Are Electric Cars Worth Buying? | 6 Things to Know

6 Things to Know Before Getting an Electric Car

by | Energy Resources, Sustainable Energy

If you’ve been thinking about making the switch from gasoline-powered vehicles to battery-powered, electric vehicles, you may have a lot of questions on your mind. How does it work? Where can I charge it? How often do I charge it? Is it even worth buying? Just like buying any vehicle, purchasing your first electric car can be confusing and frustrating. To help, here are some things you should consider before you go to a dealership.

How Does an Electric Car Work?

There are a few main differences between electric cars and gasoline-powered cars. The first them being that, obviously, one is powered by electricity and the other is not. Electric cars use electricity stored in a battery pack to power an electric motor and turn the wheels. When the battery is low, it can be recharged using grid electricity either from a wall socket or at a charging unit. [1]

Do Electric Cars Use Gas?

Since electric cars don’t use gasoline for fuel, you save time by skipping those trips to the gas station and charging them instead. On a national average, it costs less than half as much to travel the same distance in an EV than a conventional vehicle. [2] Though the goal is to stop using fossil fuels when it comes to electric cars, some of them still use gas only if necessary. The terms “extended range electric vehicles” or “plug-in hybrid electric vehicles” apply to these vehicles.[2]

What’s the Battery Life Like on an Electric Car?

The batteries in electric vehicles are designed for extended life, just like the engines in conventional vehicles are. Most manufacturers offer 8-year/100,000-mile warranties for their batteries. There are also some manufacturers that extend their coverage in states that adopt the California emissions warranty coverage periods, which require at least 10-year coverage for batteries on partial zero-emissions vehicles, including electric cars. It’s best to check with your dealer to get specific information on battery life and warranties.[3]

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How Long Does It Take to Charge an Electric Car?

Charging your electric vehicle (EV) can take as little as thirty minutes to twelve hours, but it all depends on the size of your battery and the speed of the charging point. A typical EV will take four hours to charge from empty with a 7kW home charging point and will charge at 30 miles per hour. The charging rate can also differ based on the temperature around the car, the current level of its battery, and the maximum charging rate of the vehicle.[4]

If you’re going on a long road trip, it might be in your best interest to find a rapid charger. Rapid charging points are able to charge up to 80% in just thirty minutes and can be found at motorway service stations for your convenience. Most electric car owners won’t use rapid chargers in their day to day life because of higher costs, so if you aren’t going very far, it’s best to charge your car whenever it’s sitting in places like your home, at work, the grocery store, or at the gym.

What Is The Environmental Impact of Electric Cars Versus Conventional Cars?

Aside from the fact that electric vehicles are a more sustainable form of transportation, they also give you the option to go fully renewable with your electricity. Your EV can be run on 100% sustainable, renewable resources if you have access to green energy in your area. If you live in an area that relies on coal to generate electricity, an electric vehicle might have a large impact than a conventional one. 

Vehicles that run on electricity do not directly emit tailpipe emissions, which makes them more eco-friendly than conventional vehicles in some respects. However, you also need to consider “wheel-to-well” emissions. This includes greenhouse gas and air pollutants that are emitted to produce and distribute the energy being used to power the car.[5] 

Electric cars’ production can vary in the number of emissions depending on the source, but they average around 4,500 pounds of CO2 a year. Conventional gasoline cars emit over twice as much annually. If your main goal with buying an electric car is to reduce your contribution to pollution, you may need to prioritize using zero-emissions electricity whenever you can.[5]

You can optimize the environmental benefits of you EV by charging it with a renewable resource that you can generate at your home such as solar, wind, or geothermal energy. Though it may be an investment at first, you’re likely to break even on the seventh year of ownership.

Are Electric Cars Cheaper to Maintain?

Electric cars have fewer parts than conventional cars, so they require less routine maintenance. There are no gaskets, no spark plugs, nor any valves being clogged up. Since they don’t suffer from as many breakdowns as gas vehicles do, it saves you a lot of time and money from going into a shop and spending money you might not have for unexpected repairs. Based on the average cost of an oil change ($45), you can start saving immediately by skipping the routine oil changes. If you get your oil changed as often as you should on a conventional car, driving an electric car can cut your vehicle expenses by an easy $200.

A study conducted at the Institute for Automotive Research (IFA) at the Nurtingen-Geislingen University in southern Germany, concluded that while the initial cost of electric cars is still high, they’re cheaper to fuel and expected to go through consumable items much slower.[6]

The study found that over eight years, with a relatively low annual mileage of 5,000 miles a year, a small conventional car would cost approximately $5,770 in maintenance. This includes the typical maintenance items mentioned above: oil changes, brakes, tires, filters, etc. In comparison, an electric vehicle of the same size would only cost about $3,071 to maintain.[2]

Can Electric Cars Catch Fire?

You may have seen a couple videos about electric cars catching fire, raising the question: are they safe? Despite skepticism, conventional cars are more likely to catch fire or explode than electric cars are.

Gas-powered cars use fuel to create a lot of little explosions contained in the piston walls of their engines. Electric cars, on the other hand, don’t use explosions or heat to create rotary motion; instead, they run electricity through copper wires to create magnetic fields to turn the motor. For an explosion to occur, you need a rapidly expanding gas and a sealed case to hold it in. Electric vehicles don’t have either of those![7]

If the batteries in your electric car are stored in a strong, airtight enclosure and caught fire in a rapid manner—yes, they could explode. EV engineers have used this knowledge to do the opposite. They locate the batteries in an open framework and allow them to dissipate the small amount of heat they generate during high discharge rates, still protecting them from a catastrophic impact. In a worst-case scenario, if the batteries can’t dissipate this heat, they go into thermal runaway. This means the battery is shorting out and resulting in overload, creating enough heat to ignite anything near it—even metal. Even then, you will have only a small fire, not a big explosion.[7]

Will I Get Shocked if I Drive an Electric Car Through Water?

Despite the skepticism, electric cars are safe to drive through a couple inches of water, and you can touch them if they’re submerged. There are no cases on record of a rescuer being shocked while saving someone from a crashed electric or hybrid vehicle – submerged or not. Additionally, all cars (even conventional) have electrical systems, but they also don’t short out or shock anyone in the rain. If you do get water on the battery terminals, all it generally does is cause corrosion. Most electric cars are also built to have the batteries placed behind the rear seat, enclosed in a section near the trunk, leaving it nowhere near able to get splashed with water from the road. Other EV’s that aren’t built this way usually have a metal shell around the battery, covered in carpet or with an interior panel and the metal is treated to resist corrosion. [9]

As electric cars become more popular and affordable, it is still important to understand all you can about your vehicle before purchasing one. If you’re still wondering if going electric is the right decision for you, visit a dealer and do all the research you can before investing. Looking for ways to reduce your environmental footprint? Check out some of these tips to reduce your energy consumption at home

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