Reader Rides: Why I Drive Electric – A Three Year Review Of Life With The Second-Generation Toyota RAV4 EV.

This May I reached three years of driving my 2012 Toyota Rav4 EV.  I’ve already written a number of articles about the Rav4 EV, and after 3 years of driving I’d like to answer a couple of key questions, such as “How much energy does it take to drive an electric car?” , “Why do I drive an EV?” and perhaps most importantly, “Why is this important to me?”

First a bit about the car for those who aren’t familiar with this “compliance” electric vehicle.

The 2012-2014 Toyota Rav4 EV is an electrified version of the 2012 Toyota Rav4.  It features a 41.8 kWh battery pack and electric motor that were supplied to Toyota by Tesla.  This car was made in small numbers and sold by Toyota only in California, which is why it’s called a “compliance” car by many electric car enthusiasts.  The EPA rated range is 113 miles on a full charge.  The car seats five and has a large storage capacity in the rear: 36 cubic feet², 73 cubic feet with the rear seats folded down.

This versatile car has been my primary vehicle since the day I bought it.  In three years I’ve driven 42,200 miles.  That’s 14,000 miles a year, which matches the average annual mileage for a driver in the United States.

To get an idea of operating costs and mileage efficiency, I recorded my monthly mileage and estimated energy use.

Here’s my report:  I used about 360 kWh of electricity, from the wall, to drive about 1170 miles each month.  In total I used about 12,665 kWh of electricity over 3 years to charge my car.

My electric rate at home over the past three years averaged 15.3 cents per kWh.  At that rate I would have paid about $1950 to drive those 42,200 miles.  That works out to about 4.6 cents per mile.  For comparison, according to AAA on May 9th the average price of a gallon of gas in the United States was $2.21.  Driving a car getting 25 MPG works out to 8.8 cents a gallon.

Another way to look at that is to consider equivalent MPG, or eMPG.  A gallon of gas is equal to 33.7 kWh of electricity.  So, 12,665 kWh, divided by 33.7 kWh/gallon = 375.8 gallons of gas to drive 42,200 miles.  That works out to 112 eMPG.  Electric cars are much more efficient than gas powered cars.  Granted, I live in the flat, warm, Sacramento region – ideal driving conditions.  But, the same driving style over the same route in a Prius got me 53 MPG.  My 4000 pound brick shaped EV is 2 times more efficient than a Prius.

So yeah, driving an EV is cheaper.  But for me this is the least important reason to drive electric.  Here are the 4 reasons why I drive electric.

1:  Power your car with domestic energy

By driving electric you decrease our reliance on foreign energy.  I drive a car powered by 100% American made energy.  Domestic energy = Independence.

FullSizeRender 22:  Pollution is real folks, and it is not good for us

There are 300 million cars on the road in the US.  The average person drives 35 miles a day, in a car that gets maybe 20-25 miles per gallon.  As a result, we use more than 300 million gallons of gas every day (the actual number is 384 million gallons of gas each and every day).  And that’s just for cars and light trucks.  Why does that matter?  Burning a gallon of gas produces 20 pounds of CO².  So that’s 20 pounds times 384 million.  Every day.  That’s over 7 billion pounds of CO².  Yes, billion with a B.  7 billion pounds of CO² that we pump into the atmosphere every day.  But that’s not all.  Burning gasoline also produces nitrogen oxides; volatile compounds from unburned or partially burned fuel; carbon monoxide; sulphur dioxide; particulate matter and other toxins like benzene, 1,3-butadiene, acrolein, and formaldehyde.  Even if we aren’t familiar with the names of those compounds, we already know car exhaust is bad:  nobody would let their child sit in a garage with a running car for an hour.  But yet we treat the atmosphere like it’s some limitless reservoir that we can pump billions of pounds of toxins into every single day.  And keep in mind that current research is providing more and more evidence for how air pollution impairs our health, and the health of our children.

3:  Electric cars are much cleaner, and get cleaner every year

Opponents say that EVs just shift emissions from the tailpipe to some coal burning plant down the road.  But very few areas in the US rely solely on coal for power any more.  There has been a big shift to natural gas (which burns cleaner), and there is steady, continual growth in the amount of electricity generated by renewable solar, wind and hydro sources.  13% of energy in the US comes from renewables that greatly reduce emissions.  As a result, the amount of pollution produced by driving an electric car is much less than that made by the average gas powered car.  AND it gets better each year.  The Union of Concerned Scientists analyzed the amount of pollution made by charging an electric car in different regions of the US based on the fuel sources used to generate electricity by regional utilities.  In the worst case scenario, you live in Denver and charging your EV makes an amount of pollution equivalent to driving a car that gets 34 MPG.  That’s the worst case.  In the best case you live in Alaska and get 126 MPG equivalent from your EV.  See the 2014 UCS map below.  And again, these numbers can improve every single year.  As the grid gets cleaner, related emissions go down and the air get cleaner.  Many people I know have solar panels and produce as much electricity for the grid on the roof of their house as they need for their house and driving combined. That’s Net-Zero emission driving.  And projects like the Honda House demonstrate that you can actually drive a car powered directly by the sun.  Sunshine ⇒ Battery ⇒ Car.  It’s that Simple.

2014 UCS Emissions

 

 

4:  Driving an electric car is a blast!

No need to say more on that last point, EV’s are simply a blast to drive.

Summary

I could be biased since I’ve been driving this EV for 3 years, but I’ve come to feel that an EV with 100+ miles of EPA-rated range, a DC charging port, and DC charging infrastructure, meets my needs throughout the year.  Two years from now I might be saying that 200 miles of range and an established DC charging network is what I need.  But today I am driving this EV.  Today I am powering my car on domestic energy.  Today I am reducing the amount of pollution from driving.  And I’m having a blast.  With the increasing number of EVs on the market today, there could be one that will meet your needs as well.

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