Electric Cars: Do They Suck?

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Electric Cars: Do They Suck?

Photo Courtesy of https://bit.ly/2FNsKbi

Photo Courtesy of https://bit.ly/2FNsKbi

Photo Courtesy of https://bit.ly/2FNsKbi

Chris Uustal, Staff Writer

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Short answer, not really, and they’re actually fairly good with some quirks. Long answer, it’s complicated.

The biggest fear that most people immediately develop when someone mentions moving to an electric car is range anxiety, the term given to the fear of running out of electric miles and becoming stranded somewhere on the road without the ability to charge one’s car. When electric cars first came out, this was a very real and reasonable fear, as there wasn’t much if any charging infrastructure set up throughout the majority of the United States. However, this has drastically changed in recent years; there are now nearly fifty thousand electric charging stations throughout the nation, with larger concentrations near larger, more metropolitan areas and an even sprinkling throughout even the least populated portions of the nation. At this point in time, there are enough electric charging stations that any EV (Electric Vehicle) with at least 200 miles of range could drive to anywhere in the United States without fear of being out of range of an electric charging station. However, this fear also stems from a component to powering electric cars which is inherently different from gas-powered vehicles: charging at home. Unlike gas cars which require a weekly trip to the gas station to fill up, electric vehicles can be charged at your house every night when you get home without having to make the special trip out somewhere to charge. Many individuals express concern that they live in an apartment building so they won’t be able to charge at home, but many apartment complexes have made the move towards installing EV charging stations to accommodate these users. While it is worth noting that not all chargers are made equal, with some charging as slowly as a few miles per hour and others charging at nearly 1,000 miles per hour, this still provides the easy opportunity to charge a vehicle while you are spending your hours at home. People usually follow this up by asking about road trips, saying that it makes trips impractical and sometimes even impossible. However, I would contend that most people don’t honestly go on enough road trips for that to be a legitimate excuse, but regardless it has gotten better and will only continue to get better year after year. Admittedly, it does require a fair degree more planning beforehand to find electric vehicle charging stations to stop at along the way while you can stop and potentially eat some food or take a bathroom break, but certain vehicles like Teslas now have built-in guidance systems based around stopping at charging stations as needed during long road trips. This means that, though it is a bit of an inconvenience now, you can just as easily make a road trip using an electric vehicle (with a reasonable range) as any other gas vehicle. The other stipulation I will say is fair is that if, for some reason, you need to drive as fast as possible as far as possible without stopping for more than a few minutes, then yes, currently gas cars still hold the title in that category, but otherwise electric vehicles have all but caught up.

In terms of performance, there’s little not to like about electric. At the absolute bottom of the barrel in terms of vehicle performance with an electric motor you have cars like the Plug-in Prius and the first generation Chevy Volt which were, admittedly, very average in terms of performance, basically only keeping pace with your average gasoline-powered economy cars. However, anyone stepping up to a newer electric vehicle in the upper economy to the entry premium space, like a Chevy Bolt, Tesla Model 3, or an Audi e-tron, will immediately find the difference to be night and day. The instantaneous torque provided by an electric motor provides for levels of acceleration at low and even higher speeds that will shock even the wildest of car enthusiasts. Combined with the fact that electric motors only have one gear and don’t have to deal with gear shifting, this means that electric cars can accelerate linearly and consistently, making driving them often times more stable and more consistent at any speed while certain internal combustion engines may struggle when off their power band. Many owners, myself included, find them to be much more enjoyable to drive on anything from a straight road to a winding back road because of this cleaner, more controlled feeling to the vehicle. If you’re someone who has driven a stick shift as compared to an automatic before and enjoyed it, I’m told the difference in the feeling of control is similar. When it comes to the true premium end of the spectrum, electric cars dominate some of the spots for the fastest cars in the world, with vehicles like the Tesla P100D, Rimac Concept 2, and Porsche 918 Spyder (a hybrid vehicle), and coming Tesla Roadster taking some of the top spots for linear acceleration. The only real disadvantage of electric vehicles is the top end due to some sciency thing called “back emf” or counter torque, with most struggling to accelerate past 130-150 mph as compared to a gasoline-powered counterpart which may be able to exceed 150 with ease. When it really comes down to it, electric cars will be able to beat anything but the highest of performance gasoline-powered cars on any road that you would be driving on, giving it another wholehearted recommendation from me.

Though there are plenty of upsides to electric cars, there is also one downside: repairs. While most electric cars don’t break down as much as their gasoline-powered counterparts due to less moving parts and greater simplicity to their construction, they can be quite a pain and quite expensive when they do need a repair of some sort. Specifically looking at a company like Tesla, not only are the repairs expensive, they can take weeks if not months to replace or repair things that would only take a couple of days for even a common luxury brand car like a BMW or Audi. This obviously also ties into the battery pack, something that many people fear will degrade aggressively over time like their phone battery does. On a positive note, these electric car batteries do not decay at nearly the same rate as something like the battery in your phone would, with even the worst case cars only degrading by 10%-15% over a lifetime of a half decade or more. However, having some form of damage to the battery pack of an electric car is going to be quite cost prohibitive, leaving two points of failure to an electric car, the battery pack and the engine, as compared to a gasoline powered car where the only massive failure point is the engine. While many companies like Tesla offer a massively long span of coverage for battery packs, this is still something to consider if you’re searching for a car you intend to use for over a half-decade. It is also worth mentioning that, at present, electric cars have some of the highest rates of depreciation of any cars due to the rapid advancement of technology in the space presently. While premium brands like Tesla have been able to avoid this to a degree, more economy based options like the Nissan Leaf and the Chevy Bolt come in with the lowest value retention rates, making electric cars a bad option if you look at your vehicles as an investment opportunity.

Many have expressed a concern that the actual environmental impact of electric cars may not be as positive as many contend due to the environmental costs of producing the battery pack. However, based on production and consumer averages, it appears that any electric car with a smaller capacity battery pack (50 miles and under) will begin to surpass its economy gasoline counterpart in terms of environmental efficiency within approximately 18 months. When stepping up to some of the largest battery packs available (300+ miles), the situation does turn around a little bit, with electric vehicles taking nearly 4 years of usage to surpass its gasoline counterpart. Essentially, if you’re looking for the most environmentally conscious car the present, the best solution is the smallest battery pack electric car you can use comfortably.

All in all, electric cars are a great alternative for most people. If you’re someone who intends to go on massive road trips on the regular or you truly live in the middle of nowhere with no charging options, then no, an electric vehicle is likely not for you. However, if you’re someone who drives a normal distance to school/work/otherwise every day and has some form of driveway or parking garage to be able to charge your car every day at home, electric cars can provide a high-performance alternative that even gives a helping hand to the environment too.

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