The Pros and Cons of Electric Cars
March 27th, 2017
What is an electric car?
An electric car is a vehicle that is powered by an electric motor instead of a traditional combustion engine. Electric cars, also known as an electric vehicle or EV, use energy stored in rechargeable batteries, meaning these cars can be charged using common household electricity. There are 3 types of electric vehicles:
- All-electric (must be plugged in and charged up, does not use fuel at all).
- Plug-in hybrid (relies on a battery but also has a petrol tank to extend its range).
- Hybrid electric vehicle (has a petrol tank and also uses other innovative forms of energy generation like regenerative brakes).
In this post we’re going to focus on the pros and cons of all-electric vehicles. So, if you’ve considered purchasing an electric car to save money on fuel costs, here are some things to consider before you do:
Pros of Electric Cars
Electric cars are charged by batteries – meaning if you drive an all-electric car, you will never need to purchase fuel again. According to the Guardian, the total cost of owning an electric car, including purchasing and running costs, will be cheaper than that of traditional cars by 2022.
Better for the Environment
Electric cars run on renewable energy, which means they don’t produce greenhouse gas emissions. According to the Victorian Government, road transport makes up for 12.7 percent of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, the use of electric cars and commercial vehicles could drastically reduce our carbon footprint. According to the Australian Conservation Foundation, “charging electric vehicles using sustainable renewable energy could provide carbon neutral travel, but also reduce toxic air pollution and noise. Imagine being able to open windows in buildings close to busy roads, reducing air conditioning use and increasing property values – all this becomes possible”. However, it’s important to consider that manufacturing any car produces greenhouse gas, and due to the large batteries in electric cars, the manufacturing process may produce more emissions than that of a conventional vehicle.
Easy to Charge and Maintain
One of the most convenient aspects of electric cars is that they can be charged from home. This means owners can simply drive home from work, charge them overnight and then leave in the morning with a fully charged car.
Regarding maintenance, all cars with combustion engines come with a long maintenance checklist, including checking and changing the oil, transmission, brake fluid, spark plugs, wires, timing belts, air filters and battery. All of these add up and increase the total cost of the vehicle. Electric cars, on the other hand, require significantly less maintenance, which makes them much cheaper to run in the long term (despite their higher initial costs).
According to FleetCarma, electric cars are safer than cars with internal combustion engines. Why? Because it is practically impossible for a battery powered car to explode on impact, and thanks to the heavy battery packs in electric cars, their centre of mass is much lower and they are less likely to rollover. Electric cars are also equipped with all of the safety features that are standard in vehicles, and many EVs exceed safety standards. Read more here.
Cons of Electric Cars
Despite the numerous advantages of owning an electric car, there are, of course, disadvantages that need to be considered. The potential cons of EVs include:
Limited Range and Charging Infrastructure
Most electric cars have a limit of about 80-200 kilometres until they need to be recharged. This means that it can be very difficult to take electric cars on long journeys, since – as of yet – there isn’t much public charging infrastructure available. This limited range contributes to something called ‘range anxiety’, which is the fear that an electric car will run out of battery before reaching an intended destination. There is a great app to make up for this lack of public charging facilities – it’s called PlugShare, and it’s a huge worldwide map of available charging stations (including chargers in people’s homes as well as non-residential charging bays).
Another potential issue with EVs is the length of time they take to reach 100% charge – up to 8 hours (which is fine for overnight charging… but not ideal for long journeys). Most new models, however, come with rapid charging capabilities.
In the coming years, the limited range and charging time of EVs is sure to increase, as will the availability of public chargers. For the meantime, if you plan on driving long distances in your car, we recommend sticking to a petrol car or considering a hybrid.
Higher Initial Cost
Electric cars cost more upfront than their gasoline or diesel powered counterparts. However, most EVs start to pay for themselves very quickly thanks to their fuel savings and lower maintenance costs. As we mentioned before, electric cars are set to become the overall cheaper option in the next 5 years, thanks to the “plummeting cost of batteries”.
Electric cars are quiet… perhaps too quiet. Some road users, such as pedestrians, cyclists and the vision impaired, rely on noise to know if a vehicle is approaching. Which is why the USA and Europe have made the addition of noise to EVs compulsory. In late 2016, the USA set in place the ‘Quiet Car Safety Standard’. Under this standard, all hybrid and electric vehicles with four wheels and a gross weight of 10,000 pounds (about 4500 kgs) or less will be required to make audible noise when traveling forwards or in reverse at speeds of up to 30 kilometres per hour. At higher speeds, artificial sound is not required because factors such as tire and wind noise provide adequate warning to pedestrians. Similar rules are also in place in Europe.
The future of EVs looks very bright, and technological advances are soon to rule out many of their disadvantages. If you’d love to help the environment and experience the benefits of an electric car, but don’t quite feel ready to commit to an all-electric vehicle, hybrids are a great compromise.