The first electric vehicle was introduced more than a century ago, debuting in Des Moines, Iowa, around 1890. The inventor was William Morrison, who worked full-time as a chemist. Morrison built a fully electric 6-passenger vehicle which could travel at a top speed of 14 miles per hour. That led to more innovation, with more than 60 electric taxis being introduced in New York City.
By 1900, one-third of vehicles sold in the United States were electric vehicles. Then the gasoline revolution arrived, and the power of fuel overtook the power of electricity. Only now are electric vehicles once again becoming a viable investment for the average family. About 3% of new vehicle sales each year involve an electric vehicle.
Here are some of the key pros and cons of electric vehicles to consider.
List of the Pros of Electric Cars
1. They offer a competitive driving experience to traditional fuels.
Electric cars offer an improved ride when compared to the traditional fuel-based engine. Because there is no combustion involved to create power, these vehicles are extremely quiet. The ride becomes very smooth, with fewer “hiccups,” or stalls, when shifting gears. At the same time, the driver has access to the same levels of power and acceleration, creating a similar driving experience.
2. They can be recharged at home.
With an electric car, you would never need to go to a fuel station or depot ever again. All you need to do is plug your vehicle into its charging inlet when you get it home. The process of plugging the vehicle into the charger is very quick, often 30 seconds or less for the average person. Then you have the ability to drive up to 300 miles, depending upon the model, with a full charge.
3. They are often cheaper to operate.
For the average electric vehicle owner, the cost of the electricity used to charge the vehicle is at least 25% less than the cost of fuel. Depending upon the owner’s geographic location, the type of electricity used, and if any home-based electricity is generated, the cost of fuel could be up to 33% less when compared to gasoline or diesel. EVgo, which is a leading supplier of charging stations for electric cars, currently offers a $0.20 to $0.35 per minute charging rate with a 45-minute session length.
There are fewer maintenance costs as well, as most electric vehicles don’t require an exhaust system or oil changes.
4. They offer fewer emissions than the standard vehicle.
The creation of materials for an electric vehicle has a similar fossil fuel cost when compared to the traditional fuel-based vehicle. Where the electric car has an advantage is with ongoing emissions. Because no fuel is being combusted by the car to produce power, there are no greenhouse gases produced with the vehicle operating. Using electricity from renewable resources would further cut down on the emissions cost of the vehicle.
5. They work with quick-charging technologies.
If you are traveling with an electric vehicle, then the presence of direct current quick chargers is a good thing. These chargers can add about 50 miles to the range of any electric vehicle in under 30 minutes. In 2018, a company called Electrify America announced that it was installing a number of these fast-charge stations at 100 Walmart stores in the United States. These stations would offer 20 miles of range per minute of charging.
6. They offer competitive lease rates.
If you’re thinking about owning an electric vehicle and you’re not sure about the higher capital cost of one, then consider a long-term lease instead. For households with a good credit score, usually 700 or higher, then a lease rate may be as low as $199 per month in some geographic regions. That rate is comparable to fuel-based vehicles and you’ll have fewer fuel and maintenance costs over the lifetime of the lease to pay as well.
7. They may offer health benefits to drivers.
The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences reports that noise exposure can cause a wide range of potential health problems. About half of the U.S. population has experienced an adverse health event because of their exposure to traffic noise. Issues range from hearing loss to heart disease. The interior of a fuel-based vehicle driving at highway speeds is about 70 decibels. In an electric vehicle, the interior is often below 40 decibels at the same speed. That noise reduction produces a potential health benefit for everyone around the vehicle.
8. They may offer a tax incentive for purchase.
The United States offers a federal tax credit of up to $7,500 per new electric vehicle purchased for use in the country. The size of the credit is dependent upon the battery capacity of the vehicle and its overall size. It may be a limited-time tax credit, as only 200,000 qualified cars from each manufacturer are eligible for the incentive. If you’re interested in this advantage for an electric car, then speak with your dealer about filling out Form 8936.
9. They may be safer when compared to traditional vehicles.
Unlike vehicles using combustion, it is almost impossible for an electric car to explode upon impact. The heavy battery packs for the vehicle lower the center of gravity for the car, which makes it less likely for it to roll over as well. Electric cars also have modern safety systems similar to fuel-based vehicles, helping all models exceed the current safety standards.
List of the Cons of Electric Cars
1. They have a limited range.
All electric vehicles have a limited range. Although some vehicles have a range of up to 300 miles, some vehicles have a range of just 80-100 miles. For rural homeowners, the use of an electric vehicle may not be feasible with that type of limitation. There are refueling stations being added across the country to support the growing fleet of electric cars, though most stations are centralized in urban areas, so there is still limited access.
2. They have a prolonged refueling time.
Charging an electric vehicle may be a convenient way to give your car power. It is also a very lengthy process that must be completed. For every hour of charging time that the average electric vehicle receives, it adds about 25 miles to its overall range – assuming that the power is coming from a 240v source. Compare that to a fuel-based vehicle that can have a range of up to 600 miles with a refill that only takes a few minutes and the limitations of an electric car become evident.
3. They have different plugs, which may limit recharging availability.
Every electric vehicle comes with a charging mechanism to allow its owner to refill its “tank” when the batteries are running low. When using a DC fast charger, not every connection type is fully compatible with modern charging rates. The CHAdeMO connections, for example, provide just 50kw of energy on a fast charger producing 350kw, which means you’d receive about 3 miles of additional range for every minute of charging.
4. They have a higher retail cost compared to fuel-based vehicles.
The average cost of an electric car in the United States fits somewhere between $30,000 to $40,000. When looking at the size of the average electric vehicle, they are comparable to the small or mid-size market for fuel-based vehicles. That means the cost of an electric car may be double that of a fuel-based vehicle in the same category. Even if tax incentives are available, the electric car requires a higher capital cost that may be difficult to recover through lower maintenance and fuel costs.
5. They offer fewer consumer choices.
Although there are 40+ electric vehicle options available on the market today, almost all vehicles that qualify as an electric car are either a pure compact or a mid-size sedan. There are innovations happening within the industry, with minivans, sports cars, and SUVs slowly being added to the ranks of offerings. When compared to the variety of options available in the fuel-based vehicle classes, however, the electric cars still have a long way to catch up.
6. They only offer incentives for AMT.
Some geographic regions may offer electric car incentives at the state, country, or community level. Since 2010, however, the purchase of an electric car creates a credit that can be applied toward the alternative minimum tax, or AMT, only. If you are not required to pay the AMT, then you would not gain a financial advantage with the offered tax credits that are currently in place. Before finalizing your purchase, be sure to review all rules and regulations in your area governing your purchase to determine option availability.
These electric cars pros and cons show us that we are returning to our roots in the automobile industry. Although this technology was quickly overcome by fuel-based technologies in the early 20th century, electrical power is making a strong comeback. By 2030, about 1 in 5 new vehicle sales could involve an electric car.
Blog Post Author Credentials
Natalie Regoli, Esq. is the author of this post and the editor-in-chief of our blog. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington and her Masters in Law from The University of Texas School of Law. In addition to being a seasoned writer, Natalie has almost two decades of experience as a lawyer and banker. If you would like to contact Natalie, then go here to send her a message.