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How gas prices are impacting the electric vehicle market | What you need to know

Two UC Davis professors say the increase in gas prices has turned consumer attention to electric vehicles.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Let's face it, the price at the pump is a bit gut-wrenching with the average price in Sacramento, according to gasbuddy.com, over $5 a gallon.

Fueled partly by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the Associated Press says gas prices worldwide have skyrocketed.

In the U.S., they've reached record highs above $4.30 a gallon. That's 50%, or $1.43 per gallon, more than they were a year ago, the AP reports.

Related: Gas prices are rising everywhere. Here's how you can save at the pump

The AP adds the average owner of a full-size SUV is spending about $110 more each month on fuel than at this time last year, Kelley Blue Book says. Even owners of compact cars are paying $60 more monthly, on average.

Gas prices and electric vehicles

According to Google Trends, over the past three months in the Sacramento region, the searches for an electric vehicle have increased. The most significant increase happened at the end of February. 

ABC10 reached out to two UC Davis professors to talk about the correlation between the increase in gas prices and their take on how it is impacting the EV market. 

"I think that the gas prices right now are high, but even if they will go down back to where they were two months ago, electric cars are still a good deal," said Gil Tal, director of the Electric Vehicle Research Center at UC Davis. "So it's not a seasonal thing. Even with regular gas prices, driving electric (is) saving. And maybe now the return on your investment will be one year."

Erich Muehlegger, associate professor of economics at UC Davis, shared a similar view with Tal.

"This actually had a meaningful impact on the adoption," said Muehlegger. "The reason that's the case because for every dollar of additional gasoline costs, the cost (to) drive average gasoline-powered vehicle use rises by about $400 to $500 a year. And so when you add up these costs over the lifetime of the vehicle, those costs really do add up...and starts to look more and more attractive as an option for new car buyers who are trying to decide between buying a gasoline-powered vehicle and a new electric vehicle."

Electric vehicles in California

Just last month, the state of California celebrated the one-millionth EV sold in California. The vehicle went to a Stockton man who got to meet Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Related: Stockton man gets a surprise visit from Newsom after purchasing the states millionth electric vehicle

"When you think about the electric vehicle industry, you know, it's important to recognize that although in California electric the vehicle industry is really taking off, it's important to recognize (that) California's really (the) forefront of the electrical and electric vehicle industry in the US," Muehlegger said.

He added that in 2021, roughly 9% of the vehicles sold worldwide were electric vehicles. In California, he said roughly the numbers were similar at roughly 13%.

"So this is an area where I think there's still a lot of growth to happen and there are a lot of segments of the market that we continue, will continue, to develop over time as more and more automakers begin to offer electric vehicles as an option," Muehlegger said.

Tal echoed Muehlegger's points, adding Californians who are wanting to purchase an EV should do a bit of homework.

"See how much incentives and rebates you can get from the federal government on your next year taxes," Tal said. "From the state, from your utility and then figure out how are you going to charge the car."

Quick facts about EVs

State resources on EVs:

For those wanting to ditch a gas guzzler and start driving an EV, there are some programs and initiatives to help you.

One is the Clean Vehicle Rebate Program, which is a part of the Moving California initiative. The program gives people the chance to get up to $7,000 to purchase or lease a new plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV), battery electric vehicle (BEV), or fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV). 

Other resources can be found on driveclean.ca.gov.

Charging stations in Sacramento:

The city of Sacramento has a EV charging location map available here.

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