Ray Addison II doesn’t worry about gas prices, no matter how high. He’s been driving a battery-powered Tesla for six years and he doesn’t plan to return to internal combustion engines anytime soon.
About 2.32 million electric cars now ply US roads, but as of June 2021, only 3% of those electric car owners were black, according to the Fuels Institute, a nonprofit think tank.
Addison, vice president and chief marketing officer of Go-Station, an Austin, Texas-based company that is working to expand the network of electric vehicle charging stations, said he wants to see more black drivers behind the wheel of electric vehicles.
Addison bought his Tesla while working for Daimler, a European automaker. He has long described himself as a “car guy”.
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“I was intrigued by the technology,” Addison said of his Tesla. “For someone who has only driven gas cars, I was interested in the performance of this one.”
After much research, Addison determined that Tesla was his best option. At the time of its purchase, the company offered unlimited free charging with an extensive network of charging stations.
He recalled that during his test drive, a Tesla sales consultant invited him to feel the power of the car, so he pressed the pedal and gave it free rein on a stretch of open road.
“It was quiet, smooth, fast,” Addison said. “I felt like my organs were pressing against the seat.
“Some people say you have to have an engine that burps and growls,” he added. But the test drive threw all that out the window. “It’s about how you feel, the sound it makes, the impression you make when you pull up in front of a valet,” he said.
Addison’s kids also love his Tesla, calling his speed “pee mode.”
Overcoming “distance anxiety”
One of the biggest sticking points around electric vehicles is “range anxiety,” a fear of running out of battery and being stranded.
“I can understand that [perspective]”, Addison said. “The closest parallel is an iPhone, where everyone walks around with a Lightning cable in their backpack.
According to the Federal Highway Administration, the average American travels about 39 miles a day – well within the range of any modern electric vehicle, which can travel more than 200 miles when fully charged. Some days, Addison says, he’ll go about 45 miles; on others, as few as seven.
“With an electric vehicle,” he said, “I might have another 50 miles before I have to charge again.”
Like most EV drivers, Addison charges her Tesla at home. He estimates that his monthly electricity bill has gone up by about $20.
The cost factor
Most homes are already built with the wiring needed to charge electric vehicles. Chargers available on the market can plug into any 120-volt outlet (the two-prong outlet for common appliances) or 240-volt outlets, which use three prongs and are commonly used for stoves and electric dryers.
Autotrader released a cost analysis last month that found electricity to be much cheaper than gasoline. At around 14 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh), at a rate of 3 to 4 miles per kWh, the average electric car would cost significantly less to fully charge than to fully power a gasoline-powered vehicle.
Addison paid $106,000 for his Tesla, which sells much cheaper models. Additionally, other automakers are rapidly gaining traction in the electric vehicle market. Chevy’s 2023 Bolt will have a sticker price of around $25,600.
Extension of the charging network
Last year’s federal infrastructure bill, which was signed into law by President Joe Biden, provided $7.5 billion to pay for the construction of 500,000 charging stations in the United States and Canada. by 2030. About $16 million of that total went to North Carolina.
Go-Station currently has more than 4,000 electric vehicle charging locations across North America and hopes to continue expanding with an office in Charlotte.
Charlotte has one of her own public charging stations, known as PoleVolt, located at The Ritz in Washington Heights, a public space on Beatties Ford Road. Duke Energy, the City of Charlotte and the UNC Charlotte Energy Production and Infrastructure Center will launch at least two more in the future as part of a pilot program to study the viability of creating a broader network of chargers public. (Tesla has its own network of charging stations.)
Electric vehicle owners and companies have created apps such as PlugShare and ChargeHub to share information about the location of charging stations, sometimes for free.
Saving money, looking futuristic, reducing harm to marginalized communities and doing good by nature is fine, but Addison admits there are some tradeoffs.
Recharging, for example, takes longer than refueling at a gas station. Some charging stations can take up to 45 minutes to fully charge. Others require much less time.
While charging his Tesla on a trip to Maryland, Addison “found a grassy spot under a shady tree and I just sat down,” he recalls. “I was able to recover physically and mentally.”
Addison said he found himself changing tires more often due to the power of the Tesla, but covered by saying he also saved a lot on maintenance and repairs.
A change in the transport landscape
Some research suggests electric vehicles are on track with Biden’s sustainable transportation goals. A 2020 Consumer Reports survey predicts electric vehicles will outsell gas-powered cars by 2040. IHS Markit marketing research predicts hybrid and electric vehicles will grow to 32% of all vehicle sales in the states United States even earlier, by 2030. China sees similar projections. Electric vehicles have already outsold gasoline vehicles in Europe.
“I don’t know if there will be a world where every vehicle is electric,” Addison said.
“There are still adjustments to be made in energy production.”
Academics and human rights advocates worry about the human cost of mining the minerals to make the batteries that power these futuristic vehicles.
“If you go up the chain, you’ll sometimes find that these green solutions are fueled by dirty sources,” Addison said. “But overall, are we doing better? Are we on the right track?
Time will tell us.
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