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Money Monday: Electric vehicles often are least-expensive option

"Electric cars have indeed made giant strides in the last five years, to the point where they are often the least expensive option for, say, someone who has to do a daily commute to Boulder or a Denver suburb."
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Photo by Waldemar Brandt on Unsplash

This column is intended for informational and educational purposes only and should not be construed as professional financial advice for your individual situation. Please consult with a financial professional before making any serious financial decisions.

The Longmont Leader accepts contributions, photos, and op-eds for publication from community members, business leaders and public officials on local topics. Publication will be at the discretion of the editor and published opinions do not represent the views of The Longmont Leader or its staff. To submit a contribution, email info@longmontleader.com.

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Hello Longmont! 

I am a dad, carpenter, writer, and retired software engineer who has been living in Longmont since 2005. I used a few simple but powerful life principles to become wealthy enough to retire at age 30, and went on to start a blog called Mr. Money Mustache that has now reached over 30 million people in the past nine years. Now it’s time to take these ideas to the streets of Longmont, so send in your questions about money and life!

MMM, 

Back in September, I helped organize an event called National Drive Electric Week here in Longmont. One of our biggest battles is with the perception that electric vehicles are only for the wealthy and are not accessible to people with lower incomes. Is this true? 

Luc

First of all, thanks for helping spread the word, Luc. 

Electric cars have indeed made giant strides in the last five years, to the point where they are often the least expensive option for, say, someone who has to do a daily commute to Boulder or a Denver suburb. They are cheap to operate because electricity is much cheaper than gas, plus they never need things like oil changes, exhaust pipe repair, fluids and belts and hoses, and a thousand other parts you no longer need when you’re not burning gas. 

But they also happen to be the most fun and luxurious thing you can drive, because they have rockstar acceleration, sports car handling, and they are silky quiet on the highway. 

And how long do they take to charge? About 10 seconds, which is the time it takes to plug in your car right in your own driveway or garage when you get home at night — much faster than the gas stations you will never visit again. 

So it’s strange that more people don’t realize how good the deals are — once the word gets out the prices will probably rise. But for now, a few examples from Carvana.com, a highly competitive option for finding nearly new cars:

The 2017 Chevrolet Bolt, which goes about 240 miles per charge (a refueling which will only cost you about $6 at Longmont electricity prices) is currently under $17,000.

A 2017 Chevrolet Volt (an electric-gas hybrid that does most of your driving on battery alone, but also has an efficient gas engine to facilitate trouble-free roadtrips) can be had for as low as $15,000.

If you generally commute within Boulder County and also have access to a second car for longer trips, a 2015 or newer Nissan Leaf can be had for under $10,000. And it’s a great, roomy car with a large hatchback cargo area — more like a small crossover SUV in terms of usable space. 

I happen to own a 2016 Leaf (which I picked up brand-new for under $14,000) and it can easily carry my son’s upright bass and musical equipment to and from orchestra performances while also holding three adults in comfort.

And finally, the gold standard is of course Tesla. Its Model 3 is now down to a starting price of $38,000, which gets even lower with Colorado state tax credits. The larger Model Y is an all-wheel-drive crossover SUV supercar at $49,000. Both can do cross-continental road trips on a whim due to the 330-mile range combined with Tesla’s network of superfast roadside chargers.

In summary, gasoline cars today are perched exactly where blurry glass CRT television sets were sitting in the late 1990s. People are still buying them, but only because they don’t realize that it will be hard to even give away these clunky antiques in the surprisingly near future.

Correction: It will cost about $6 to recharge your electric vehicle, not $2 at Longmont's electricity prices.



About the Author: Pete Adeney

Pete Adeney, Mr. Money Mustache, is a fifteen year Longmont resident.
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