The Pros and Cons of Owning an EV

Jim Motavalli

Jim Motavalli | Aug 05, 2014

The people who own electric cars really love them—you won’t find a more committed group. But those folks were predisposed to like their rides. For most of us, the idea of electric cars might seem a bit scary. It’s like going from horses to horseless carriages, right? But here are eight reasons in favor of making the transition.

These guys have no regrets about making the switch to horseless. (Wikimedia)
These guys have no regrets about making the switch to horseless. (Wikimedia)

1. The cost per mile is much less. The Nissan Leaf, for instance, will set you back just 3.5 cents per mile, Consumer Reports says. That’s half the bottom line of the already cheap-to-drive Toyota Prius.

2. Carbon reduction. Battery cars have zero emission on the road. True, they get electricity from power plants that pollute, but getting power from those facilities instead of gasoline is environmentally much cleanereven if the power plants are burning “dirty” fuels, such as coal.

3. EVs are quiet. Too quiet sometimes, which is why some have added special external sounds at low speeds, to alert pedestrians that there’s a car driving by.

4. Pride of ownership. You’ll feel good about owning an EV. And, you never know, it might help you get a date with that Prius driver next door.

5. EVs are cool if you're a tech geek. Today’s EVs are integrated with a variety of smartphone apps that make it easier to keep the car charged. For example, Recargo’s free PlugShare app allows you to check whether the public charging station down the road is being used. Manufacturers' apps allow you to manage your charging, so you’re doing it at night when electric rates are low. You can also view your car’s current state of charge, so you know if you're ready to carry out that diamond heist and make a quick getaway. 

6. There are fewer pieces to break. EVs have no exhaust systems, no emission controls, no transmission, spark plugs, distributors, radiators, fans or internal-combustion engine. You can cross those off your list of things to get repaired or replaced.

7. Regenerative, or “regen” braking. In place of old-fashioned downshifting to slow down your car, electric cars slow down by engaging the electric motor. The electric motor runs backwards, acting as a generator to recharge the batteries.  EV's have conventional brakes, too, in addition to “regen” braking technology. The two systems work together, when you need braking.

8. Go anywhere. You can drive solo in the HOV lanes on highways in California, and in a growing number of other states.

Electric cars definitely are not for everybody. If you’re the nervous type, you might not be able to deal with the limited range, and if you’re not open to new things, plugging in instead of filling up may be a challenge. In the future, many of these negative points—such as high upfront cost and unproven reliability—will evaporate as concerns. That’s not true today. Here’s a list of what to worry about right now.

Range anxiety? Unknown reliability and resale value? Doesn't bother me! (Wikimedia)
Range anxiety? Unknown reliability and resale value? Doesn't bother me! (Wikimedia)

1. Range, range, range! Most battery electrics can travel about 100 miles on a charge. That's it! Tesla has broken into triple digits with its Roadster and Model S—but you’ll have to fork over upwards of $60k for that privilege.

2. Unproven reliability. You'll be an early adopter. And the big worry is whether battery packs will continue to fully charge, after 100,000 miles or more.

3. High upfront cost. Again, it’s those battery packs that are at fault—they can be a third of the cost of the whole car, as Ford CEO Alan Mulally pointed out in 2012.

4. Limited weight/hauling capacity. You know those boats Tom and Ray are always talking about making payments on? Well, if you have one of those you’ll probably tow it with something else.

5. Emergencies. If you run out of juice, you can’t get going with jumper cables. The rescue cars of the future will carry big battery packs and quick chargers-- but they're not here yet, unfortunately. 

6. High voltages from EV batteries and cables carry an additional risk during an accident, due to the large amount of electricity stored in the batteries. EVs carry warnings to first responders.

7. Uncertain resale value. Worry about battery life has made some buyers reluctant to buy used.

EV Area Home

Get the Car Talk Newsletter

Got a question about your car?

Ask Someone Who Owns One