New Report: Electric Vehicles are a Good Deal for California Consumers & the Environment

Media Contacts

Environment California Research & Policy Center

San Francisco, CAToday, Environment California Research & Policy Center was joined outside of San Francisco’s Green Vehicle Showcase & Charging Stations by Executive Director of the San Francisco Department of the Environment Debbie Raphael, electric vehicle drivers, environmental justice advocates and transportation experts to release a new report “Drive Clean and Save: Electric Vehicles Are a Good Deal for California Consumers and the Environment.”

The report shows electric vehicles are a cost-effective way for Californians to go green. Even if gas prices remain at or near today’s low levels, California consumers can save money buying a battery electric vehicle instead of a similar gasoline-powered vehicle, once incentives and other savings, including reduced fuel costs, are taken into account. The average EV analyzed in this report will save its owner more than $3,500 over its lifetime if gas prices fall to a low of $2.50 per gallon. When gas prices go back up to a more typical recent price of $3.50 per gallon, the vehicle will save its owner nearly $9,000 over the vehicle’s lifetime.

“The great news is that driving green can put more green in your wallet,” said Michelle Kinman, report co-author and clean energy advocate for Environment California Research & Policy Center.

“The environmental benefits of electric vehicles are already well-known,” said report co-author Gideon Weissman of Frontier Group. “We added up all the costs and savings of electric vehicles — including charging the battery, the value of incentives, and the low maintenance costs — and found that they will also save money for consumers versus similar gas-powered models.”

These cost savings come on top of significant environmental benefits. The average electric vehicle in this study would emit 31 fewer metric tons of greenhouse gases over the vehicle’s lifetime than its gasoline-powered counterpart. If one million such EVs were used instead of their gasoline-powered counterparts, the greenhouse gas emissions averted would be equivalent to taking California’s two biggest fossil fuel-fired power plants offline.

In California, where residents are seeing the impacts of global warming firsthand through massive wildfires, over 26 million dead trees, and years of drought, and where rebates have helped jumpstart the market, electric vehicles make up a larger share of total vehicles than anywhere else in the country.

“San Francisco has been helping to drive electric vehicle adoption in the Bay Area with more than 400 public charging stations available to residents and visitors,” said Debbie Raphael, Director of the San Francisco Department of Environment. “Environment California’s report is further evidence that switching to an electric vehicle is a smart and sustainable investment. Cities like San Francisco can do our part to help promote the shift by making charging stations more accessible to all communities.”

My EV SMART is fun, economic and gives me the chance to “walk the talk,” said Episcopal Priest, the Rev. Sally Bingham, who is the President of Interfaith Power and Light, and a San Francisco resident.  “The rebate program was the incentive for me to get a second one.  Almost all of the first year’s lease is paid for.  Alleluia.”

“It’s so cheap to charge our new Ford Focus EV each night,” said Mitch Barnow, a San Francisco resident. “When you can save money and create cleaner air to breath, it’s a win-win.”

The Ford Focus EV is one of the cars analyzed in this report. Assuming a low gas price of $2.50/gallon, owners of a Ford Focus EV can expect to save an estimated $3,400 over the lifetime of the car, as compared to owners of a gas-powered Ford Focus. If gas prices go back up to $3.50/gallon, Ford Focus EV owners can expect to save more than $8,300 over the lifetime of the car.

Low-income buyers stand to gain the most from these savings, since Americans in the bottom 30 percent of the income scale spend nearly 30 percent of their annual income on transportation.

“Smog from car tailpipes hits low-income communities and communities of color first and worst, but those communities can reap real benefits if EV policies help them get over the barriers to access,” said Joel Espino, Environmental Equity Legal Counsel at the Greenlining Institute. “California is taking steps to make electric vehicles a real choice for all, regardless of race or income, but our most impacted communities need leaps, not just steps. We must not wait to expand clean transportation in these communities.”

Despite increasing sales and excitement for EVs, there is a long way to go. Today, less than one percent of the vehicles on the road in California are electric. California needs to rapidly convert to zero-emission vehicles to meet its air quality and greenhouse gas goals. The state of California, local air districts and municipalities must take immediate, equitable, and consistent policy action to meet these goals. Efforts must focus on increasing access to clean transportation in underserved communities who are a necessary demographic to achieve exponential growth in electric vehicle adoption.

Among other actions, Environment California Research & Policy Center recommends the following actions:

  • Ensure that California meets the goal codified by the Charge Ahead California Initiative (De León, 2014) of deploying one million zero and near-zero emission vehicles by 2023, and that the state continues to accelerate the growth of EVs to help meet Governor Brown’s Executive Order (B-16-2012) for California to achieve 1.5 million zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) by 2025.
  • Ensure that the California Air Resources Board (ARB) successfully implements the equity pilot programs required by the Charge Ahead California Initiative and expands upon these pilots to ensure that disadvantaged and low-income communities are able to access meaningful clean transportation options.
  • Make certain that California meets its obligations under the multi-state Zero Emission Vehicle Action Plan, and encourage other states to meet their goals, ensuring that the auto industry sells the number of electric cars needed to help us achieve our climate goals.
  • Support stronger fuel economy and greenhouse gas emission standards for cars in California and nationally. Such standards would further encourage the deployment of low-carbon vehicles such as EVs.
  • Provide adequate and continuous funding for programs that incentivize manufacturers and buyers of electric vehicles (like the now waitlisted Clean Vehicle Rebate Project) through ARB’s Air Quality Improvement Program and Low Carbon Transportation projects.
  • Ensure meaningful access to electric vehicle technology in low-income communities and communities of color by building charging infrastructure in diverse communities, creating electric vehicle carsharing programs in low-income neighborhoods and by working with community-based organization and ethnic media outlets to educate and guide interested community members on how to access electric vehicles.

“By fully implementing and expanding upon the state’s electric vehicle policies, California can speed the introduction of electric vehicles, bringing a future of 100 percent clean, electric vehicles within sight,” said Kinman.



Environment California Research & Policy Center is the statewide nonprofit environmental organization working to protect California’s air, water and open spaces.