The Pros And Cons Of Electric Cars
Electric cars are all the buzz these days. While hardlly new, ask Ed Begley, Americans have been slow to adopt them although their market share has grown some 30% in the last 10 years. There are a lot of negatives about electric cars or EVs if you will, and some of them are well founded, others are more true of the earliest EVs. And while the earliest adopters were eco-conscious, the latest wave, we're looking at you Tesla, targets a more posh consumer who may not really care about climate change. Let's take a look at some basics you need to know before you dive into the EV pool with both feet.
Pros of Electric Cars
They Cost Less to Operate
The economics of EV's is highly dependent upon the current cost of gas. No matter how many other arguments are made, gasoline trumps all. Much like gas guzzlers largely went away with hikes at the pump, EVs are more likely to gain market share if gasoline drives commuters to the plug rather than the gas station. Most Americans aren't really worried about the threat of petroleum supplies dwindling in our lifetime, they like their motor vehicles, even though they have engines (motors are electric, a technicality). But with electricity prices becoming more stable than ever before and reasonably low, there's a real temptation for the regular driver to look at an electric vehicle provided it serves the same purpose.
If you drive 12,000 to 15,000 miles a year, you could see a reduction of $600 to $800 a year depending on the price of gas and the cost of electricity where you live. There are programs in different states where charging can be even more economical, as well as tax incentives which can also offset the purchase price of your EV to some extent. With the volatile and often rising cost of gas, it's very likely that your EV will at least partially pay for itself before it reaches its useful life expectancy.
Charging Stations are showing up where you Work and where you Shop
As more EVs turn up on the road, the greater the demand for charging stations, no pun intended. Many progressive companies and towns are on the leading edge of installing charging stations, some for free, some on a meter which helps with the spectre of range anxiety. Governmental activity on EVs may have stalled under the current administration, but much of the funding for the EV charging infrastructure remains in place, bolstered by companies like Tesla. For those with sincere Green aspirations, many stations have a solar photovoltaic component helping approach the dream of true zero-carbon vehicles.
While home chargers may be of the slow or fast variety, many public chargers are of the faster, higher voltage variety. With fast charging, most EVs can achieve 80% of their capacity in roughly 30 minutes. That means a typical rest stop along the highway could be enough to extend your range to virtually any destination. Combine this with a fully realized network of chargers along our interstate system and range anxiety becomes a thing of the past.
If you are lucky enough to have charging stations at work and at home, you could never experience a delay in using your vehicle. Once the EV experience rivals the gasoline vehicle experience, there will be far fewer motorist that require a gas powered car.
They are FAST
Even for haters, there's no denying the torque of a powerful electric motor, delivered virtually without any hesitation. If you read car articles, as I do, you'll note that the fastest cars in recent history are electric or hybrids, achieving 0-60 times of under 3 seconds. Think about how fast that is and then tell me EVs are not serious vehicles. Of course some of that is achieved by use of specialty materials giving the car an incredibly light chasis, but the numbers are great on many production EVs, not just the premium sport cars.
Even a bargain EV will have great torque numbers, even if the horsepower rating is nothing to celebrate. Having a satisfying, and safe feeling, driving experience is critical to bringing drivers into the EV fold. So quickness is not an issue.
Electric vehicles are still at the mercy of drivers, for now. But unlike their fuel sloshing brethren, they don't go boom. Impact tests show that EVs cannot explode in a collision. Also the design of EVs is beneficial to handling given that the batteries sit low and central to the vehicle which means not only do they steer well but they are unlikely to roll over in an accident.
EV manufacturers understand that as the newbie in an established, beloved marketplace, they can't afford bad press. They've made safey a huge priority, meaning there's more thought given to safety considerations and features than of their gasoline counterparts. If a single EV has an accident or malfunctions, it's likely to make the news and does on a regular basis. However, statistically, these cars are safe and reliably meet or exceed Federal safety standards.
One of the biggest obstacles to EV manufacturers is the number of industries supported by combustion engine vehicles and their maintenance. If you think about how many parts that go away in an electric vehicle, it's impressive: no oil pan, no filters, no spark plugs or ignition system, no timing belt, no transmission, no brake fluids or hydraulics, no mufflers or exhaust systems, no gas tank, no pumps, lines wires, most of these are no more. There are a lot of businesses that exist to service your conventional vehicle from the dealership on down to your corner service station. EVs require less servicing of the parts they do have.
Every innovation has consequenses that affect the status quo. There were thousands of motorcycle builders and manufacturers in Italy until the Fiat 500 was introduced into the market. This little vehicle was likely responsible for decimating the motorcycle industry in Italy in the 1950s and 1960s. And while modern gasoline powered cars, with increasingly complex engineering, have already reduced the number of privately owned service stations and garages, EVs stand to all but eliminate them.
So this issue is a "PRO" for the EV owner, but not so much for your favorite grease monkey. But it won't happen overnight, so don't mourn their loss just yet.
Sshhh! They're Quiet!
This may not be a "Pro" for everyone. I must confess, I love the growl of a sport car's engine and it is satisfying to hear the roar of a combustion engine when you put your foot down. But we may have to kiss that goodbye ultimately.
EVs are not just quieter, they're quiet. I mean, almost silent. Quiet is good, it's better for our nerves and for anyone who lives near a highway, a little silence would be a welcome thing. The downside? Pedestrians used to using the noise of a vehicle as a cue to avoid an accident may silently be run up the curb. The government is considering requiring EVs to project some sort of operating noise for just this reason.
But to save your ears, and your nervous system, EVs are the way to go.
Save the Planet
This one can be misleading, so let's be clear. The EV itself doesn't pollute. At all. There's no tailpipe, nothing is burning or emitting. You can "run" your EV in a closed garage for hours and you'll be bored, but fine sitting there. Clean.
This is the nature of the technology but the electricity has to come from somewhere. In a perfectly green world, we would get all of our battery charge from solar panels or wind or tidal turbines. But in the real world, it's coming from the electric power plant hidden from site, but burning all kinds of fuels to get your car charged up. From cleaner fuels to dirty fuels, if you burn something you make CO2, so conventional power production is always making greenhouse gases. The difference is how much and what kind of polution: modern power plants are the most efficient and clean in history. Natural gas burns very clean and environmental scrubbers help keep modern coal and oil plants under some control. These easily beat the polution from thousands of individual combustion engines so a huge improvement overall. Not perfect despite the advertising, but much better.
Other impacts? Well, that's a bit of the dirty secret of EVs. Some of the elements needed to produce the all important batteries require fracking to some extent, which is known to leave polutants behind. Mining has other polution impacts. Then there are the various human rights violations from countries where these issues are less important. So, as the saying goes, there's no such thing as a free lunch.
Overall, EVs are better than gasoline cars since some of the negative impacts will probably happen anyway. The truth is if your car is reasonably efficient, you aren't helping the planet by buying an EV just yet. But if you can retire a guzzler, you will be helping more than your personal commute!
Tax Breaks and Government Subsidies Are Available
Most national and local governments around the world provide financial incentives for consumers to purchase electric vehicles. Every new EV purchased for use in the U.S. is entitled to the federal Internal Revenue Service (IRS) tax credit for $2,500 to $7,500. Specific tax credit amounts for individual vehicles are available at FuelEconomy.gov’s Tax Credits for Electric Vehicles and Tax Credits for Plug-in Hybrids pages.
According to a study conducted by researchers from the University of California, Davis, the federal tax credit program was the main reason why more than 30% of customers have purchased an electric vehicle.
Cons of Electric Cars
At the moment, the biggest perceived negative of battery electric cars is their limited range, which leads to what is known as range anxiety. To give an example, the 2016 Nissan Leaf can travel up to 107 miles on a single charge. The thought of only being able to drive 100 miles on a charge worries a lot of potential customers, who think that the somewhat limited range of electric vehicles isn’t enough to meet their needs.
The truth is that electric cars can handle 87% of trips made by gasoline vehicles, according to a study released by MIT. That’s a much higher number than most people would have guessed, and it will only increase as the technology improves and the network of fast charging stations becomes denser.
A number of vehicles have recently/are set to make their debut with significantly higher ranges:
Tesla Model S & Model X (250+ miles)
Tesla Model 3 (215 miles)
Chevrolet Bolt (238 miles)
2018 Nissan Leaf (200+ miles anticipated)
Some people for a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) instead while they wait for the technology to improve. A Chevrolet Volt has 53 miles of electric range, and a gas tank available for longer trips.
High Cost of Entry
Electric vehicles usually cost more upfront than their gasoline- or diesel-powered counterparts, but they are expected to be cheaper than conventional vehicles by 2022, even if the conventional cars improve their fuel efficiency by 3.5% a year.
Even though we still have a few years until we get there, most electric vehicles start to pay for themselves a long time before they reach the end of their lifespans, thanks to fuel savings, lower maintenance costs, and government subsidies.
Charging Infrastructure: Coming Soon
The current state of charging infrastructure leaves a lot to be desired, but the situation is rapidly improving.
A new EV Charging Infrastructure report by IHS predicts EV charging stations across the world to grow from more than 1 million units in 2014 to more than 12.7 million units in 2020. And it’s not just the sheer number of charging stations that’s improving, either. Fast charging stations capable of providing 80 miles of electric range per 30-minute charge are now more affordable than ever.
Fewer Options to Choose From
New electric vehicles are being introduced on a weekly basis, but it will take years before customers will be able to choose from the same range of models as they can now when it comes to cars with internal combustion engines. After all, the first automobile, Benz Patent Motor Car, started its engine for the first time on New Year’s Eve 1879.
So, Are Electric Cars Worth It?
Even though the technology is still young, the pros of electric vehicles tend to significantly outweigh the cons in most scenarios. Thanks to their efficient nature, excellent safety, lack of tailpipe emissions, and other benefits, EVs make sense both from the point of view of a regular customer and a fleet manager.