What are the pros and cons of electric vehicles?

author

Rowan Johnstone

Tuesday, 3 September 2019


There’s no hiding it. Electric vehicles (EV) are well and truly here, and they’re here to stay. Ever since the first mass-produced car came about in 1901, we’ve come leaps and bounds in automotive technology, all centred around the internal combustion engine (ICE). Whilst it seems we’ve exhausted our planet's tolerance for ICE’s, there’s still a ton of things left to discover in the automotive world, and electric power is pioneering the way.

So, today you can walk into some new car dealerships (or go online) and purchase yourself a brand new fully electric vehicle. Your first - completely silent - drive can be spent in self-admiration of how you’re taking part in the revolution against combustion engines and saving the planet one kilometre at a time. But hang on a second… that’s only if you can afford to. Saving the planet is currently strictly reserved for those who have the cash to splash - sorry.

What am I talking about? Well, it’s the first con of electric vehicles; the purchase price. The cheapest brand new EV in Australia that you can buy is the Hyundai IONIQ, and it comes in at around 50 grand drive away. That immediately puts an EV out of reach for a large chunk of new car buyers in Australia. Let’s not even mention the nearly $200,000 offerings from Jaguar and Tesla. Whilst the entry-level price will come down as production ramps up and the technology becomes more mainstream and efficient to produce, right now, it’s a pretty big deal-breaker for most.

ELECTRIC VEHICLES Why are they so expensive?

The second con is range. Ever heard of range anxiety? It’s a real thing. It most commonly occurs with new EV owners and even potential new EV owners, who are anxious about running out of power before they get where they need to go, or back to the safety of their home. Because infrastructure, such as charging stations on every street corner, hasn’t quite gone boom in Australia, owning an EV can be quite an anxious affair. It isn’t all bad though. The Tesla Model X has 550km of range, so you’ve got plenty of time before your stranded, but you’ve also got to fork out $190,000 for that peace of mind. More ‘affordable’ options such as the previously mentioned IONIQ only offers 250km on a full charge. Whilst that’s more than enough to get you to the local greengrocer and back, you’ll only make it a quarter of the way to Sydney from Brisbane before you need to stop and charge.

This brings us to our next con. Charge time. So, you’ve embarked on your Brisbane to Sydney road trip, done your first 250km and have run out of juice. No worries right? Normally in an ICE car, you’d stop at one of the many petrol stations and fill up in 5 minutes, then be on your way. Oh, you’ve got an electric vehicle? Sorry, you’ll have to sit there and twiddle your thumbs for the 5 hours it will take to fully charge your battery and give you another 250km of silent driving pleasure. (Again, using the IONIQ as an example). Of course, this all relies on your ability, and luck, to find somewhere to charge up.

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Once you’ve completed your first few thousand kilometres of driving, you might want to book your car in for a service. But where can you go? Are independent mechanics equipped to do the necessary checks and services on your EV, or are you restricted in only being able to go to the dealership? This fourth con regarding servicing might come down to whether your local independent mechanics have equipped themselves with the ability and the tools/diagnostic equipment to service EVs to manufacturers standards.

Now that we’ve got all that out of the way, there’s gotta be some pros right? The first advantage of electric vehicles is how much you can save on running costs and maintenance.

Odd, right? I just went on about how much it costs to buy one, and now I’m telling you how you can save money if you buy one? Don’t worry, I did some investigating, and actually compared the servicing costs of an EV against it’s ICE counterpart. Same car, just different power units. Long story short, the EV was both cheaper to service at each interval, and the servicing costs were more consistent, meaning it would be easier to budget for each service. Click on the link below to see the full breakdown.

SERVICING COSTS The difference between EV and non-EV

Running costs for an EV work out to be much cheaper as well. When broken down to cost per kilometre, charging an EV can come in as low as one-third of the cost than filling up with petrol. You’ll need to be wary of when you charge up though as different times of the day could bring in higher electricity charges.

All EVs need a big old battery to power them, and despite these being stupidly heavy, they also tend to provide EVs with a low centre of gravity because they’re very flat and sit along the bottom of the car. The advantages of this is that the car is less likely to roll over, if ever faced with that situation.

GRAVITY We looked into how centre of gravity can impact performance and handling

The possibility of technological advancement exists with EVs. We’re on the verge of mainstream self-driving cars and it’s all possible because of EVs. Self-driving cars are said to bring along with them other advantages such as reducing congestion on our roads, fewer accidents and providing the ability for road users to gain back untold wasted hours that are spent commuting.

And finally, the benefits to the environment. EVs cause less pollution due to zero exhaust emissions, however, producing the materials needed for the batteries such as lithium and copper can be harmful to the environment. Don’t stress though, as production continues, smarter people than me will develop more efficient and less harmful ways of sourcing these materials. There’s also the possibility of using renewable energy, such as solar power, to charge your EV. This would truly make your EV a zero fossil fuel using, zero-emission producing planet saver!

So if you’re in the market for a new car, and have at least $50,000 to spend, it’s really up to you whether EV ownership is down your alley. Expect to see the majority of the cons listed above to disappear in the years to come as EV technology advances and infrastructure catches up. Until then, unfortunately, they are things that you’re going to have to deal with.

author

WRITTEN BY

Rowan Johnstone

On weekdays Rowan can be found in the AutoGuru office, driving content and growth with the rest of the marketing team.

On weekends you’ll probably find him in the garage with his father restoring a 1958 Ford Star Model Customline or enjoying a cruise through the Gold Coast hinterland on his Yamaha XV250.

Despite his passion for being behind the wheel (or handlebars), Rowan looks forward to the day when he can commute to work in his own driverless car.

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