It’s a conundrum: Driving an electric vehicle would be the logical next step in taking individual responsibility for lightening our family’s carbon footprint, yet the median price of $66,000 for such a vehicle makes it a budget-busting luxury item beyond our reach or inclination to spend.
That’s why I count myself among the growing number of Americans who want their next vehicle purchase to be an EV, but realize it isn’t going to happen anytime soon. For now, a made-in-San Antonio 2017 Toyota Tacoma will remain my main form of transportation when my bicycle will not do.
I am not alone. The reality is that electric vehicles are too expensive for most consumers, even with a federal subsidy of $7,500 included in the Inflation Reduction Act, signed into law by President Biden last week. Even affordable EVs with limited battery range and options are much pricier than their gas-propelled counterparts.
For consumers ready and able to buy electric, supply can’t meet demand. And there is definitely growing demand, as anyone on the roadways counting Tesla Model 3s can attest. That so-called affordable Tesla model starts at $46,990, but a fully loaded model with the long-range battery costs $72,490, while the Model S luxury sedan costs more than $100,000, according to the Electrek auto site. And that is without the optional $12,000 self-driving feature added to the bottom line.
More affordable EVs, according to my own online searches, have long waiting lists. Ford, for example, responded to my interest (for the sake of this column) in purchasing a 2022 Mustang Mach-E ($48,775) with the announcement that it is no longer accepting orders and deposits, because demand is so backlogged. I was invited to add my name to the waiting list for the 2023 model, yet to be released.
Experts now seem to agree: the move by manufacturers to EV production is going to happen faster than anticipated, and growing consumer demand is going to outstrip supply for the foreseeable future. Until the market matures and expands considerably, the focus will be on producing and marketing more profitable luxury models.
Toyota announced plans in 2020 to begin production of its full-size SUV Sequoia in San Antonio by this year, but the San Antonio Business Journal reported in May that the company now plans to produce a fully electric Sequoia here this year. The 2022 Sequoia cost between $50,500 and $69,775, according to the Kelley Blue Book, so the EV model will probably top that, adding another model to the market targeting affluent consumers.
Navistar’s new Southside commercial truck manufacturing plant, which opened in May, will produce diesel and electric vehicles.
Both developments highlight San Antonio’s interest in growing its high-tech manufacturing industry and job base, as nearby Austin hosts the new Tesla gigafactory and a companion battery manufacturing facility that together will add more than 10,000 smart jobs to that city’s economy.
I am less convinced that the return of the DeLorean brand to the automotive manufacturing sector with its corporate team based in San Antonio will prove to be a success. The company’s founders are being sued by Karma Automotive, their former employer, for allegedly making off with intellectual property key to their new venture, a story first reported by LAW360. Such lawsuits in the tech space — where code and design can be worth fortunes — are not uncommon, but the litigation does cloud the nascent venture’s viability.
While San Antonio economic development leaders work to expand the sector, individual consumers are left to hunt for deals, and await expanded production of smaller, more affordable EVs designed for urban commuting. With growing congestion, worsening air quality, and a consensus that the city must do more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, many of us in San Antonio feel obligated, even eager, to make the switch from paying at the pump to plugging in and charging at home.
The largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States — an estimated 27% of the total — comes from the 250 million gas-guzzling vehicles on the road. The sooner electric vehicles become the dominant power source for our cars, trucks and SUVs, the sooner we can get serious about mitigating global warming and worsening extreme climate change.