Only the elite can afford new EVs


While I’ve always been aware that the new production, highway capability electric cars coming our way are expensive and that, unfortunately, they are, at least for now, clearly priced out of range for average consumers, I’d kind of lost touch with that fact, as I simply had assumed we’d be able to afford one of these.

Well, something just happened to us (I’m not going to say exactly what it is) to jolt me back to the true reality of brand new production EVs: With few exceptions, only the comparative economic elite are going to be parking a new Nissan LEAF, Chevy Volt, Ford Focus Electric, or even the “low” priced Mitsubishi iMiEV in their driveway anytime soon – and we won’t even talk about Teslas or Fisker Karmas here 😉

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This, despite all the talk about federal and state tax credits and how they make a brand new EV more “affordable.”

Volt, LEAF, iMiEV expensive
The $40k you have to plunk down to buy a Chevy Volt, the $35k you’ll need to drive a LEAF off the lot, even the $29k you’re going to have to scrounge up for a “cheap” Mitsubishi “I” — most of us don’t have that kind of money.

And, yes, if you buy you are going to have to put that money down up front, then wait for any tax credits you might receive.

If you lease? We’ll you’re still looking at plopping down several thousand dollars up front and, realistically, most (not all, I know) will be looking at a monthly payment of $400 or more for any of the new production EVs rolling out in the U.S., and other places around the world, this year.

$40k? $400 a month? For a lot of people in the U.S., that’s a lot of money, a ton, actually.

To be fair, a large number of brand new gasoline cars are also essentially out of reach for many Americans whose only realistic path to car ownership is via used cars (in fact, even for the economic elite, used cars make more economic sense than new gas cars or new EVs).

mitsubishi-i-mievU.S. median income
The median income in the U.S. for a family of four is about $52,000 – before taxes. Take those out, and you’re down to about $40,000 – for four people.

I know what it’s like to have a household of four, because that’s exactly the size of ours.

I also know what it’s like to have an income very close to the U.S. median too as we were right below the median for quite awhile before my wife finished a graduate degree and entered the workforce (trust me, journalism professor is not a high-paying career).

There’s no way an average household of four in the U.S. is going to be able to realistically afford one of the brand new EVs out there. Though, there might be a few of these average households that want one so badly that they’ll go out on a serious financial limb to get one.

$75k or more annually
To be able to comfortably, or even a bit uncomfortably, afford something like a brand new 2012 Nissan LEAF, a family of four (unless it’s inherited family money, etc.) is going to need to be bringing in at least $75,000 per year before taxes and, frankly, really would be better off pushing the $100,000 per year gross household income (or more) category.

family-mountain2Heck, that household needs to be bringing in about $75k per year simply to have a shot at carrying a big enough tax liability to nab the whole $7,500 Federal Tax Credit.

Assuming, give or take a little, that the typical American four-person household will indeed need an annual gross income of $75k or more to realistically bring home a brand new production EV, we’re moving into the top 30% of households in the U.S. — at $88,000 annually, you hit the “top quintile”. Meanwhile, only about 2% of U.S. households have an annual income of $250,000 or more while the bottom 20% earn less than $20,000.

In short, if you’re able to buy or lease a brand new production EV in the U.S, you’re almost certainly among a fairly rarified and elite group.

That’s not a knock on you — or us (we’ll keep our fingers crossed that we manage to maintain our hold on our relatively elite economic position this year).

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Nor is it a notch against production EVs such as the Nissan LEAF or Chevy Volt.

Pricey new technologies
New technologies tend to be pricey when they first come out and, as they come to be produced and consumed on a wider scale, they drop in price.

We sure hope this turns out to be case with EVs, because right now the simple fact of the matter is that they really are too expensive, up front, for most Americans.

And no arguments about how, in the long run, an EV is cheaper than some, maybe even many, brand new gasoline cars – no matter how true these arguments might be – are going to change this basic fact.

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