Dave Bradley loves electric cars.
So much so that, despite not being a “head of the car,” he quit his job as a hairdresser to open Magpie Motors, an Albuquerque car dealership that specializes in hybrid and electric cars.
“Electricity is fun,” Bradley said. “I think it’s the future.”
But Bradley hasn’t been able to find an electric car for sale for several weeks to add to his collection.
“Looking for or trying to find a car is very difficult — for everyone,” Bradley said last month. “I don’t remember the last time I saw a Chevy Bolt at an auction.”
Rising gas prices have driven demand for alternative fuel vehicles, shrinking the nation’s inventory. Meanwhile, electric vehicle infrastructure recently received a funding boost in the state. The entire auto market, including gas and alternative fuel vehicles, is at the mercy of supply chain problems. In addition, New Mexico has to meet the demand for electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids in neighboring countries.
Some advocates also point to New Mexico’s slow adoption of incentives for electric car manufacturers that kept inventory low.
Shoppers chase stocks
New Mexicans looking for electric and hybrid cars say they are traveling farther — even out of the state — to find alternative-fuel vehicles.
Northwest Albuquerque resident Brandon Ferreira shopped for an electric or hybrid car for a year before eventually giving up. He continued to drive his pickup truck, which is now “the opposite of what he’s looking for.”
Ferreira, who works in cybersecurity, has worked from home for several years. He had to start moving recently, and also drive his children to school.
“Having to commute has definitely changed how I look at driving,” Ferreira said.
Although Ferreira wanted an electric car long before gas prices skyrocketed, inflation added an extra stimulus.
“At first, I just wanted one because it’s an environmental thing to do, but then gas prices started going up,” Ferreira said.
Initially, Ferreira was looking exclusively for an electric car. He expanded his search to include hybrid cars after he struggled to find an electric car in New Mexico.
said Tami Feibelkorn, Albuquerque City Council member and New Mexico representative for the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project, which promotes energy efficiency in the area.
According to a 2022 J.D. Power survey, 24% of U.S. car shoppers were “very likely” to consider purchasing an electric vehicle for their next vehicle — up 4% from last year. Angel Martinez, director of Albuquerque’s Department of Environmental Health, told the newspaper that 1.7% of new car sales in the state last year were electric cars — double the percentage the year before.
“We’re seeing interest rise, right?” Martinez said.
Earlier this year, Martinez and the Department of Environmental Health teamed up with the state to adopt New Mexico’s clean car base. The rule states that as of 2025, 7% of new car sales in the state must be electric vehicles or plug-in hybrids. Several other states have adopted clean car rules, including Colorado and California.
Ferreira started calling auto dealerships in Colorado when he was still unable to find an alternative fuel car in New Mexico. But he found that most models in the neighboring country were coded around $15,000.
“It seems to be a supply and demand issue,” Bradley said. “A perfect storm of rising gas prices and a shortage of economical cars.”
Bradley points to the lack of computer chips that have affected all cars, alternative fuels or otherwise, and more specifically, the shortage of rare earth elements that make up electric car batteries. Earlier this week, Honda and LG announced an investment of $4.4 billion in a new battery manufacturing plant in the United States, with the plant expected to be operational by 2025.
“I still have a car in my lot that has gone down in prices. Some have gone up, actually,” Bradley said. “I try to keep my prices reasonable, but everyone pays more.”
Sandia Labs researcher Michelle Burke recently purchased her first hybrid car. She has been searching since May. The most frustrating part, Burke said, was that dealerships would list the hybrids on their website, but when I got to a lot, there wasn’t anything available.
“Honestly, the hardest part was finding a car that was actually available,” Burke said.
Like Ferreira, Burke searched in neighboring countries for hybrid compounds. But even when she found hybrids in Arizona and Colorado, she said she wouldn’t sell them to an out-of-state driver.
When Burke was driving one day, she saw a car with a “Roswell Hyundai” sticker on it, and decided to see the dealer. They had one car available – the Hyundai Elantra hybrid that you now drive. Both gas prices and environmental concerns prompted Burke to buy a hybrid, even though he would prefer an all-electric vehicle.
“I can’t buy a full electric car, so this is the next step forward,” Burke said.
Long waiting times, empty parts
Chevrolet, Ford, Kia, Nissan, and Volvo currently offer electric vehicle offerings, as well as some luxury car brands. There are dozens of plug-in hybrid models also available in the US
Last fall, Tesla opened its first sales and service center in New Mexico in the Nambi Pueblo. The location on Pueblo Sovereign Land, which Tesla also described as its first location on Native American land in the United States, allowed it to avoid violating state law that prohibits auto manufacturers from selling directly to consumers rather than through franchise agents.
However, customers should be prepared to wait if they order an alternative fuel vehicle.
It’s tough to keep electric and hybrid cars in stock, said Chris Taylor, sales manager for Chalmers Ford in Rio Rancho.
“98 percent are sold out before they reach the lottery,” Taylor said.
Ford sells three models of all-electric vehicles and two plug-in hybrid vehicles. In mid-August, Taylor said that Chalmers Ford had fewer than five electric cars—and no hybrids.
“They sell like hot cakes,” Taylor said. “We just got lucky to have that stock.”
Taylor himself owns two electric cars – one for himself and his wife – and waited more than eight months for each one. Taylor said the average Ford F-150 Lightning wait is 12 months.
He said, “I love them.”
Chevrolet has one electric car model, the Chevy Bolt, and will add three new models in 2023. In mid-August, Galles Chevrolet in Menaul and the university only had two Chevy Bolts, said Andy Michael, new vehicle sales manager at the dealership. Recently, there was a battery recall that slashed Bolt stock, Michael said, but he estimates that the model generally stays on the lot for only two weeks before it sells out.
“With gas prices the way they are, there is more demand for electric cars,” Michael said.
Besides gas prices, Michael said, many Chevrolet customers who have solar panels in their homes come to buy electric cars. With the extra power from the panels, these customers are able to charge their cars at minimal cost.
Fiebelkorn, an environmental economist, was an early adopter of electric vehicles. When her hybrid died five years ago, she knew she wanted an electric car.
“It was the best decision ever,” Veblekorn said of her all-electric Nissan Leaf. “…I haven’t been to the gas station in five years – it’s amazing how liberating.”
She only pays an extra $6 a month on electricity to charge her car.
However, now Veblekorn said a lack of government incentives has hampered the growth of electric vehicle inventory in the state. According to Fiebelkorn, before the state passed clean car standards this year, auto manufacturers were sending their electric cars to neighboring states like Colorado, which had already implemented clean car standards, and bypassing New Mexico.
She said that although New Mexico adopted the clean car rule in May 2022, the state’s inventory will take some time.
“We won’t start to see them come for about a year,” said Vipelkorn, who bought her car online from Carvana.
Since gas prices have gone up, Fiebelkorn said SWEEP is getting more calls from people interested in switching to electric vehicles. However, UNM research professor and economist Kelly O’Donnell says that while gas prices have increased interest in alternative fuel vehicles, the matter is more complex than that.
“It used to be that the price of gas would go up, and people would see that as a nuisance and a problem — but it’s a temporary problem,” O’Donnell said. “People are increasingly moving away from this kind of simplistic calculation about whether they will save money on fuel in the short term, and realize that the fossil fuel crisis is not a temporary one.”
Bradley of Magpie Motors agrees that higher gas prices are a trend, not an anomaly.
“Now it seems that only people with money have electric cars. But I think what you will see is that only people with money will be able to drive a big V8 that does 16 miles per gallon,” Bradley said. “Fuel is a limited product. . As it drops, prices will continue to rise.”
“The price of fuel is a short-term driver — no pun intended,” O’Donnell said. “But what we’re really talking about is something more important than that, and that’s, you know, the sustainability of our way of life.”
Martinez says that despite the growing awareness of climate change issues across the state, New Mexicans need to be educated about the financial savings alternative fuel vehicles can generate to really increase interest.
Despite the obstacles, Fiebelkorn says the future of the clean car is coming to New Mexico, no matter how slow.
“This step is happening, the future is electric – New Mexico is taking a little bit longer to get there,” said Feipelkorn.