A recent article at USA Today tells the woeful tale of gas prices rising, again. But in instead of doing the typical “I told you so!” thing that many EV drivers lacking social skills do, I want to be a little more productive. Let’s look at how bad it is, and what’s behind the rising gas prices, and then look at some ideas to save gas that don’t like like we’re laughing at people from the proverbial ivory tower.
Not A Great Situation If You Depend On Gas For Transportation
No matter what official figures have been saying, it’s been a tough 2023 for many people at the gas pumps and at grocery stores. Sure, official inflation figures say that the problem has been solved, but those figures look at a basket of consumer prices, and dropping prices in one area can cancel out price increases in other areas.
Personally, the grocery store has been killing my family. In just a couple of years, we’ve gone from spending around $1,000 on groceries to spending over $1500. Much of that rise happened this year, so claims of inflation tapering off or improving aren’t very convincing in our household. I personally don’t care who’s to blame for it and whether saying this will hurt Biden or help someone else in next year’s elections, because we have to eat either way, and I can’t fight bad people on an empty stomach.
That’s obviously part of the problem with rising gas prices, but it’s not the whole story.
Gas prices aren’t as bad as they were last year, but they’re still up 20% since the beginning of the year. But, the price of gas is falling behind the price of oil, which is a little weird. The oil supply is down, and thus prices are up. Some analysts hope this “weird balancing act” holds until the end of hurricane season, but we could be in for higher prices suddenly if gas starts to catch up.
Two big things are keeping supplies down. First, Saudi Arabia and Russia have cut production and exports. This sucks for everyone because a global oil market ends up increasing prices for everybody. Second, refineries struggled to produce gasoline in sufficient quantity due to this summer’s record heat. So, gas prices are getting a one-two punch that should be worse than it is, and quickly could become that way.
As usual, the worst prices are in California. There’s a lot to that story, but this isn’t news. California always has the highest prices. Instead of rehashing that issue in an article about EVs, I’ll invite readers to Google the causes of that.
Let’s Skip The “I Told You So”
If you’re reading this and don’t own an EV yet, you’re probably sick and damned tired of people telling you that you need to get an EV, or even laughing at you for not having bought one yet. What you have to understand is that when gas prices are low, anti-EV trolls are constantly giving us crap for driving an EV. They don’t really save money, they say. Toys for the rich. Bad for the environment. You name it, we’ve heard it. So, many of us are ready to troll back, even if you’re not the troll. Sorry!
Instead of trolling back, I want to instead try to be helpful. I get that EVs are expensive, and that even though their prices have dropped, they’re still out of reach for many people. Plus, the cheapest EVs tend to have downsides, like slower charging or less range, and you’re used to driving a car that can go anywhere and fill up in just a couple of minutes, so something like the Chevy Bolt (or EUV) isn’t going to make you happy as a primary car.
So, let’s talk about some different things you can do to get around this problem.
First, make sure you do the whole math problem before you decide you can’t afford a decent EV. Get current prices, because they might be lower than you thought. Look at what you’re spending on gas and maintenance, and keep in mind that your fuel and maintenance prices in an EV are far lower. If you look at these factors together, you might actually be able to buy one.
Another thing to consider is a “two car solution.” If you’ve got a gas or diesel vehicle that’s serving you well and you have either a low payment or no payment on the thing, consider getting an EV that’s good enough for around town. Used models of the Chevy Bolt, Nissan LEAF, Fiat 500e, and many other cheap EVs are a good local runabout. If you need to do more than the cheap used EV can do, then use your gas car. Used EVs can be had for well under $10,000 if you shop around, and EVs under $20k are common.
But, I do have to warn you that the fun driving experience of an EV can be addictive, and you might not use the gas car as much as you thought.
Another good option is plugin hybrids. I know I’ll get roasted in the comments by readers for this, but they can often be had cheaper, especially used. Something like a used Chevy Volt (not the Bolt with a B, but Volt with a V) will give you 30-50 miles of electric range depending on the year. Most days, you probably won’t need gas. But, when you need to drive more, there’s a gas engine there ready to take over and turn your EV into a hybrid for road trips. I wouldn’t recommend spending EV money on a PHEV, but getting a used one to save money can be a smart move if it fits your needs.
Finally, consider alternatives to driving a car. E-bikes, electric scooters, electric motorcycles, and even weird one-wheeled boards are all great options available pretty cheap. We have lots of e-bike reviews on here for you to check out. You can still keep your gas car, obviously, but taking some trips on an e-bike or scooter can keep miles off your car and save gas. They’re not for everybody, but if you’re commuting alone within a few miles, or you’re willing to get a motorcycle license for longer and faster trips, they are another great option.
There are other options out there, like carpooling, transit, etc., but I’m not going to preach those in this article. People have plenty of perfectly valid reasons to not want to ride a bus and I’m not going to shame you for that. In some cities, transit is a great way to meet interesting people, and NOT in a good way, so I get it. But, do consider it if you live in a place where transit is safe and clean (and check on this before assuming).
Finally, get creative. Look for ways to mix the above, or save gas in different ways. Some people take folding bikes and scooters on transit to make getting to the train or bus stop easier, for example. There are also “park and ride” options in many places. Transportation is a cafeteria, and you can use just the things you need.
I don’t have all of the answers, but hopefully I’ve come up with some ideas that can inspire more!
Featured image: My electric bikes. Photo by Jennifer Sensiba.
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