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Affordable EVs are getting even more affordable as utility companies seek new markets for electricity.


How To Make Affordable EVs Even More Affordable, Utility Edition

Affordable EVs are getting even more affordable as utility companies seek new markets for electricity in the personal mobility sector.

Utility companies have the power to turn the electric vehicle revolution up to number 11 on the dial. After all, if selling kilowatts is the game, encouraging ratepayers to invest thousands of dollars in huge packs of rechargeable batteries on wheels is the name. That was a heavy lift when the up-front cost of EVs was high compared to gasmobiles, but now prices are beginning to fall, and utilities are smelling blood in the water.

Xcel Energy Has A Plan For 1.5 Million More EVs

Last year, for example, the Minneapolis-based company Xcel Energy introduced a plan to encourage the purchase of 1.5 million electric vehicles among ratepayers in its service territory, which spans Colorado, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, and Wisconsin.

Now the company has set the wheels in motion, and it has just dropped word on the details for ratepayers in Colorado.

The first thing to note is Xcel’s new purchase/lease rebate program for EVs, to the tune of $5,500 for qualified customers for a new vehicle, or $3,000 on a pre-owned one.

The sky’s not the limit, as the rebate only applies to EVs with an MSRP up to $50,000. That would have been a deal-breaker just a few years ago, but the affordable EV market has finally materialized.

Tesla, Ford, and Volkswagen are among those that already offer EVs that come in just under the wire, in the $40s. GM’s Chevy Bolt takes it down to the 30s, and Excel also notes that federal tax credits and manufacturers’ incentives can both apply on top of its rebate.

The best is yet to come, with startups like China’s Xpeng electric vehicle maker readying starter models down to the gasmobile range.

To keep the kilowatts flowing, Xcel is also offering to install Level 2 EV chargers on a rental basis at $15.00 per month including maintenance, which sounds like a pretty good deal considering that the average installation cost is more than $1,000. Homeowners can shave some of the rental cost by qualifying for an annual $50.00 incentive from Excel for charging during off-peak hours.

There being no such thing as a free lunch, some ratepayers may need to rewire their homes for Level 2 charging, which is really expensive. To help soothe the blow, Xcel is offering a regular rebate of up to $500.00, and an income-eligible rebate of up to $1,300.  Ratepayers are still on the hook for the rest, but the recent uptick in gas prices should put drivers on alert for opportunities to save money over the long run.

What About EVs For Everybody Else?

These incentives apply to individual homeowners and ratepayers, which still leaves a rich pool of potential EV buyers in the commercial, rental and multi-family building sectors.

Xcel has accounted for much of that, too, with various forms of assistance and rebates to encourage fleet managers to purchase EVs, and to encourage businesses to install charging stations for their employees and customers as well as for their commercial vehicles.

Similar plans are in the works for government entities, nonprofits, and other community-focused organizations. The aim is to drive down costs even farther, especially for entities located in communities that qualify on account of income or air quality.

The multifamily area is of particular interest because it has also posed obstacles to widespread rooftop solar adoption. The problem is that tenants, both residential and commercial, have little or no opportunity to install either EV chargers or solar panels on property that somebody else owns.

On the other hand, developers are beginning to realize that they can charge premium rents in buildings that sport solar panels, EV charging stations, and other green infrastructure. Xcel’s plan includes a suite of features to accelerate the trend, including design guidance, equipment rental opportunities, and rebates.

The plan also includes incentives for buildings in communities identified as income-eligible or high emission.

EVs Meet The Renewable Energy Bottleneck

Of course, none of this happens by accident. Xcel notes that the plan “aligns with Colorado’s goal to have 940,000 electric vehicles on the roads by 2030, while making electric transportation available to all customers at a range of income levels whether they drive an EV, take transit, or use ridesharing.”

“It also complements Xcel Energy’s vision to deliver 100% carbon-free electricity to customers by 2050,” the company adds.

Wait, what? Considering President Biden’s goal of a carbon-free grid by 2035, 2050 sure seems like a lot of foot-dragging is going on over at Xcel HQ.

That’s no accident, either. Xcel Energy became notorious for foot-dragging over renewables back in 2011, when the Colorado city of Boulder took steps to break free of the utility’s coal-heavy power generation profile and form its own municipal electric utility.

The 10-year effort appeared to resolve last year, when Boulder voters approved a measure that suspended the idea in favor of establishing a franchise agreement that would enable Boulder to reach a 100% renewable energy goal by 2030, as our friends over at The Daily Camera report.

That didn’t immediately pass muster with Colorado regulators, but as of last May the city and Xcel were putting together an advisory panel and other details of the partnership, so stay tuned for more on that.

In the meantime, all those EVs on the road in Colorado will have to tolerate a power profile that still includes coal and natural gas. Xcel’s website is a bit hinky as of this writing, but last April the Colorado Sun reported that it would cost $1.4 billion to shut down all five of the company’s coal power plants remaining in Colorado.

EVs Are Still Better!

As for speeding up the transition out of fossil energy, it’s worth noting that Excel Energy is just one strand in Colorado’s tangle of fossil energy interests. Despite the state’s Rocky Mountain High image, fossils still hold a fierce grip on the state’s economy.

Here, let’s have the US Energy Information Agency explain:

  • Colorado is the fifth-largest crude oil-producing state, with 90% of production coming from one county. 
  • Colorado was the seventh-largest natural gas-producing state in 2020 and accounted for almost two-fifths of total US coalbed methane production in 2019.
  • In 2020, coal-fired power plants provided 36% of Colorado’s net generation, down from 68% in 2010…

And so on. That’s going to take a while to untangle. In the meantime, the evidence is piling up that EVs account for far lower lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions than gasoline-powered cars, whether they plug into a carbon free grid or not.

Last July, for example, the International Council on Clean Transportation took a look at the issue and came up with these results:

“…emissions over the lifetime of average medium-size BEVs registered today are already lower than comparable gasoline cars by 66%–69% in Europe, 60%–68% in the United States, 37%–45% in China, and 19%–34% in India.”

“Additionally, as the electricity mix continues to decarbonize, the life-cycle emissions gap between BEVs and gasoline vehicles increases substantially when considering medium-size cars projected to be registered in 2030,” ICCT notes.

So have at it, Colorado drivers who want to take advantage of financial incentives for acquiring a less polluting ride. All the rest of us can pick up the phones and start pestering our utilities for more like that, too.

Follow me on Twitter @TinaMCasey.

Photo: GM Chevy Bolt EV by Tina Casey.

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Tina specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Spoutible.


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