If you’ve spent time in North Asheville and pay attention to the high-pitched whine of battery-powered cars, you’ll immediately notice that Asheville has a fleet of Teslas, hybrids, and other electric-powered cars. Once you start paying attention, you’ll see that they are definitely a presence here, even if gas-powered cars are still the overwhelming majority of any traffic jam coming down Merrimon.
I’m generally not an early adopter of anything – I took forever to get a smart cell phone, for instance, and most of my electronics and gadgets are as old as possible and maybe even purchased at yard sales. However, moving to Asheville has been part of my ongoing goals of focusing on sustainability and making my impact on the Earth a little lighter.
While pretty much no choice that involves consumerism is without an environmental impact, we started looking at solar panels last summer and opted to get some added to the roof of our house – now, about 80% of our household energy comes straight from the sun, which feels great.
We also realized that, given that we’re a two-car household, we could manage family car trips with one gas-powered car and trade in our other gas-powered car for an electric vehicle. They aren’t for everyone, especially one-car households if there isn’t a good vehicle charger at your destination, but it’s been really great for us so far, and it feels like we’re going to see some real savings over time!
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Pros and Cons of Electric Vehicles in Asheville
If you’re still trying to decide on whether you accept the value of electric vehicles, we’re not here to sell you on it, but it’s worth knowing why people are both excited about them in Asheville and why other folks think the technology isn’t ready yet. Here are some thoughts to consider if you’re on the fence.
Pros: Creating an Environmental Impact When You Can Charge Sustainably; Maintenance Reduction
For the longest time, the electric car was a fairly fringe concept, and for a few years after that, they became a luxury ideal with the surge in interest in Tesla’s early models. As prices have come down and availability has gone up, they offer the opportunity to realize some real savings: on average, electricity costs less per mile than gas, and maintenance costs can be up to 50% lower than gas-powered cars because of fewer moving parts and other factors (no oil changes!).
While many people will point out that electric cars charged off a fossil-fuel-powered grid are still indirectly contributing to greenhouse gas emissions, usually these cars still have a smaller carbon footprint than those with tailpipe gas emissions.
The benefits are compounded if your electricity grid or your home has some hydroelectric or solar energy as part of the overall composition of your energy sources – it’s a complicated question as to whether things are “better” for the environment, but most of the data points to electric cars being better specifically for emissions and the sustainability of the energy’s sources.
With this many advantages, you can start to see why people would start giving electric cars more of a try. I’ve also noted that the Nissan Leaf (far from the sportiest of EVs) is really fun to drive, with some serious get-up-and-go when you start up. I imagine that part of why people like Teslas so much is that they are fun to drive and handle well on the road.
Cons: Impact of Batteries and Range Questions
As far as cons go, lithium batteries require a lot of rare minerals, leading people to wonder if we can really mine enough lithium to be safe. While that’s definitely a concern, and the lithium needs to be safely recycled or disposed of after an electric car’s life, it’s not exactly a new concern.
Discarded cars of all kinds create waste and promote mining, just mining of other materials. One question mark still is whether more efficient, inexpensive, or sustainable batteries can be created with enough value in the market – we’ll just have to see if this comes about.
Range, though, has been one of the main concerns with modern EVs. The most affordable electric vehicles now are sold with ranges between 110 and 250 miles to a charge. Most of these EVs work with standard chargers, but they don’t have access to the Tesla-exclusive network of super-fast chargers that has cropped up all over the country, nor do they have Tesla’s 400ish-mile range. For many people, it’s a dealbreaker that they’d need many hours to recharge after driving for only a few hours – that’s a really broken-up road trip, for sure.
What About Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid Cars?
I also hear the distinctive whine of cars around town and see the bright emblem for hybrid on cars, and they really do seem to offer a combination that’s hard to beat. Both plug-in hybrids and regular hybrids (that use braking efficiency to charge up a battery) will save you some on gas and keep you dependent on gas stations, not EV charging stations.
They will not fully remove your dependence on gas, but you get the benefit of a much more reliable way to refuel during trips. They’re also just not quite as efficient as full EVs, since they have to have all the equipment to run off gas in addition to their batteries, but again, both traditional hybrids and plug-in hybrids can be an effective option for families and individuals with only one car who need it for both short-distance and long-distance driving.
What Dealerships Carry Electric Vehicles?
First and foremost, the flashiest brand of electric vehicles in Asheville tends to be Tesla, of which there are a lot. However, most Tesla owners only have a couple options for servicing and no dealerships in the area: Tesla briefly considered a dealership and service center here in 2022/2023, but the plan fell through.
Instead, would-be Tesla owners buy in Knoxville or Charlotte and transport their cars to those places for service. It’s not particularly convenient, but not having a lot of routine maintenance does make it more manageable.
A few of the major car brands that have all-electric vehicles these days include Chevy (Bolt and Volt), Kia (Nira, Rio, EV6), Hyundai (Ioniq, Kona), and Volkswagen (ID.4). Many other dealerships occasionally get used EVs, and most also offer a plug-in hybrid or traditional hybrid as part of their lineup at this point.
The best way to find out if a local dealership has any electric vehicles in stock is to just call ahead because pretty much any dealership could have electric vehicles but might currently be out of stock. It’s best to just check the day you want to go.
For example, when we were shopping and comparing the Nissan Leaf with the Chevy Bolt, local dealerships had either one used model or no models at all in stock, with a multi-month wait for the Bolt!
Since you never know when demand will pick up, it’s best to get your test drives in whenever something is available. If that one is purchased before you make your final choice, then join a waitlist for the vehicle you’re interested in purchasing.
What is Regenerative Braking, and why is it Good in Asheville?
One of the interesting technologies connected with electric cars (as well as hybrids) is the concept of regenerative braking. Rather than just using up brake pads and slowing your car down, regenerative brakes use the energy gained from braking to charge a battery.
This means that you get a slightly longer range in an all-electric car, and it means that you don’t have to charge traditional hybrid cars at all – they gather their charge from their internal combustion engine and regenerative braking alone.
Practically, this ends up being nice when you live in the mountains, where you frequently need to use your brakes to stay safe on downhill slopes. Just like a gas-powered car, you may go through brake pads a little faster than in a flat place, and you’ll use more energy going uphill, but unlike gas-powered cars, you get something back from downhills. For this reason, there’s a small but noteworthy advantage to owning an electric car in the mountains.
Tax Incentives for Electric Vehicles in Asheville
One of the major reasons why electric vehicles have become more popular is the presence of tax incentives. Getting a tax deduction of $7,500 for some electric vehicles and $3,750 for others can really make a difference in the cost of the car in total.
With a used car shortage, these incentives also push those who might have purchased used gas cars toward a new or late-model electric vehicle. The challenge is that these tax credits are complex. Here’s a more detailed description, but here are the main questions to check:
- Do you fall inside the income cap? If you make too much per year, you may not qualify for this tax incentive.
- Is your car included in the current year’s list? In the past year, certain EVs have become eligible, and others have been disqualified due to where their batteries are produced.
- Is your car too expensive? There are limits on the MSRP of different vehicles, so high-end luxury electric vehicles may not qualify.
When calculating the value of an electric car in Asheville, a few pieces of information can help. Looking up current rates per kWh from your electricity provider (usually available on your bill) as well as typical miles per kWh for the car you’re considering can start to give you an idea of costs compared to current gas prices and average miles per gallon for a similar kind of car that is gas-powered.
If you know you’d have access to a free charger frequently, such as at your place of work, you could mostly remove the cost of “refueling” from your considerations of what makes a good car for you and your family. Coupled with a tax incentive and the falling prices of EVs relative to gas-powered cars, you may actually save money with some of the available options.
Getting Around: Can You Charge an EV in Asheville?
While buying a Tesla locally is not convenient, charging them is. The supercharger stations at the Asheville Outlets, on Tunnel Road, and Biltmore Park Town Square are all spots where there’s plenty within walking distance to entertain you while your Tesla charges up.
The network of superchargers has been a major factor for those who want to go EV but need to either have only one car or a car that can get across the country – it’s still a little less convenient than a 2-minute refueling at a gas station, but the network is set up so that you rarely have to go far out of your way to travel long distances.
Other electric vehicles will have different challenges. For instance, my own humble Nissan Leaf has a 150-mile range, not the 400ish-mile range of current Tesla models. You simply need more superchargers within a particular range for that to be feasible as a long-distance car, and even in Asheville, you frequently find one or more chargers at a station not functional – that’s hard to rely upon!
The reason why the Leaf works for us is that it is a highly affordable car, has a track record of many years at this point, and we can charge at home off our solar panels. This is how we manage the experience, but your mileage will vary, of course.
I’ve found that Ingles Markets’ parking lots and many large parking lots in Asheville do have electric vehicle charging stations that are compatible with my Nissan’s, but your best bet as a person with an EV in Asheville is to charge at home if at all possible and figure out which stations exist on your typical routes so that you can get an emergency fast charge if you need one. Below is a likely-incomplete listing since stations break and come online all the time, but it showcases the kinds of options available to you in different parts of town.
On each company’s app or through Google Maps, you can figure out if each spot offers the kinds of chargers that are compatible with your car. For instance, my Leaf uses CHAdeMO technology for its Level 3 Fast Charging, which I don’t know a ton about, but I know that not every charging station features it. As you shop for EVs, consider which chargers are available and whether you’re limiting yourself too much by picking a particularly unusual charger variety.
EV Charging Stations in Asheville
Google Maps, Plugshare, and other websites can give you an up-to-date set of data on available and new electric charging stations. Having at least one or two apps will help you quickly charge while also checking on any broken chargers, which does sometimes happen.
Some of these chargers are focused primarily on the employees/customers of a particular business, so if the Google Maps listing mentions “located in” you may want to call and ask if the charger has availability.
1. Electrify America Charging Station
645 Patton Avenue, Asheville., in Sam’s Club.
Includes CCS and CHAdeMO.
Availability is updated in the Electrify America App.
2. ChargePoint Charging Station
Exclusive use of AVL Technologies employees during work hours; available after hours and on weekends.
On the property of Deltec Homes.
Check Usage on the website or app
4. ChargePoint Charging Station
Check availability on the Chargepoint App
(Noted online that minimum charge is $5; best for full fill-up charges for those staying at or near the Element Asheville Downtown.)
5. ChargePoint Charging Station (Free when you’re paying for parking!)
Inside Rankin Parking Garage.
6. Shell Recharge Station within A-B Tech
Includes CHAdeMO, CCS, and J1772 chargers.
Check availability on the Shell Recharge app.
7. College Street Parking Deck Free Charging Station
(You pay for parking, but the charger is free!)
Require the Chargeup App, so install before you visit.
8. UNC Asheville Charging Stations
(Free for students/community members and visitors with a valid parking permit).
Parking deck at West Ridge and South Ridge Halls
Parking deck across from The Sherrill Center
9. Sears Alley Public Parking Deck Charging Station
Free to charge but pay to park; check ground level for chargers.
10. Electric Vehicle Charging Station
At the Inn at Biltmore Estate
11. Ingles Markets (Various around Asheville)
12. Tesla-Exclusive Chargers
199 Haywood Street, Asheville. In GSPZA.
86 Edgemont Road, Asheville. In Albemarle Inn.
13. Tesla-Exclusive Superchargers:
800 Brevard Road, Asheville. At The Asheville Outlets.
4 S. Tunnel Road, Asheville. In Asheville Market.
264 Thetford Street, Asheville. In Biltmore Park Town Square.