Can't Afford An Electric Vehicle? Here's What You Can Do To Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions

  • Thursday, 15 January 2015 00:00

This week, General Motors unveiled the Chevrolet Bolt, its first all-electric vehicle and one that it believes will be the first mass-selling electric vehicle.

The hype surrounding the Bolt is no surprise.

Electric vehicles, after all, are often seen by some as the best solution to reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, although these folks tend to leave out the part of where the electricity being used is generated from (using electricity generated by coal isn’t exactly the best model to reducing emissions).

Even state legislators and agencies, both here in Minnesota and elsewhere in the country, often look to electric vehicles as the solution to reducing GHG emissions.

Electric vehicle sales, while growing, are still relatively small. Last year, according to, electric vehicle sales totaled 74,879 units. That’s not even half the sales of the Toyota Camry (428,606 units) during the same period.

It’s all about the price. The Camry (the most popular car in 2014) starts at $22,970 while the Nissan Leaf (the most popular electric vehicle) starts at $29,010. And anyone who has seen the Leaf and the Camry will attest to the fact that you are getting a lot less car with the former.

We took a look at all the electric vehicles in the market and compared them with other variants within the same model line-up and found the same conclusion. A Chevy Spark EV starts at $26,685 while a regular Chevy Spark starts at $15,440. A Ford Focus starts at $16,810 but throw in an electric drivetrain and the price goes up to $29,170. Then there’s the Tesla Model S which costs more than most luxury vehicles (it starts at $69,900 but can easily exceed $100,000 with options).

The higher price positioning of electric vehicles is partly owed to the higher costs involved in developing and producing such vehicles and such costs can only reduce once higher sales volumes are achieved. But as Tesla’s CEO, Elon Musk, said in this report, his company won’t be profitable until 2020. So don’t expect prices to fall too soon.

Then there’s the federal tax rebate of $7,500 when you purchase an electric vehicle but even then, as this report points out, it’s not something you receive right away or even enjoy when filing your taxes.

The point we’re making is that electric vehicles are still too expensive for most consumers and may remain that way for several years to come. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t another option to reduce GHG emissions.

Ethanol, on a life cycle basis, emits on average 44 percent fewer GHG emissions than gasoline and most gasoline sold in the United States contains 10 percent ethanol (E10). Considering that an estimated 16.5 million vehicles were sold last year, that’s a significant GHG reduction.

In 2012, assuming all 2.45 billion gallons of gasoline consumed in Minnesota was E10, using information from the Energy Information Administration and the EPA, an estimated 766,571 metric tons of CO2 was prevented from being released to the air thanks to ethanol.

That, in turn, was the equivalent of removing 161,383 cars from the road in Minnesota for a year. That’s more than the total number of electric vehicle sales for the whole country in 2014.