There has been a lot of talk about electric cars lately and none of it has been positive. In light of GM’s multitudinous Volt issues, the demise of Aptera Motors, and Tesla Motors’ recent share downgrading, some analysts have been asking, "Why won't people buy electric?"
In theory, an electric motor is a great idea, right? Think about it: instant torque, few moving parts, and relatively easy maintenance. But in reality, there are so many downsides to owning an electric vehicle (EV) that the fact that major car companies have brought them to market without first addressing these issues is baffling.
[Editor's note: Hybrids, although successful, have been excluded from this discussion because of their reliance on gas; they cannot be considered "true" electric vehicles.]
Here are some of the reasons why buying an EV is a terrible idea (as listed by Business Insider):
1. Limited Range
Most EVs run out of energy before they can get anywhere. Obviously, this is a major problem for anyone interested in buying a car.
Although Tesla Motors advertises a two-seat roadster with a 300 mile range, this can only be achieved through "careful driving" (something a roadster isn’t exactly designed for).
Not to mention that the car itself is a $100,000 investment. How many consumers have access to that kind of capital? Though, to be fair, Teslas are marketed towards a niche audience (i.e. people who can invest six figures in a car). So, let’s look at something a bit more middle-class friendly.
Because it costs about the same as a similarly sized gas-powered vehicle ($30,000), perhaps the Nissan Leaf would be a good choice for the Eco-conscientious consumer. If by "good choice" you mean "a car that can only get about 100 miles before running out of juice," then, yeah, the Leaf's the way to go.
Who in the world wants a car with a 100-mile range?
"On the flip slide, standard cars regularly get a range of 300-400 miles, and on certain occasions can get up into the 800 mile range," writes Travis Okulski of Business Insider. "EVs are perfectly adequate to go around town or to run short errands. But the car is a harbinger of freedom; the idea behind it was to free people from the grid and get them exploring."
Unless you're willing to shell out six figures for a Tesla, be prepared to be restricted by the more affordable EVs.
Yeah, okay, so an EVs' range is terrible (especially when compared to what’s available with a gas-powered vehicle). Just recharge the car!
Easier said than done.
In the case of the Leaf, recharging the battery can take up to 20 hours on a 120 volt outlet, according to Nissan. Upping the voltage isn't much better.
“On a 240 volt, it takes seven hours, and a 480 volt fast charge station takes 30 minutes. In our instant gratification broadband society, even waiting 30 minutes is an eternity,” writes Business Insider.
Compare that to the 5-7 minutes it takes to fill a gas tank. Not much of a competition anymore, is it?
Let’s say you're content with being restricted to 100 miles before having to wait anywhere between 30 minutes and 20 hours to recharge your car (because, you know, you don’t ever have to be anywhere). The next problem is finding somewhere where you can actually charge said car.
By using Nissan's ChargePortal website, this author was able to locate 35 charging stations within in a 10-mile radius of his office. That's not too bad considering that Washington, D.C., is arguably the most EV-friendly city in the country. That's not to say that everyone in D.C. drives electric, but rather that the EV industry has many influential and powerful friends in the nation's capitol.
But that's not really the point (that will come later). The point is that in this same 10-mile radius, there are 83 gas stations. Get that? For every charging station, there are almost three filling stations.
Furthermore, according to U.S. Census data, there are approximately 125,000 filling stations across the United States. By the end of 2012, it is expected that there will only be 13,000 electric car charge points.
Basically, if your EV ever runs out of power--which it will given its small range--you had better hope that it’s near one of the very, very few charging stations.
Consider the following: the Chevrolet Volt (electric) and Cruze (gas) are approximately the same size. Yet, even if you factor in the Volt’s $7,500 tax credit, the Volt is still $14,000 more expensive than the Cruze. Is that premium worth it?
Considering the fact that the Cruze gets excellent mileage (City/Gas mileage: 26/36), the answer is “no.” Why?
“If we say that gas costs $4 per gallon, the Cruze would need to be filled up 225 times before that $14,000 gap is brought to $0,” writes Business Insider. “According to GM, the Cruze's range per tank is estimated to be 390 miles, so that means the 225 fill ups would occur over the course of 88,000 miles.”
Translation: 88,000 miles is almost eight years of driving, and according to The New York Times, Americans keep their cars for an average of around nine years. If the Volt actually keeps for that long without, you know, the battery exploding, then it will only be saving you money for one year.
EV advocates love to brag about how their cars emit little to no pollution. In a way, this is true. The Volt, for instance, emits very little pollution.
However, their bragging rights go up in flames like a Volt battery when one considers the following:
- How was that car made?
- How is that car maintained?
- How were the batteries made?
- How are the batteries charged?
- How are the batteries disposed of?
“Unless you have your own solar generator, the likelihood is that the electric car is actually being charged by coal or gas power, which are the most prevalent power generating stations in the world,” Okulski points out.
Think about it: it is only because of the existence of "planet destroying" fossil-fuels that "green" vehicles are available. If Washington and environmental advocates had their way and everyone started buying electric, do you have any idea how much that would increase the pollutive output of factories manufacturing "green" vehicles?
Then there is the question of the car's battery. The nickel-hydride battery used in electric cars are created in a number of processes (such as nickel mining) that some claim add to the world's overall pollution. Also, keep in mind that to complete the battery construction process, they have to be shipped all over the world. How do you suppose they are delivered?
And these are just some of the issues that face the supposedly eco-friendly car. We haven't even touched on the subject of disposing of the toxic, non-degradable materials used in the batteries (there currently isn't a "green" process).
As mentioned earlier, Washington is an EV-friendly city. Proof of this can be seen in the government's attempt to boost sales by offering EV tax credits (some as high as $7,500).
Granted, the tax credit will make some of the price tags a little more reasonable for consumers. But how long will they last? Considering how poor EV sales are right now, it’s only safe to assume that they will get worse once the tax credit expires.
And that’s not even the real problem. The real problem lies in artificially manipulating the worth and price of the vehicles.
“With a third party reducing the costs, manufacturers are not encouraged to research and innovate in order to bring the true initial buy in down.” Business Insider points out.
Indeed, it would seem that the best thing that the Feds could do, if they really want to encourage EV sales, is get out of the way. They should allow the manufacturers to figure out the actual demand and worth of their cars. Obviously, and this is reflected in auto sales, a $30,000 EV with a 100-mile range doesn't stand a chance against a similarly priced gas-powered vehicle.
Therefore, manufacturers needs to figure out how to either bring down the price of the EV to make the 100-mile range worth it, or figure out how to improve its mileage. Taking $7,500 off the tag price will only do so much for so long.
7. Ease of Gasoline
Let’s face it: gas works. It works well and we know it. Gas is readily available, gas stations fuel us up in under minutes and, considering the technology and labor that goes into making it available on the market, gas prices are fairly reasonable. Plus, compared to the EV, we get more bang for our buck with gas-powered vehicles.
“But c’mon! All new technologies have a couple kinks that need to be worked out before they really take off!” you might say.
Although this is true, this cannot be said of electric vehicles. This argument falls on its face when one realizes that, according to PBS, the “electric car will be celebrating its 180th birthday next year.”
Yep. Electric cars have been around a lot longer than gas-powered vehicles.
“In the last 180 years, there have never been any EVs that can be considered a resounding commercial success,” writes Okulski. “There have been breakthroughs and revolutionary models, even cars that have given hope that electric would soon be the new standard, but none of them have had the desired impact.”
Given the incredible head start EV technology has had on gas-powered cars, you'd think that the problems mentioned in the above would have been worked out (or at least prepared for) by now. Therefore, to echo sentiments voiced earlier in this article, it's truly puzzling that some of these companies decided to bring their EVs to market without first addressing these obvious and longstanding flaws.