EVs and the Less Fortunate - Editorial by Bruce Hotchkiss
I am not against electric vehicles. I'd love to have one although I do have questions and concerns.
By Bruce Hotchkiss*
West Coast Bureau
THE AUTO CHANNEL
I've written before about the cost of electricity, and its generation and distribution so I'm not going there now. I am more concerned about the rush to get rid of the internal combustion engine (ICE) and how that affects those living on a fixed income or from paycheck to paycheck.
For many buying a used vehicle is the only choice. Used vehicle sales are more than double that of new vehicles in the United States. In 2020 about 39,300,000 used vehicles were sold versus 14,460,000 new.
I checked the base price of four new electric vehicles; the Ford Mustang Mach-E ($42,895), Chevrolet Bolt ($33,000), Nissan Leaf ($27,400), and Tesla 3 ($34,190). All of these are out of my price range.
Did I hear you say "wait a minute you forgot the tax deductions and rebates"? Not at all. If you take those into the equation three of the four are affordable, affordable to some. But think about tax deductions and rebates.
Tax deductions are great IF. If you have the income. But if you're living on the edge, working hard to provide for your family but not earning that much (the Federal poverty level for California is anything less than $47,520 per year for an individual or $97,200 for a family of four) you probably already have enough deductions to zero out any income tax. You read that correctly - if your family income is around $100,000 per year you are poor in California. Chances are if you're in this group another deduction is not really going to matter.
But let's say the deduction will lower your taxable income and get you some money back from the Feds. If you file early you may get a check from Uncle Sam in the spring. Are you going to use that money to pay down your car loan? Probably not.
Here in California the state will give you a rebate of $2,000 if you buy one of these vehicles. The rebate comes to you. I don't know how long it takes to get the rebate but again when it shows up are you going to pay down your loan or maybe buy something else. If you earn a couple hundred thousand a year or more maybe the tax deduction and rebate are no big deal, just extra money in the bank. But for many that extra money, if there is really any extra, pays for something else that is needed.
Think about the folks on the lower rungs of income. These are the people buying used cars, often well used vehicles. They can't afford a new vehicle, not even a lower priced new vehicle.
Before governments start banning ICE vehicles they need to figure out how tens of millions (in 2019 almost 40-million people were below the poverty line) of low income people are going to get from place to place.
*Author's Note: I have been writing car reviews since 1984. I am a Certified Automotive Technician although I no longer ply that trade. I worked for twenty years for the California Department of Consumer Affairs & Bureau of Automotive Repair. I sat on three legislative advisory committees. I wrote an automotive column for the Tracy Press, and before that the Pacifica Tribune. I was a member of the Automotive Journalists Association of Canada and am a member of the Western Automotive Journalists.