like almost anything in life, electric cars have their pros and cons. You can expect a site like PluginCars.com to generally promote EVs as having, on balance, a lot more benefits than shortcomings—but that doesn’t mean we can’t offer an honest assessment of the pros and cons of cars that use electricity rather than petroleum. Here it is, short and sweet.
Quiet and Quick
It only takes one ride in a battery-powered car to understand the improved ride quality of an EV compared to a vehicle using a petroleum-powered internal combustion engine. An electric car is very quiet and very smooth. It makes most regular cars seem clunky and outdated. What surprises people more is the high torque (axle-twisting power) offered by EVs. Step on the accelerator and power is delivered immediately to the wheels, providing an exhilarating driving experience.
Imagine never going to a gas station again. All you have to do is pull into your garage or driveway, reach over for a plug, and push it into the charging inlet. It’s very convenient and takes all of about 15 seconds. Wake up the next morning, and you have a car ready to go another 200-plus miles. That’s plenty for everybody except interstate travelers. (The charging task can be more difficult for people living in condos and apartments, but access to multi-family and workplace charging is improving every day.)
Cheaper to Operate
In most parts of the world, electricity is ubiquitous and cheap—with a big cost advantage over petroleum. Given the considerable efficiency of electric cars compared to internal combustion models, the cost per mile to fuel an EV is approximately one-third to one-quarter the cost of gasoline (on a cost per mile basis). And because electric cars don’t have exhaust systems and don’t need oil changes, maintenance costs are reduced. To maintain an electric car, just rotate your tires and keep them properly inflated.
No Tailpipe Emissions
Nearly all credible researchers believe that electric cars, even in coal-dependent regions, have a smaller environmental impact than conventional vehicles. In regions with a strong grid mix of renewables—such as hydro, wind, and solar—or for electric car drivers with home solar, the emissions benefits are dramatic. You can expect some analysts to argue the opposite. But it's incontrovertible that EVs don’t have a tailpipe and therefore provide a real benefit to improving air quality for you, your family, and your community.
It’s everybody’s cool EV term: Range Anxiety! It stands for the worry that occurs because popular electric cars have between about 125 and 300 miles of range, and take hours to fully refuel. EV advocates will argue that even 100 miles of range is plenty for most driving. As a result, nearly all electric car drivers rarely if ever experience range anxiety. It’s also true that the range and cost of electric car batteries are incrementally improving every year so that 200-plus mile EVs are now the norm. Still, for long highway road trips, you need to properly plan to assure that routes are within range (or allow for a time to recharge).
Long Refueling Time
Concerns about range are closely tied with issues related to how long it takes to refuel an electric car. EVs commonly can add about 20 to 25 miles of range in an hour of charging from a 240-volt source of electricity. So, while you can’t run down to the gas station and add a couple of hundred miles of range in five to 10 minutes, and while many road trips are not advisable, drivers putting typical amounts of miles on their cars will not be impinged by recharging times measured in hours—as long as they remember to plug in before going to sleep. (One other factor: public DC Quick Chargers are getting faster every day. A new generation of public chargers, rated at between 150 and 350 kilowatts, will allow adding 100 to 200 miles of range in about 15 minutes. That's nearly as fast as a gasoline fill-up.)
The current crop of electric cars are mostly priced between $35,000 and $45,000. That makes EVs more expensive than comparably equipped small to midsized gas-powered vehicles. However, cost comparisons usually fail to consider a number of factors, including incentives often valued at $10,000; competitive lease rates as low as $199 a month; lower maintenance costs; and a luxury feel and amenities that far exceed what’s found in those cheaper gas models.
Lack of Consumer Choice
In the past, the plug-in electric vehicles on the market consisted mostly of compact pure electric cars and midsize plug-in hybrid sedans. With the entire automotive market now favoring crossover SUVs, carmakers producing EVs are targeting the hot market for small utility vehicles. As a result, the offerings now span the entire market from compacts like the Fiat 500e and BMW i3 to the seven-seat Tesla Model X and Chrysler Pacifica plug-in hybrid minivan. Several major automakers have set aggressive goals of releasing a dozen or more new plug-in models in the coming years, promising electric models in nearly every segment. Unfortunately, the style of some popular EVs is polarizing. You either love it or, if you hate it, you hold off on purchasing an electric car. Yet, the trend is to offer electric versions using mainstream attractive designs rather than oddball, futuristic styles.