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Electric Cars: Benefits and Drawbacks


Choosing a new car is hard, and it’s even harder if you’re deciding between a traditional gas-powered car or an electric car like the Nissan Leaf, Hyundai Kona, or Tesla Model S.

When gas prices increase, electric cars seem more enticing than ever.

Check out our pros and cons of electric vehicle ownership to help you make an informed decision before you sign the papers for your next car.

Benefits

No Gas

The biggest benefit of electric cars is obvious — you no longer need gas. That’s a big deal since the average American spends between $2,000 and $4,000 on gas every year. With fully electric cars such as the Nissan Leaf, that cost is eliminated — though electricity isn’t free. A plug-in hybrid, or PHEV, can eliminate a portion of your gas bill, as well, but it still uses a gasoline engine as a range extender.

Low-Maintenance

Beyond the fuel-saving benefit, EVs offer another major cost savings on maintenance. Since an EV is fully electric, it doesn’t require oil to lubricate an engine. That means oil changes become a thing of the past. The same is true for a lot of other expensive engine work that could afflict a gas-powered car. Brakes won’t wear as quickly, either, so you won’t need to replace pads as often as you do on a normal car.

For electric cars, you’ll find substantial savings from the federal government’s mandate that manufacturers offer a minimum of an 8-year/100,000-mile warranty on EV batteries. Some manufacturers offer even more protection, such as the lifetime battery warranty on the Hyundai Kona EV. For the Kona, the manufacturer also pays the maintenance cost for the first three years or 36,000 miles with the electric models (and gas-powered ones, too).

Tax Credits and Incentives

Electric vehicles aren’t just less costly to own in terms of maintenance. They can come with federal tax credits and other state and local incentives. The Mini Cooper SE, for example, starts around $30,000 — no small number until you factor in the $7,500 federal tax credit. Many states offer electric car incentives, as well. As a result, the $30,000 Mini Cooper SE can easily get below $20,000. Leasing an electric car can be enticing, too. Some leasing companies take the tax credit and pass on the savings to the driver. If not, use it as a negotiating point when buying a car.

RELATED STORIES: How to Buy a Car

Reducing Your Carbon Footprint

Of course, there’s another major benefit to owning an electric car. For many drivers, just knowing that they’re doing their part to save the planet will be reason enough to leap into an EV.

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Drawbacks

Range

The main hurdle of electric car ownership concerns ranges and the anxiety that you’ll run out of juice when you’re nowhere near a charging station. However, as battery technology improves, so will range, and those challenges begin to fade. According to reports, Toyota plans to unveil a solid-state battery with a 600-mile range any day.

Until then, here’s a few examples of what you can expect to get out of a longer-range battery. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, for the 2021 Nissan Leaf Plus with its 62 kWh battery, its range reaches an estimated 226 miles. For most drivers, that’s more than enough range to get around, but many will require a second car if only to calm their nerves.

Tesla cars can travel some of the longest driving ranges of any production electric vehicle on the market. The 2021 Tesla Model S offers an estimated EPA range of up to 387 miles, and the forthcoming Model S sedans claim even higher numbers.

Of note: Estimated ranges can change, particularly over time or with a temperature change.

RELATED STORIES: How Long Do Electric Car Batteries Last?

EV Charging Station Installation at Home

Another big disadvantage is that many drivers need to install an EV charging station at home. It’s not completely necessary if you live near a plethora of public charging stations around major cities or at work or retail centers. But most shoppers prefer the convenience of a charging station at home, cutting into the cost savings from owning an EV in the first place. And while you can technically charge an electric car on standard 120-volt outlet, a 240-volt, Level 2 charging station is much faster.

Costly Battery Replacement

Although EV ownership eliminates many maintenance hassles such as oil changes, it can also lead to big expenses. These are mostly because of batteries mounted in modern electric vehicles. Overall battery life is expected to be around a decade, and replacement battery packs can be costly. Most estimates put them well into the thousands of dollars.

Electricity Still Costs Money

Finally, EV ownership doesn’t eliminate fuel costs. As mentioned, electricity isn’t free — and charging during peak hours can add to your utility bills. Still, many drivers won’t see costs increase more than $20 per month, at most. As of this writing, consumers pay approximately 13 cents kilowatt-hour in the United States for residential power. California residents pay more than 21 cents per kWh.

While it can be difficult to decide between electric vehicles and gas-powered models, we hope our explanation of the benefits and disadvantages can make the choice a little easier.

Related Electric Car Articles:

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated for accuracy since it was originally published.

Doug Demuro
Doug DeMuro writes articles and makes videos, mainly about cars. Doug was born in Denver, Colorado, and received an economics degree from Emory University in Atlanta. After graduation, Doug spent three years working for Porsche Cars North America. Eventually, he quit his job to become a writer, largely because it meant that he no longer had to wear pants. Doug’s work has been featured in a... Read More about Doug Demuro

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16 COMMENTS

  1. The ‘lower cost in the long run’ argument does not stand up. It is possible to get a good twelve year old petrol powered car with lots of life in it for around £1000. You can’t get an EV for that – if it’s twelve years old you could be looking at spending around £2000 to £3000 soon after for a replacement battery. But if you are the sort of person whose priority is spending a lot of money on a new car, you are probably not bothered about the running costs or climate change.

    If you want the number of electric cars on our roads to increase, then don’t object to windfarms – lots more, onshore and offshore.
    The fact that EV’s are faster is always seen as a positive; wrong, it makes them less safe (particularly as they are quieter and easier to drive with no gear changing necessary) Expect to see an increase in pedestrian collisions.

    Regenerative motor braking means more likely sticking wheel brakes on older vehicles. EV’s still have suspension, steering and braking components – they are not as many think, largely maintenance free.
    An EV is more likely to get stuck if you pull onto grass or soft ground as you have no options to use different gears as you do in a petrol/diesel car.
    I am in favour of electric cars but people should know the facts.
  2. The electricity that the electric car uses is most likely not completely from renewable energy sources, so you’re making the same contributions to increasing greenhouse gas emissions only in a different way. 

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