How will Middle Class America Afford the Electric Vehicle Mandate?

By 2035, the State of California will have phased out the production of new gasoline powered vehicles in favor of electric ones. A lot can happen in 15 years, but we have numerous obstacles that need to be addressed, namely the cost of an EV, our complete lack of infrastructure, minimal public charging stations and limited raw materials. How is the average middle-class family supposed to afford an electric vehicle?

The average price of an EV is $40,000. The average middle-class household income in the State of California is $77,806 (Investopedia.com). As most households rely on a two-car household, this would be cost prohibitive, requiring them to hold on to their gas-powered vehicles, or pursue the used car market. There have been discussions about programs would be made available for low-income households, however the details have not been released and more importantly would not benefit the rapidly disappearing middle class who use vehicles to commute to work or transport their equipment.

There are a few other obstacles to consider as well, first residents of Los Angeles County will potentially face added fees (taxes) proposed by Los Angeles Metro. The first fee proposed would be a congestion tax, for high traffic areas and the second would apply a fee to every car owner in the County as an incentive to reduce to a 1 car or no car household and rely on Metro. I can only see these fees further damaging the middle class and recommend they be deferred or removed completely.

The other obstacles reference our lack of readily available raw materials and infrastructure. Renewable energy is clearly our best resource; however, we must be mindful in how we get there. Currently we have limited resources, specifically Lithium, which is what most EV batteries rely on. There are plans to build a multibillion-dollar plant at the Salton Sea and harvest their Lithium rich water, this will bring hundreds if not thousands of jobs to the Salton Sea area, but at the cost of destroying a natural and biologically unique area. Our other primary obstacle is our infrastructure. The Biden campaign has claimed that if elected, they will install 500,000 chargers nationwide. A respectable initiative, but at what cost? An at home charging station can cost anywhere between $2,000 and $6,000 depending on where you live and how easily you can install the equipment. Commercial chargers installed by the City or State appear to be much more expensive, where costs have been as high as $250,000 to install 2–4 chargers. We also need to consider that municipalities will charge a fee which could be as much as $3/hour, well above the base electricity cost, and potentially pushing the cost to recharge your vehicle well above the cost to fill a gas tank.

We have some challenges to overcome in the next 15 years. The cost of EV’s and batteries will continue to drop as technology improves, plus there is a lot of new technology being tested that uses non-lithium batteries. Our largest challenge will be infrastructure paired with resources, so until we are able to resolve those issues, I recommend the unpopular opinion that we still need natural gas paired with biomethane to help us as we cross this hurdle.

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Wendy Nystrom

Host of Environmental Social Justice. Geologist and Insurance expert focused on climate and sustainability. No Shaming No Blaming and Every Little Bit Helps