In this guide, we’ve put together a list of some of the potential pros and cons of electric cars.
Summary – Pros & Cons Of Electric Cars
Technology has developed and progressed over the years
Convenient, & easy to charge, & can be charged at home
Might be cheaper to re-charge vs the cost of refilling a gasoline car
Can be cheaper to maintain
May have fewer carbon emissions and air pollutants than conventional cars
May help save on health related costs from air pollution from conventional vehicles
There’s quick charge technology available in some places
Driving experience can be good in various ways
Leasing rates can be competitive
Potential health benefits
There can be tax benefits/credits in some States/Provinces for some types of cars
Safety can be beneficial compared to conventional cars in some ways
More charging stations are becoming available in some States/Provinces
Some cities allow EVs certain road privileges
Prices of EVs are expected to become more competitive as technology gets better and economies of scale are achieved
Some reports forecast more EVs on the road in the future
Improvements on how we manage EV batteries as waste and also reclaiming the materials in them might have scope for improvement
EVs only make up a small % of vehicle market share right now
EVs can have similar CO2 emissions and fine particulate matter air pollution to traditional cars when using electricity sourced from coal
Some reports question the production footprint of electric cars
The driving range with some EVs might be limited
There aren’t a lot of recharging stations yet in some cities
Charging infrastructure on longer highways & freeways may present some problems
Charging times can vary, but the full charging time to driving range added ratio can be poor with some models
Different cars might only accept specific plugs
Higher initial retail cost compared to conventional cars, and affordability issues
Electricity price increases in the future impact running costs
Total cost can be more expensive than internal combustion engine cars
Fewer options right now than conventional engine cars
Only specific or limited tax incentives might be available in some countries and cities
Re-sale value can drop quickly
Technology can get outdated or replaced quickly
Quiet operation can be dangerous to some pedestrians
Material supply chain can be international instead of local
Fixing EVs can sometimes be inconvenient and costly
Sometimes a specialized EV technician or mechanic might be needed to fix or modify an EV
EVs might not be as good in certain environments (very cold or hot climates, rural areas, dusty or hard wearing areas etc.)
Right now, EVs rely on customer investment and government subsidies and support
Potential conflict of interest with zero emissions credits & EV manufacturers
There are still some environmental concerns with the operation of EVs
EVs won’t solve some existing road problems
In some places, marketing and consumer awareness of EVs is an issue
There are some potential problems with EV batteries that might be a challenge to address
EV technology and capability is still in development in some ways
In addition to more sustainable stationary energy generation, electric vehicles might be seen as one of the other key ways to help cut CO2 emissions across society, and to a lesser extent air pollution rates
Powering electric cars with renewable energy (like solar and wind for example) in the future may help further cut emissions, but, could also have practical challenges, and be expensive
Improving the features (such as driving distance and charging time), performance, appeal for consumers, and cost competitiveness of EVs, may be examples of improvements that could help EVs improve as a product
These are generalized pros and cons of electric cars only.
Each brand and model of electric vehicle is obviously going to offer it’s own pros and cons, and each driver is going to have different requirements that impacts pros and cons.
There will continue to be different variables as technology changes and society changes.
Different countries and cities also have different energy mixes, and policies and regulations in places which may change the pros and cons of electric cars in different places.
How the vehicle is operated may be another variable to consider.
So, pros and cons can be vehicle, driver and location specific.
Firstly, What Are Electric Cars?
You can read more about what electric vehicles are in comparison to other vehicles here, and also about the different types of electric vehicles here.
It’s worth noting that in this guide, we are referring primarily to ‘All-Electric Vehicles (AEV’s)’, or ‘Electric Battery Vehicles’.
These types of electric vehicles are characterized by a propulsion system that is fully electric.
Potential Pros Of Electric Cars
Technology Has Developed & Progressed Over Time
– Cars have seen improvements in driving distance/range
– Batteries have seen improvements in capacity and charging times, and have also become more cost competitive in some ways due to increased production and investment
– Other capabilities and performance features have improved
There may also be more ways EVs can improve in the future too.
Convenient & Easy To Charge, & Can Be Charged At Home
Conventional cars require the driver to go to the gas station to re-fuel.
Full electric cars on the other hand can be plugged into an external power source with a cable, and charged at home (at where there’s a convenient power outlet)
There’s also suppliers that offer commercial charging at public charging stations in some areas.
Might Be Cheaper To Charge vs. Refilling A Conventional Petroleum Car
This depends on a few different factors such as:
– The price of petroleum based fuel at different times
– The local cost of electricity in a specific geographic location
– Whether electricity comes from a grid retailer, from an off grid home set up, or from a public charging station
Some reports indicate that the average electric vehicle might cost 25% to 33% less to charge compared to the cost to fill a fuel tank in a conventional car.
This depends on many variables obviously though.
A few key variables to look at are the per minute or per kWh cost of electricity (and calculate the full battery charge amount), and the per gallon cost of gasoline for example.
Other variables like fuel economy or electricity used per mile would also have to be analysed in order to make a fair comparison.
Might Be Cheaper To Maintain
A few factors that might contribute to this might be not having an exhaust/tailpipe system, and not requiring oil changing.
Some brakes on some electric cars may also not wear out as quickly.
Having said this, the cost of servicing, repairing, and maintaining a vehicle, will obviously vary between models.
May Have Fewer Carbon Emissions & Air Pollutants Than A Gasoline Car
We’ve previously written about the carbon footprint of different types of transport in this guide.
All cars obviously have an emissions footprint from sourcing of materials and manufacturing.
But, at the operation stage, a conventional car running on petroleum fuel with a tailpipe/exhaust obviously has emissions and air pollution that an electric car does not.
The caveat to this though is that the electric car has to get it’s electricity from somewhere.
The cleaner the electricity’s energy source, the cleaner the vehicle is.
But, a car running on electricity from mostly coal for example could have a much more significant carbon and air pollution footprint – this might be the case in China where it’s reported both electric cars and traditional cars in China currently have similar CO2 and small particulate matter emissions (PM2.5) per unit of distance driven
Electric cars can also continue to get cleaner after they’ve been bought as their energy source gets cleaner, whereas the emissions of conventional cars are locked in once they are manufactured and bought (as they can’t change along with the energy grid)
May Help Save On Health Related Costs From Air Pollution From Conventional Vehicles
solarquotes.com.au mentions that in Australia:
… air pollution from cars could be killing more people than car crashes and could be costing Australia over $10 billion a year.
If we assume the amount is $10 billion, then with around 1.2 million cars sold in the country each year we could spend $8,000 ensuring each new car sold is electric and the country could still come out ahead overall on cost.
Quick Charge Technology Available In Some Places
Some cities have direct current quick chargers available for electric vehicles
This technology was available at Walmart stores in the United States as of 2018
Quick charge technology adds range/mileage to electric vehicles for a short time spent charging
Driving Experience Can Be Good In Various Ways
Travel can be more quiet, and can be more smooth between changing gears compared to internal combustion engine cars
Leasing Rates Can Be Competitive
The leasing rate may be competitive in some geographic regions compared to other types of cars, but this can depend on various factors
Potential Health Benefits
Some reports indicate that exposure to traffic noise can lead to some adverse health effects for some people
Electric vehicles may in some instances be up to 30 decibels quieter than conventional cars at the same speed
Tax Benefits Might Be Available In Some Countries With Some Cars
Some countries or States/Provinces may offer tax credits for new electric car purchases, depending on factors such as the battery capacity or size of the electric car.
But, most tax benefits are conditional, or only available for a limited amount of cars or time
Safety Can Be Better In Some Ways Compared To Conventional Cars Good
The chances of explosion or a fire might be lower in electric cars in the event of impact or a crash.
Heavy battery packs also mean a lower center of gravity for the car, which lowers the chances of the car rolling.
Electric cars also have to meet certain road safety standards.
Recharging Stations Are Slowly Being Built & Are Growing In Number
Charging stations in some States/Provinces are growing in total number in some locations
Some Places Allow Special Road Privileges For Electric Cars
Such as being able to drive in the carpool lane.
Prices Of EVs Are Expected To Become More Competitive
Prices might become on par with conventional cars by 2025 according to some reports.
And obviously with each year that goes by, factors such as economies of scale and technological development may further lower prices.
Some Reports Forecast More EVs On The Road In The Future
Various estimates indicate that there could be in the hundreds of millions of EVs on the road by 2030
The number of electric cars on the road could reach 125 million by 2030, based on the policies already in place by governments around the world, or 220 million in 2030 with more ambitious policies (iea.org)
[A recent report forecasts] sales of electric vehicles (EVs) increasing from … 1.1 million worldwide in 2017, to 11 million in 2025 and then surging to 30 million in 2030 as they become cheaper to make than internal combustion engine (ICE) cars.
By 2040, 55% of all new car sales and 33% of the global fleet will be electric.
By 2030, about 1 in 5 new vehicle sales could involve an electric car in America (vittana.org)
Managing EV Batteries As Waste & Reclaiming Metals & Materials From Them Might Have Scope For Improvement
– Companies are working on ways to repurpose batteries after reaching the end of their use in EVs
– Companies are looking for ways to reclaim metals from batteries
Read more about other ways the management of EV batteries might have scope for improvement in this guide.
Potential Cons Of Electric Cars
EVs Only Make Up A Small % Of Vehicle Market Share Right Now
This is in comparison to vehicles that use petroleum based fuels, and also natural gas as a fuel
energytracker.asia indicates that:
… market share is dominated by petroleum (92%), natural gas vehicles make up 3% and electric vehicles make up less than 1% of the market
Cities Using More Coal In Their Power Grid Can Result In EVs With More Emissions & Pollution
China might be an example of this where CO2 emissions and fine particulate matter emissions from EV cars are reported by some reports as being similar to traditional cars per unit of distance driven
The weight of heavier electric vehicles (compared to conventional vehicles) may also lead to greater non-exhaust emissions.
The large torque of electric vehicles might further add to the fine dust problem, as it might cause greater tyre wear and dispersion of dust particles.
Some Reports Question The Production Footprint Of Electric Cars
Before an electric vehicle gets on the road, it needs to be manufactured.
Some reports might question the production footprint of making the car, and also the battery that it uses.
In particular, they may question how much energy is used during manufacture, and whether this energy comes from coal energy or other fossil fuel energy sources.
The manufacture of electric vehicles (and their batteries) may have a larger production footprint than a conventional vehicle or gasoline vehicle across some metrics.
Electric vehicles might make up any potential difference in production footprint when they hit the road though, depending on what the actual production footprint was, and what energy sources it uses for power whilst in operation.
The thegreenage.co.uk report listed in the ‘Sources’ list has more information on this topic
Some Models May Have A More Limited Driving Range
The number of miles you get on a full charge for a EV differs between models.
Some EVs have a more limited range compared to traditional cars.
There’s Not A Lot Of Recharging Stations In Some Cities
There’s many cities that lack charging stations, and some cities have no stations.
And, stations can be more centralized in cities, and not as spread out or available in outer suburbs.
Charging Infrastructure On Longer Highways & Freeways May Present Some Problems
Beyond charging infrastructure in cities and towns, charging infrastructure needs to be made available outside of cities and towns on highways, freeways, and long stretches of road.
Charging Times Can Vary – But, The Charge To Range Added Ratio Can Be Poor
According to some reports, an hour of charging might add 25 miles to an EV’s range (if the power is coming from a 240v source)
An average full charging time might be 4 hours, but some full charges can take up to 15 to 20 hours
Comparatively, a petroleum based car takes a couple of minutes to refill and might add 600 miles to it’s driving distance.
Different Models May Use Different Charging Plugs – May Sometimes Be Compatibility Issues
Not every charging mechanism or connection type is the same, and there may sometimes be compatibility issues with some cars in some situations
Some models only accept specific plugs, and quick chargers may only work on some specific models
A universal charging connection system could help in this instance
May Be A Higher Initial Retail Cost, & Affordability Can Be An Issue
Cost obviously has to be compared like for like in terms of car size, car features, car performance, etc.
But, some figures show that the average electric vehicle cost more than the average petroleum based vehicle on a like for like basis when considering upfront capital cost, and taking into account tax credits.
Not everyone can afford EVs at current prices.
Over the long term, technology advances and economies of scale might help lower EV prices.
Although, subsidies and other forms of government policies and concessions for both EVs and other types of vehicles should also be factored in when comparing actual prices.
It’s mainly wealthy people that can afford EVs [and] Those who can’t afford them (ratepayers), still have to pay for infrastructure associated with EVs (politico.com)
Electricity Price Increases In The Future Might Impact Running Costs
As one example, states like California saw their electricity rates rising recently, so running an electric car becomes more expensive in this instance
Additionally, if there are more EVs on the road in the future, there will be more demand for electricity.
If there isn’t an increase in electricity production and supply alongside this increase in demand, electricity prices could be pushed up even further.
Total Cost Can Be More Expensive Than Internal Combustion Engine Cars
Even in instances where electricity is cheaper than petroleum based fuels per distance travelled, it can be hard to recoup the retail cost for EVs in some instances over the life of the vehicle.
Fewer Model Options Than Combustion Engine Cars
Almost all vehicles that qualify as an electric car are either a pure compact or a mid-size sedan as of right now.
Compared to conventional cars, there’s less of a range of models and car types to choose from for EVs.
Only Specific Tax Incentives Might Be Available
In areas where tax incentives or credits are available for EVs, the tax incentives are usually conditional.
Conditional incentives mean that there may not end up being a real financial benefit for a potential buyer who ends up purchasing an EV
It’s important buyers do the necessary net financial benefits vs costs comparison (vs buying a conventional car), and review all rules and regulations in their area governing their purchase, and are aware of tax implications, before buying an EV.
Re-Sale Value Can Depreciate Quickly, & Technology Can Get Outdated Quickly
EV’s from 2018 are going to lack the technology of those available in 2028.
The longer someone has had their EV for, the more the re-sale value can drop, the higher the chance the manufacturer eventually drops support for the technology in your car, and so on.
If you buy an EV now, not only do you risk having a poor re-sale value, but you also rely on the manufacturer to support the technology your car currently uses into the future.
Quiet Driving Noise Can Potentially Be Dangerous To Pedestrians
EVs can be very quiet when being drive, and this may be a danger to pedestrians and children who may not be able to hear them coming.
EV Material Supply Chain Is International
As opposed to domestic for a lot of combustion engine cars
This may present some issues
Fixing EV Vehicles Can Be Inconvenient & Costly
Some EVs might get sent to the dealer to get fixed.
A local mechanic may not have the tools or knowledge to fix some EV systems
EV Vehicles & Hydrogen Vehicles Might Not Be As Good In Certain Environments
Such as rural areas and hot climates.
Right Now, EVs Rely On Customer Support, & Government Subsidies & Support
Some reports indicate that EVs are economically unsustainable right now because they aren’t profitable on their own in a competitive market.
These reports indicate that EVs rely on irrational support from customers, or, subsidies and tax support for companies and customers.
politico.com mentions this about subsidies and mandates:
There’s subsidies given to electric cars [in some places] … [for the initial purchase of the car, but also for rebates on chargers, and other benefits]
[Subsidies come from taxes]
States … have mandates of how many electric cars they want on the roads by a certain year
Potential Conflict Of Interest With Zero Emissions Credits & EV Manufacturers
Zero emission credits boost the bottom line of EV manufacturers – [and this might be a conflict of interest] (politico.com)
EV’s Won’t Solve Some Existing Road Problems
They are unlikely to solve urban mobility and infrastructure-related problems such as traffic congestion.
Redesigning cities, encouraging biking, and encouraging more walking may be better ways to deal with road and city planning issues
In Some Markets, Marketing & Awareness Of EVs Is An Issue
Education, more marketing and awareness is required to get buyers involved in understanding what is available and what EVs offer.
There Are Some Potential Problems With EV Batteries That Might Be A Challenge To Address
Just as a few examples:
– Batteries currently rely on finite and rare metals, such as lithium, cobalt, and other metals and materials.
Lithium resources are considered to be finite, and so are cobalt resources.
– Battery re-use and recycling (and dealing with battery waste) could be improved, be made more sustainable, and also become more cost effective
We discuss these potential problems and other in this guide.
Countries With The Most Electric Cars
According to iea.org:
China, and the US have the most EV’s in circulation
Norway, Iceland & Sweden have the highest % of EV market share
In The Future
The US, China, Europe (including Scandinavia) and Japan are all increasing their EV purchase rates according to various reports
China will lead [the EV] transition, with sales there accounting for almost 50% of the global EV market in 2025 (about.bnef.com)