Opinion: 5 Ways Rural Drivers Benefit From EVs

Jo Borras
by Jo Borras

Despite being presented as the ideal vehicle for “urbanites and city dwellers who don’t drive long distances,” it’s actually rural drivers who stand to benefit the most from making the switch to an electric vehicle (EV). And that’s often true regardless of what state they live in or what type of vehicle they currently drive. And, while it’s true that rural communities across the country have their own cultures and characteristics, common themes like longer driving distances, larger vehicles, and a number of shared socio-economic factors all contribute to a potential benefit from vehicle electrification.

So, without further ado, here are five reasons why rural drivers stand to benefit the most from switching to an electric car.

1 – LONGER DISTANCES = BIGGER SAVINGS THAN SHORT DISTANCES

Electric vehicles cost less to “fuel up” than their gas or diesel-powered counterparts, which means that the longer distances traveled by drivers in rural communities equal bigger savings in fuel and maintenance costs for them than for their city-dwelling counterparts.

Most modern EVs offer considerably more range than people think. The Volkswagen ID.4 Pro, for example, offers SUV-style grocery-hauling capacity and more than 260 miles of range – and can charge from nearly “empty” to “full” in under 45 minutes at a level 6 charger …

… that means that every time a rural driver needs to make a six- or seven-hour drive, they’ll need to stop for lunch. Which they were probably going to do, anyway. What’s more, in a Mustang Mach-E or Tesla, which can charge at Level 7, they’ll only need to stop for about 20 minutes.

2 – BIGGER, OLDER VEHICLES = BIGGER SAVINGS THAN SMALLER, NEWER VEHICLES

Rural communities tend to own bigger vehicles like pickups, SUVs, and minivans in greater proportions than urban communities, and they tend to buy used and/or keep their cars longer, as well. In Maryland, for example, one study showed that 49 percent of vehicles in rural areas are more than 10 years old. Larger, older vehicles are more likely to need repairs than newer ones, and they’re less fuel-efficient even than when they were new, so fuel savings from switching to a comparably-sized EV are likely to be even greater for drivers of these vehicles.

How much could drivers save in just fuel? Using DOE and utility data from PGE, a typical five-passenger SUV takes about $35 worth of gas to go 300 miles. An electric car can go those same 300 miles on just $7 of “electric fuel”.

What’s more, with all the available electric vehicle incentives that are already here – with more soon to come – the cost to choose an electric truck is comparable, or even less than the cost to buy a new V8 pickup truck while offering better performance and more “ on the job” capability.

3 – RURAL DRIVERS ARE MORE LIKELY TO BE ABLE TO CHARGE IN A GARAGE

It’s a simple truth that most EV charging occurs at home, in the garage – and it’s also a simple truth that rural drivers are much more likely to live in single-family homes than their urban counterparts who live in multi-unit apartment buildings or townhomes with street parking.

In Maine, Virginia, and Vermont, for example, more than 85 percent of rural and suburban households live in single- or two-family homes with garages or driveways can charge at home from their driveways or garages using standard, commonly accessible 110V or 220V wall outlets.

4 – EVS ARE BECOMING MORE AFFORDABLE FOR EVERYONE

The car market is hot right now, with used cars commanding higher prices than ever and new cars often selling for thousands of dollars above their sticker price. That’s not necessarily true with EVs, which many dealers – especially in rural America – still seem willing to offer discounts on. With the price of certain models being driven down, too, by external factors and up to $12,500 in federal tax credits (not to mention state or local utility incentives) aimed at making EVs more accessible to low and middle-income families, electric cars may be some of the only cars you can get a great deal on today.

5 – RURAL DRIVERS RELY ON THEIR VEHICLES MORE THAN URBAN DRIVERS

It’s been nearly 25 years since the first Toyota Prius hybrids first came to market (yes, it was 1997), and in that time the electronics and batteries in these electrified vehicles have proven themselves again and again to be more reliable, and cheaper to own, than anyone predicted. At least one Tesla driver in Canada, for example, has put more than 700,000 miles on their Tesla Model S …

https://twitter.com/DriveTeslaca/status/1378582364633190400

… which is impressive, but hardly the whole story. In 2019, a shuttle service in Southern California called Tesloop maintained a fleet of Teslas that racked up over 300,000 miles each, with no signs of slowing down.

“The company’s fleet of seven vehicles — a mix of Model Xs, Model 3s and a Model S — are now among the highest-mileage Teslas in the world,” writes Michael Coren, in Quartz Magazine. “They zip almost daily between Los Angeles, San Diego, and destinations in between. Each of Tesloop’s cars are regularly racking up about 17,000 miles per month (roughly eight times the average for corporate fleet mileage). Many need to fully recharge at least twice each day.”

That’s the kind of reliability that people who don’t have the option of casually hailing a cab, hopping a train, or riding a bike to work can – and should – be able to depend on.

In conclusion, it’s not really clear why rural communities and middle America are so often overlooked by EV proponents. Even journalists get this wrong more often than not – frequently overlooking the fact that access to garages means rural drivers don’t need the same level of public infrastructure support to make the switch to EVs viable that city drivers do. At the end of the day, the lower cost to buy, incredible fuel savings, reduced cost of ownership, and better than expected dependability make EVs a no-brainer for your country cousins … if only someone would tell them!

[Images: Provided by the author, guteksk7/Shutterstock.com]

Jo Borras
Jo Borras

I've been in and around the auto industry since 1997, and have written for a number of well-known outlets like Cleantechnica, the Truth About Cars, Popular Mechanics, and more. You can also find me talking EVs with Matt Teske and Chris DeMorro on the Electrify Expo Podcast, writing about Swedish cars on my Volvo fan site, or chasing my kids around Oak Park.

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  • F6Dave F6Dave on Nov 15, 2021

    It's easy to see the appeal of EVs. They're mechanically simpler and perform great. But I can't understand why so few people ask this basic, critical question: where will we get the electricity to charge all these things? Our grid is barely adequate. Remember the Texas freeze last February? People lost power and hundreds died, with many literally freezing to death. And in other places like California, blackouts that were rare just a decade ago are increasing in frequency. How can we possibly add millions of electric cars, trucks, heat pumps, kitchen appliances, water heaters, and countless other gadgets to this fragile grid? Wind and solar can't make up the difference. Governments have spent hundreds of billions of dollars subsidizing wind and solar, yet fossil fuels still provide over 80% of the world's energy. And here's an interesting fact: the fossil fuel contribution to our energy mix has dropped by less than one percent in the last 40 years. So why haven't wind and solar made a dent in fossil fuel consumption? The biggest reason is global energy demand, which is growing so fast that all those new wind and solar farms can't even keep up with the increase. And since environmental activists also oppose nuclear, fossil fuels have to handle the growth. Global oil consumption is now at a record 100 million barrels per day. Except for a brief drop in 2020, consumption has been steadily increasing for decades by about a million barrels per day every year. So to answer to the initial question, where will we get all the additional electricity if politicians succeed in forcing the mass adoption of EVs? The answer is there probably won't be enough electricity. We'll have rationing, and the freedom of mobility we now enjoy will be restricted. It's already happening in the UK. Starting in May of 2022, recent legislation will mandate EV charging ports in new residential and commercial construction. These will be 'smart' chargers, which means they'll automatically shut off between 8 and 11 AM, between 4 and 10 PM, and at random 30 minute periods when demand is high. That's effectively rationing, and it's probably already under consideration in a large city near you. We should never forget that energy is the most important commodity on the planet. Without energy we couldn't cultivate food, nor could we process it, refrigerate it, or transport it to market. Without energy clean drinking water would be a luxury, and life saving pharmaceuticals and medical devices couldn't exist. If reliable energy (coal/nat gas/nuclear/hydro) were to disappear, civilization would collapse into chaos in a matter of days. We'd be living in a Mad Max scenario.

  • Ravenuer Ravenuer on Nov 15, 2021

    Lots of differing views here. Mostly intelligent and quite interesting!

  • Mike Audi has been using a3 a4 a5 a6 a7 a8 for a long time and i think it makes sense. But, they are rumored to be changing it all again within a year ir two.
  • Golden2husky Match the tool to the job. This would be ideal for those who have dreadful, traffic filled commutes. I'd certainly go the SE route - wheel sizes are beyond bordering on dumb today and 17s are plenty. Plus the added mileage is a real advantage. I would have been able to commute to work with very little gas usage. The prior Prius' were dreadful to drive - I gave mine back to the fleet guy at work for something else - but this seems like they hit their mark. Now, about that steering wheel and dash design...No mention of the driving aids for improving mileage but I'll assume they are very much like they were in earlier models - which is to say superb. A bit of constructive criticism - on a vehicle like this the reviewer should really get into such systems as mileage is the reason for this car. Just like I would expect to see performance systems such as launch control, etc to be commented on for performance models.
  • Arthur Dailey Rootes Motors actually had a car assembly facility in Scarborough ( a suburb in the east end of Toronto), during the 1950's and early 1960s. It was on the south-west corner of Warden and Eglinton located at 1921 Eglinton Avenue East. The building still exists and you can still see it on Google maps. That part of Scarboro was known as the Golden Mile and also had the Headquarters for VW Canada, and the GM van plant.Also at 2689 Steeles Avenue West in Toronto (the south east corner of Steeles and Petrolia) is what is still shown on Google Maps as 'The Lada Building'. It still has large Lada signs and the Lada logo on the east and west facades of the building. You can see these if you go to the street view. Not sure how much longer they will be there as the building just went up for sale this month. In Canada as well as Ladas and Skodas we also got Dacias. But not Yugos. Canada also got a great many British vehicles until the US-Canada trade pact due to Commonwealth connections. Due to different market demands, Canadians purchased per capita more standards and smaller cars including hatches. Stripped versions, generally small hatchbacks, with manual transmission, windows, door locks and no A/C were known as 'Quebec specials' as our Francophone population had almost European preferences in vehicles. As noted in previous posts, for decades Canadian Pontiacs were actually Chevs with Pontiac bodies and brightwork. This made them comparatively less expensive and therefore Pontiac sold better per capita in Canada than in the USA.
  • Ajla As a single vehicle household with access to an available 120v plug a PHEV works about perfectly. My driving is either under 40 miles or over 275 miles. The annual insurance difference between two car (a $20K ev and $20K ICE) and single car ($40K PHEV) would equal about 8 years of Prius Prime oil changes.
  • Ronin Let's see the actuals first, then we can decide using science.What has been the effect of auto pollution levels since the 70s when pollution control devices were first introduced? Since the 80s when they were increased?How much has auto pollution specifically been reduced since the introduction of hybrid vehicles? Of e-vehicles?We should well be able to measure the benefits by now, by category of engine. We shouldn't have to continue to just guess the benefits. And if we can't specifically and in detail measure the benefits by now, it should make a rational person wonder if there really are any real world benefits.
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