The EV revolution is upon us, but it isn't all bad news.
Whether it has a significant effect on reducing our carbon footprint on the earth or not, legislators are prompting manufacturers to change their product lineups from combustion to electric. Many automakers are making the change before 2030, with a number of governments setting the final deadline midway through the 2030s. While numerous brands have contributed towards changing the mindset of the motoring masses, a lot of misconceptions still exist about the use of EVs.
Diehard fans of the combustion engine take every opportunity to berate EVs, highlighting any potential negative they can. Many of these claims are misinformed at the best of times, and at the worst, completely untrue. While there are some downsides, at least for the time being, there are also a large number of benefits to buying electric.
Motorists like performance. Think of the average car user; they might buy cheap to suit their budget, and they may prefer comfort over track-day readiness, but you will seldom hear of a motorist complaining that a car has too much performance for their liking. The thing about performance, particularly of the accelerative sort, is that you don't have to use all of it all the time. But when you do, it sure is nice to know you have it at the ready.
EVs are a golden resource as far as accelerative performance goes, with even the cheapest of EVs providing performance that vastly exceeds that of a similar gas-powered car. Because of the instant torque provided by electric motors, there's no need to wait for an engine to build to peak power/torque, and there's no such thing as turbo lag.
Whether you're buying a budget city car or an electric sports car, this is one trait consistent with every electric car currently on sale.
Not only is the performance fun, but it also contributes towards user safety. How so? Well, while the bulk of drivers think braking is the best way out of a dangerous situation, this isn't always the case. Sometimes, it's safer to accelerate out of a dangerous scenario, like when you're stuck between two semis and one starts drifting between the lanes. Sometimes, braking isn't the answer, and in an EV, unlike modern compact commuters, you have the power to accelerate out of danger.
Wait, what?! As funny as it may sound when you're driving an EV, there's less work involved. With the inclusion of regenerative braking capabilities, you no longer need to use a brake pedal in most driving situations. In fact, it's often beneficial not to. Instead, simply by coming off the throttle, a modern EV can be slowed with the same effect as moderate braking, and in the process, recovers charge.
We've now gone from the era in which three-pedal driving was all the rage to one in which you only need one. While gearheads may lament the loss of involvement as a driver, a large majority of the car-buying public are not enthusiasts. They use cars simply as appliances, and making those appliances easier to operate in traffic jams and on the daily commute is not a bad thing.
While the debate on 'clean energy' rages on when it comes to EVs - the electricity is only as clean as the source from which it's generated - there's one type of pollution electric cars have eschewed altogether: noise. Again, gearheads will lament the loss of a sonorous engine, but EVs are becoming cars for the masses, and the masses typically don't buy the loudest engine available. With electric cars, engine noise is being done away with entirely, which reduces the effects of noise pollution on the environment. Not only does this make living conditions better for people who live near busy roads or highways, but it also has benefits for the environment, as wild animals are often scared away by noise pollution when roads are situated near their natural abode. Accuse us of being bunny-huggers all you like, but at what point did human convenience justify destroying nature. At least, with EVs, the impact of the automobile is being lessened.
Mechanically speaking, fewer moving parts mean less can go wrong. Electric motors typically have only two moving parts, as opposed to an engine which can have dozens, possibly even hundreds of moving parts. Each and every one of these take strain, and parts like pistons suffer greater strain at the top and bottom of their stroke where they have to counter vertical movement. Electric motors, contrarily, only make use of rotational motion. Because of this, there's less strain on the motors themselves. It's not just motors, but the rest of the drivetrain. ICE cars have gearboxes with many complex gearsets, whereas EVs are significantly simpler in their makeup. Every moving part that an EV doesn't have is one less part that is taking strain and potentially breaking, reducing maintenance costs in the long run.
The facts are simple: an electric motor is vastly more efficient than a combustion engine. That's why the EPA's MPGe figures (Miles Per Gallon Equivalent) are always much, much higher than typical MPG figures of gasoline and diesel engines. The simple fact of the matter is that combustion is a highly inefficient process, with much of the energy created being lost to heat. Even a combustion engine acting as an electric generator is more efficient than a combustion engine driving the wheels of a car directly. With an EV, you're getting more propulsion for less energy used, and less energy used means less strain on global infrastructure and on the planet itself. Yes, the argument is true that 'zero emissions' is only descriptive of the car itself, and yes, electricity is only as clean as the source it comes from, but energy production is becoming cleaner as the world utilizes renewable resources, and electric cars are simply one avenue in which people can improve their efficiency and lighten their footprint on the planet.
As fewer components are needed in the package, and the relative compactness of the drivetrain, electric cars have a lot more usable space within the same physical footprint as a combustion engine. The uses for this space are innumerable, but highlights include better packaging of the cabin, freeing up passenger volume and making cabins feel more spacious. You can package a midsize cabin in the external footprint of a compact car. More than this, you have more usable storage space as frunks can now supplement trunks. These are all practical benefits, but there are some extra perks. Car design has been largely hampered by the physical restraints of the ICE car. An engine goes up front, or in the case of supercars, behind the cabin, and everything else has to be modified around that. But with electric skateboard platforms, designers can go all-out, entering a new era of coachbuilt styling. No longer are we locked in by unibody scalable architecture. Instead, if a designer can conceive it, it can almost certainly be brought to reality.
Naysayers love bringing cost into the equation: "EVs are more expensive than combustion," they'll say, and to a degree they're right. At the point of sale, EVs are not as affordable as a similar ICE car, but that's the case with all new technology. When flat-screen TVs became available, they were damn expensive, but as the tech became readily available, prices came down. The same can be said of smartphones or any other piece of technology. Already, EV battery packs have decreased in cost by a staggering 87% since 2008, and they're only getting more affordable while charging times, battery capacities, and battery longevity improve. EV prices are becoming more affordable to the man on the street, whereas the price of combustion cars increases every single year. While cost may have been a prohibitive factor once upon a time, it's no longer an issue.
When it comes to the automobile, there are two distinct types of user: those who view their cars as appliances, and those who view them as a means of enjoyment. The former comprises about 90% of the population, people who use a vehicle as a means of getting from A to B. For those people, EVs just make sense. They're quiet, perform well, are efficient, cost less to own, and cost less to maintain. The notion of range anxiety is becoming less of a problem as battery tech improves, and even in its current state, if we treat our cars like we treat our cellphones, smartwatches, tablets, ear pods, and every other electronic device we use, these vehicles far exceed the needs for the vast majority of the buying public. Yes, EVs are not for everyone, but for the bulk of road users today, the pros are rapidly outweighing the cons.
There's a silver lining for the gearhead clan too. The world might not see many new combustion cars, but those that we have aren't going anywhere. All the cool Miatas and Hellcats and Civic Type Rs you love will hit the second-hand market for you to buy. They'll be kept alive as classic cars to be enjoyed by the 10% who love them for what they are. The rapid advancements made in the realm of EVs are not going to rob you of your enjoyment. But that could very well mean that the ICE car you love lands in your driveway instead of someone who doesn't see it as anything more than an appliance.