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Electric Vehicle Ownership in a Gas Station World

White woman in dress charging an EV with Vermont Statehouse in background.
Kate Stephenson with her electric car at a charging station in front of the State House. Photo by John Lazenby.
By Stan Brinkerhoff

In late 2022 we were looking at the end of our family car lease and curious what was next. Car prices had changed considerably since we last shopped. Our daily travels took us to Berlin, past local schools, playgrounds, and down to the pool or Wrightsville Reservoir. On longer family trips the car offered a fantastic 30 mpg, but around town we found ourselves often struggling with short trips up and down the local hills to see teens. 

Are we ready for an electric vehicle? 

There are a large number of considerations. The price tag was the first. The “what does this cost” question was less clear each step we took. The Federal Tax Rebates are available for some vehicles, other manufacturers can roll those rebates directly into the effective purchase price for a lease. State and Power Utility rebates are available. Depending on “adjusted gross income” (AGI) discounts can range from $2,200 (AGI over $150,000) to upwards of $15,700 (with an AGI under $52,000). 

A $15,700 discount is a substantial discount on a $27,000 Chevrolet Bolt, or a $29,000 Nissan Leaf, or a $35,000 Hyundai Kona or even a $40,000 Tesla Model 3. Depending on income and manufacturers discounts an Electric Vehicle can be cheaper than a used car.

How do we charge our car?

I recall leaving the hospital with our first born and wondering, what do we know? What do we feed, how often do we bathe, how do we ensure our child is safe? Driving home your first EV feels like a similar experience. I recall trying to understand where I could simply charge it.

We are in a community of early adopters who graciously explained all the intricacies. Level 1 chargers are inexpensive and can often use a simple external outlet at a home. These slow chargers can easily charge an EV roughly 60 miles of range in a day. Level 2 chargers such as at the Capital in Montpelier, at Hunger Mountain Coop, City Hall, Red Hen, and hundreds of other locations can charge an EV at about 15 miles of charge per hour. Level 1 and Level 2 chargers are destination chargers. You can leave the car charged while you shop, ask questions at City Hall, and slowly keep your car topped off overnight.

When traveling Level 3 chargers are needed. These chargers such as Tesla Superchargers, Electrify America, and EVgo can be found locally at VSECU, the Berlin Park and ride, or perhaps Ben and Jerry’s. These chargers use high power to charge most EV’s to 80% within 20 minutes. 

How is the experience?

Owning an EV is decidedly different from a traditional gas car. Most EV’s offer advanced technology and features. Our car preheats in the morning using an efficient heat pump. It charges overnight in our driveway and when disaster hit central Vermont, we were not looking for gas stations (and so many downtown gas stations were shut down). We have no concerns traveling to Burlington or Williston, and trips to Boston involve a quick stop that the infotainment has scheduled for us at a charging station in West Lebanon. 

There are some concerns that are evolving in the EV world. Currently there are a half-dozen various charge networks that each require a deposit to use. Manufacturers are slowly standardizing down to the North American Charge Standard (NACS), or the “Tesla Charger.” Tesla is opening up its expansive charge network to many manufacturers. Long trips require pre-planning about where to charge. Infotainment systems have come a long way to help mitigate range anxiety, but our children still are concerned we will run out of battery — something they intimately understand due to various electronics not working around the house when their batteries are out of power.

Am I saving money?

Charging at home and driving roughly 1,000 miles a month we pay $65 to charge our EV. This can be offset by solar panels or off-rate charging discounts from Green Mountain Power. This same driving cost $175 a month in our gas car. Neighbors cite $3,000 to $5,000 to upgrade their home to 200A main to support heatpumps and EV’s. A level 2 charger can cost $250 to $600. These are not requirements but enhance the charge speed and experience. 

Stan Brinkerhoff is a lifelong Vermonter focusing on Technology and Systems Architecture.