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Saving Money By Driving Electric #driveclean

With a variety of incentives and an increasing variety of electric vehicles coming onto market, electric vehicles are more affordable than ever. What’s more, savings from fuel and maintenance can make monthly costs significantly lower for families. The story below outlines how one couple – Forrest and Mandy Blanton – saved thousands in the past five years by choosing to drive electric.

If their story piques your interest, head to ElectricDrive805.org to see the latest incentives and other resources that will help you make the shift to a clean fuel car.

The Blanton’s Electric Vehicle Story

April 2014: Fiat 1
My wife and I needed a new car. We worked and commuted together, so wanted to have just one car for us both. Encouraged by advertised incentives, we leased a 2014 FIAT 500E. We put $2,500 down but soon received the $2,500 California rebate, bringing our total downpayment to $0. Our monthly payment was approximately $150 per month with tax. They also had an amazing offer at the time that gave us $500/year towards car rentals to reduce ‘Range Anxiety.’

My wife and I were super excited as well because a free Level 2 Charger had just been installed across the street. After a year, they raised their rates to $0.75/hr. Our car took 4 hours to charge (if empty) and we typically got 90 miles to a charge. That meant we were paying roughly $3 to drive 90 miles – or 3.3 cents per mile. We took advantage of the car rentals to drive long distances. We held onto the 2014 lease for the full 3-year term and put about a 7,500 – 8,000 miles on it per year. Since the first year of charging was free, we spent approximately $500 total in electricity charging costs for the entire 3 years. Prior to owning the Fiat 500e, we were paying about $1,500 per year in gas.

March 2016: Tesla Reserved
In March of 2016 we placed $1,000 down to reserve a Tesla Model 3, which was advertised as getting 220 miles per charge with a 50 kWh battery. That’s more efficient than the Fiat 500e! Its MSRP of $35,000 was just slightly higher than the $32,995 MSRP of the Fiat 500e. With the Federal and CA incentives, this would be just as affordable as our Fiat, but get almost 3 times the range.

November 2016: Fiat 2
I started a new job in November of 2016, and we now needed a second vehicle. Seeing how much money we were saving, I did not even consider getting a gas powered car. At this time, Fiat had a deal where we could lease for about $75 per month with tax. We again qualified for the $2,500 rebate from CA and had $7,500 taken off the cost accounting for the Federal rebate.

Our total monthly payment for both electric cars was around $225. Our condo complex installed a 110v outlet near our carport and shouldered the cost of the charging for some time. Filling up overnight at our own outlet was much slower – roughly 3 miles per hour at our outlet, vs the 20 miles per hour at the Level 2 charger. However, overnight, we still were able to get 30 – 36 miles put back onto the vehicles’ range. This was plenty to cover our normal commutes, and once again our charging had become free. Around this time, we found out about Southern California Edison offering a rebate of $450 for owning or leasing an electric vehicle. We were approved for this, which lowered the cost of our car even further.

April 2017: Back to one Fiat
We turned in our first leased Fiat and went back to one car. Our monthly payments were now only $75 again and with the charging across the street and at home being roughly the same, we were still spending less than $250 a year for all the electricity needed to fully charge our car. We no longer had free car rentals for long distance drives, but had gotten rid of a lot of our range anxiety. We would now drive 50 miles or more to go somewhere and find a Level 2 charger to refuel while out in that area. We often drove to LA and found that most chargers in the garages there were free, or in a few cases were about $1 per hr. If we had to go hundreds of miles, we would rent a car for the trip. Even with the occasional car rental, driving electric was still much cheaper than owning a gas vehicle.

April 2018: Tesla Model 3
In April of 2018, we took delivery of our Tesla Model 3. It was a higher cost than we initially anticipated because they were only offering the $44,000 version that gets 310 miles per charge (versus 220) and has premium upgrades (leather interior, better sound and other). Planning on owning versus leasing it,  we applied for an auto loan through our credit union and got a 2.69% APR loan for 72 months.

We again applied for the $2,500 CA Rebate, and put that towards our loan. We also qualified for the $7,500 Federal Tax Credit. This will be a bit trickier with buying, as we have to owe at least $7,500 in taxes at the end of the year, and then they’ll credit that amount to our taxes. This means we have to change the way we have taxes taken out of our paychecks to make sure we have the liability. Once we get that tax refund, it will go toward the loan to pay it down sooner. By applying the $2,500 and $7,500 rebates to the loan, we will reduce our loan to $34,000 within the first year of owning it. This will allow us to pay it off sooner than 72 months. We also were approved for the $450 from SCE again, which could also go toward our loan. The rebate has now been increased to $1,000 for EV purchases in 2019 and beyond, and also applies to used EV purchases.

SCE recently announced a $500 or $1,500 rebate if we have a Level 2 charger installed in our carport. We found it would be roughly $1,200 to install in our particular location in the garage, and are considering doing this for the convenience of having a quicker charge.

To get the full $1,500 rebate, we have to have a new meter installed (which SCE will do for free) and move that meter onto a time of use plan where we would pay $0.13 per kWh for use from 9 p.m. – 12 p.m. and $0.37 per kWh from 12 p.m.-9 p.m. Since you can program electric cars to charge during set times, we’ll just tell our Tesla and Fiat to charge at night after 9 and stop before noon. The cost to charge our Tesla from empty with the Level 2 charger would be $9.75. At 310 miles per charge, it works out to just over $0.03 per mile. This is cheaper than our Fiat, which is $3.12 for 0 to full, or just under $0.04 cents per mile to charge.

While we haven’t taken the cost of a battery replacement for the Tesla into account, we have read that there are Teslas with over 100,000 miles and no real noticeable degradation to the batteries.<

The Tesla gives us access to the Tesla Super Charger network, so now we can drive from anywhere in the country on electricity. The Model 3 does not have free Super Charger access and costs $0.26 per kWh at the Super Chargers, which is still a great savings from our old gas cars at about 75% the cost of gasoline. While this is not something we’ll do all the time, since it is twice as much as charging at home, it is nice to know we can go long distances and recharge quickly when needed along the way. The Super Charger will charge a Model 3 from 0% battery to 80% in about 30 minutes, giving us plenty of time for a stretch and a quick bite to eat before getting back on the road.

The Numbers

  • Fiat 1:  $10,000 in rebates. $150/month payment
  • Fiat 2: $10,450 in rebates. $75/month payment
  • Tesla Model 3: $10,450 in rebates. And potentially $1,500 more to cover the cost of installing a Level 2 Charger at home.
  • Fueling costs before electric cars: $1,500/year
  • Fueling costs with electric cars: $300/year
  • Average miles driven per year: 7,500-10,000
Nicole Wald
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Nicole Wald

Nicole Wald is a freelance writer and educator in Santa Barbara, CA with a passion for helping the planet. She supports CEC in developing content for social media, PR, marketing, and the annual Earth Day Festival. Part of this work includes gathering stories of people along the Central Coast who consciously take steps to reduce their carbon footprint.
Nicole Wald
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