Electric vehicles may be the hot new thing in automotive tech, with tons of potential and expected expansion in the future. New chargers, batteries, and autonomous driving technology is paving the way for the future of transportation, but are these cars all they're cracked up to be?
What Are the Benefits of Electric Cars?
Those who are looking to make the jump from gasoline to electric cars usually settle on a few reasons.
Saving on Maintenance Costs
Without an engine, there are far fewer moving parts in an electric vehicle compared to a gas car. Each one of those moving parts is one less thing that can go wrong within the car, plus there is no need for oil and oil changes when driving an electric vehicle. Though you do still need coolant and transmission fluid. Anyway, maintenance on electric cars is much more affordable than that of gas cars.
No More Paying for Gas
The typical driver in the United States spends about $5,000 annually on gas and approximately two hours a year at the gas station. By switching to an electric vehicle, drivers could save both time and money since they can charge their car at home without the need for a gas pump. Plus, the average cost of charging an EV is only around $300 per year, significantly less than fueling a gas-powered car.
Electric vehicles are known for their near instant acceleration. As a gas car may need a few seconds to start really delivering power, an EV is able to send juice directly to the motors almost instantly. A Ferrari 296 GBT hits 0-60 in 2.9 seconds. A Tesla Model S Plaid hits that same speed in 1.9 seconds, a full second faster than a $300,000 Ferrari. Of course you may not see that kind of performance in a Nissan Leaf or a Chevy Volt, but many electric cars can outperform their gas equivalents.
Better for the Environment
It's true that electric vehicle batteries are difficult to manufacture, and require a significant amount of mining to get the materials necessary for production. However, electric cars produce no emissions while driving under any conditions, which over the lifetime of the car, and when considering the amount of electric cars on the roads today, that amount of energy required for production is more than made up for.
It's the Future
Electric vehicles are here to stay. California is planning to phase out the sale of new gas cars by 2035, and entire countries such as Canada have similar plans. By being a part of the change now, you can stay ahead of the curve and be more comfortable with that change when it inevitably comes. Given the life expectancy of an electric car – around 15 to 20 years – that may be only one car's life removed for buyers now.
Are Electric Cars Better for the Environment?
The short answer is Yes.
The long answer is a bit more complicated than that. Batteries are hard to make, and require some materials that can be difficult to find.
Lithium, one of the main ingredients in a lithium ion battery, is of course needed. People who live near lithium mines in areas such as Australia – which has the world's largest lithium mine – Chile and Argentina say since mining has ramped up, droughts have as well. Mining may be to blame for the change in weather in the surrounding area.
Some say that too much fresh water is required for the mining process, while others say that salt water is exclusively used. There is still a lot of mystery that surrounds the lithium mining industry, and it's impact on the environment all around the world.
Others say that once the car is assembled, it spends the next two decades not outputting any emissions, and that is better overall, despite the mining. It can be a difficult thing to quantify, and as mining for lithium continues with the growth of the EV market, we will eventually see just how much the cars on the road have been contributing to the changing environment.
How Do Electric Cars and Gasoline Cars Compare?
For the most part, electric and gas cars operate the same way. The main difference of course is that one runs off of an internal combustion engine, and the other operates using a battery.
Are EVs as Affordable as Gasoline Cars?
The average price of a new car hit a record high in the United States in 2023, at just over $48,000. Since 1935, the average price of a car has increased by about 2.3 per cent per year.
As of August 2022, the average price of an electric vehicle was $66,000. That is nearly $20,000 more than a gas car.
It's critical to remember though that EVs are still relatively new technology, and often comes with more bells and whistles than their gas powered counterparts.
Are EVs as Fast as Gas Cars?
Both gas and electric cars can keep up with the speed limits on any highway in America. In fact, the road car with the fastest 0-60 is said to be the upcoming Tesla Roadster, which will hit the mark in 1.9 seconds. Though this car is not yet available for sale, Tesla's other cars are nearly as quick as the Roadster.
How Does EV Range Compare to Gas Cars?
This is where things swing in the gas car's favor. The average gas car range in the US in 2022 was 413 miles. Meanwhile, the average EV in 2021 could only drive 217 miles, just about half the distance of the gas car.
That type of range is still difficult to use on a road trip, or anything that requires a significant amount of driving, especially in more rural areas that may not have developed a reliable charging network yet.
For those curious, the Lucid Air can drive 516 miles on one charge, though that version of the car comes in at $250,000.
What Is the Future of Electric Cars?
The future of EVs is bright, with charging stations expected to gain popularity and be more accessible in the coming years, and with many countries planning on phasing out gas powered cars.
Are There Enough Charging Stations?
There are currently 160,000 EV charging stations in the United States, with experts suggesting there may be a need for as many as 700,000 chargers by 2030.
Currently, there are approximately 16,000 Tesla Superchargers, 126,000 Level 2 chargers, and 20,000 Level 3 chargers available for electric vehicle owners.
Is EV Charging Fast Enough?
That question depends on what type of charger you use.
Level 1 chargers, the type that comes standard with EVs when you purchase them, are designed to plug into 120v outlets. Those typically take as much as 20 hours to charge an electric vehicle.
Level 2 chargers are available for purchase and installation at home, but require a 240v outlet – the same type that a clothes dryer would plug in to. Level 2 chargers can usually charge a typical EV battery from 0-80 in about eight hours, making them excellent choices for those who leave their cars plugged in overnight.
Level 3 chargers, or a DC fast chargers, are not meant for residential use and are more akin to gas stations. These chargers can fill a car's battery from 0-80 in as little as half an hour. These are usually found in major city centers or along popular highway stretches, just as gas stations would be.
Are EVs the Greener Choice?
Generally, EVs have a lower overall carbon footprint than their gas counterparts, but a larger upfront impact on the Earth due to mining. The batteries that EVs operate on require precious chemicals and elements that are difficult to get out of the ground, but they produce virtually no emissions – other than the electricity from charging – over their lifetime which could be up to two decades.
Is the Grid Ready for Us to Switch to EVs?
Some experts believe that EVs will make up as much as ⅓ of all new cars sold in the US this year. With all those extra batteries comes the extra strain on the power grid.
But saying "the grid" doesn't really get to the root of the problem, there are several grids across the US that need to be prepared.
The Energy Department conducted a study in 2019 that suggested that the US is ready to support a growing number of EVs, but it depends on when those cars are being charged. If everyone comes home from work and immediately plugs in their cars, that will put more strain on the grid than everyone charging at different times. As it stands, if people varied when they charged, as many as 80 million EVs would be able to be supported.
And there are only expected to be 26 million EVs on the road by 2030.
Electric vehicles are here to stay, and may take over gas cars in popularity in the near future. While this transition may come with some challenges for consumers, there is ample evidence indicating that manufacturers are committed to promoting and supporting electric vehicles for the long haul.