With gasoline costing well more than $5 a gallon, and climate change increasingly on Californian’s minds, demand for electric vehicles is fast growing.
“EVs are a great choice because they’re extremely efficient and save money on gas. A lot of people are nervous about buying one based on the range per charge. You can always rent a car to go out of town. You should buy a car based on how you drive 90 percent of the time,” said Patrick Cadam, owner of Pat’s Garage at 1090 26th Street, which repairs EVs.
Darin Dinis, shop manager for Luscious Garage at 475 Ninth Street, which also maintains EVs, said prospective buyers should ask friends and peers about an EV’s battery range, reliability, and common repairs.
“Drivers tend to like that EVs are very quiet and also provide plenty of power. With the EV charging infrastructure constantly growing, EVs are becoming increasingly more appealing as gas prices continue to rise,” said Dinis.
Steven Solomon, who lives on Potrero Hill’s northwest side, uses his Tesla Model Y mainly for out-of-town trips.
“For driving within the Bay Area, a regular electrical outlet in our garage is sufficient to keep the EV charged. It adds about 50 miles of range overnight,” said Solomon.
Bob Gumpert, a Hill resident, uses his Hyundai Kona primarily for in-San Francisco trips.
“This EV needs very few check-ups other than tire rotation and checking fluids. Range is not the issue it was two or three years ago because of the increased number of charging stations. Still, it is a good idea on longer trips to pay attention to your speed, heating, air conditioning,” said Gumpert.
Jack Ostrofsky, a Forest Knolls resident, relies on a Tesla Model Y for City driving and trips to Southern California.
“I wanted a car that could get better mileage, had more horsepower, and had better safety features than my 2003 Acura. At first, I considered a Toyota RAV4. Then I took a test drive with a Tesla. I found (it) fast and comfortable,” said Ostrofsky.
Ostrofsky said one of his EV’s best features is not having to switch between the gas and the brake pedals on steep hills.
“When you let your foot off the accelerator, the car stops without sliding down the hill,” said Ostrofsky.
Maulik Shah, a Wisconsin Street resident, said his Tesla Model 3 is great at navigating tight merges and intersections.
“It also has tons of safety features, including adaptive cruise control and autopilot…has nice driver customization features. The car automatically adjusts seats and steering wheel based on who it recognizes is driving,” said Shah.
An EV can be cheaper to maintain than an internal combustion vehicle because it doesn’t have as many parts to repair or replace.
“An EV’s wheels, tires, and braking systems still need to be maintained. Battery packs are expensive. Most are guaranteed for eight years or 100,000 miles,” said Cadam.
Cadam advises researching EV prices and model availability online, renting the preferred model for a weekend, and fully inspecting a used EV.
Nonprofit Ride and Drive Clean holds educational webinars on EVs and ebikes.
“We answer questions such as, “Where do I charge, if not at home?” and “How can I get an EV that’s not way over MSRP?” Information on the inventory shortage and tax credits and incentive programs changes quickly, so purchasing an EV can be confusing. Yet switching from a gas car to an EV is likely the biggest action to benefit the climate that an individual can take,” said Annika Osborn, community outreach and program director for Ride and Drive Clean.
Those who have incomes no higher than 400 percent of the poverty level – a household of four earning $111,000 – can obtain up to $9,500 to purchase an EV, and up to $7,500 for an electric bike or transit cards. Funds are provided by Clean Cars For All, a Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) program.
Tin Le, a BAAQMD EV Coordinating Council member, said once a household is approved for the grant it’ll receive an award letter.
“They should take the letter to a Clean Cars For All-authorized dealership, which will take the grant amount off the purchase price at time of sale,” said Le.
Other incentives to buy an EV include a federal income tax credit of up to $7,500, the California Clean Vehicle Assistance program, and the California Clean Vehicle Rebate Project, which provides $1,000 to $7,000 to lease or buy an EV. Teslas aren’t eligible.
Incentive programs periodically run out of funds. Applicants should check with program staff to ensure money is available. California State Senator Scott Wiener, who represents District 11, which includes San Francisco, said funding gaps are a major concern.
“This is a matter of prioritizing funds and putting our money where our mouth is if we genuinely expect the state to no longer accept new internal combustion engine vehicles,” said Wiener.
“We need to do more as a city and state to support the switch from gas-powered vehicles to EVs and hybrid models,” said District 10 Supervisor Shamann Walton, who serves on BAAQMD’s Board of Directors. “I have been working with the City to support more EV charging stations in the district…pushing the San Francisco Environment Department to make sure they reach out to the community about possible locations.”
In July, SF Environment, along with the Mayor’s Office and the Planning Department, introduced municipal legislation to enable sites with existing automotive uses, such as fuel stations and parking garages and lots, to transition to publicly accessible EV charging facilities. SF Environment is collaborating with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and San Francisco Public Utilities Commission to increase the number of charging stations in City-owned lots and garages and secure state and federal funding for public EV charging, according to Diedre Tanenberg, SF Environment public affairs assistant coordinator.
“We see an unfortunate number of EV charging stations in sprawling parking lots, but don’t have them in neighborhoods where users may actually live. This is particularly an issue in marginalized communities. There are efforts to ensure EV infrastructure funding is targeting these communities in addition to their affluent counterparts,” said Wiener.
There’s a scarcity of public charging stations in the southeastern neighborhoods, as well as in public housing complexes, which may not have upgraded electrical panels for fast charging, with renters who aren’t allowed to modify panels for their units, and property owners who can’t afford the high cost of an upgrade.
Shah said Pacific Gas and Electric Company gave him a rebate for the cost of a charger, which he was able to install himself.
“You need to have a panel with sufficient capacity, which could be a problem in older homes. PG&E was pretty…easy to work with. The Department of Building Inspection was less so, but we worked through it (by paying) a lot in permit fees,” said Shah.