Electric vehicles are gaining popularity and are supposed to be the future. However, it’s not all rainbows and unicorns. There are several cons to electric vehicles that may be overlooked. This article will hopefully address some of these cons for further consideration.
What are the cons of electric cars? The biggest cons of electric cars include large upfront costs, higher insurance costs, long charging times, range anxiety, large greenhouse emissions during mining and manufacturing, too many unused features that consumers have to pay for, and there are currently very few models to choose from.
Con 1: Costs Aside From Fuel Up
- Initial purchase price
- Insurance costs
- Cost of repairs (batteries, brakes, body work)
The first con to electric vehicles is the cost. But you might be saying, “No, electric vehicles save money.” In some regards, yes they do. Certainly in fuel costs, especially with the oil market spiking, but in a lot of other regards, they can be quite spendy. This includes initial purchase price, cost of repairs, and insurance costs, which is something that’s often overlooked.
In another article, we compared a Tesla Model 3 to a Mazda 3, looking at purchase price, maintenance, fuel, and so on. The initial purchase price of the Tesla was effectively twice the price of the Mazda. Most other electric vehicle models are in the same ballpark, depending on the specific model. The least expensive is probably the Nissan Leaf, which retails for around $32,000.
Most new 2022 models of gas engine cars are around $23,000, which is a fair bit lower than the cheapest EV. This is not to mention the high-end electric vehicles, like the BMW i3, Tesla X, or Tesla S, which float around $45,000 to $80,000+.
Along with the initial purchase price of a new vehicle, the price for a used EV is often higher, as well. This is good news if you already own one. Electric vehicles hold value a bit better than traditional vehicles, so the resale value stays higher longer. However, for those looking to buy, it doesn’t help much because vehicles are going to be expensive no matter the condition.
If you are lucky enough to afford an electric vehicle, you probably now are facing a higher insurance cost. Insurance is required by law for a vehicle to drive in public. In some areas, the punishment for driving without insurance can be quite severe. To stick with the Tesla 3, according to bankrate.com, an average 6-month premium is $1,142 or an average annual premium of $2,283.
Also according to bankrate.com, the average annual premium in the U.S. is $1,655, which is about half of the EV premium. The higher EV premiums are mostly due to the high purchase price and the high cost of repairs.
Which leads us to another con: repair costs. The most expensive repair made on an EV is likely the high-voltage battery. A battery replacement can cost as much as $20,000, but this cost depends on make, model, availability, etc. Plus this job is something that should only be done by a trained specialist at a proper repair facility due to the high-voltage danger as well as maintaining proper repair procedures. Similarly, a lot of replacement parts will come directly from the dealer. This means there’s not much competition among parts manufacturers to drive prices down.
Even though this can be quite expensive, the manufacturer’s warranty will cover most of it. While this might cost a bit at the dealership, it could very well save a pile of money in the event of a required repair.
Con 2: Charging
- Charging takes much longer compared to a fill up
- At home charging can require extra equipment
- superchargers are few and far between
A huge appeal of electric vehicles is the idea of bypassing any and all gas pumps. Petroleum consumption has been blamed for poor air quality and climate change. On a micro level, the average driver will spend tons of money on fuel costs alone. Being able to skirt all of that is enticing and that’s what EV’s offer.
But, it isn’t as slick as it sounds. While electric vehicle owners get to skip filling up at the pump, charging an EV takes a lot longer. A typical charge cycle can take anywhere between 30 minutes to 8 hours or more, depending on beginning charge level and charger type.
Home charging can be really convenient and inexpensive. However, it is still pretty slow. Typically, most electric cars will come with some sort of adapter that can plug into an outlet at home or in a garage. This is what’s called a level 1 charger and it will typically take an overnight charge or more to “fill it up.” A level 2 charger can be installed at home, but can cost thousands of dollars to be professionally installed.
There is a final option: a level 3 “Supercharger”. This is the type of charger found popping up across the nation as the replacement for gas stations. This is the type of charger to use if you need a quicker fill up as it will take around 30 minutes to charge to 80%. These chargers are typically located next to businesses or other attractions to be able to pass the time. The drawback is that these stations are few and far between. Plus, in a pinch, you can’t really stop by the charge station on the way to work if it’s a little low. It takes a lot more foresight to keep an electric vehicle charged and ready to go.
Con 3: Range
- Overall, not great range
- Range changes due to driving habits, causing range anxiety
- Inconsistent across all makes/models
While technology is advancing, the range of an electric vehicle currently isn’t great. A rough average is about 250 miles on a full charge. There are some better than others, though. Most Tesla models will easily clear 300 miles on a charge. The highest is reportedly the Lucid Air Dream Edition at 520. However, these higher range models are also the more expensive models (See con number 1). For comparison, a gas powered vehicle that gets 20 mpg (not a great fuel economy) with a 20 gallon tank (more or less a typical tank size) will go 400 miles on one tank.
One area where this con is made back up is regenerative braking. This system uses the inertia of the moving vehicle to recharge the batteries as the vehicle brakes or coasts. This innovation helps stretch out the range, but it doesn’t do much for long trips. It is more effective in short drives with more acceleration and deceleration.
Driving habits will negatively affect the range. The manufacturers of these expensive electric vehicles will try to spin how good the range can be. But no matter how good it could be, it all boils down to how the driver operates the vehicle. Heavy acceleration will consume more energy and therefore shorten the range. Similarly, the vehicle range will be affected by hot weather conditions or other unforeseen traffic conditions.
When that range starts to shorten more and more with no charger in sight, we can observe a condition colloquially called “range anxiety.” This is anxiety that comes from not knowing whether or not you will be able to make it to a charging station before the battery is depleted.
This isn’t a new sensation, however. We all drive our gas powered cars while the fuel gauge is on “E” just trying to make it to the gas station and sometimes failing. The difference is the subsequent fill up. If you make it to a charging station, it is still going to be at least 30 minutes to effectively charge. There’s not really a convenient equivalent of getting a small gas can to get to the next exit.
Con 4: Confusingly “Green”
- Appeals to lowering fuel consumption and emissions
- Is the electricity “green”?
- Manufacturing costs
At the time of writing this article, the world is in the middle of a fuel price spike. These record setting prices have many consumers reeling and the appeal of a non-gasoline car looks very tempting. But the “green-ness” of EV’s is a bit murky, more like a swamp green. While the individual vehicle emissions are less, where does the electric company get its power? Is that source also “green?” And the demand for these vehicles is growing, but is the manufacturing process as good for the environment as it is for the economy? Confusing?
There are constant debates going on about this very complicated issue and the answer is not cut and dried. Yet, this is a selling point for electric vehicles. Most people try to do good things to live morally, and some people do so in order to get attention. We can’t generalize all electric vehicle owners as such, but the ones who need attention are often the loudest.
So now the ownership of an electric vehicle isn’t really about being environmentally friendly, but is a divisive social issue. While this does happen, there are many who also genuinely want to do what they can to help the environment. Either way, electric vehicle ownership isn’t always as green as we think.
For example, consider the manufacturing process. Most of the vehicle is built similar to a normal vehicle. A frame gets stitched together, body panels get stamped out and assembled, electronics are plugged in, and everything gets a shiny paint job. The only difference is the battery packs. These batteries require elements such as lithium, cobalt, and nickel. While there are ways to acquire these materials for manufacturing, there is still a tax on the environment from which they are mined. As supply and demand fluctuates and grows in the coming years, these resources may be more aggressively mined.
In contrast, some components of EV batteries can be recycled. Being able to disassemble a battery to either rebuild it or reuse its components will save on some of this demand. Tesla is big on recycling batteries while also being the highest selling EV manufacturer. In theory, this practice will be quite easy on the environment. However, it’s difficult to reckon this with the impending demand imposed by the EPA and other governmental regulating bodies.
Another pro for the EV is the lack of individual emissions. Tailpipe emissions contribute a lot of pollution, especially in highly-populated areas. Being able to supplant a portion of these vehicles will help improve the local air pollution. However, this isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution as many places with higher populations are also higher in temperatures which adversely affects the batteries in electric cars. As the increase in EV’s comes to fruiting, there will likely be many trade offs along the way.
Con 5: Preferences
- fewer models to shop for
- Unwanted extras
- Circle back to price
When it comes to shopping for any vehicle, it is important to consider the small things. If a vehicle does not meet at least most of your preferences, it is not worth having. When it comes to electric vehicles, there is a smaller market overall to shop within, meaning a more limited range of what you can choose between. At the same time, however, there are also a lot of bells and whistles to sort through and decide on. These two factors also affect the price, which has already been discussed, but it is directly related to what preferences consumers want.
To the credit of automakers, there is a boom in electric vehicles. However, as it stands, there is a relatively limited selection of makes and models to choose from. This includes new and used vehicles. There are hundreds of different makes and models of normal vehicles, used and new, because this technology has been so prevalent for so long. There are choices for small compact vehicles to large utility vehicles and everything in between. Not all makes/models are a good value, but there is something for every budget.
Not so with electric vehicles. Pure electric vehicles, or battery electric vehicles, are available in about 26 models in 2020, according to evadoption.com. Having a limited market for EV’s can make it difficult to buy-in because whatever make/model fits the budget might not be a preferred choice.
Similarly, this narrow scope of EV’s means you have to settle for the options available, whether you want them or not. Compared to a base level trim package of a normal car, there are a lot of unnecessary amenities in these newer EV’s. While the huge dash and display in a Tesla is technically quite advanced, it isn’t appealing to all consumers. Sure, you could just not utilize the integrated computer system, but you’re still paying for it.
As it stands, most EV’s are quite spendy and that puts a lot of people off them. Maybe as production increases, we can see these lower-trim options come to fruition for those who don’t need all that razzle-dazzle. There have been similar trends with electronics, such as cell phones, where there will be a top-dollar flagship model, but also a model with similar features but costs much less.
Are Electric Cars Still Worth Owning Even With All These Cons?
Deciding whether or not these issues are worth it are an individual decision. There is a lot of money involved in purchasing and repairing, which can’t always be accounted for. Likewise, if there are options available that aren’t what the individual is looking for, then it isn’t really worth it. With more and more government mandates concerning “electrification”, many people will invest in order to not only make money, but also to try and help the environment. Here’s hoping that in doing so, with the impending rise in demand, that the payoff will be worthwhile.