Electric cars are all the hype nowadays. This hype, however, is not groundless given the countless number of benefits these electric cars these offer. One of the many attractive benefits of these electric cars is their environmental sustainability, no maintenance, and the autopilot features. In 2020, global sales of electric vehicles increased by a staggering 41% and approximately 3 million of these electric cars were sold. It is further expected that these sales would continue to balloon in the future and these electric cars would become a common sight on the roads.
The history of electric cars is rich which started all the way back in 1890, pioneered by a chemist named William Morrison who kicked off the quest for electric cars in Des Moines, Iowa, United States. You can find all about the long history of electric cars in our article here so you can truly understand how it all began.
With so many electric cars now on the market, it is a cumbersome and a puzzling task to choose one. In this guide, we are going to discuss many different aspects of electric cars so that you are armed with solid information and are able to buy an electric car that is the most suitable for you.
How Do Electric Cars Work?
In contrast with a regular car, electric cars are not powered by fuel-powered engine as one would imply. These electric cars are powered by an electric motor which is in turn powered by strong batteries, and consequently, there are no emissions or burning of fossil fuels and no fuel components such as the fuel tank or fuel pump. The rechargeable batteries then draw power and are charged by chargers which take electricity from the grid. Moreover, the electric cars tend to accelerate faster than conventional engines because of no fuel combustion process, and consequently, electric cars feel lighter.
Electric cars have 90% lesser parts than the traditional fuel-powered cars and have five main parts which include the electric motor which power the car, the inverter which converts the Direct Current (DC) from the charger into Alternating Current (AC), the drivetrain which powers the wheels and allow the car to move, the batteries which store the electricity from the charger, and the charging where you can plug in a charger and charge up your electric car.
Types of Electric Car Batteries
The initial electric cars used a battery type called heavy lead-acid batteries; however, their performance was limited, and therefore, these were replaced by nickel cadmium batteries which had better performance and storage capacity. But these batteries also had a problem, the memory effect, which caused the batteries’ capacity to deplete as they were used more and more over time. And, then these batteries were also outlawed because of high toxicity levels in cadmium element, and consequently, nickel-metal hydride batteries were used. Finally, in today’s world, electric cars all use lithium-ion batteries which are much superior to these types of batteries.
The Lithium-Ion technology is used almost all batteries in electric cars because of the numerous benefits it offers over other types of batteries which have been mentioned above. They offer more energy per unit mass, high power-to-weight ratio, better efficiency, good performance under heat, and does not have the memory effect problem as the nickel-cadmium batteries. However, they must be kept in a protective box and need to be monitored closely to avoid any overheating.
Solid State Batteries
Currently under research and development, the solid-state batteries are one-step ahead of the Lithium-Ion technology. It has higher energy density, less of a fire or explosion hazard, and therefore the requirement for having safety components is eliminated which means the weight and space is saved which ultimately makes the entire system much more efficient and better range.
Types of Electric Cars
There are three different types of electric cars with a mix of battery power and fuel power.
Hybrid-electric: the primary source of power in these types of cars is fuel such as petrol or diesel. However, such cars also have an electric battery which is not charged through a charging port i.e., electricity but rather through a process called regenerative braking. The kinetic energy produced by the brakes when slowing down in converted into energy that can be stored in the battery. This energy recovered from brakes is then used to power the electric motor. The hybrid-electric cars cannot be directly charged with a charging port, and their main source of power is fuel. You can switch between your conventional fuel-powered engine and electric power with a touch of a button, usually named as ‘EV’ in many such cars.
Plug-in hybrid: these types of cars also have both systems, an electric motor and a traditional engine powered by fuel. However, these cars mainly run on the electricity stored in the battery like a regular electric car, but if the battery runs out, the car switches to fuel and is powered by it. As such, when the car is not running on electricity, it will produce emissions like a car that runs on fuel produces. It is truly a hybrid form of an electric car and a traditional fuel-combustion car as the name implies.
Plug-in electric: this type completely relies on electric power to run and do not have any fuel-based engine. So, it must be charged at a charging station to fill up the battery, and therefore, this type of car does not produce any emissions at all as it purely runs on electric power. This type of car, you can call a true electric vehicle.
From 1 to 3, the level of electricity involvement in the running of the car increases. The plug-in electric cars are completely electric with no engine.
Duration to charge an electric car
The duration to charge an electric car depends on the capability an electric car will have and there are five charging speeds that electric cars can use. Moreover, it also depends on the battery size; the bigger the battery, the longer the time duration to charge it completely. Another factor is the power output from a charging station, the higher the power output, the quicker the charge. Other factors include the initial condition of the battery (whether you are topping up or charging from completely empty battery), the maximum rate of charging your car is compatible with, and temperature-related factors where a cold day will mean it will take a bit longer to charge your car rather than on a hot day.
Rapid (150kW): this charging speed can provide up to 200 miles in 30 minutes of charging. However, your electric car must have the compatibility with these rapid chargers. Almost all electric cars can charge on this speed, but most plug-in hybrid electric cannot charge on this speed.
Rapid (43-50kW): this charging speed can provide up to 90 miles in 30 minutes of charging. This type of charging speed will also require your car to be compatible with rapid chargers.
Fast (22kW): this charging speed can provide up to 90 miles in 1 hour of charging. Most of the electric cars are compatible with this speed and lesser than this.
Fast (7kW): this charging speed can provide up to 30 miles in 1 hour of charging.
Slow (3.7kW): this charging speed can provide up to 15 miles in 1 hour of charging.
The charging speeds are summarised in the table below for your convenience.
So, overall, we see that rapid chargers are the quickest way to charge your electric car whereas home charging points are slower which offer 3.7kW or 7kW because seeing 22kW is rare and is very expensive to install at your home. Remember that your electric car will charge at all compatible charging points but will only accept the maximum charging speed regardless of what that charging point offers. From this, we recommend that you should top-up charge your electric car rather than charging from a completely empty battery because it will be quicker and more efficient.
Cost of running an electric car
The benefits of buying and running an electric car are clear. But the million-dollar question is whether these cars are cheaper to run than a traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) car. It has been found that, on average, it is in fact cheaper to own an electric car than a regular fuel-run car as it will cost you less over the entire course of ownership. This is because, one, electricity is usually less costly than petrol or diesel, and two, electric cars require less maintenance than the regular ICE cars. In addition to these, many governments around the world offer tax breaks and credits for owning an electric car, you can read up more on this on the relevant taxation agencies of your country.
However, the exact cost of running your electric car will vary. It will depend on your electric car’s model, make, and some specifics that means there is a wide range of options for people buying electric vehicles. It will also depend on the charge point, its speed, the location, the network.
Most electric car users will not have to install a level 2 charger at their home and so a level 1 charger would suffice if there is a power outlet nearby which the charger can be plugged in so no additional costs of installing a level 2 charger will have to be incurred.
Let us conduct an in-depth analysis of the cost of an electric car compared with a traditional ICE car. We will compare two cars: the 2021 Tesla Model 3 Long Range AWD EV and 2021 Lexus ES 350 Gasoline. We will set the state to California and annual driving distance of 11,926 miles with daily and highway driving added. The gasoline prices will be $2.32/gal and the cost of acquiring either car is similar. The graph below shows the total cost of ownership of both cars by year in dollars.
We can see from the graph that while either of the car starts out at the same place, the Lexus ES 350 diverges and becomes more expensive as years of ownership increase. This shows that the Tesla Model 3 is on average cheaper than Lexus ES 350.
The following table shows other costs to compare the cost of an electric car and a traditional car with the same assumptions given above.
Source: US Department of Energy.
We can also conclude from this table that the Tesla Model 3 costs less, on average, than the Lexus ES 350.
Therefore, although electricity per kW will vary from area to area, it is found by many analysts over time that electric cars are cheaper to own than the traditional internal combustion engine cars and even with added features.
Pros and Cons of an Electric Car
In this guide, we have seen—so far—electric cars provide a plethora of different benefits over the regular fuel-powered vehicles. Let’s explore these benefits in detail but also look at the flip side of the coin where will look at the cons of owning an electric car as well.
Environmental Sustainability: this is the most obvious benefit of owning an electric car. Because the electric cars do not use fuel as power, these cars also consequently do not produce any emissions. As such, you can play your part of reducing CO2 emissions and slow down climate change. It is one of the major changes you can make in your life in the process of going green. Moreover, fuel—petrol or diesel—is a non-renewable resource whereas electricity can be produced by renewable sources such as wind, solar etc. This means that you are also playing your part in slowing down the depletion of fossil fuels i.e., non-renewable resources.
Less Expensive: we have explored this part in dept in the section above. Because no fuel is required and electricity is cheaper than fuel, we see that it is cheaper to run an electricity car. In addition to that, less frequent maintenance is required for electric cars because they have 90% less components than traditional cars which also save maintenance costs.
Quieter and Better Acceleration: electric cars with their electric motors do not produce any noise unlike the conventional cars, so quiet that some governments have required that electric cars install some sort of noise alerts to alert pedestrians; this means that you are also adding less to noise pollution. Apart from this, electric cars have better acceleration compared to an average car because no combustion process is required, and you get no lags when you floor that pedal in an electric car.
Tax Credits and Special Benefits: most governments around the world are now offering tax credits to those who own electric cars which means you pay less in income tax, saving on this as well. In fact, these tax credits can even go up to $7,500 in some states of the United States. Moreover, in some places, high-occupancy lanes (HOV) are available to those who carpool and are able to bypass traffic during rush hour, electric cars have also been allowed to use these HOV lanes.
Tech features: most electric cars have very advanced technology features. In Tesla models, the very smart autopilot allows drivers to complete let the car drive and it is quite safe to do so. Many other tech features also exist to make the entire electric car user experience more convenient and safer.
Shorter Range: in general, electric cars have a shorter range relative to traditional cars. However, electric car manufacturers are doing their best to increase this; nevertheless, a electric car on full charge would have a range of 124 to 304 miles whereas on a full tank, a gas car would go up to 482 miles.
Recharging Durations: charging your electric car takes a good amount of time depending on the type of charging speed you have. A gas car would get its tank completely full in a matter of few minutes whereas the fastest charger i.e., the rapid chargers would take at least 30 minutes or so to completely charge the battery. This time could be crucial for many where one needs to reach somewhere in time such as a meeting etc.
Higher Investment cost & lack of choice: the initial capital cost of buying a good electric car is significantly higher than a traditional car. The fully electric cars are even more expensive with the basic models starting at around $30,000 and going up to $90,000 with more luxurious features whereas in the $30,000 rage, you can buy a good luxury gas car. In addition to this, electric cars’ models are limited because a few companies produce which means less choice. However, with rising demand, we can see lower prices and more choice in the electric cars market.
Charging Network: not all countries and cities have an abundance of charging points, and this problem is further exaggerated in countries where the adaption of electric cars is relatively low. Therefore, the problem of finding charging points can be a real issue for electric cars owners.
As you can see, there are many pros and cons of owning an electric car. However, we have seen a rapidly increasing demand for electric cars and as was mentioned in the starting of this guide, it is not groundless. For many, pros outweigh cons but for some cons outweigh pros, and thus, the decision completely depends on you.
Best Selling Electric Cars of 2021
After a good amount of background information on electric cars, we will list down the best-selling electric cars of 2021 in the table below and listed in no order with their starting MSRP.
Tesla Model 3
Hyundai Ioniq 5
Tesla Model S
Ford Mustang Mach-E
Chevrolet Bolt EV
Tesla Model X Long Range
There are many more other electric cars that are being sold. The onus of the decision lies on you; it depends on your price range, objectives from an electric car, and many other factors that determine your choice.
Electric cars are, probably, the future of cars. We can already see them becoming a common sight on roads, and the network of charging points is increasing as a result which is making owning electric cars even more convenient. The functioning of electric cars is simple as well which makes it easy to understand and requires less frequent maintenance and making it overall less expensive because of no fuel used. It is a solid step towards your own personal effort towards making a positive impact for the planet and playing your in reducing the effects of climate change.