The pros and cons of electric vehicles

Largely fueled by government regulations, the electric vehicle (EV) segment is growing on a regular basis in many markets around the world. Most carmakers are developing at least a couple of battery-powered models, and many already have at least one in their portfolio. If you’ve never driven an electric car, let alone owned one, there are a few things to keep in mind before giving up gasoline for good. Here are the pros and cons of living with an EV.

Pro: They’re cheaper to maintain

Electric cars are considerably more expensive than comparable battery-powered models, but you’ll spend less money to keep one on the road. They’re built with fewer moving parts, which reduces the likelihood of something breaking. Plus, the regular maintenance your gasoline-powered car needs to run smoothly (oil changes, fluid flushes, and the like) is no longer necessary. The biggest expense with EVs is the eventual need for a battery replacement, which will come with a four-digit price tag. Still, you should be able to get many miles out of your EV before that becomes an issue.

Oil changes, fluid flushes, and the like are no longer necessary.

Con: Finding electricity and generating enough of it

While charging your EV is easier than ever, the charging station infrastructure is still hit or miss in many areas. Tesla has spent billions of dollars developing its own network, but it still doesn’t have enough, which forced it to limit the time customers can charge in a single stop at its Superchargers. Other third-party providers are stepping up in the meantime, including Electrify America, but demand seems to be outpacing supply.

Electrify America charging stations

If there are not many charging stations nearby, you’ll want to add a plug at home. That’s not a simple job, however, as your vehicle requires 220V power to charge quickly and efficiently. Rewiring your home for this may run into the thousands of dollars, adding to your already high startup costs.

Electricity generation is another issue. Analysts warn that the electricity use by EVs may strain the power grids in some areas if action isn’t taken to increase generation capacity. However, it will probably be five to 10 years down the road (if not longer) before this becomes an issue.

Pro: They’re quiet and quick

Have you ever been in an electric vehicle? It’s a completely different experience from riding in a regular car. The lack of any engine noise — just wind and road noise — might take some getting used to. Some EV-makers, like Jaguar, have even added fake motor noises to make the car sound more traditional from the inside, but we like cruising in soothing quiet.

Those who appreciate more spirited driving will undoubtedly find an EV very fun to take zero to 60.

Either way, they’re quick. Put your foot on the accelerator, and an electric car will take off faster than many gas-powered cars on the road. That’s because all of the torque is immediately available to the wheels. And, in many models, the brake energy recuperation technology means you can slow down without using the brake pedal.

Con: The fun doesn’t last long

While it might be fun to launch your EV off the line and really put it through its paces, you’ll also significantly limit your range by always flooring it. In everyday driving, the most affordable EVs might offer as little as 150 to 250 miles of range (especially older models). To get longer ranges that are more comparable to a gas-powered vehicle, you’ll spend considerably more. Even then, the best cars still deliver a driving range typical of an average gasoline tank.

This means you might spend a lot of time planning your routes rather than throwing an address into your GPS and getting on your way. If your route’s long enough, you’ll need to factor in recharging time and the locations of charging stations, too. That might take some getting used to.

Pro: They’re truly zero-emission vehicles

While hybrid owners sing the praises of their vehicles, the cars still rely quite a bit on the gas-powered portion of the drivetrain for forward momentum. EVs, on the other hand, produce no emissions at all. Also absent are oil, antifreeze, and other fluids. Yes, the batteries do pose a potential environmental issue down the road, and they’re often manufactured using minerals that need to be mined in conditions that are sometimes dubious, but the industry is already at work figuring out ways to recycle used EV batteries.

Con: The electricity you charge with may be problematic

Depending on where you live, the electricity you use to charge your EV is fairly likely to use “dirty energy,” those types of power sources that pollute the most. Even in states where renewable energy makes up the largest portion of energy usage, it’s only 20%. That means that, in an indirect way, your car is still contributing to pollution.

There is the possibility, however, that some charging stations might provide a cleaner alternative. A company called Envision Solar is starting to test a 100% renewable energy charging station, and over time, we should see more. For the foreseeable future, though, EVs will still need to rely on traditional sources to charge up.

Pro: They’re good cars to lease

EVs are generally quite expensive. This makes purchasing one somewhat difficult for most consumers who can’t fork over a large down payment. Leasing is a good option, and you won’t have to deal with depreciation.

BMW i3

Con: There isn’t a very large selection — yet

Electric vehicles remain a niche part of the automotive industry, representing 2% of new car sales in 2019. The segment will grow significantly in the 2020s, but it’s small as of 2020. Most carmakers have focused on a single EV instead of a whole range, like Tesla is doing. This means that you have few to choose from in the end. Generally, the options we’ve seen have either been crossovers or SUVs. Pickups are around the corner, though, as are sedans, station wagons, coupes, and even a handful of sports cars.

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