Can Electric Vehicles Work In Lincoln County?
Over the past few years, the state of Nevada has made a push to “electrify” the highways in Nevada. By this, they mean installing the electric vehicle charging infrastructure to allow people with electric vehicles to drive the highways without having to worry if there will be a place to charge. Governor Sisolak recently held a ribbon cutting event at a new charging station in Mesquite. With this opening, I-15 in Nevada was declared electric vehicle friendly with public charging stations in Jean, Las Vegas, Moapa and Mesquite. That same effort is being made on rural highways. In fact there are two public charging stations in Lincoln County, one in Panaca and one in Alamo. These were installed by the Lincoln and Alamo Power District’s respectively with grant funds from the Governor’s Office of Energy.
The reason Governor Sisolak and Governor Sandoval before him have pushed to electrify our highways is the expected increase in electric vehicles. EVs have been around awhile, but with improvements in battery design, decreases in costs for EV cars, and with public charging becoming more available, the number of EVs on the roads keeps increasing. In 2018, 361,000 electric vehicles were sold in the US. That’s a little under 2% of all light vehicle (cars and light trucks) sales in 2018. Future projections are all over the map, with some predicting 20% of vehicle sales by 2030 being electric. More conservative economists put the number closer to 12%, but either way that’s a lot of electric vehicles.
All of this has made us wonder, would an electric vehicle work in Lincoln County? Clearly if you need a vehicle for long road trips or if you drive more than 200 miles a day, it may not. Who wants to drive to Cedar City, do their shopping, and then wait while their vehicle charges so they can drive home. Even at what is called a “DC fast charging station” the charge time could be 30 minutes to an hour. But what if you have a car that you use to drive under 50 miles a day for short trips to the post office, to stores and to work in Lincoln County? Would an electric vehicle save you money in this case? The researchers say yes. There are a lot of studies on EVs, but a 2018 study from the University of Michigan's Transportation Research Institute found that EVs cost less than half as much to operate as gas-powered cars. They say the average cost to operate an EV in the United States is $485 per year, while the average for a gasoline-powered vehicle is $1,117. So we decided to do our own math. We compared a 2020 Nissan Rouge and a comparably equipped 2020 Nissan Leaf Plus. The list price of the Rouge is $25,300 and the Leaf Plus is $37,500, but the Leaf qualifies for a $7,500 federal tax rebate. We assumed each would drive 10,000 miles in a year. Using our rates for electric energy, the AAA listed price for gas in Nevada, and published information on maintenance costs we calculated the annual operating cost of the Rogue at $1,242 and the Leaf at only $436.
It is clear, if you have several vehicles and use one of them mainly to drive around Lincoln County, an EV will save you money. This sounds like a couple of our vehicles at Lincoln County Power. In fact, we have a 2007 Expedition with over 200,000 miles that we have planned to replace this year. This vehicle is used to read meters, to go to local meetings, and to run errands to the post office, bank and stores. We drive it just under 10,000 miles per year. We have decided to replace it with an EV and have ordered a 2020 Nissan Leaf Plus. Our EV should arrive by summer. We are confident our new EV will save our rate payers money. But once we get it, we invite our customers to come and to take a look. We will even take you out for a test drive, although our insurance agent says I can’t let you drive. We will tell you the pros and cons of what we learn. We want you to learn from our experience so that you can decide if one might work for you too.