Advantages and Disadvantages of Electric Vehicles12 min read22/03/2019
The advantages and disadvantages of electric cars always have the other side of the coin. While a specific benefit seems absolute, it can have some negative aspects, And vice versa, some drawbacks can potentially turn out to be a significant advantage in the long-term perspective. With these contradictions in mind, should you buy an electric vehicle (EV)?
Unlike conventional cars powered with internal combustion engines (ICEs), electric vehicles use electric motors to transmit energy at wheels. Instead of a fuel tank, EVs have Li-ion or other types of batteries to collect energy further used by their motors. To charge electric car batteries, drivers can use different types of charges that include standard 3-pin plugs, home wall box type 2 connectors, and CSS connection used by public charge points.
More and more drivers turn towards electric cars rather than ICE vehicles. In 2018, the total number of plug-in car sales across the U.S. reached the value of over 361,000 compared to about 200,000 in 2017 and less than 160,000 in 2016. The growing popularity of battery electric vehicles (BEVs) is a result of their recognized benefits.
According to the newest Euro 6 emission standard, today’s gasoline passenger cars may not produce more than 1 g/km of carbon monoxide. This value also equals to Euro 4 standards. With the typical mileage of 9,000 miles (15,000 km) per year, each European car manufactured in 2006 and later annually produce 15 kg of CO. One of the most significant environmental benefits of electric vehicles is that they produce zero CO2 and CO emissions, unlike ICE cars.
However, a study published by Scottish researchers from the University of Edinburgh shows an unpleasant statistics: running EVs release more hard particles into our environment than conventional vehicles because the former type of cars is heavier for 24%. In addition, the ways plants generate electricity for EVs aren’t that eco-friendly. You can read more about these negative aspects in our EV vs FCEV comparison.
When it comes to the cost to own an electric car, in the long-term perspective, it turns out EV to be a wise purchase. According to edmunds.com, ICE Golf will cost you another $12,000 within 5 years. This amount includes repairs, maintenance, and fuel (9,000 miles per year). With VW e-Golf, these factors have a minuscule influence. Within the same period, tires and electricity will cost you about $3,500.
Cost per mile
One of the most important advantages of electric vehicles over cars with internal combustion engines is that the former ones require no gasoline or diesel. Instead, they use electricity which is much cheaper than traditional fuel. According to Consumer Reports, driving ICE-powered Toyota Corolla will cost you almost $0.12 while Nissan Leaf cost per mile is only 3.5 сеnts. Moreover, you can charge your EV in your garage using a standard home socket.
In comparison with ICE vehicles, electric cars have few moving parts. They have no transmission, pistons, crankshafts, or valves. In total, EVs have only 20 moving parts compared to about 2,000 in gasoline-powered vehicles, according to Forbes. This theoretically reduces maintenance cost while decreasing the number of necessary visits to service stations.
However, battery electric vehicles still have the same parts conventional cars also have like brakes, suspension, and cabin air filters that require maintenance or replacing. In addition, EVs have the parts that are absent in ICE-powered cars, for example, a charge port and heavy batteries. Although, they’re hardly comparable to regular engine and transmission inspections and maintenance when it comes to traditional vehicles.
Regardless of ICE-powered supercars like Lamborghini or Ferrari capable of reaching out 60 miles per hour in a few seconds, EVs usually can accelerate faster than conventional cars. Due to the working principle of electric motors, EVs provide maximal torque available from the moment a car starts moving, also known as an instant torque, unlike ICE cars that need to reach out a specific number of revolutions per minute (RPM) to unleash the maximal torque.
That’s why automakers sometimes power a single car with an electric motor and internal combustion engine. This helps hybrid vehicles like Porsche 918 Spyder use the advantages of both types of engines and eliminate the torque delivery lag. While an electric motor releases the instant torque, an ICE retains it with the growing number of RPMs.
Furthermore, electric motors are more efficient than internal combustion engines. The US Department of Energy claims that electric vehicles convert three times more energy to power than conventional cars.
“EVs convert about 59%–62% of the electrical energy from the grid to power at the wheels. Conventional gasoline vehicles only convert about 17%–21% of the energy stored in gasoline to power at the wheels”, The US Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy
Electric motors usually are about 90% efficient. In other words, they convert almost all energy into power. The difference between the overall EV efficiency and separate motor efficiency lays in energy losses caused by battery charging and discharging processes as well as AC/DC conversion for particular electric cars.
With a conventional car, you can’t start your engine in the way nobody around hears the noise. In some scenarios, ICE noise can lead to undesired consequences. For example, if your garage is close to your house, you can wake your kids up in the morning when starting an engine to go to your work. Unlike internal combustion engines, electric motors are silent. Therefore, your motor noise will annoy nobody.
However, electric vehicles still make noise when running. Moreover, this noise is almost as loud as generated by ICE cars. The Norwegian Institute of Transport Economics published a study showing Electric cars to be 4-5 dB less noisy than similar conventional vehicles at low speed (about 19 mph or 30 km/h). With the growing speed, this difference disappears since the tire and road noise becomes dominant.
Despite the benefits of electric cars, they still have a few drawbacks. The most important disadvantages of electric vehicles include:
- long charge time
- a low number of charge stations
- decreased range under certain circumstances
- high BEV cost compared to ICE analogs
These drawbacks can affect drivers’ likelihood to purchase electric cars.
To fully fuel an ICE car, you need a few minutes. Furthermore, the overall fueling time is directly proportional to how much gasoline you need. In other words, if you need to fill up a half of your vehicle tank (about 6.5 gallons or 25 liters), it will take a couple of minutes. If you need a full fuel tank, then you will spend about 4 minutes. Unlike cars powered with internal combustion engines, electric vehicles need hours to get their batteries fully charged.
For example, it takes up to 17 hours to fully charge Volkswagen e-Golf using a standard 3-pin plug in your garage. So when you wake up in the morning after your working day, your VW batteries aren’t full yet. Public charging stations can significantly cut the total charge time. You can ensure the full range within 11 hours using a 3.6 kW supply or more than 5 hours with a 32 Amp and 7.2 kW supply.
However, some electric vehicles support 80% rapid charge that turns the time-consuming charging process into a relatively fast task. For example, e-Golf can get its batteries charged for 80% within 30 minutes with specific charging stations. Developers from Piëch Automotive took a step further and presented its superfast Mark Zero. This hypercar supports 80% charge in 4 minutes 40 seconds. Thus, it can recharge for 300 miles range in less than 5 minutes.
The lack of charging stations is one of the significant drawbacks each EV owner face. Drivers may use different mobile apps to learn all locations where they can charge their cars. Otherwise, batteries can become empty before they reach the closest charge point since the total number of chargers is significantly lower than gasoline stations. There are only 20,000 charge points compared to 122,000 gasoline stations in the US. That’s why electric car drivers have to wisely plan their trip before they get on the road.
However, the number of charging stations is continuously growing. According to Statista, the UK has over 18,000 charging stations compared to about 8,000 in 2014. This growth refers to all types of stations like normal 22kW chargers and Tesla Superchargers.
With this tendency, we will soon see much more electric cars on roads since the increase of charging stations is the key driver of EV adoption in the U.S. According to a survey conducted by Volvo, 61% of respondents say that more stations are the main factor that can encourage them to purchase an electric car,
The nominal range is no longer an aspect where traditional vehicles have an advantage over electric cars. Today’s EVs are supposed to travel as far as cars with internal combustion engines. Tesla Model S 75 D EPA range is 259 miles (416 km) on a full charge while my 2007 Mitsubishi Lancer 9 (Cedia) 2.0 AT can travel less than 250 miles (400 km).
However, electric car range is a value that depends on numerous factors like a type of battery, the use of an in-car infotainment system like Android Auto, enabling an air conditioner, speed, etc. With existing standards developed by dedicated organizations like Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), vehicle manufacturers strive to set as large numbers as possible within these rules. However, their presented values may significantly differ from real life.
How ice temperatures influence electric car range
|EV Driving Range, miles|
|Temperature/car||Tesla Model S 75 D||VW e-Golf||Nissan Leaf 2019||BMW i3S||Chevrolet Bolt|
|20ºF (HVAC off)||212||115||125||101||217|
|20ºF (HVAC on)||148||79||96||63||129|
One of the important factors that affect the range of electric vehicles is low temperature. In winter, an electric motor spends extra energy to heat batteries. In addition, low temperatures also reduce the battery capacity even with the motor turned off. The American Automobile Association (AAA) conducted a study to understand how weather can cut electric vehicle range with heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) enabled and disabled.
According to this report, with the temperature of 75ºF (24ºC), Tesla Model S 75D 2017 can travel 239 miles (385 km) in the combined cycle. At 20ºF (-7ºC), its range is 212 miles (341 km) and 148 miles (238 km) with HVAC disabled and enabled respectively. Therefore, if you want to drive your Tesla in winter without wearing your hat and gloves, then you should remember that you can overcome a shorter mileage by 38%.
Nissan Leaf and Volkswagen e-Golf have similar results. Cold weather reduced the range of Japanese electric car by 31% while the German hatchback could travel by almost 37% less than in spring. When it comes to BMW i3s and Chevrolet Bolt, things are even worse. Chevrolet has a 47% shorter range at 20ºF (-7ºC) with HVAC enabled. The range of BMW is 63 miles (101 km) with HVAC enabled compared to 127 miles (204 km) at 75ºF (24ºC) with an air conditioner turned off. Therefore, ice temperatures led to a more than 50% range loss.
One of the biggest challenges EV buyers face is that Li-ion batteries lose capacity over time. Engadget claims that Tesla provides no battery degradation warranty for its Model X and Model S, but the car manufacturer guarantees that Tesla Model 3 will still have 70% of capacity after 120,000 miles for its long-range battery and 100,000 miles for the standard range battery. Nissan offers a more modest battery lifespan warranty: 66% when Leaf’s odometer displays 100,000 miles.
However, EV buyer surveys show that warranties provided by car manufacturers are their life jackets they have “just in case”. In other words, real-life statistics is way better than the values mentioned in those documents. In the thread published on the Tesla Motor Club website, 350 Tesla car owners say that, on average, their batteries retain 95% of charging power after 50,000 miles and over 90% after 160,000 miles.
Electric vehicles remain much more expensive than similar cars powered with internal combustion engines. According to the official Volkswagen website, 2019 VW e-Golf costs about $32,000 or $39,000 depending on the package while the price of its ICE analog is about $22,000 and $24,000 respectively. Therefore, on average, you have to pay 50% more for an EV. However, this is true only for the initial payment. In the long run, EVs turn out to be profitable since you can save on fuel, maintenance, and repairs.
Furthermore, automotive industry experts suppose that prices of electric vehicles will dramatically drop in the next decade. Bryce Gaton from the Australian Electric Vehicle Association claims that such factors as spreading development costs, improving raw material supply chain, and growing EV production will significantly cut the prices in the close future.
“With a very mature supply chain to produce the resources and components cheaply, PLUS a century and more to spread the development costs over, plus tens of millions of units built per year to spread the supply chain and product development costs over, and you have the current situation of a super cheap mass manufacture system for building, selling and servicing ICE vehicles at the zenith of its reign”, Bryce Gaton, Australian Electric Vehicle Association (AEVA)
Electric cars will soon be as affordable as traditional vehicles. According to a report published by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), EV pricing will be comparable with the cost of ICE cars by 2024.
“The upfront cost of EVs will become competitive on an unsubsidized basis starting in 2024. By 2029, most segments reach parity as battery prices continue to fall”, Salim Morsy, BNEF
With decreasing prices of electric cars, their future looks very promising.
With the growing popularity of EVs, JPMorgan Chase expects cars powered with electric motors to be 30% of global car sales by 2025. These numbers include both BEVS and hybrid cars. When it comes to the EV vs ICE comparison, their research also shows that conventional vehicles have poor perspectives in the next decade since plug-in hybrids, battery electric vehicles, and full/mid hybrids will conquer the automotive industry with their EV market share of 59% by 2030.
That’s why car manufacturers should expand their offerings by developing new EV models involving BEVs, PHEVs, and mild hybrids. Some automakers have already started implementing their EV strategies buy introducing electrified SUVs like Jaguar I-Pace and Audi e-tron. Volvo also claimed about their electrification plans. The Swedish manufacturer forecasts 50% of Volvo cars sold by 2025 to have electric motors. They state that their new models introduced in 2019 and later will be electrified.
Therefore, the automotive industry is experiencing a profound transformation. The next decade will definitely bring more changes to the sector than ever before within the current century. Our transport will look, run, and sound differently. With being eco-friendly in mind, automakers will create more cars with zero CO and CO2 emissions. The automotive future has already come and it seems to be blue and silent.