Today we’ll go through the benefits of owning an electric car. In fact, we’re going to do much more than that. To explain how electric cars can benefit you, we need to explain where modern electric cars stand and how bright the future is for these vehicles.
That’s why you’ll find this page in several sections that each tackle the following topics:
- The current situation with electric cars
- How to find the best electric car
- The benefits of an electric car
- The disadvantages of an electric car
- Whether you should go with an electric or hybrid vehicle
- The future of electric cars
If any of those sections pique your interest, you’ve found yourself in the right place. Note that this guide isn’t just taking a look at how electric cars can benefit you, but we also compare electric cars to Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicles.
You can weigh all the options and make the change from gas to electric if it’s better for you. We’re assuming you’re in the USA too, so most of our research is based on the EV industry in the USA.
Where possible and relevant, we have linked to research or supporting articles that have more information on some of the topics we’ve covered today.
While this guide covers all you need to know about the benefits and disadvantages of electric cars, it provides you with a wealth of information relevant to EVs and their ICE alternatives. Let’s start by asking a question – What is the current situation with electric cars in the 21st Century?
Electric Cars in the 21st Century
The future of sustainable, electric-based technology is looking pretty bright but chances are, you’re looking to get an electric car soon. This means we need to look at the state of electric cars right now, in the 21st Century.
As you may have expected, electric cars are growing in popularity across the years. According to the International Energy Agency’s 2020 report, we know the following about the state of electric vehicles today:
- 2018 was a record year for electric car sales (possibly due to the release of the Tesla Model 3 line).
- 2019 surpassed 2018 in car sales, topping at 2.1 million globally.
- 90% of EV sales take place in the United States, Europe, and China.
- China leads in electrifying bicycles and buses for public transport.
- The new US administration is seeking to legislate in favor of EVs going forward.
- It is estimated that electric cars will have accounted for 3% of global car sales in 2020 and more by the end of 2021.
So, things are looking great for electric vehicles right now and they’re only looking to improve as we move further into the 2020s.
That’s great but there’s an important factor here that’ll determine whether the average person decides to take the leap from ICE to EV, and that’s price. Price sensitivity is often the main buying factor for the consumer car market and so it’s important that electric vehicles be affordable and convenient.
Data from Cox Automotive shows that the average price of EVs has dropped from $64,300 to $55,600 in 2019. That’s a decline of about 13% and, just like the IEA stats above, a large slice of that market (80%, in fact) is taken up by Tesla.
As Tesla has moved to bring electric vehicles into the mainstream, they’ve made a point of offering their cars for less than $40,000. That’s almost half of the price of Audi’s new electric offerings.
But that was 2019, and we all know that 2020 was a very different year for everybody, so how did the events of 2020 shape the EV and ICE industries? The standard car industry suffered from the initial COVID pandemic with the average car price crossing $40,000, a threshold CNET describes as “nuts.”
Unlike many other industries, the electric vehicles market only exceeded expectations. Once again, the IEA has us covered for data on the market reaction to COVID. Here are the main points:
- As expected, sales contracted at the start of the pandemic by approximately 14%.
- After that, 2020 broke the record for EV market share by hitting 4%.
- For context, that’s a 40% increase in global sales from the 2019 figure above.
- While initially paralyzed with 15% lower car sales, the EV markets of Europe and China contributed to the most growth and increased their EV markets.
As can be expected, the price of electric vehicles rose in 2020 as the market boomed. Market watchdog Indicata found that the price of the average used electric car market rose by 22%. This boom hit $18,700 in the second quarter of 2020.
There are a few things to note here, mainly that these are British numbers but, given Europe’s breakthrough in the EV market in 2020, we have more figures pertaining to Europe’s market reaction than America’s so far.
The takeaway here is that the EV industry survived COVID and then some. This is a double-edged sword, of course, since some electric cars increased in price because of the pandemic but that’s because of growth, which is great for the EV community in the long run.
In all, the COVID-19 pandemic also seems to have raised awareness of climate concerns and other environmental issues. Along with this, we’ve seen some high-profile advocacy to change from ICE to EV after the pandemic, and it has been hailed as a turning point for the EV market.
Internal Combustion Engine vehicles, on the other hand, seem to have taken a substantial hit. In the UK, ICE car sales hit the lowest figures since 1992 and the Tesla Model 3 was the country’s best-selling car in December 2020, beating out ICE alternatives.
The US ICE industry wasn’t as impacted as the European industry and 2030 seems to be the year to watch for an inflection point in the EV industry for adoption.
Why? This is why:
- Lang Marketing predicts 36 million more ICE vehicles on US roads in 2030.
- The Boston Consulting Group expects that the EV industry is expected to overtake the ICE market in 2030 with a 51% market share.
- Bernstein Research associates have identified that Europe and China are ahead of the US in pushing for EV market dominance.
- Statista estimates that European ICE sales will fall below 10 million units in 2030, with the US following behind.
- This is all in the context that European countries like the UK, France, and the Netherlands want to ban fossil fuels by 2030.
That’s the state of the EV industry globally so far. Whether the 2030 predictions pan out, or any legislative action is taken, is yet to be seen. We’ve talked more about that towards the end of this guide.
That’s enough data for now. You may be wondering how you as an individual can find your ideal electric vehicle.
Finding the Perfect Electric Car or SUV, Pickup Truck
The surest way to find the best electric vehicle is to learn what you’re buying. Here are the four things that you should be considering when buying an electric vehicle.
- Where you can buy EVs.
- The Type of EV.
- The cost.
- EV manufacturers.
Where to Buy EVs
You buy electric vehicles in the same way you’d buy ICE cars, so this shouldn’t be much of a problem.
Whether it’s from a local dealership or leasing directly from the EV manufacturers, you can get electric vehicles from local providers near you. A simple Google search should be enough to find local suppliers.
There is an exception here and that’s Tesla. Most of Tesla’s sales are online, not through dealer networks as with ICE vehicles. Newer manufacturers like Lucid seem to be also adopting the direct-to-customer sales process.
Types of EVs
Electric vehicles can be split into four categories of their own. While EV is used as a catch-all for all electric cars and vehicles, within the industry an EV car model is one that uses a rechargeable battery and a motor that runs off of it.
They’re often called BEVs (Battery Electric Vehicle) so that they can be properly distinguished from hybrids. That brings us to the next EV type.
Hybrids combine an internal combustion engine setup with a rechargeable battery and electric motor. It’s regarded by many to be the best of both ICE and EV cars, and they have a reputation for being quiet as seen with the Toyota Prius.
Next, there are variations in the hybrid EV setup with the PHEV and the MHEV. PHEV stands for Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle. As a hybrid, PHEVs have the ICE and EV setup again but this time the batteries are much larger and can be plugged into charging points.
The MHEV is a Mini Hybrid Electric Vehicle and is where the vehicle can’t be controlled by just electricity. Mini hybrids are usually just to take the edge off ICE setups, so many who buy MHEVs do so for convenience reasons instead of buying EVs themselves.
It’s a consistent trend that EVs cost more than ICE competitors. As we said above, the price has staggered downwards until increasing in 2020, but that’s expected to continue trending downward in the future.
They’re much cheaper if you buy used models, a significant part of the EV market for those who can’t afford the higher-end brands.
There are concerns here, such as a lowered battery life from use. Buying a new battery may seem like an obvious solution but a lot of the time that’s just as expensive as the car itself.
A list of EV manufacturers
Pros of Having an Electric Car
Now that you have an idea of what to look at when getting an electric car, let’s go through why anybody wants one. For a lot of people, buying an electric car is more about convenience.
This means that there should be benefits to buying an electric car over an ICE vehicle. Fortunately, there are several benefits, so let’s check them out.
Lower Running Cost
Every purchase starts and ends with your wallet, so it’s important to highlight that electric cars are cheaper to run than gasoline alternatives.
One of the most comprehensive studies on this topic was conducted by the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, in cooperation with the Idaho National Laboratory, in July of 2020.
They found that a battery-powered car will be more or less expensive depending on where you live in the States.
That shouldn’t be surprising. America is large enough that there is a lot of variety in how equipped places are for an ICE-to-EV transition.
Washington State had the best results and, given the pro-EV legislation being pushed by California, it’s likely the rest of the west coast will follow suit. In Washington, an EV can save you approximately $15,000 more than ICE alternatives, assuming a 15-year lifespan.
Keep in mind that the price of fossil fuels has only gone up over the years and so the cost differential between EV and ICE vehicles is expected to widen as we continue into the 2020s.
If you’re in Hawaii, heavily rural and isolated from the mainland United States, then you can expect to spend about $2,500 more to maintain an electric vehicle over an ICE alternative.
Will that change as local governments jump onto the growing EV surge? Probably, but it’s important to know where EVs are more cost-effective and where they are not right now.
Cheaper to Maintain with less that can go wrong
With electric cars, there are lower maintenance costs. In a word, EVs are simpler.
This means there are fewer moving parts inside the EV cars and, by the law of averages, this means you can expect less of those maintenance issues that come out of the blue.
This is truer for pure EVs than hybrid models, of course, but all EVs have less of a chance of breaking down when compared to the typical gas-guzzling ICE.
Better for the Environment
You probably already know that moving to electric vehicles can be better for the environment.
Of course, this all depends on where that electricity comes from.
While reducing fossil fuel usage in-car is beneficial, and the lack of an exhaust pipe stops harmful pollutants from making their way into the atmosphere, electric vehicles are disadvantaged in that the electricity powering your car may come from fossil fuels being burned on an industrial scale.
That’s why the EV market is so intimately tied to the push for green energy and sustainability. Thinking tactically, an increase in EV ownership increases the pressure on countries to invest in sustainable power alternatives so that the whole system functions in a way that’s better for the environment.
Fortunately, the countries where the EV industry is prospering all pledge a transition towards green energy. Under the Biden administration, the US is leaning heavily towards green energy in the future. At any rate, electric vehicles are far ahead of ICE vehicles in terms of emissions output.
Easy to Charge
There are generally more areas where you can charge your electric vehicles over ICE gas stations if you’re in the right places.
There are a lot of concerns with gas stations due to the highly flammable materials they store. There’s a laundry list of guidelines and concerns for the underground storage tanks that filling stations have.
Installing an electrical socket is much easier than all of this, will take up less room, and also means you can charge your vehicle at home or work as long as you have the requisite facilities.
This flexibility will depend heavily on the infrastructure in place, of course. To run with our example from above, we’d imagine the hottest spots in Washington State have a few outlets you can use. The rural hills of Hawaii, however, are a different story.
Quieter to Drive
We mentioned how electric cars are quieter than ICE vehicles.
This is a benefit since it reduces noise pollution along with air pollution.
We could see this noise pollution become significantly reduced if the majority are driving electric vehicles in the next decade or two.
Improved Driving Experience
People generally report a more pleasant driving experience in electric vehicles over ICE alternatives. This is because of three main advantages of an electric vehicle:
- More responsive
- Regenerative braking
- Weight distribution
These are pretty straightforward and if you’re familiar with how both EVs and ICE vehicles drive, then you’ve probably experienced some or all of these before.
The higher responsiveness of EVs is because an electric motor is capable of providing instant torque. An ICE motor is not. This means that when you accelerate your EV, you’ll often be surprised at how fast it’ll react to your input.
Just as the electric motor is more responsive in acceleration, it’s also very responsive in decelerating. This translates into a regenerative brake system whereby waste heat energy is conserved during accelerator ease-offs.
This increases the efficiency of your electric vehicles since more power is kept for driving and nothing else.
As for the weight distribution, there isn’t a heavy engine block in the front of your vehicle. The parts used for an electric battery and motor are generally lighter and this results in a lower center of gravity. That then translates into better handling, which results in a safer ride.
The added safety of a lower center of gravity is something manufacturers have seized on after the Tesla Model 3 was found to be the least dangerous car model tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
As part of the push for electric vehicles, both public and private parking lots have offered free parking for electric vehicles.
Where they aren’t free, the spaces may have a priority or be fully dedicated to housing electric vehicles.
The goal here is to make driving an electric vehicle more feasible and incentivized, which is only helped by the fact these parking spaces are accompanied by chargers.
The extent to which this benefits you may vary again. Take a look at your local area, consult with any local authorities on whether there are free parking permits or dedicated parking areas for electric vehicle owners.
Increasing Resale Value
When you’re at the vanguard of any new technology, resale value is always a concern.
If you’re one of the first to get a new, niche product, then there isn’t much of a seller’s market for you to offload that product when you want to sell it.
You can keep a car for many years, so this isn’t too much of a concern for long-term holders.
However, if you haven’t been paying attention to this guide so far, it’s obvious that electric cars are only increasing in popularity. This means that the market is becoming more familiar with them and is facilitating the resale of electric vehicles.
As we said, with the initial cost of high-end electric vehicles, there’s a healthy market of used electric cars for those who want to get all these benefits for a lower price.
As we laid out above, the market for electric vehicles is expected to grow into the 2020s and soar if restrictions or bans on fossil fuels go into effect.
That’ll introduce significant pressure for the US EV market to grow too, so the resale value of an electric car you buy now and keep will be much higher in the future.
Discounts on Congestion Charges
Another point in the economic case for converting from an ICE to an electric car is the possibility of congestion charge discounts.
Like with many pro-EV developments, the most notable congestion charge example is found in the United Kingdom with their Clean Air Zone scheme.
This is an attempt to improve air quality in cities by categorizing vehicles and introducing a surcharge. Though originating in Singapore, this method has made its way to European cities.
It's likely that we’ll see a USA-compatible version of these schemes getting passed in some states, likely the most urbanized ones where a lot of air pollution takes place as is the case of congestion charges for New York City.
There, you can benefit from having an electric car as you’ll be exempt from charges that you’d otherwise face if you still had an ICE.
Easy Updates to In-Car Technology
As the technology inside electric cars becomes more sophisticated, it requires more complicated management systems to keep everything in check.
This has led to electric cars having their own consoles built into the dashboard, some even having their own A.I.
This unlocks a lot of possibilities, which we’ve gone into below, but this all comes with a base benefit that electric cars have easily updated software that can be refreshed remotely by the manufacturers.
You don’t have that software with an ICE and, if you do, it’s either very limited in comparison to electric vehicles.
State-of-the-Art Electronics Including Accident Avoidance, Automatic Parking, etc.
It’s no coincidence that a lot of modern electric cars double up as smart cars, too.
It only makes sense that as innovations are being made under the hood, manufacturers are also going to look at innovating the driver’s experience when they’re behind the wheel.
The introduction of powerful batteries into electric cars has facilitated the addition of powerful onboard consoles that can relay important information about the car and its surroundings.
Many of these have made their way to ICE vehicles, of course, like front and rearview cameras for parking for accident avoidance. We’ve even got cars that park all by themselves and drive certain distances.
The logical end goal is to have vehicles that are fully self-driving. We’re close but not close enough at this moment, and the vehicles leading the charge are all from electric car manufacturers, the most notable of which is Tesla.
It's much easier for a self-driving A.I. to work with an electric car than wrangle with an ICE. Make no mistake, we will see self-driving cars and they have already been confirmed to integrate into US roadways when they arrive, and many of them will be electric.
Future-proofing with Autonomous Driving Technology Built-In
The existence of built-in Autonomous Driving Technology is why we’ll see the rise of self-driving electric cars before ICE variants.
We covered that above but what should be highlighted is that this presents a great future-proofing opportunity.
If you’re still saddled with an ICE car by the time self-driving becomes popular, it’s near impossible to build the self-driving systems into your car.
You then have to sell that car, probably for a depreciated price if ICE cars are already on the way out, and then you need to pay up to buy an electric car.
If you already have an electric car, it’s much easier to upgrade the software of the vehicle. With any physical changes that may be required, they’d be much less than an ICE vehicle would require.
So those are benefits, you’ve got what you came for. But yes, those benefits don’t exist in a vacuum, and there are negative aspects to owning an electric vehicle.
Whether they come with the territory or they’re caused by owning an electric car before they become mainstream, let’s go through the disadvantages.
Limited Choice of Models, Especially SUVs and Trucks
While we mentioned the following brands earlier, it should be noted that your choice of vehicle is limited for many:
- Tesla – A variety of four high-end models with slightly different versions.
- General Motors – They have the Chevy Bolt, Cadillac LYRIQ, GMC Hummer EV, Cruise Origin, and Super Cruise. They have ambitious plans to increase EV representation in their catalog going forward.
- Ford – Wide range of hybrid models with the Mustang Mach-E as a full 100% EV.
- BMW – Offer electric variants held back by older ICE designs, launching its own electric platform in 2025.
- Audi – Few hybrid cars but just the Audi e-tron in standard, Sportback, or GT variants.
- Hyundai – A few cars across the Ioniq and KONA electric models.
- Volkswagen – Four models – the e-up!, the e-Golf, and the ID.4 and .3. Only the ID.4 is widely available in the USA.
- Nissan – The Nissan LEAF is their widely available “flagship” EV.
There are others but the point is that the big car companies that aren’t solely focused on EVs have an ICE catalog that dwarfs the electric vehicles they offer. This makes buying an electric car harder to choose since you are forced to pick from a limited selection of EVs.
Visually Less Appealing for Some
We mentioned the Toyota Prius already.
If you’ve been around long enough, you’ve probably heard a joke or two about how ugly many people think the Prius is.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, of course, but there’s an idea in the cultural consciousness that electric cars are often ugly.
It’s purely a matter of preference and you shouldn’t think too much about how other people perceive your ride if you like it.
If you’re usually part of the crowd who finds electric vehicles ugly, you can take solace in the fact that these EVs will look more and more like ICE cars as they become more popular.
Range Anxiety because of Fewer “Refueling” Locations
While it may be much easier to install a plug or socket as opposed to a large filling station, it’s still easier to get to the latter in many locations.
This will all come down to knowing your local area but, if there aren’t enough “refueling” locations nearby then this will limit the operational range of your vehicle.
That means you will have to return home before the power runs out and leaves you stranded somewhere.
Tricky to Charge
Speaking of charging points, charging itself can be a chore. First, recharge times. Recharging a car will take longer than pulling into a station and filling up quickly.
Most circumvent this problem by charging overnight, which is fine for most uses. Otherwise, you can be in for a wait.
There is light at the end of the tunnel with rapid charging. With this technology, electric batteries can be charged from 20 minutes to a whole hour. Still, that’s time you’d need to factor into your travel.
Costly to Buy Upfront even with Incentives
They’re expensive, simple as that. It’s no secret electric cars get very expensive, fast.
Many of those who offer electric cars have them as part of their high-end, luxury ranges and the current EV zeitgeist of them being “the next big thing” doesn’t exactly help in keeping prices down.
Don’t get us wrong, it’s becoming increasingly easier for ordinary people to get their hands on electric vehicles. As of right now, however, it can take a significant financial investment.
Battery Technology is Still Experimental
The battery technology used is still experimental for a lot of electric car models. What does this mean? Well, a few things:
- The individual charging times of electric car models can and will vary based on the battery technology they have in them, and the tech inside could change in the future and cause differences in charge times between models and charging points.
- This pushes up the price of electric vehicles since they have cutting-edge technology inside.
- Different battery technology could emerge in the future and render your electric vehicle obsolete/depreciate its value.
Some Safety Concerns with the Popular Lithium-Ion Batteries
The Lithium-Ion battery is used in a variety of technology and the electric car is just the latest example of that.
If you go to your favorite video-sharing website and type in “lithium-ion battery explosion” or “fire” you’ll see the concerns.
Lithium Batteries have a way of exploding into hissing fire if there are problems with them. If that’s worrying to you, remember that these are the same batteries used in smartphones, probably the one in your pocket right now.
The likelihood of them exploding is increased by over-charging, something that many batteries now account for to prevent these outbursts.
Lack of Experienced Service Technicians if you need one
Just like how there’s a risk when you’re on the cutting-edge of new technology, there’s also a problem with finding experienced technicians.
Maybe you can get away with using an EV in a rural area but finding a qualified professional to help if you have technical issues is another thing entirely.
Higher Insurance Rates because Battery Damage is Unrepairable
If the batteries in an electric vehicle become damaged, they can’t exactly be repaired.
If a flaw is bad enough that it requires replacement, there’s no way that it can get repaired yet.
Could this change in the coming years as we try to make EVs more durable and salvageable when things do go wrong? Absolutely.
As things stand now, you can expect to pay higher insurance rates than what you’d get with standard ICE vehicles.
Electric Car or Hybrid?
Hybrid vehicles are pretty popular, battling with pure EV numbers as sales of hybrids also increased during 2020. This brings a question to mind – what do you go for, electric or hybrid?
The feasibility of an EV will depend on where you are in the United States, as we’ve covered, so consider that first. Where are you and can you afford an EV in your local region? A hybrid is a logical compromise between an EV and an ICE model, where you can reap the benefits of recaptured energy.
If you must get a hybrid, a plug-in hybrid is much more preferable. These can be powered by electricity taken from charging points, like a pure EV, but can be more convenient if you still need to use gas for whatever reason.
If we were deciding? An EV is better than a hybrid, if feasible. If you get a hybrid, a plug-in hybrid is much more preferable since it can run off the electricity while ordinary hybrids typically take just gasoline. It’s up to you to decide on what to get.
All hybrids are better than a pure ICE vehicle, at any rate.
Are Electric Cars the Future?
We hope that it’s fairly obvious by now that there’s a bright future for electric cars. A convergence of technological development and pro-green rhetoric has teed up the 2020s to be great years for EVs, and green power as a whole.
We’re expecting a 50% growth in 2021 alone for EV sales. This dwarfs the expected 10% growth of standard auto sales but it should be noted that we’re talking about a much larger sector.
To circle back to the beginning of this guide, remember 2030. This is the year to watch for the EV market because a lot of promises and estimations have been made with 2030 as a deadline.
As we continue into the 2020s, it's important that we monitor the current auto markets to gauge how they’re changing as we near this important landmark year.
That brings us to the end of our guide on electric cars and their benefits. By now you should have an idea about where electric cars are right now and where they’re going in the future.
We’ve covered both the benefits and disadvantages that come with electric vehicles, so by now, you should be able to decide if electric vehicles are feasible for you or not.
Buying into them now might be the best course of action for you. If so, hopefully, the information here and the resources attached will be useful for drivers who want to take the leap from Internal Combustion Engines to Electric Vehicles.
If not, there’s a high likelihood that they will become more useful to you in the future, so look out for opportunities to jump into the world of electric vehicles in the future.
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