Friday, June 17, 2016

Long Term Test: 2014 Ford Focus Electric post #4

Update #4
Mileage: 11,533

Owning an electric car may require some sacrifices in terms of planning trips around the vehicle's range, but there are a number of real world incentives that can take some of the sting out of that extra effort. When we first got our Focus Electric, the first thing I did was spend a good amount of time researching the incentives that we qualified for and applying for all of the appropriate ones that would likely benefit us.

The most important one is of course the $2,500 electric vehicle rebate that the state of California supplies to EV buyers. While this benefit has changed, it still allows a large number of EV buyers to take between a $1,500 to $4,000 rebate for the purchase of an EV. The extra funds really helps to reduce the vehicle ownership cost. In some states, the rebates are large enough that it makes the ownership cost almost nothing. When we visited friends in Georgia during our cross-country road trip, we talked to them about their Nissan Leaf, which they said that between the federal incentive of $7,500 and the state incentive of $5,000, their lease costs them only a few dollars a month and the amount they saved on gas means that the car actually was a net positive for them.

Now money is only one incentive. In  California, the availability of zero-emission vehicle stickers that allow HOV lane access is another great incentive. Our Focus EV qualifies for white stickers, which denote true zero-emission vehicles and apply only to battery EVs and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles. The stickers primarily allow a solitary driver to make use of the HOV lane, but several other municipalities have used the stickers to allow other benefits, including free on-street parking for limited periods of time. Other places provide free parking specifically for EV charging outside of pay gates, meaning that not only do I get preferential parking, but I also get to make sure my car is fully charged.

In traffic choked Southern California, several HOV lanes have been converted to Fastrak only Express Lanes. A switchable Fastrak transponder is required to use these lanes and prices change depending on the number of occupants in the car. However, EV drivers in California are allowed to leave their Fastrak transponders in the 3+ position and never have to pay the tolls. On top of that, by registering for a Fastrak transponder from the right issuing authority, I am able to avoid the monthly maintenance fee that is deducted from my Fastrak account balance, essentially allowing truly free access to the Express Lanes. This is something that my wife is able to take advantage of frequently as her commute can be made using one of these lanes when she needs to drive.

Certainly, these kinds of benefits should not be primary reasons for purchasing an EV, but they do make the ownership experience that much sweeter. Alongside the peace and quiet, greater efficiency, reduced fuel costs, and many other benefits of EV ownership, little added perks keep first-time owners like me coming back for more, albeit the next time around with a car that has a tremendous amount more performance and range. States choosing to do away with their EV incentives are doing themselves a tremendous disservice since getting more EVs on the roads can help reduce dependence on foreign oil and bring gas costs down for everyone by reducing demand. Certainly the costs can be high in some cases, but there are lots of great ways to continue to provide lower cost incentives while slowly reducing the overall costs.