Major manufacturer electric cars are entering their seventh year in the U.S. market and are gaining a foothold in part because they do offer distinct advantages.
More than half a million have been sold to date, nearly all automakers have more in the works, and with 200-mile-plus range models like the Chevy Bolt, Tesla Model 3, next Nissan Leaf, and others pending, their value is being recognized.
However there’s also been resistance as the wheels turn slowly in the public mindset, and given that so many interests are invested in the existing petroleum-based paradigm.
True also is EVs are not a slam dunk, the perfect proverbial mousetrap so that everyone is beating a path to their door. Plus, consumers are faced with wading through conflicting information, and must decide what’s best for their unique situation assuming they do get the straight truth.
Having said that, following are a few – if not all – clear-cut advantages battery electric cars have over the gasoline-powered variety.
These advantages could carry over to diesel cars too, but considering they are such a minority, and the VW diesel emission scandal has cut them from the market at this stage, we’re focusing on what most people buy.
Zero Tailpipe Emissions
Zero means no exhaust – nothing to pollute the air and adversely affect health, or add greenhouse gases to the environment. This is a clear-cut advantage over gas cars sold in the U.S. today averaging 26 mpg along with accompanying emissions. Even the best 38-56 mpg hybrids lag EVs, while also still emitting poisons into the air.
But there is no free lunch. EVs have to get the juice from somewhere, and it’s here you may see critics say aha, the “dirty little secret” of “clean cars.” Powerplants producing electricity emit into the air, and thus EVs only shift the burden upstream in the energy cycle.
These “upstream emissions” were never a secret however, and were always taken into consideration by regulators and those pushing the EV agenda. The EPA does let you calculate by zip code how an EV stacks up next to a conventional car, and otherwise, they in many cases do much better.
Policymakers still favor EVs. Why? For one, according to the U.S. EPA, powerplant emissions are easier to manage and make cleaner than millions of individual pollution factories (vehicle engines) on the road.
Secondly, the electric grids are getting cleaner year by year as the Union of Concerned Scientists’ now-two year-old chart shows. Actually, more recent data shows thanks to Americans’ preference for larger trucks and SUVs on the rise, the transportation sector has mildly surpassed the utility sector in greenhouse gas emissions. Both account for about one third of the total each.
EVs take an axe to this dilemma. And because powerplants are being regulated, and old plants are going off line as new sources come on, the picture gets better. The UCS showed In just two years from 2012 when it first did a map like the above to 2014, the number of Americans living in “best” regions increased from 45 percent to 60 percent.
EVs otherwise get the equivalent of 100-130 mpg, so their case was good from the start, and will only get better. Gas cars are better now as well, but those emission controls must be maintained and their upside potential is not close to as clean as a pure EV as the disparity only widens as we go.
EVs have fewer moving parts in their powertrains, and maintenance intervals are devoid of things like oil changes, spark plug replacement, and other services required by a complex internal combustion engine and transmission.
They also have regenerative braking which returns energy to the battery, and spares the friction brakes, so brake pad, rotor, caliper and other maintenance is less frequent typically, as well.
The battery is the more expensive component in EVs, and while it’s a corollary to the gas tank of a conventional car, if one compared it to the most-expensive component in a gas car, it is a trade-off between battery or engine.
Engines wear out, lose power over time, and so do batteries. The batteries in EVs are engineered to last the service life of the car, and costs are coming down however, even as complexity in advanced internal combustion powertrains is going up.
Leasing an EV also skips the concerns over resale value – and aside from Teslas, some EVs have dropped faster than conventional counterparts – but meanwhile the major cost of ownership – maintenance, appears to be a point in the EVs’ favor.
Quiet Drive, Instant Torque
In the days when the automakers’ art was being developed, people prized quiet cars, and paid extra for that experience. The most desirable nameplates up to the likes of Rolls Royce used to make the quiet smooth ride a chief selling point, and what a luxury it was.
Well, EVs give this at no extra charge, and what’s more they deliver power differently in a satisfying sort of way. Namely, their motors have full torque – the work energy – from 0 rpm. Press the pedal and they scoot.
Of course there are degrees. Tesla has gone batty with its Model S P100D wanting to show the world it can be quicker to 60 than a $2-million hypercar.
But even the new Chevy Bolt will jump from 0 to 60 mph in 6.5 seconds, and from 0 to 30 mph even more impressively in 2.9 seconds, comparing favorably to some performance hatchbacks and other cars people think of as relatively quick.
Its also has 238-miles EPA-rated range meaning your EV buying dollar itself is more than doubled range-wise compared to a similarly priced Nissan Leaf with 107 miles range.
The EV outlook is looking better from a consumer standpoint, and the Bolt is a first of more to come in a new era of less compromise than ever.
Depending on what state one lives in, as much as a third of a $30,000 EV’s price may be underwritten by state and federal subsidies. At the least, every EV is permitted a $7,500 one-time federal tax credit.
Gasoline cars are cheaper, but they get zip, and free money is OK. Some people object to that, and they are entitled to this, but this society otherwise has said it wants to reward and encourage EV adopters, so the authorities smile on it, even if others don’t.
State incentives unfortunately are spotty and the map is a patchwork quilt of the arbitrary haves and have nots. Numerous states offer $2,500 or more to add to your $7,500, assuming your tax situation permits it.
Bottom line: Several electric cars can be had at prices on par with a Toyota Prius. They do not have the long-range and quick fill-up capability, but within bounds of a local runabout, they are hard to beat, and who does not like free money?
You’ve heard of ISIS making at least $1-2 million per day from oil smuggling and sales revenues? Al-Qaeda? The terrorist threat, and other geopolitical concerns?
The other reason policymakers are pushing for zero-emission EVs is they send away zero dollars for energy costs to outside interests, some of which are not our friends.
An EV runs on 100-percent domestically sourced energy. It does not mean a payment to OPEC or any other interest which may have members who funnel monies to the enemies of the United States – or other countries in which you may be reading this.
They also speak of consumer choice, and say this society has had mono vision long enough. If you disagree, then buy a conventional car or hybrid, and enjoy it. If you see the reasoning as a small contribution toward fuel diversity and energy security, then you know what to do.
EVs are a solution for this need; they’re not only about the environment. Getting away from oil is also perceived security for you, your kids, and your kids’ kids (or if not yours, someone else’s).
It’s been said however intangible reasons like this don’t move people to open up their wallets very often all by themselves.
That’s fine, you’ve just been shown how energy security and freedom of fuel choice is bundled into direct payback benefits offered by EVs, as well.
But as always, the choice is yours.