Megan Hall: Welcome to Possibly, where we take on huge problems like the future of our planet and break them down into small questions with unexpected answers. I’m Megan Hall. 

 Today, we have a question from listener Anne Cohen about electric vehicles. She says—

Anne Cohen: Is it better to keep my 2015 car with a traditional combustion engine, which gets close to 40 MPG, has about 50,000 miles on it, and is in great condition, or trade it for an electric vehicle? 

Great question, Anne! We had Harrison Katz and Fatima Husain from our Possibly Team look into this. Welcome, Harrison and Fatima!

Harrison Katz: Hi, Megan!

Fatima Husain: Hello! 

Megan Hall: So, we had an episode on electric cars a few years ago, but it was focused more on hybrid vehicles. How do things compare with a purely electric vehicle?

Harrison Katz: Well, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the United States Department of Energy both recently published papers on electric vehicles and how they stack up to combustion vehicles.

Megan Hall: What do the studies say?

Fatima Husain: They found that over the lifetime of a car, electric vehicles not only release fewer greenhouse gases, but they’re also cheaper in the long run!

Megan Hall: Wow! Even with their high sticker prices?

Harrison Katz: Yes! Electric cars do start with a disadvantage. In some cases, they’ll cost more than your average gas powered vehicle. But the savings in maintenance fees and fuel more than makes up for it.

Megan Hall: Really? How did they calculate that?

Harrison Katz: Well, let’s start with the cost of fueling your car. The Department of Energy’s study says the price of a gallon of gasoline usually hovers between $2.50 and $3.50. 

Fatima Husain: While the price of an equivalent amount of electricity to drive the same distance, is only $1.16.

Megan Hall: So, that’s a savings of up to about two dollars and thirty cents a gallon.

Harrison Katz: Right, which adds up to almost $1000/year for the average car and driver.

Megan Hall: But how is maintenance less expensive? I mean, my husband can repair a lot of things on our gas powered car, but I think he couldn’t really mess around with an electric one.

Harrison Katz: Well, our founder Stephen Porder just leased his first electric car, and he puts it this way…

Stephen Porder: “I think there’s something like half as many parts in this car as there are in a gas car. There’s no oil changes. There’s no muffler, there’s no exhaust.”

Fatima Husain: That study from The Department of Energy backs up what Stephen is saying. According to its calculations- maintenance for a gas powered car costs an average of 4 cents more per mile than an electric vehicle. 

Harrison Katz: And again, for the average car and driver, this adds up to another $500/year in savings.  

Megan Hall: What if you’re charging your electric vehicle in a state that gets all of its energy from burning fossil fuels? Doesn’t that lead to a lot of greenhouse gas emissions.

Harrison Katz: The good news is that even if you’re charging up using fossil-fuel based electricity, electric vehicles still emit fewer greenhouse gases.  

Fatima Husain: Stephen did some calculations and he says the emissions from driving an electric vehicle in RI are equal to getting about 160 miles per gallon in a gas car. 

Megan Hall: So, should Anne switch to an electric vehicle?

Harrison Katz: We think so. The upfront cost may be higher, but in the long run she’ll save money by skipping the gas station, the oil changes, and the muffler shops. And she’ll really reduce her greenhouse gas emissions!

Fatima Husain: Plus, Stephen says electric cars are more fun to drive. 

Harrison Katz: It seems like the future is definitely electric.

Megan Hall: Great! Thanks, Harrison and Fatima! 

That’s it for today. For more information, or to ask a question about the way your choices affect our planet, go to the public’s radio dot org slash possibly. Or subscribe to us wherever you get your podcasts. 

Possibly is a co-production of the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society, Brown’s Climate Solutions Initiative, and the Public’s Radio.

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