Clean Fun with an Electric Car

Have more fun driving and save the planet, too

By Phil Barnhart

Driving an electric vehicle (EV) may be the best automotive decision of your life.

EVs have an enduring but false image as slow, unreliable golf cart-type cars. But with the advent of modern batteries, any EV can out-accelerate any comparably priced gasmobile. EVs handle well, are safer, and noise and vibration free. Drive an EV for even half an hour and you will never want to give it back.

When I bought my Tesla Model S in 2012, I thought I was sacrificing to save the planet. I quickly realized it was the best car, not just the best electric car. I have loved driving EVs ever since. Below are answers to the questions I, and other EV drivers, get asked all the time.

First, what about batteries? The new ones (based on the research of the three new Nobel Prize winners in chemistry) are good for at least 300,000 miles (20 years of normal driving). Many will last far longer.

Fueling? More than 90 percent of EV charging happens overnight while you sleep. For trips, there are several thousand public chargers in Oregon and more coming all the time. If you travel much, make sure the EV can charge on fast DC chargers for 20- to 40-minute charging while you take a walk or have lunch. Most newer EVs have a range on one charge of 200-400 miles. Most people have to stop at least that often anyway.

What about cost? The first EVs were very expensive, but prices are coming down rapidly as more models become available. You can now get a Tesla Model 3 for half the price of a Model S [2019 MSRP $35,000] and many other comparably or lower priced EVs are now or will be available soon. The best kept secret is that electric fueling costs a quarter to a third of gas or diesel, and having hundreds fewer moving parts in an EV means much less maintenance. 

Saving on fuel and maintenance makes up for slightly higher sticker price. If you drive mostly in town, a used, short range and inexpensive EV might be just the thing to give you many years of reliable service for far less than fueling and repairing that gasmobile jalopy.

Are there tax credits and rebates? Yes! The federal tax credit for buying a new EV is up to $7,500. Oregon offers a rebate on new and used EV purchases up to $5,000. Check them out to see the specifics.

How to decide which EV is for you? First, keep track of your actual use of your car for several weeks, including mileage and fueling and how long it takes to fuel and drive to and from the gas station. Note what trips you take in a year. For most of us, it is so automatic we simply do not know unless we pay attention and write it down. Then you can start looking for EVs that will handle your needs. You may be surprised at how little range you need and how much you can save while out-accelerating that sports car at the light!

Finally, do you want to save the planet?  In Eugene-Springfield, 55 to 60 percent of direct carbon emissions are from transportation fuel while our electric grid is nearly free of fossil fuel generation. Your individual decision to drive EV will not only give you a great car at an affordable price, but also help to reduce the climate emergency.

You may need to drive the old gas guzzler for a year or two longer to get just the EV that will do the job at the price you can afford, but whatever you do, do not buy a new gasmobile. As EVs take over the market, which is happening fast, the resale value of that gasmobile will plummet and you will have wasted a lot of money. Capital One has just raised its lease prices on luxury gasmobiles because it can see the bottom dropping out of the market by the time the lease is up.

A little planning and study will get you a better car, a better driving experience, and help save the planet. Don’t buy any new car until you have checked out EVs.

Phil Barnhart was Oregon State Representative from 2001 to 2019. He has worked as an attorney and psychologist. He began driving an EV in 2012 to help save the planet, only to discover it was the best car he had ever had. He will be part of a City Club of Eugene discussion of electric vehicles noon, Friday, Dec. 6, at the Baker Downtown Center, 975 High Street. Which EV is for me? Using the “advanced search” option, enter your zip code, how far you are willing to go to look and “electric” under fuel. The list may surprise you of the variety of new and used EVs there are in many configurations and price ranges. Where are those chargers you need for distance travel? Or use the plugshare app to check out charging for your usual trips. Tesla has no dealers but sells direct. This is a great web site for finding a Tesla, new or used, and getting most of your questions answered.  There are often good prices on used Teslas with good warranties.

Finally, email the Emerald Valley Electric Vehicle Association at if you would like to talk to an experienced EV driver and get your questions answered. 

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