When Dr. Jim Dudley of Eureka Springs bought a hybrid Ford C Max car in 2017, there was so little interest in that kind of vehicle that he was able to buy it for $18,000 (including a $4,000 federal tax credit) when the list price was $36,000. He has 24 solar panels that power his home and his car, which gets about 25 miles to the charge before he has to switch to gasoline. He rarely has to buy gasoline because most of his driving is short trips.
Dudley primarily bought the C Max because of concerns about climate change and protecting the environment. He has been excited to see the dramatic improvements in electric vehicles (EVs) just over the past four years.
“An electric Kia or Hyundai has a 300-mile range,” Dudley said. “It is going to be more and more easy to get electric cars, and they will be affordable.”
While environmental considerations are still important, these days electric vehicles can also save a lot of money.
“EVs save drivers approximately $12,000 for every 100,000 miles driven, depending on gas prices,” said Lauren Waldrip, executive director, Arkansas Advanced Energy Association. “EVs provide consumers with a cost-saving alternative to traditional vehicles. Industry leading brands are also lasting far longer on average than traditional internal combustion engine cars.”
There is some criticism that it isn’t much better for the carbon emissions if you charge the vehicle with electricity from a coal plant. But an increasing number of Arkansans charge their electric vehicles through home solar chargers.
“The popularity of EVs increases almost hand-in-hand with the popularity of renewable energy,” Waldrip said. “Although utilities that provide energy are still monopolies, because of net metering laws, a market is now developing that allows Arkansans to produce their own energy through solar panels. This energy could be utilized to power these EVs, ultimately saving Arkansans even more. The increase in electricity prices pales in comparison to the increase in gasoline prices.”
Leo Denault, chairman and CEO of Entergy Corp., said in a press release that the company is taking an integrated approach toward a carbon-free future that includes working with industry peers and customers to electrify other sectors of the economy like transportation and the maritime industry. Entergy delivers electricity to roughly three million utility customers in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.
The company recently invested in more than 40 strategically located charging stations to be used by its growing EV fleet, which allows for nearly 90 vehicles to charge simultaneously. Starting in 2023, the company plans for all its passenger vehicles, forklifts and pallet jacks to be all-electric where readily available from the manufacturer.
Kelli Dowell, Entergy Corp. director of environmental policy, said the company recognizes that electric vehicles are an increasingly attractive private transportation option that offer key benefits to owners, such as reduced maintenance, lower fuel consumption, less noise and lower emissions. Dowell said with a variety of sizes, styles, price points and powertrains, there’s now an electric vehicle for everyone.
Collin Riggin, partner\founder of Evolve Auto in North Little Rock, said his dealership concentrates on selling pre-owned Teslas because, although pricey, they are far superior to other electric vehicles.
“We are open to other brands once they evolve,” Riggin said. “The difference between an EV and a hybrid is, with a hybrid, you are still maintaining everything you need for a gas engine. With electric, there is very little maintenance for things like belts, hoses and oil changes. You don’t even have to worry about brake pads on a Tesla because the vehicles use regenerative braking and one-pedal driving to stop the car. You charge the batteries with the kinetic energy used to brake. This means that EVs actually get better mileage in city traffic or stop-and-go traffic than on the highway.”
His currently pre-owned Teslas range from $45,000 to the upper $60’s. He said Teslas have “flipped the script” for EVs.
“These vehicles have far more power and torque than most vehicles you see on the road,” Riggin said. “They are fun to drive. The acceleration is out of this world. There are $75,000 gas cars that will lose in a head-to-head race with most Teslas.”
While manufacturing EVs initially produces more carbon dioxide emissions than internal combustion engines, it only takes one year of the car being on the road to tip the scales. The zero-emission driving more than makes up for the manufacturing process.
“The older the vehicles get, the more beneficial they are to the environment,” Riggin said. “Another environmental benefit is that electric vehicle batteries are recyclable, which a lot of people don’t seem to know.”
While some EVs are not made for long road trips, Waldrip said most longer-range models will drive two to three hours at highway speeds before needing a fast charge, much the same as the amount of time people typically wait to stop on road trips to gas up and use facilities. “Fortunately, as technology continues to develop and improve, the range of electric vehicles is steadily increasing,” she said.
The decrease in air pollution can have significant health benefits considering that motor vehicles emissions are the leading cause of air pollution in the United States. Waldrip said even if a portion of fuel comes from a coal plant, it is much cleaner than the emissions from a combustion engine.
Arkansas currently is planning to use $54 million from the infrastructure package passed by Congress to build electric charging stations across the state. There are plans to install fast chargers every 50 miles or so along major highways.
“Additional access to charging stations will springboard the already growing adoption of electric vehicles,” Waldrip said.
The advanced energy industry is providing high-paying jobs that are crucial to communities across the state, especially against the backdrop of a pandemic, she added. A major example is the electric-vehicle company Canoo, which plans to move its headquarters to Bentonville and establish an R&D center as well as an advanced industrialization and low-volume production facility for small package delivery vehicles in Northwest Arkansas. The company estimates this and other investments will create at least 545 high-paying jobs.
“We are proud to partner with the state of Arkansas to develop American-made, clean energy vehicles,” said Tony Aquila, chairman and CEO of Canoo, in a press release. “Our investment in these new facilities will accelerate the development of high-demand delivery vehicles for customers around the world. We thank Gov. [Asa] Hutchinson and his team for their leadership and vision for the state’s role in the mobility revolution.”