As we step into the brand-new decade, we live in an age where the battery electric vehicle (or BEV for short) is just starting to become mainstream and viable for the average motorist, and not necessarily something that’s a bit ‘different’ or ‘quirky’.
Manufacturers such as Tesla have contributed hugely to help normalize the electric vehicle by bringing out models with ranges not far off a conventional gasoline vehicle, and rolling out an extensive charging network that makes topping up your battery almost as easy as topping up your fuel tank. In recent times, solid efforts from the likes of Audi, Jaguar and Mercedes will have persuaded luxury brand loyalists to make the switch.
With all that being said, though, we can’t ignore the fact that electric cars are still a relatively immature technology, with a new charging infrastructure, and as such they do come with their advantages and disadvantages. Let’s explore what electric car pros and cons there are to consider before making the jump.
Electric car advantage: They’re super cheap to run
This is perhaps one of the most important and alluring electric car benefits that brings drivers over in flocks to the silent world of EV driving. Gasoline is not cheap in most areas of the world – an average of $2.50 a gallon in the US is pricy enough for most consumers – but the situation is even more eye-watering elsewhere. In the UK, for example, you’ll typically pay about £1.30 per litre for gasoline. Translated to US gallons and dollars, that works out to be $6.40 per gallon!
Electricity, however, is almost universally cheap as a mode of powering your car. In the US, the average cost of a kilowatt hour works out to be 13.2 cents. A typical large EV such as the Tesla Model S will comfortably do 3 miles per KWh consumed, meaning you’re paying just 4.4 cents per mile traveled! Compare that to a typical sedan that does 25MPG at the national average of $2.50 per gallon, and you reach a figure of 10 cents per mile – over double the amount. In Europe where gasoline is expensive, it’s not hard to imagine how substantial the savings can be.
It’s not just the go-juice that works out to be a cheap electric car benefit – the general servicing and maintenance is also a lot cheaper, because you have far fewer oily moving parts under the hood. No oil changes, no spark plug changes, no rusting exhaust pipes – the list goes on. Besides basic wear and tear such as your tyres and brakes, the running costs are going to be significantly lower, no matter what electric car you choose.
Electric car disadvantage: The charging network is not fully matured
When such a dramatic shift in the way we power our cars come along, things like changing the core infrastructure to support these new vehicles does not come along overnight. While gas stations have been around for decades upon decades, charging stations are still quite new to the scene, and they continue to be implemented day-by-day.
The good news is that the amount of charging stations is continuing to grow, meaning as time goes on, the problem will become smaller. The bad news is that the whole ecosystem is fragmented and sort of deregulated.
At a conventional filling station, you simply turn up, take what you need, and pay for the amount you used at the pumps. However, a lot of charging stations currently require signing up and subscribing before you can even use their service! You may need several different accounts just to be able to use the charging stations available near you. On top of that, it can be a lottery on what charging speed the stations provide. The Tesla Supercharger is able to deliver up to 250KWh, whereas some more generic chargers may top out at just 7KWh or so. Over time, this problem will shrink, but today it persists.
Electric car advantage: Instant torque whenever you demand
Not so long ago, the stereotype of an electric car was that it was a vehicle that couldn’t exceed city speed limits, and they were flimsy little things that were completely overshadowed by conventional cars. Today, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Modern EVs are no different to regular cars in terms of how well they’re made, and in many cases, they are way quicker than your standard gasoline motor. Take the Tesla Model 3 Performance, for example. With a 0-60mph time of 3.2 seconds, it puts many exotic supercars to shame, and gasoline competitors within its price range would be lucky to crack 60mph in under 6 seconds.
It’s not just outright acceleration, either; electric motors provide instant torque as soon as you demand it. In a conventional car you need to have the engine in the right gear and be in the engine’s power sweet spot for maximum speed, but electric vehicles are quite literally push the pedal to go. It makes even more modest models such as the Nissan Leaf feel incredibly zippy.
Electric car disadvantage: Long distance driving
Whilst battery technology continues to improve and ranges continue to increase, it’s fair to say EVs still can’t quite match conventional cars if you want to do a cross-country trip. For long trips, you’ll be reliant on charging stations for top-ups, and while that in itself isn’t bad (since you’re likely going to want a rest after 200 miles of driving!), it does put you at the mercy of the charging network.
If your trip so happens to go somewhere where there aren’t many fast chargers, you’ll have to plan your journey very carefully in accordance to your car’s range. Alternatively, they may be plenty of regular slow chargers, but that would mean very long waits whilst your car tops up. It simply isn’t as hassle-free as topping up your fuel tank just yet. If you own a Tesla, the problem isn’t quite as bad; their extensive Supercharger network means you can do long distances without an issue, and is certainly a benefit if you own a vehicle like the Model 3.
We’ve seen there are electric car pros and cons that exist today. Importantly, however, it should be noted that these electric car disadvantages are problems that are becoming more obsolete every day. The charging network will mature over time, and that coupled with ever-improving battery tech will mean long distances will become more effortless than ever before. We live in very exciting times for the continuing rapid development of EVs.