Electric Vehicle Action Group

We work to help community members learn more about electric vehicles and to support their public and private adoption as one of the solutions to our climate emergency.

In 2023, we focused on giving EV presentations to local groups and organizations and hosting EV car shows to inform people about how fun, easy, and environmentally friendly EVs can be. We also endeavor to monitor legislation at local, state, and federal levels. We advocate for increasing charging infrastructure and EV ready building codes, and are particularly interested in exploring how to make the transition to EVs as equitable as possible.

The car show we did at Olympia High School, in collaboration with the students’ climate action club, had a wide variety of vehicles, from a tiny Corbin Sparrow to one of the Olympia District’s electric school buses….

For information about our next scheduled meeting on Zoom, email Karen Messmer.

Battery Electric Vehicle FAQ

Comparing battery electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids, and conventional hybrids…

These terms can be confusing… Battery electric vehicles, sometimes called BEVs, are just what they sound like. All their power comes from a large battery pack, which is recharged by plugging into an electrical power source.

Plug-in hybrids have a combustion engine, usually gasoline, plus a smaller but sizable battery that can be recharged by plugging into a power source. The battery is large enough to power the car for twenty to fifty miles by itself. When the battery doesn’t have enough remaining charge to power the car, it runs on the gasoline engine like a conventional hybrid.

Conventional hybrid vehicles have a gasoline engine and a small battery that helps out the engine, but isn’t large enough to power the car on its own. The battery in these vehicles can’t be plugged in; it can only be recharged by running the engine and/or through regenerative braking. (BEVs and PHEVs also gain some energy this way – putting some of the energy that would be lost as heat when slowing the car with standard brakes into the battery, and then using it again later to help move the car.)

EVs are new technology, so isn’t there a lot more that can go wrong?

Actually, the earliest cars were electric, but early twentieth century batteries wouldn’t take them very far on a charge. Thanks to lithium ion batteries, EVs have made their way back into the marketplace over the last decade. There are only about 20 moving parts on an EV while there are around 2,000 on a gas vehicle. We are accustomed to things breaking on a gas vehicle, necessitating a trip to a mechanic. There is much less to break and maintain on an EV!

EVs cost way more, don’t they?

Right now, most new EVs do cost more to buy than a comparable gasoline car, although not paying the state’s sales tax and getting the $7,500 or $4,000 federal tax credits for new and used EV’s can offset much or all of this price difference. Beginning in January 2024, these credits will be available as rebates at the time of purchase, so buyers won’t have to wait until they get their tax returns to benefit from them. (New EVs’ batteries and the minerals in them will also have to meet new requirements to be eligible for the incentives, but those won’t apply if you’re leasing a car; the dealer will be able to get the rebate and pass it on to you.)

Besides that, EV operating costs are far less. The per mile cost to recharge an EV is about one-third that of refueling a gas car. It’s like driving on gas at $1 or $1.50 a gallon. Maintenance costs much less. Remember how few moving parts an EV has? You don’t have oil changes, antifreeze, or engine repairs; there are no new mufflers to buy. A recent Consumer Reports article estimates that savings over the lifetime of the vehicle range from $6,000-$10,000, roughly half the anticipated maintenance cost of an internal combustion vehicle.

What if the battery doesn’t last and I have to spend $$$ to buy a new one?

All batteries slowly lose their storage capacity over time, which is why federal regulations require manufacturers to warranty battery performance for at least 100,000 miles or eight years. Many manufacturers offer even longer warranties. Thanks to technological advances, batteries will continue to last longer, cost less, charge faster, and shrink in size and weight.

What about the extra registration fees for EVs?

Battery-electric cars do not pay the gas taxes used to build and maintain our highways, but do pay taxes on the electricity they use; those go to support general government functions like schools and emergency services.  In addition, EVs in Washington State pay an extra annual fee of $150/year that goes to roads, and an extra $75/year to fund development of EV infrastructure like high speed charging along major highways.  The $150 is about equal to the gasoline tax we would pay to drive 12,000 miles.  However, new EVs under $45,000 also enjoy our partial sales tax exemption which more than makes up for their additional registration fee. As EVs become more common, it is likely the state will change the annual registration surcharge into a per-mile fee.  This will benefit people who drive fewer miles than average.

What would it cost to install a charger at my house?

It may not be necessary. Many people charge with a regular 110 volt outlet using the cord that comes with the car. Some people can charge at work. If you’d prefer to charge faster at home using a 220 volt outlet (such as the one used by electric clothes dryers), the cost will depend on a number of factors. (You can get a credit of up to $1,000 on your Federal income taxes for 30% of the cost of installing one of these.) If you have an existing 220v outlet, a basic charging cable and plug that hangs on the wall in your garage can cost less than $300.

Whether you’re using an existing outlet or installing a new one, check to make sure your electrical panel can provide enough current to charge efficiently. Having an electrician install a new 220v circuit in a relatively new house might cost $500-$600.

PSE’s Up & Go Electric programs cover up to 100 percent of the cost to install and maintain Level 2 charging for the tenants of qualifying multifamily properties (with a cap of $40,000) and up to 100% of the cost of providing workplace charging for employees (with a cap of $120,000).

I’m worried the battery will go dead while I’m driving.

The EV’s instrument panel provides an up-to-date estimate of your remaining range, just like a gas gauge. Running out of battery power is about as likely as running out of gas, and maybe less likely, because the instrument panel measures variables that will affect your range, including speed, terrain, and weather.

What about long distance trips?

The car’s navigation software and a variety of websites and smartphone apps locate chargers for you, including the 440v DC fast chargers along highway corridors and at major commercial centers. These will usually restore 80% of your car’s range in less than an hour. Some chargers are free, but most require a payment. Crowd-sourced PlugShare and A Better Route Planner are the most comprehensive and accurate websites and apps for finding chargers while you’re traveling.

There have been three different kinds of fast chargers: Tesla, CHAdeMo (used by Japanese manufacturers such as Nissan and Mitsubishi), and CCS (the Combined Charging System, which has been used by most American and European manufacturers). Tesla’s charging network has only worked with their cars, though Tesla owners have been able to adapt their cable plugs to work with CHAdeMO and CCS chargers. At this point, nearly all up-to-date fast chargers offer both CHAdeMO and CCS, much like regular gas and diesel being dispensed at the same pump. Now, though, manufacturers are almost all announcing they will adopt Tesla’s system in the next couple of years.

Fully charging a typical EV with a battery capacity of 35-40 kWh costs about $10 at a public charger. Charging networks vary in how they bill customers; some have a one-time access charge while others charge by how long you’re at the charger. Most now just charge you for the actual energy you use. Nearly all charging stations allow you to use regular credit and debit cards like a gas pump.

Just as with a gasoline vehicle, your driving range will vary depending upon speed, terrain, weather, and the capacity of your batteries. The instrument panel measures these variables and provides an up-to-date estimate of your remaining range.

You can read about one EV owner’s recent round trip visit to the Bay Area.

What do I need to do to maintain my EV?

Very little; rotate the tires, occasionally check the fluid levels (battery coolant, power brakes, power steering, windshield wiper fluid), clean leaves out of the air vents, replace windshield wipers. That’s it!

Isn’t the electric grid just as dirty as using gas?

In our area, Puget Sound Energy relies on renewable energy sources, primarily hydroelectric and wind power, to meet nearly half of consumer demand. PSE will be coal-free by 2025, and completely fossil fuel-free by 2045. Right now, you’d need to get 100 mpg on a gas engine car to equal the emissions efficiency of an EV; by 2030, carbon dioxide emissions from EVs will be equivalent to getting 200 mpg on a gas engine car.  Over the 15-year life of a new car purchased in 2023, total emissions from the EV powered with PSE electricity will be less than one-quarter those of a similar-sized gasoline powered car.

What should I consider when looking for an EV to replace my conventional car?

Think about your actual driving needs. Many current EVs go well over 200 miles between charges. If you can recharge at home, in your garage or driveway, or at work, “refueling” is simple and cheap. If your driving habits include longer trips, consider whether stopping at a public charging station would meet your needs – or occasionally renting a conventional car if you’ll be traveling in areas where chargers are still being installed.

If you are still in a 2-car household, having one EV and one gas or hybrid vehicle can work very well. Even an EV with a fairly short range can meet most of your daily needs and lower your maintenance and fuel costs.

Won’t an EV get smashed to bits in an accident?

No! EVs are required to have the same safety features as conventional cars. Modern EVs aren’t glorified golf carts; they are serious, well-designed, vehicles. There’s no leaking gasoline in the event of a serious crash, either.

Will I get shocked if I drive through a puddle or go through a car wash in my EV?

Absolutely not! Electric vehicles go through the same rigorous testing process as gas vehicles before they’re made available to buyers, and are just as watertight and safe as any gas car in wet conditions, whether you’re in a car wash, torrential rains, or a snowstorm.

Are Electric Cars more flammable?

Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries, the power source for most battery electric vehicles, can be flammable if abused. They contain a liquid electrolyte that stores energy and can overheat and combust with prolonged exposure to the wrong conditions. These power cells are also subject to short-circuiting if they are damaged, and those short-circuits can result in fires if the proper safety precautions are not in place. However, when compared to the flammability of gasoline, Li-ion batteries pose a far lower risk of fire or explosion.

Where can I learn more about these cars?

If you’re interested in more details about these or other current plug-in cars, here are a few websites that let you compare them in a variety of helpful ways. 

Forth has glossy online guides that give an overview of all the currently available EVs and plug-in hybrids. PSE’s Up & Go Electric website is a similar resource. 

Plug-In America’s Shopping Assistant asks some questions about how you’d use a car, and then gives you information about suitable options and an estimate of the costs for acquiring each of them with cash, a loan, or a lease. 

The Sierra Club’s Electric Vehicle Guide has less information about pricing (just the manufacturer’s suggested retail price minus available incentives), but it provides estimates for savings in fuel and fuel costs, and for emissions reductions.

The Costco Auto site shows you current manufacturers’ incentives and loan offers.

The Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels Data Center’s Vehicle Cost Calculator lets you get closer to genuinely local estimates and conveniently compare vehicles in a variety of ways.

Costs and emissions for driving an EV in Thurston County.

Download a PDF of the Battery Electric Vehicle FAQ here!

Charging Into the Future: Get Charged Up About Electric Vehicles Webinar

For more information about the Transportation Action Group, and to be added to the mailing list, contact:

Karen Messmer: