In this guide, we’ve put together a list of some of the pros and cons of electric cars.
It could be useful in helping to compare electric cars against traditional internal combustion engine cars, and other types of vehicles, like hybrid cars or hydrogen fuel cell 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
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
There are better and more cost effective ways of re-using and recycling EV batteries being researched and tested
Companies are looking at ways of reclaiming metals from EV batteries
EVs can have similar CO2 emissions and fine particulate matter air pollution to traditional cars when using electricity sourced from coal
The driving range with some EVs might be limited
There aren’t a lot of recharging stations yet in some cities
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
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Technology can get outdated or replaced quickly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
Batteries currently rely on finite and rare metals
Battery re-use and recycling (and dealing with battery waste) could be improved, be made more sustainable, and also become more cost effective.
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
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
EV technology and capability is progressing rapidly
There’s a lot of incentive to develop them further as they could be one of the biggest factors that help cut CO2 emissions and air pollution rates (along with stationary energy and electricity production)
Powering electric cars with renewable green energy in the future would help with emissions, but, could also have practical challenges and be expensive
Improving the driving experience and features such as driving distance and charging time of EV cars would also be a goal to make them more economically competitive with traditional internal combustion engine cars (that run on petroleum based fuels)
The US, China, Europe (including Scandinavia) and Japan are all increasing their EV purchase rates according to various reports
*Note – these are very general pros and cons of electric vehicles.
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.
Pros and cons will also change as technology develops and society changes.
Different countries and cities also have different energy mixes, and policies and regulations in place, which may change the pros and cons of EVs in different places.
So, pros and cons can be car, driver and location specific.
What Are Electric Cars
You can read about the different types of electric vehicles in this guide.
But, for the purposes of this guide right here, we are referring mainly 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.
There is no internal combustion engine, fuel tank or tailpipe.
These cars generally work with an electric battery that can be charged with a plug in capability, and feed an electric motor.
They don’t use petroleum based fuel.
Pros Of Electric Cars
Technology Has Developed & Progressed Over The Years
For example, the capabilities and performance in relation to batteries (and their charging times, and materials), driving range, etc have shown improvement
EV batteries are becoming more affordable due to increased production and investment
It’s fair to say that there are more ways electric vehicle technology can get better going into 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.
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 the price of petroleum based fuel at different times, and also the local cost of electricity in a geographic location (and also whether the electricity comes from a grid retailer, from an off grid home set up, or from a public charging station).
But, some reports indicate that the average electric vehicle might cost 25% less to charge compared to the cost to fill a fuel tank in a conventional car.
Some reports indicate that costs could even be up to 33% less.
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.
You’d also then have to look at other variables like fuel or electricity economy to compare like for like.
Might Be Cheaper To Maintain
This might be due to not having an exhaust/tailpipe system, and not requiring an oil change.
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 depend on each model.
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
There’s also the end of life of the car to consider – electric cars need a way to dispose of and manage batteries of waste.
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
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.
And obviously with each year that goes by, factors such as economies of scale and technological development may further lower prices.
Companies Are Working On Ways To Re-Use EV Batteries Instead Of Recycling Them
Although recycling options for EV cars might be lacking in effectiveness, there’s potentially ways to re-use them instead.
Car batteries can still maintain up to 70% of their capacity when they are no longer able to adequately power electric vehicles
At this point, some companies are working on ways to break them down, test them and re-package them – for functions such as home energy storage.
Having said this, there’s still the issue of how to manage waste from the battery and it’s materials when it reaching the end of it’s re-use lifespan.
Companies Are Looking At Ways To Reclaim Metals From Batteries
Further on from the last point, companies are looking at new recycling technology using a chemical process to retrieve all of the important metals from EV batteries.
This would potentially help make EV batteries more sustainable by helping keep metals in circulation.
Cons Of Electric Cars
Cities Using More Coal In Their Power Grid Can Result In EVs With More Emissions & Pollution
The weight of heavier electric vehicles (compared to conventional vehicles) may also lead to greater non-exhaust emissions.
The large torque of electric vehicles further adds to the fine dust problem, as it causes greater tyre wear and dispersion of dust particles.
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 available in outer suburbs.
Charging Times Can Vary – But, The Charge To Range Added Ratio Can Be Poor
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 here
May Be A Higher Initial Retail Cost
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.
Over the long term, technology advances and economies of scale might help lower EV prices.
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 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
EV Batteries Currently Rely On Finite & Rare Metals
EV batteries use finite and rare earth metals like lithium, just as one example.
Some reports ask the question of whether there will be a supply issue in the future (which could also impact price)
There’s also questions over the eco and human rights impact of mining these metals in some parts of the world
Cobalt for example is linked to child labor, nickel to toxicity, and lithium to eco concerns and land use conflicts.
Certification schemes through the supply chain may help address some of these issues.
Battery Recycling Can Still Be Improved In Several Key Ways, & Currently Has Limitations
EV battery recycling still has some limitations, and has room for improvement.
Right now, because of these limitations, battery waste isn’t being managed as well as it could be, and materials like metals aren’t being recovered from batteries as well as they could be.
Areas for improvement might include the scale/capacity of recycling, impact on the environment (especially if batteries are damaged, or materials get into the environment), and the ability to have closed loop recycling, where most materials can be reclaimed
It would also help if all car batteries were standardised and designed for recycling – to help with designing and making recycling plants and factories
Battery recycling and material re-us issues may make electric vehicles less sustainable than conventional cars in some ways
Another key area of battery recycling to consider is the economics – specifically how profitable it is.
To fully recycle a battery per kilo, some reports indicate the value of the raw materials that can be reclaimed is only a third of the cost of recycling them.
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 an EV system.
EV Vehicles & Hydrogen Vehicles Not As Good In Certain Environments
Such as rural areas and hot climates.
Right Now, EV Rely On Customer Support, & Government Subsidies & Support
Some reports indicate that EVs are economically unsustainable right now because they aren’t profitable in a competitive market.
These reports indicate that EVs rely on irrational support from customers, or, subsidies and tax support for companies and customers.
EV’s Won’t Solve Some Existing Road Problems
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.
Recent Trends With Electric Cars
China, and the US have the most EV’s in circulation
Norway, Iceland & Sweden have the highest % of EV market share
Future Forecasts For Electric Cars
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
[a recent report forecasts] sales of electric vehicles (EVs) increasing from a record 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.
China will lead this transition, with sales there accounting for almost 50% of the global EV market in 2025.
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.
Comparison Of Electric Vehicles vs Other Types Of Vehicles