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Real Privilege: Owning an Electric Car

Last week I headed into the office on Friday. I’ve been fortunate that we only returned to the office post COVID last week. The only days required so far were last Monday and Wednesday. I went in on Friday because my new badges had finally come in.

I parked at MARTA’s Lindbergh station. Because it is the junction of the Red and Gold lines I have twice as many trains to catch. The extra time driving from the house there instead of a closer station is more than made up by more frequent trains and the shorter train time.

One thing had changed since I last parked there in March 2020. It’s in the featured image. Six prime parking spots on the first level are no hybrid or electric vehicle only with a charging station. It is the most in your face example of why owning an electric car is a real institutional privilege in our modern world.

EV Charging Stand with no payment section.

First, let’s get the definition out of the way. According to Merriam-Webster privilege is defined as:

a right or immunity granted as a peculiar benefit, advantage, or favor PREROGATIVE

especially such a right or immunity attached specifically to a position or an office

What does that space grant as a benefit? Obviously it grants six of the choice spaces on the ground level of the parking garage right next to the stair well. But there is more than that. Despite the recent drop in gasoline prices I still pay over $50 to fill my Toyota Camry.

Because they are virtuous by owning an electric vehicle at least some fill ups of the owners of electric cars is subsidized by MARTA, owners of the garage. How big is that subsidy? It’s hard, but using an article at and The United States Department of Energy’s report on electric prices we can make some back of the envelope calculations.

The cheapest kWH rate supplied by the DoE for Georgia is $0.0905/kWH for industrial services. Let’s assume that’s the rate MARTA is getting. We can get 2019 range per kWH for the most efficient EVs from The Hyundai Ioniq Electric wins with 101 kWH to get 408 miles, close the cost of my filled up Camry. Every time the owner of an EV gets the equivalent of my tank of gas at MARTA they are getting a $9.00 subsidy.

But there is more than that. According to the Federal Government the owner of the vehicle gets a minimum $4001 tax credit, which is over 20% of what I paid for my used Camry. One of the least expensive EVs is the above mentioned Hyundai Ioniq at $33,245. That’s over 150% of used Camry.

So, by law and custom we have government agencies from the IRS to MARTA subsidizing individuals capable of purchasing $30,000 vehicles whose energy cost is already a sixth of that of the more affordable gasoline vehicles poorer individuals drive can be subsidized up to 100% by strategic parking.

That’s the best case. The above pictures show the two cars in the lot when I parked, a BMW and a Kia. The cheapest BMW electric is $55,400 and the cheapest Kia is $40,900 with a floor for taxi credits of $4,668 and $4,543 respectively.

Why are we subsidizing to the tune of several thousand dollars the purchase of vehicles above for the most part above the median car price of $45,000. The median EV is $52490 after the tax credit. People who can afford these vehicles do not need a subsidy for purchase and energy from the median American, who income is only 125% of the median EV price.

That’s why owning an EV is real privilege. It is using a position of status and wealth to force those poorer than you to subsidize a choice made to prove how virtuous you are.

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