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Electric car owners bask in liberation from gasoline


Charging an electric vehicle is much less expensive than filling up one that’s gas-powered, while yearly maintenance costs are lower as well, said Matthew Swenson, a professor with the University of Idaho’s mechanical engineering department. That’s due to fewer moving parts and no need for periodic services such as oil changes and the like.

But while charging an electric vehicle is much more cost effective, you can’t fully charge an electric vehicle from empty in the minutes it takes you to refill your car with gas.

Charging stations are classified at the rate batteries are charged, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Level 1 stations, for instance, recharge 2 to 5 miles of range per hour. Level 2 stations recharge 10 to 20 miles of range per hour. The fastest chargers, referred to as Level 3 or DC Fast Charging stations, recharge 60 to 80 miles of range per 20 minutes.

Most publicly available charging stations in the U.S. are Level 2, according to the Department of Energy.

Swenson said charging concerns are perhaps the biggest hurdle for normalizing electric vehicles with consumers.

“It’s harder to go on a road trip with an EV because you have to stop at some point and recharge your battery, and it takes time,” he said. “You really have to strategize where you make your stops, how you do your charging and you have to find ways to occupy your time while waiting for your vehicle to charge.”

Drivers can charge their vehicles at home overnight – if their homes are able to accommodate that electrical usage, said Andy Keys, general sales manager at Wendle Motors.

“Apartment complexes and things like that, there’s not a lot of those that have the capacity,” he said, “and then you look at like the South Hill, Hillyard and Shadle and (older neighborhoods) like that, most of those homes don’t have the capacity for it.”

Locally, Avista offers residential customers in Washington an opportunity to apply for to install a Level 2 charger at their home with no equipment fee, plus Avista will pay half the wiring costs up to a maximum of $1,000, according to the company. The same offer is available to commercial customers, with up to $2,000 per port connection available.

Similar state and federal incentives exist. Washington offers a sales and use tax exemption for purchases on qualifying all-electric or hybrid vehicles. Meanwhile, new electric vehicles purchased in or after 2010 may be eligible for up to a $7,500 federal income tax credit to effectively knock down the price.

Swenson said electric vehicles typically have higher upfront costs than their gas-powered counterparts. The cost of a new 2022 Nissan Leaf starts a $27,400. By comparison, Tesla’s Model 3 – the most popular electric vehicle in Spokane County, according to vehicle registration data – currently starts at $44,990.

The price of a new car has averaged over $40,000 for most of the year, according to Kelley Blue Book.

With the used car market, Keys said the Tesla models that Wendle gets via trade-in are often scooped up by California buyers eager to take advantage of the state’s incentive that grants access to car-pool lanes to electric vehicles and others that meet certain emission standards.

Rather than buying, however, Keys said most of Wendle’s electric vehicle customers take the lease option.

“That way, it puts them on a two- or three-year cycle, so they always have the latest technology and don’t end up with a car that’s outdated with the batteries and things like that,” he said.

Keys said the buyer for electric vehicles at Wendle Motors “seems to know as much about it or more than we do.”

“The early adapters are typically that way,” he said. “I think the cost of the electric part of it is going to go down, but I think the other part of it, they’re on par pretty much with the normal gasoline vehicles nowadays. It’s the rest of the technology that’s going into cars that’s driving the price up.”

Swenson, who owns a plug-in hybrid himself, said the switch to electric after years of owning a gas-powered vehicle is “an unbelievably liberating feeling.”

“We get so dependent on gas, and the price is whatever it is and we pay whatever it happens to be,” he said. “But when you get to that point when you no longer have to buy gas and you can drive by those gas stations and you don’t even care, you don’t even pay attention to the gas prices anymore, it changes your whole life.

“It’s so liberating to feel like you’re not beholden to things that are outside of your control as far as what the gas prices are,” he continued. “It’s a hard feeling to describe until you’ve experienced that yourself and what a difference that makes in your lifestyle.”

Electric powered vehicles — either fully electric or a hybrid electric/gas mixes — aren’t just coming your way: They’re already here and are selling in greater numbers every year. Three states — California, Massachusetts and New York — plan to phase out sales of gas-powered vehicles entirely within 15 years.
Here’s what you need to know about electric cars.

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