Volvo made an announcement this month that is sure to shake up the auto industry. Starting in 2019, all new Volvos will be either plug-in, hybrid or electric. In the same week, France announced that it will phase out all fossil fuel- powered cars by 2040.
The Volkswagen emissions scandal has added to pressure for European auto companies to convert to electric cars. Sweden, where Volvo is based, has ambitious carbon goals for 2020, and Volvo’s announcement will help.
This is exactly the kind of shift in the market needed to address the climate crisis. Although Volvo is a luxury car maker, its revolutionary announcement will reach average American car buyers as well. This industry precedent will likely spark a market-driven change for even more companies to go electric, thereby increasing competition and affordability for consumers.The shift to electric vehicles will play an important role in lowering our carbon emissions, since transportation is responsible for over 25 percent of climate change emissions overall.
It’s important to note that Volvo is owned by Chinese auto company Geely. China leads in electric vehicle sales, albeit lower priced models, so Volvo will have a premium market to sell to. This gives them an advantage over other auto companies, whose consumers may not be as readily open to electric vehicles or not have the resources to purchase and maintain them.
Already,other changes in the market have driven down the cost of electric vehicles in comparison to years past. The Nissan Leaf, for example, was first introduced in 2010 and has since become the all-time best-selling electric vehicle of its kind. However, don't let this confuse you—consumer demand has not caught up with supply, despite Nissan's ambitious effort to offer deals so daring that you're almost being paid to buy one from a dealership.
Why hasn’t the switch happened faster? Consumers are still wary of two main drawbacks:
- Electric vehicles like the Leaf must be driven within a 100-mi radius when no charging station is available.
- Battery-life capacity ultimately decreases with each charge, decreasing an EV's long-term reliability
Still, these limitations shouldn’t matter to drivers. Americans mostly drive their cars to go to work or to run errands. In fact, 95 percent of all car trips can be made in electric vehicles.
Consumers looking for a commuting vehicle right now are at an advantage as used electric vehicles can be purchased for the same (or lower) cost of any other used vehicle with comparable mileage or accessories. Autotrader has a listing for a used, '12 Leaf for an unbelievable low price $5,799—which puts this electric vehicle within reach for most car buyers. That is not even factoring in the savings to your wallet on maintenance costs for electric vehicles—and greenhouse gas emissions prevented.
In the worst case scenario, purchasing a used Leaf and also buying a $5,500 replacement battery, you're looking at spending the equivalent amount of a premium cable bill if driven for an average of 8 years. In reality, they pay for themselves when considering fuel/maintenance expenses compared to a '95 Camry.
Finally, it’s important to remember to drive less in general, and when you do drive, use the most efficient vehicle.