In recent years, we have seen more and more automotive companies present their own iterations of electric vehicles (EVs) and cars, despite being a niche market at the moment. In fact, it is predicted that electric cars will soon become more popular in the future. Given time, it will even replace the traditional gas-powered cars at some point. Such prediction begs a question: is the electric car really that good? What is the difference between electric and gas cars? Let’s find out!
1. How does the electric car work?
The system specification of each electric car can be varied, but here we will look at the basic principle of the EVs. In general, the EVs work based on 3 elements: the electric motor, the motor’s DC controller, and the batteries. The controller will receive power from the batteries so that it can that power to the motor. To adjust the precise amount of delivered power, the car also includes potentiometers that can tell the controller the right amount of power needed to deliver.
Compared to gas-powered cars, electric cars do not need gasoline engine nor gearbox. Its power comes from the rechargeable battery; therefore, it cuts off the need for fuel. The way you drive an electric car is still pretty much the same as how you drive a gasoline-engined car. Plus ideally, you can save lots more money with electric cars since you no longer need to refuel it.
2. Difference between electric and gas cars
Cost of Fuel
Talking about the difference between electric and gas cars, this is definitely one thing coming to many people’s minds right away. Theoretically, we can save lots, lots of money from buying fuel if we use electric cars. Plus, driving EVs can help to reduce CO2 emissions a lot. And while the latter theory about reducing CO2 emissions is correct, we still need more concrete proof regarding the lower cost of fuel. Even though EVs do not run on fuel, it uses electricity and that means: higher electricity bill at your home.
Luckily, the Transportation Research Institute from the University of Michigan has shown a positive finding from their 2018 study. Specifically, the cost of operating an EV in the US is $485 per year on average, while it is $1,117 on average for a gas-powered vehicle. That being said, the difference in fuel price can still be more varied depending on how fuel-efficient your car is. For example, a car that rated at 30 miles per gallon (mpg) will definitely cost more than a car rated at 20 mpg.
On the other hand, the recharging cost of EV depends on the price of electricity. So basically, its cost will count towards your electricity bill. For a better comparison between EV recharging cost and gasoline refueling cost, it is highly recommended to check out the Department of Energy’s eGallon tool. The cost ratio will be updated regularly, but generally, we can expect the price of recharging EV to decrease over time when electric cars become more common in the future.
Refuel time vs Recharge time
Unexpectedly, recharging time is still a problem with electric cars when comparing to traditional gas-powered cars. There is a huge gap in refuel/recharge time between the gas-powered cars and electric cars. Here is an example:
The Toyota Camry is rated at 28 mpg, its fuel capacity is 17 gallons with a maximum range of 476 miles. Guess how long it takes to refuel the car completely… 2 minutes! If we consider the amount of range per minute spent refueling, it is roughly 280 miles per minute.
However, all the EVs in current generations may require even 50-60 minutes to fully recharge, which is approx. 25 times longer than the Camry! Even the upcoming EVs in 2020 can only promise a full recharge within 30-40 minutes. To be fair, 30-40 minutes full recharge is already a big improvement. However, that still takes too long compared to gas cars.
Generally, you can still use the EVs for normal daily routine like going to work then returning back home. You only need to remember plugging in your car to make sure it recharge overnight. But if you are in a sudden hurry or a long trip, the current gens of EVs will highly give you a hard time.
Continuing the discussion of refuel/recharge time, car range is yet another concern for electric cars. As mentioned before, a traditional gas car has quite a good range of 400 miles on average (e.g. it is 476 miles with the Camry). However, current EVs generation still only has an average range of 200 miles. Only a few can expectedly surpass 300 miles like the upcoming Polestar 2 (311 miles) or the Volkswagen ID.3 (featuring the option of 373 miles). Such a range is still significantly lower than many gas-powered cars nowadays.
Then there is another issue of EV recharging stations, which are still far and between. In US, you can easily find a gas station and give your car a good refueling, then continue with your trip. In fact, you can travel throughout America rather easily with a gas-powered car. But that is definitely not viable if you use an electric vehicle. The most viable way to use EVs in the current state is driving it for common daily usage (e.g. going to work).
One good trait of electric vehicles is that they have fewer parts than gas-powered cars. Unlike the latter, the EVs do not need parts from gas cars like engine transmission, driveshafts, differentials, etc… And while this may not sound that much of an advantage at first, it’s actual value lies within the maintenance cost.
In case of gas cars, there are so many things need to be maintained, and the price will gradually go up along with the car ages. Not only that, you also have to spend on various “miscellaneous” stuff like changing the engine oil, coolant, transmission fluid, belts. All of those can add up to the overall expense over time.
Interesting enough, Tesla rental service – Tesloop – actually did a maintenance expense test after the first 300,000 miles with the Tesla Model S. They found out that the total cost was only $10,492, with a total of 12 days of service. In contrast, a high-end gas car like Mercedes S class can cost even $86,000 ($52,000 maintenance and $36,000 fuel) with 112 days of service. That is a huge cost saving in the long run compared to gas cars, even if EVs cost higher on purchase.
Limited in choices
Compared to the gas cars, electric vehicle is still an extremely niche market. At this point, only 1% of the total running vehicles are EVs (according to BloombergNEF). With only few dozens pure electric cars, the choices are so limited at the time. Meanwhile, gas-powered cars have been developed for almost 100 years. So clearly, there are many, many options when you consider buying a gas-powered car, including a vast selection of customizations like colors and styles.
The matter of Practicality
Frankly speaking, both gas-powered cars and electric cars are extremely practical, no doubt about that. But the biggest question is whether people have enough incentives to switch to EVs or not. As discussed, the main limitation of EVs is its short travel range and the long recharge time. It can only be used for daily usage at most like going to work; however, common people also want a vehicle good for both daily use and long-distance travel (like going for a vacation). Not to mention, it is rather hard to find an EV recharging station, whereas you can find gas stations almost everywhere in the US. EVs are undoubtedly practical. But it will need lots more time to gradually become more relevant to the masses.
But what do you think? Do you believe it is time we switch to electric vehicles? Feel free to share with us and for now, thank you and stay tuned for more news in the future!