WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) – As we see another summer come to an end, it will be remembered with some infamy due to record gas prices. This added fuel cost has more people in the market for, or at least considering, the transition to an electric vehicle or EV. That’s as automakers look to meet that demand by launching new battery-powered models.
Electric cars are already becoming a more familiar sight on Wichita’s roads, so we sat down with three electric (Tesla) owners in the area about what the switch is and what it means to drive electric.
Jared Vaughan of Wellington has owned two Teslas. He drove an older Model S for about a year and traded it in for a Model 3 earlier this year.
“I mean, I’m definitely a geek all day,” Vonn said. “I kind of accept the change in the way my life is. It’s just kind of intriguing. They said what, by the year 2000, and I’m 41, we were supposed to have floating cars, but we didn’t get it. So an electric car is the next best bet.”
Vaughn said it’s like most other cars he’s driven, just with a few more bells, whistles and quirks.
“How thorough he (Elon Musk) is with this, I mean my car could fart. He was having too much fun with this one,” Vaughn said. “You can do a light show and paint your car.”
Brad Williamson of Darby has owned his Tesla Model Y for about a year.
“I wouldn’t consider myself an early adopter at this point, nothing in my life. It’s the first thing I deal with in front of a lot of people. I think it’s great to see more EV options, more people driving electric cars. I think, especially because Tesla is probably the higher end of the market in terms of pricing, they’re going to be other options that are considered more affordable,” Williamson said.
He said it took some convincing to go electric when he planned to buy a new car last year.
“I wasn’t interested in EVs at first,” Williamson said. “I drive 2,000 to 2,500 miles a month. My car had 250,000 miles on it. Head gasket was leaking so I wanted to buy a new vehicle altogether. A friend of mine said you should consider buying a Tesla. I told myself I’m not going to buy a Tesla, it’s ridiculous. Famous last words.”
Williamson said that after looking at some gas-powered cars, he started looking at what electric cars could offer and whether they were worth the investment.
“I felt pretty comfortable with the brand and with their concept and proof of concept up to this point,” Williamson said. “I said they were ahead of the market by building the supercharger infrastructure. That was a big part of it for me that I got to use it. Superchargers were great. Battery integrity is pretty stable. The range, I bought the Y model with a large range because I needed more range and the whole concept was good enough to consider what I was comparing it to at the time.”
Since making the purchase, his son Bryce has become a big fan.
“I wasn’t quite sure about them. I was like, ‘another car, you’re going to get a new car, okay.’ He was like, ‘it’s electric, it’s self-propelled.’ Then I thought, I need to learn a little more,” said Bryce Williamson. “Now I know almost everything.”
Brandon Devlin of Wichita has been behind the wheel of his Tesla Model 3 since last December.
“I’m past the beginner stage enough, but I’m still learning things every day,” Devlin said.
Devlin said he had been thinking about buying an electric car for a while, and last year things fell into place.
“I’ve always been interested in the world of technology, smartphones, smart home technology, all that cool stuff,” Devlin said. “When I saw Tesla starting to gain popularity and some of the technology behind it:
All three Telsa drives highlight savings as one of the main benefits of electric driving. EVs on the lot often have a higher sticker price than gas-powered ones.
“These vehicles are not super cheap compared to some other vehicles, some alternatives, but one thing you have to consider is the five-year cost of ownership,” Devlin said. “They might be a little more expensive for the vehicle, but you save so much in maintenance and energy savings.”
Williamson said that when he wanted to buy a Tesla, he sat down and did the numbers. Now that he owns one, he still tracks the numbers in a spreadsheet.
Williamson said, “If you do the math, on a 20 mpg car, you’re getting about 18, 20 cents a mile. All my driving, highway, city, everything, I get about 4 cents a mile.”
“I work from home right now, so I don’t drive a lot, just driving around Wichita, from the east side to the west side, it’s maybe $1.20 (to charge at home) a night,” Devlin said. “For the last 31 days, it’s been around $30.”
Especially with gas prices this year, it was a wise investment for these drivers.
Vaughan said: “I still have gas cars, don’t get me wrong, and I don’t want to fill them up. But I do if I need to.
User reports looked at the cost of owning an EV in 2020 compared to driving a comparable gas-powered car. In 2020, when the national average gas price was about $2.20 a gallon, EV owners saved $800 to $1,300, depending on the car type, for every 15,000 miles, the average distance driven in a year.
Consumer Reports did the same analysis earlier this year when the national average gas price was about $4.30 and found savings ranging from $1,800 to $2,600.
Consumer Reports found that, on average, EV drivers spend 60 percent less to power their vehicle and half as much to maintain.
“A car battery under the hood that runs all of that, air conditioning, windows, and it’s an easy pull out and change, just like you would in your normal car. Washer fluid, this is the only fluid you need to worry about. No oil changes,” Vaughn said. “Tires. Tires will probably be your biggest expense.”
The battery is the main component of concern, but for these three drivers it comes down to a simple concern.
Vaughn said: “I always want your car to be maintained for a fee. The manual even says that a plugged-in Tesla is a happy Tesla because you’re not only supporting the battery you’re sitting on, you’re supporting the battery under the hood.
“I just try to stay above 10 percent and not charge above 90 percent,” Williamson said. “Other than that, everything I’ve read is really quite simple. I don’t mind hot weather, I don’t mind cold weather. I just come home in the evening, plug in the mains, put a cap on when changing the battery.’
In 2020, Consumer Reports calculated the lifetime savings of EVs compared to the best-selling gas cars.
On the low end was the Ford Mustang Mach E with about a $3,000 savings.
At the top was Tesla’s Model 3 with a total savings of $17,600.
US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory completed a review of fuel savings earlier this year and found that driving an EV for 15 years could result in $14,500 in savings.
While fuel prices — as we saw in 2022 — weren’t the main reason Vaughn, Williamson and Devlin bought their Tesla, they’re glad they made the investment when they did.
“Every Tesla owner I’ve talked to has said they wish they had done it sooner. I wish I had done it sooner. I wish I had done it sooner.” Williamson said: “Three months after I ordered I got the delivery and I’m glad I did it sooner. It was a surprisingly great buy.”
Now this leads to others asking them about the change.
“Let them drive or take a ride with them and they instantly fall in love.” They were always like, “well, you know, I’m not sure if EVs are for me.” Then they take one trip and sell themselves,” Devlin said.
Electric vehicle dealerships are also feeling this demand, such as Eck Auto Group.
“Huge. Demand far outstrips production. Everyone is curious. Not everyone is ready to do it, but those who are, are very satisfied not only with the quality and the vehicle itself, the production. We can sell them all day long,” Alex Tilma, director of operations for Eck Automotive Group.
Ford is among the automakers bringing new EVs to market. The Ford F-150 Lightning pickup filled orders when it was first released and people are waiting for its delivery.
Rusty Eck Ford/ Eck Auto Group CEO Kyle Eck said, “About 6-9 months, but if I could tell you if it was worth the wait, it would be. I have fleet companies that have ordered 40 of these things.
He added, “I like the way Ford is going with the electric version of the F-150 because it’s actually one of their best-selling products is the F-150. When people can get into a truck like this, the sticker is $43,000, where some people think an electric vehicle will cost $60k, $70k, $80.”
The Mach-E and the electric cars KIA sells are also gone as soon as they arrive.
With this growing demand, questions remain about what this will all look like.
Ek said, “There’s always a question when you have something brand new. Everyone has a question. I have heard that the power grids will be able to take all the power? Those are the questions 5, 10, 15 years from now, you’ll probably be able to answer, but at the moment I don’t think there should be any need to worry about the difference between gas and electricity.”
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