Electric cars are one of the most popular lifestyle upgrades of the 21st century, but they come with advantages and disadvantages. The fact that electric cars are still relatively new technology means that there are some drawbacks to adopting the tech while it’s still being developed, but the benefits far outweigh them.
The benefits of an electric car are that it can be cheaper to operate, convenient, and more modern than conventional gasoline-powered vehicles. The downsides to electric cars are that they still have long charging times, expensive battery replacements, and a limited driving range.
If you’re trying to decide whether or not to purchase an electric car and you’re still on the fence, there are many factors to consider before you bite the bullet and make your final purchase. Read on to learn more about the advantages and disadvantages of investing in an electric car.
The Pros of Electric Cars
Electric cars have surged in popularity in recent decades as advances in technology have made them more convenient and feasible to use. There are a lot of benefits to consider when it comes to making the jump to an electric-vehicle. Even if you only purchase an electric hybrid, you can still take advantage of the pros that electric cars have to offer.
Electric Cars Have Low Operating Costs
Gasoline is getting more expensive, and the cost of electricity used to run an electric car is generally cheaper than trying to run the car on gasoline. For example, an electric Nissan Versa can operate for 100 hours on a single charge that costs nine dollars, while a gas-powered Nissan can only reach a mileage of roughly thirty miles per gallon. (Source: HowStuffWorks)
There isn’t just the cost of the gasoline itself to consider though. Thanks to smart device technology, electric cars can charge during specific times of the day (off-peak hours) to reduce the cost of utilities. Electrical use during these periods is cheaper than electricity that is used during peak usage hours.
Peak usage for electricity on the grid usually runs around ten in the morning until eight at night, but most electric cars are charged overnight on the home charging station while their owners are sleeping. This means that they’re being charged in off-hours when electricity is at its cheapest.
Other than charging, electric cars don’t have many other operating costs associated with them. Compare this to gasoline-powered cars which also require radiator fluid replacement, oil changes, and other service costs to keep running in good condition.
Electric Cars Are More Environmentally Friendly
Another major reason people are gravitating towards electric cars is that they’re considered more environmentally friendly than gasoline-powered vehicles. In the age of extreme climate change, more average citizens are considering their contribution to greenhouse gas emissions.
Here are just a few of the reasons why electric cars are considered more environmentally friendly than gasoline-powered cars:
- Electric cars produce much lower volumes of carbon dioxide compared to gasoline-powered cars.
- Electric cars can encourage energy conservation in other daily activities. Just the act of driving an all-electric vehicle makes the driver more conscious of their energy usage.
- Electric car usage leads to less poisonous materials escaping into the environment and local groundwater tables, such as antifreeze and motor oil.
- Electric cars are often constructed out of recycled and lightweight materials. This makes them less wasteful than conventional vehicles which are constructed out of new metals and heavier materials. (Source: Samsara)
If you’re interested in electric cars because you want to contribute positively to protecting the environment, they’re a great place to start. While the production and operation of electric cars isn’t perfect for the environment, it’s a major improvement over conventional vehicles.
Electric Cars Use Progressive Technology
For car owners who want a car that uses state-of-the-art smart device technology and other 21st-century amenities, an electric car is a good way to go. Many of these electric brands, such as Tesla, use specialized smart device software applications that allow an electric car to be operated and monitored remotely by its owner through their smartphone or tablet.
Digital natives who keep track of everything else in their lives on their phone will find it second-nature to use a smartphone app to perform some of the following for their electric car (Source: Screenrant):
- Remote start the vehicle or control it remotely to pop the hood, pop the trunk, open doors, or vent the windows
- Check to see what the vehicle’s remaining electric charge is
- Contact 24/7 technical support to make maintenance or repair appointments
- Set a custom speed limit on the vehicle
- Locate nearby charging stations/destination chargers
The digital aspect of owning an electric car introduces a lot of little quality-of-life improvements to the entire process of driving a car. From being able to heat your vehicle up in the driveway on a freezing winter morning to being able to leave the air conditioning on for your dog while you shop in the grocery store, there are a ton of things you can do with an electric car’s technology.
Electric Cars Have Low Maintenance Needs
For car owners who don’t want to deal with oil changes or other maintenance issues on a car, an electric car is a great advantage. Unlike conventional vehicles, with an electric car you’ll very rarely have to troubleshoot the battery, motor, or other electronics. Here are a few reasons why electric cars generally have lower maintenance needs than conventional cars:
- Less moving parts: The average internal combustion engine has dozens of moving parts, and that doesn’t even include all of the other mechanical parts in a conventional car design. In comparison, the design of electrical cars is much more streamlined. With less parts in action, there are less parts to break down and need repair.
- Less maintenance fluids: Electric cars don’t require motor oil or other conventional maintenance fluids.
- Less brake wear: Electric cars utilize regenerative braking technology, and this technology is unique to electric vehicles. Regenerative braking means that the car recovers kinetic energy and converts it back into electrical energy during braking or downhill actions. (Source: Science Direct) Regenerative brakes wear down more slowly than conventional brakes.
Even though electric cars do have maintenance needs like conventional cars, they tend to be much easier to take care of. There’s no need to do any kind of tinkering in your driveway, and you’ll save hundreds of dollars a year avoiding oil changes on an electric vehicle.
Electric Cars Have High-Quality Construction
Along with including some of the most progressive technology in the automotive market, electric cars also feature high-quality construction and materials in their design. This makes them lighter and stronger than many older gasoline-powered cars.
These are some of the common construction features that can act as an engineering advantage in an electric vehicle:
- Lightweight aluminum frame: The frame of an electric car (also known as a “space frame”) is composed of aluminum, which keeps the vehicle weight low while also acting as a sturdy skeleton against collisions.
- Composite polymer impact-resistant bodies: Most electric cars are constructed of impact-resistant plastics that absorb collision damage and displace it across the vehicle’s surface, leaving the car’s cabin intact. Another advantage of these composite plastics is that they’re easily recycled.
- High-pressure tires: The tires on electrical vehicles are designed to withstand high pressure inflation so that they roll more smoothly across the surface of the road. This cuts back on road resistance and increases the vehicle’s efficiency. (Source: MadeHow)
These and many other design improvements in the construction materials of electric cars make them some of the most sturdy and reliable vehicles on the road.
Electric Cars Have High-Quality Performance
Electric cars have a good performance record to match their excellent engineering. Tesla’s Model 3 is famously known as the safest car on the planet (Source: Ars Technica). However, the same design features that go into Tesla’s electric cars are also incorporated into many other brands and models as well.
Here are some of the best performance features of electric cars versus conventional gasoline-powered vehicles:
- Safety: Tesla’s electric cars lead the pack when it comes to safe construction and performance, but in all electric cars the lowset placement of the electric car battery tends to make the car very bottom-heavy. This is good news on the road since it makes electric cars resistant to being flipped over in an accident.
- Self-driving capability: Self-driving electric cars are still the very cutting edge of the electric car market, but they’re quickly becoming more popular. Self-driving cars are objectively safer than cars that are piloted by human operators. (Source: Interesting Engineering)
- Speed: While electric cars have a reputation for not having the “get up and go” of combustion-driven evhicles, advancing electrical car technologies eliminates this advantage. The Ludicrous Mode on Tesla’s electric Model X allows the car to go from 0 to 60 miles-per-hour in 2.5 seconds. (Source: Forbes)
- Quiet: Electric cars are noticeably quieter to operate than gas-powered cars since they don’t contain a combustion engine. This makes them a great choice for people who are sensitive to ambient noises.
When they were first introduced, electric cars did not have the same performance abilities as conventional cars. But as the technology and engineering in electric cars progresses, they are increasingly able to compete with gasoline-powered cars in performance as well as cost.
Electric Cars Earn Tax Credits and Rebates
Governments are encouraging citizens to phase out gas-powered vehicles and take up electric cars en masse to help fix environmental problems. Because of this encouragement, in many places the government offers significant tax credits and rebates to consumers who invest in electric car technology.
In the United States, IRS tax credits for purchasing an electric vehicle can run between $2,500 and $7,500 depending on the model of the vehicle and whether it is a plug-in electric car, a battery-operated electric car, or a hybrid model. (Source: EFile)
This means that even though you may have to pay the full cost for your electric car at signing, you’ll end up getting several thousand dollars returned to you at tax time as part of your tax return.
Electric Cars Get Special Highway Use
In many places around the country, driving an electric car can get you special privileges on the road. The High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) or carpool lane on major highways is usually reserved for cars with passengers, but electric cars are also allowed to use this lane as a reward for environmentally friendly practices.
On a practical level, riding in the carpool lane can help increase an electric car’s range. Because this lane is usually less crowded than the other lanes of the highway, there is reduced braking that negatively impacts energy consumption.
Electric Cars Can Be Integrated into Home Solar Power
For some electric car models, such as Tesla, the electric car is only one extension of a greater power-saving layout in the household. Installing a Tesla home energy bank allows car owners to charge their Tesla off their solar panels and solar battery capacity.
Using Tesla energy solutions at home as well as in your electric car makes it easy to charge your electric car seamlessly as part of your home power grid. Charging the vehicle off a solar panel means that you’ll end up paying much less for your car electricity over time.
Electric Cars Represent Resource Security
Having an electric car can represent a lot of resource security at the personal level, but when you’re considering the advantages of getting one, it’s a good idea to look at the bigger picture. Fossil fuels are a non-renewable resource and will eventually be depleted.
Any nation which doesn’t transition smoothly to electric power before peak oil consumption hits will go through significant resource deprivation once oil reserves grow low enough to impact supply and demand. Adopting electric car technology early helps reduce the international pressure caused by resource wars and other conflicts over oil.
The Cons of Electric Cars
While we’ve spent a lot of time in this article going over the many ways that purchasing an electric car can prove an advantage to your household, there are also some drawbacks to this technology. Most of the disadvantages of electric cars are due to the fact that this technology is still relatively new.
It Can Be Hard to Find Electric Car Charging Stations
Depending on where you live, finding a charging station to charge your electric car when you leave home can be a daunting task. While some people are lucky enough to live in areas with superchargers or destination charging stations, others may be restricted to the charging station in their home.
Because of the difficulty of finding outside charging stations, most electric car owners do 85% or more of their charging at home charging stations. But what if your home charging station breaks down? This can be a serious inconvenience if you’re unable to find other places to charge your car in the meantime.
Electric Car Batteries Are Expensive
Compared to batteries for conventional gas-powered cars, electric car batteries are very expensive to replace. Compared to the cost of replacing a conventional car’s battery, which typically costs a few hundred dollars in parts and repairs, electric car battery replacements can cost a whopping $5,000 to $10,000. You could purchase an entirely new vehicle for that!
Another disadvantage of electric car batteries is a fault in their design. Electric car batteries are formed of multiple battery cells linked together. If one of these battery cells goes bad, it can cause the other battery cells to go bad too.
There are a few ways that electric car companies combat this issue. Here are the biggest ones:
- Robust warranty policies: If your electric vehicle’s battery dies within the first several years of ownership, you can typically get it replaced for free or at a significant discount.
- Battery lifespan: Another way that this cost is diminished is in the lifespan of the battery itself. While conventional car batteries only last 3-5 years, electric car batteries are designed to last significantly longer: 10-20 years. This means while electric car batteries are expensive to replace, they may not ever need to be replaced during the car’s life.
- Charge control: Managing how much an electric car battery charges up and discharges can go a long way towards making sure that it doesn’t get worned out early by being overcharged. Smart technology makes electric batteries much easier to maintain.
Chances are you won’t have to replace your electric car’s battery during the time that you have it, but it’s important to be aware of the possibility if you’re considering buying one. Once an electric car battery goes out of warranty, the full cost of the battery replacement falls on the driver instead.
Electric Cars Are Still Expensive to Buy
Electric cars have gotten cheaper over the past decade, but that doesn’t mean that these cars are still a cheap option for purchase. While an operating gas-powered car can be purchased for just two or three thousand dollars, even the cheapest electric cars can cost five times that much. Even with rebates and tax credits, this puts them out of the budget for many people.
Electric Cars Have Long Charging Times
The average electric car takes just under seven hours to reach a full charge. (Source: Pod Point) This may not pose a problem for people who are charging their electric car on a home charging station. However, for people who are trying to drive their electric car long-distance, using supercharging stations or destination chargers can mean sitting at a charging station for hours.
The good news is that electric cars don’t require their batteries to be completely charged up whenever they’re charged.
For electric car owners who are in a hurry, they have the ability to “top up” the charge on their car battery to catch as much charge as they can before they have to leave. This may not give them their full driving range in the vehicle, but it can provide enough energy to get from Point A to Point B.
Electric Cars Have a Limited Driving Range
Compared to gas-powered cars, electric cars have a greatly reduced driving range. An average gas-powered vehicle can get between 400 and 500 miles on a single tank of gas, while an average electric car can only travel 100 to 200 miles on an overnight charge. (Source: Resources)
For many electric car owners, this isn’t a serious drawback to owning one. Most people want an electric car to get them back and forth to school or work, and most people travel within a 10-30 mile radius for their daily activities. So testing an electric car’s driving range to the maximum limits isn’t a serious concern for many drivers.
However, for drivers who had hopes of using their electric vehicle for a low-cost cross-country trip, it’s still possible. It’s just much more inconvenient to pull off than it would be with a gas-powered car. The necessity for destination chargers will restrict where you can stop and how far you can go on a given charge much more than stopping at a gas station would.
It’s Hard to Do Home Repairs on Electric Cars
If you’re a driver who has historically taken a hands-on approach to maintaining and repairing your vehicle, an electric car may leave you cold. Many of the digital components of an electric vehicle cannot be fixed by mechanics that aren’t certified in electric car repair. Attempting to repair an electric car in your own garage can quickly lead to your warranty being voided.
Another challenge to doing any kind of aftermarket modifications to your electric car is that there aren’t many aftermarket parts available for these vehicles that aren’t OEM compared to gas-powered cars. While you can find thousands of options for part replacement for conventional vehicles that have been on the road, electric car parts are harder to find.
Electric Cars Still Take Money to Operate
There is a big misconception among many drivers that an electric car can be driven for free or will completely pay itself off in comparison to a gas-powered car. The truth is that even if you’re using public charging stations, you’ll still have to pay a fee for electrical use. And if you’re using electricity from your own home, you’re just tacking on to your own utility bill.
Unlike solar panel power systems which can eventually pay for themselves over time, it will always take ongoing funds to operate an electric car.
Electric Car Batteries Use Rare Metals
While electrical cars are considered more environmentally friendly than gas-powered cars, there is one big environmental issue that is often looked over in electric car production: cobalt.
The biggest problem with the fact that cobalt is such a vital resource in the construction of electric car batteries is that this metal is mined under exploitative conditions for workers in third world countries. Like conflict diamonds, cobalt mining can lead to increased oppression of native communities.
Another challenge with the use of cobalt in electric car batteries is cobalt leaching during the refining process. As a heavy metal, cobalt can cause serious health problems such as respiratory distress for workers who work around it.
Luckily, the issues with electric car batteries are slowly being resolved with new technologies. New electric car batteries are focusing on battery technology that uses different metal combinations for batteries such as nickel-iron-aluminum and lithium-iron-phosphate cathodes. (Source: Fresh Energy) So hopefully this is a drawback of electric cars that will go away soon.
Electric Cars Offer Few Aesthetic Options
Most people don’t buy an electric car because of their aesthetic style, but the limited inventory of most electric car models and the limited number of color options available can be a bummer compared to the wide variety of colors and options available in conventional vehicles.
For example, when Tesla first started producing electric vehicles, these vehicles were restricted to only five color options. Newer models have increased this color range to nine options, but it’s still slim pickings compared to conventional cars. To add insult to injury, any color other than white in a Tesla electric car has a $2,500 surcharge. (Source: The Next Web)
This drawback is compounded by the fact that there are few aftermarket cosmetic options that are built with electric cars in mind. This can make it difficult for an electric car owner to personalize their car’s looks. Tesla is trying to combat this with a car-wrapping system so that owners can change the look of their Tesla electric cars, but it’s still a drawback.
Since one of the biggest complaints against electric cars is that they’re considered somewhat ugly compared to gas-powered cars, the inability to fix this problem with aftermarket modifications that work and fit well is a downside for people who like to decorate or modify their vehicles to change their aesthetics.
Electric Cars Aren’t for Everyone
You can see by now that while there are many pros to purchasing an electric car, there are also some drawbacks that need to be considered too. Electric cars are too big of a financial investment to jump into without knowing what’s involved. Look over your lifestyle and make sure that an electric car has everything you need before you commit to owning one.