a new car in 2019 was $36,718, according to Edmunds, an automotive industry news site.
The biggest American gasoline-powered seller of them all, the Ford F-150 pickup, will also be available as a pure EV. Ford has announced plans to start selling an EV F-150 in mid-2022, while General Motors has announced it is resurrecting the Hummer brand as EV-only.
Perhaps the biggest EV assault will be at the heart of the SUV/Crossover market, with Chevrolet's announcing a new Bolt-based crossover and the Volkswagon ID.4 SUV going into production now.
Businesses are also moving toward electrifying their fleets. Amazon plans to buy 100,000 electric delivery vans from startup Rivian.
For First Coast business owners who are interested in learning what role EVs can play in their businesses, the North Florida Clean Fuels Coalition is hosting a webinar aimed at vehicle fleet operators on October 13. Register here.
07/27/21 Editor's Note: The JEA rebate referenced in this archived story has expired.
To hear the entire interview with Larson, listen to Thursday's First Coast Connect with Melissa Ross. The show also encores at 8 p.m. on WJCT News 89.9.