5 electric transit takeaways from our fall salon

Genevieve Cullen, president of the Electric Drive Transit Association (EDTA), joined Frank Sesno to lead a discussion about the future of electric transit in the United States at our Planet Forward Salon: The Future of Electric Transit on Nov. 9.

Here are five takeaways from the Salon:

1. Owning an electric vehicle (EV) has never been more affordable

From the cost of batteries to the sticker price of the car, the economics of buying and operating an electric vehicle has never been as enticing as it is in 2018.

In 2010, the price per kilowatt hour was about $1,000 for EV batteries, but that number has dropped by almost 80% to around $200 per kWh today, Cullen said. When translated to the price of gasoline, she said electricity is equivalent to about $1.10 per gallon — a number not seen anywhere across the country for years.

At the same time, the sticker prices of electric vehicles have been dipping with recently released models from Chevy, Tesla, and other car companies being marked in the $30,000-$40,000 range, or the equivalent of a non-electric vehicle of the same size once you take into account subsidies.

2. Politics can’t change the long-term trend

While governmental incentives, such as the $7,500 federal tax credit for electric vehicles, can be altered or scrapped (as it has been proposed), Cullen characterizes this as a “setback” rather than a threat to the viability of an electrified future.

Adoption and planning for the technology by individual states, other nations and private companies have become so widespread that EVs are becoming cost-competitive with their fossil-fueled counterparts by other means. However, Cullen said it could displace the United States from its century-long position on the front lines of innovation in the transportation sector.


In this chart, courtesy of the EDTA: ICE means “Internal Combustion Engine,” BEV is “Battery Electric Vehicles,” and PHEV is “Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles.”

3. New infrastructure plans in the works could mean further accessibility to EVs

Among bipartisan agreement that U.S. infrastructure needs a renovation comes an opportunity to acknowledge electric vehicles’ growing presence today and in the nation’s future.

“I think there’s really an opportunity to educate folks about what transportation infrastructure looks like now,” Cullen said. “It’s not just concrete. In fact, it’s charging stations, it’s how you accommodate ride-sharing and new means of mobility and automated trucks.”

4. EV batteries have gained an after-life

Once an EV needs a replacement battery, its old battery still contains 80% of its charging capacity, Cullen said. But does this just create another waste stream from the discarded batteries that power EVs?

Using Planet Forward Digital Media Editor Dylan Trupiano’s video on the subject as a stimulus for the conversation, Sesno and Cullen discussed how EV batteries can be “strapped together” after they’ve been displaced from the vehicle for energy storage in municipalities and individual homes, essentially being “used to clean the grid,” Cullen said. Once the batteries have been used past their usefulness, they can be recycled.

5. The market for used hybrids and EVs is growing stronger

Rob Stewart, manager of smart grid and technology at D.C.-area utility company Pepco and the chairman of the EDTA board, said the “incentives that come out for these new vehicles make people who drive (electric) vehicles want to have a newer vehicle. That provides a whole new layer of used electric vehicles that are out there — at a much lower cost...” You might not be able to afford a brand new electric vehicle, but now you’ll be able to take advantage of cars that “still have plenty of life on them,” Stewart said. “And at that point they are driving a vehicle that’s very low cost to drive and maintain.”

Cullen said that used car value books used to estimate hybrid cars’ resale values really low — with the anticipation that the batteries would expire and be costly to replace. But the batteries actually performed twice as long than expected, which has helped with the hybrid resale market. Bottom line: If you’re in the market for a hybrid or electric vehicle, make sure you check the used lot, too.

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