The Truth About Owning an Electric Car

what its like owning an electric car

Electric cars are becoming increasingly popular in the automotive market. Electric vehicles, also known as EVs, are now available not only for private use but for public transportation and company-owned vehicles as well. 

Although electric vehicles seem to be the way of the future, the opposition that has accompanied the new industry boom may leave you wondering about the truth about owning an electric car. 

The truth is, the production of electric cars creates more pollution and imposes a greater violation of human rights than the production of gas-powered vehicles does. However, the industry is rapidly growing and improving as the positive impacts of EVs continue to outweigh the negative when considered relative to the lifetime of the vehicle. 

There are a lot of statistics involved in understanding the impact that electric cars have on the well-being of the Earth as well as that of your wallet. We put together this guide explaining the good and the ugly of the electric car industry to help you understand what it means to own an electric car. 

  1. Types of Electric Vehicles

It is helpful to understand the basics of electric vehicles before jumping into the statistics concerning the impact they can make. Doing so begins with understanding the four different types of electric vehicles:

  1. Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs)

As the name implies, battery electric vehicles contain a battery back that makes them fully electric. One of the greatest appeals of BEVs is that they don’t emit any of the hazardous emissions produced by gas-burning vehicles. They get their power from the grid and can be charged at a power station or through a standard household outlet. 

  1. Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEVs)

Hybrids are powered through the energy derived from two drive systems – a combustion engine and an electric motor and battery that recharges through the braking system.  The electric engine in these cars offer some of the benefits of a fully electric vehicle. However, due to the battery only being able to recharge through the braking system, these cars still primarily run on gasoline. 

  1. Plug-in Hybrids (PHEVs) 

These hybrids offer the best of both worlds by coming equipped with both a gas or diesel engine as well as a rechargeable battery that is capable of being recharged off the grid. This important difference between PHEVs and HEVs makes plug-ins much less dependent on fossil fuels while still offering the flexibility of either option. 

  1. Fuel Cell Vehicles 

Fuel cell vehicles produce their energy by splitting the electrons of hydrogen molecules rather than storing energy in a battery. These vehicles emit only water and have the potential of being the next scientific leap when it comes to EVs, though the technology is still new and still being perfected. 

The Benefits of Owning an Electric Car

Although still relatively new to the automotive market, electric vehicles have already shown just how much of a difference this alternate fuel source can make in our lives. Not only do electric cars significantly reduce the harmful impact we have on the environment, but they can have much less of an impact on our wallets as well. Some of the benefits of owning an electric car include the following:

  • Electric cars don’t emit harmful gases that damage our atmosphere. 
  • The average cost of electricity compared to the average cost of gas in the US has been estimated to save upwards of $770 a year. 
  • Battery EVs require less maintenance than vehicles with gas motors. 
  • EVs have several features that are said to provide a better driver experience.
  • Certain roadways and cities offer EVs special discounts and rights of way. 

Below we’ll take a closer look at how each of these is achieved. Understanding the details will help us understand the truth behind electric cars and exactly why they are the way of the future.

Electric Cars Are Better for the Earth

One of the main goals in transitioning from gas-powered to electricity-powered vehicles is the reduction of harmful emissions into our atmosphere. Transportation is the most energy-consuming sector, using a whopping 37% of the country’s annual consumption of energy, and with most of that energy coming from petroleum. Reducing this use of petroleum by switching to EVs can make a significant impact on the footprint we are leaving on this Earth.

Not only will a reduction in these emissions be better for the planet, but it will be better for the health and well-being of humans as well. Increased exposure rates to these emissions have been linked to various health related issues such as the following: 

  • Asthma
  • Bronchitis
  • Cancer
  • Lung damage
  • Heart conditions

One study further put these risks into perspective by putting a number on it. It was figured that up to $3.80 in environmental and health costs accompany each gallon of gas purchased and an additional $4.80 for big rigs and farm equipment. Fully electric vehicles eliminate all emissions that occur with the use of vehicles, while hybrids have shown to have a reduction of impact relative to the reduction in gasoline used to power the vehicle. 

Electric Cars are Less Expensive

There are several parts to owning an EV that make it less expensive to own than a vehicle with a gas motor. The first way in which EVs are more economical is in the money it takes to power your vehicle. There is no way around an increase in your power bill, but the amount spent powering your vehicle on the grid is significantly less than what you would spend on gas. 

This has statistically shown to be true in cities across the US, with the average annual savings coming to around $770. EVs also require no routine maintenance, saving drivers an additional $1500 or more. 

Another way in which EVs are less expensive is through a tax credit. The US offers a federal EV tax credit, while many states also offer their tax credit as well. Different rebates are also available for the various types of EVs

Related article: These 28 Electric Cars Qualify for a Federal Tax Credit

Electric Cars are Easier to Care for 

We mentioned that this benefit of owning an EV will save you money, but how exactly are electric cars easier to care for? The answer is quite simple: batteries simply do not require the maintenance of gasoline-powered combustion engines. This means never having to worry about the following:

  • Oil changes 
  • General engine servicing
  • Spark plug and timing belt replacements 

Electric Cars Drive Better 

Claiming that EVs drive better than gas-powered cars may be a debatable statement to some car enthusiasts, but there are a few features that can back this statement. The instantaneous torque of electric engines leads to easy and smooth acceleration and deceleration. Combined with a low center of gravity, EVs offer maximum responsiveness with reliable handling. 

Electric Cars Get Special Perks

Tax breaks aren’t the only special treatment that owners of electric cars are seeing. Certain locations also allow EVs to use express lanes as well as specialized parking areas and may even reduce toll fees. 

The Downsides of Owning an Electric Car

Electric cars offer a lot of benefits to owners, but there are still improvements to be made. A common concern about EVs is the high cost of production as well as the emissions created in the process, both of which are valid points. 

The lithium-ion batteries used in battery electric cars require significantly more materials and energy to build than combustion engines. This leads to higher manufacturing costs as well as a greater amount of emissions

However, these concerns focus only on the manufacturing process rather than the greater picture. The reduction in emissions greatly outweighs the increased amount of emissions created during production, and this happens in an average of only eighteen months. 

The overall savings and cost after tax breaks also greatly outweighs the increased initial costs of purchasing an EV, making it an increasingly available option for everyone. 

Limited Charging Opportunities

A few other factors may make some shy away from the idea of owning an electric car. One of these deterrents is the lack of charging stations in comparison to the availability of gas stations, particularly the further away from a city you are. 

Although EVs will last an average day of commuting before needing to be recharged, traveling further takes a new type and degree of planning, and extended road trips may not be completely feasible yet. There are also fewer model options to choose from, though that is sure to change as the market continues to grow and expand. 

The Production of Electric Vehicles on a World Scale

A third major concern about EVs can be seen as we expand our perspective to the impact EVs are having on the world. The reality of manufacturing and production is that it is often outsourced to other countries for a significantly reduced cost. 

However, these countries often don’t have the same labor laws and regulations as the US, and many other first-world countries do, leading to various types of human-rights abuses. In regard to manufacturing electric vehicles, one of the primary concerns is the use of child labor in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Hazardous Working Conditions Due to Cobalt Mines

Many major companies are still using cobalt to produce the batteries for their electric vehicles. This cobalt largely comes from the DRC, with reports having shown both adults and children alike working in hazardous conditions to hand-dig this cobalt from mines. 

As Kumi Naidoo, Amnesty International’s Secretary-General, stated, “Finding effective solutions to the climate crisis is an absolute imperative, and electric cars have an important role to play in this. But without radical changes, the batteries which power green vehicles will continue to be tainted by human rights abuses.” 

Some major companies such as Apple and Samsung have begun publishing data on their manufacturing process and supply chains for this reason. However, with over half of the world’s cobalt coming from the DRC, it is still difficult to separate EVs from these abuses of human rights. 

There is also a concern about the environmental impact seen from the production of EVs in other countries. A demand for necessary minerals has increased deep-sea mining, these including the following:

  • Cobalt
  • Lithium
  • Manganese 

This high demand is predicted to lead to a shift in the ocean’s biodiversity and likely lead to some serious consequences.

Countries That Use Coal in Battery Production

There is also the concern about a majority of lithium-ion batteries being produced in countries where power is still being derived primarily from coal and other polluting fuel sources. Some of these primary producers of lithium batteries include the following:

  • China
  • South Korea
  • Japan, 

We have already acknowledged that there is an increased amount of emissions that occur in creating EVs compared to gas-powered vehicles. This only increases the world’s carbon footprint even more and is counter-intuitive to the EV’s greater purpose of reducing our impact and helping our planet.

The Future of Electric Vehicles

We have already been seeing a push towards electric vehicles, becoming the new trend for privately used vehicles for several years now. However, service and delivery companies, as well as public transportation, are finally all looking to make the switch as well. This includes some of the following types of vehicles:

  • Garbage and recycling trucks
  • Sanitation truck
  • Delivery trucks
  • Emergency vehicles
  • Buses

California Leading Shift to Electric Vehicles

Within the US, one of the leading states in this shift from gas to electric-powered vehicles in California. The city of Los Angeles will see the first electric fire truck in 2021. This new addition to the Los Angeles Fire Department will be a leader in a greater transition that many residents will witness over the next few years. 

California has also been a leader in the nation’s shift towards cleaner transportation in several other ways. The state’s Zero-Emissions Vehicles (ZEV) mandate is being pushed to make a regulated percentage of vehicles on the road electric vehicle. This mandate has already been adopted by ten other states.

California has also recently passed a national electric truck manufacturing standard. This standard encompasses all of the following:

  • Delivery trucks
  • Garbage trucks 
  • Semi-trucks 

In fact, the California Air Resources Board aims to have 100% electric trucks on the road within the next quarter century. 

A Push for More Charging Stations

A last major push that is accompanying California and hopefully soon the nation’s transition to cleaner energy and transportation is the availability of charging stations. This would be primarily beneficial to private vehicle owners who may not have a garage or convenient way to charge their EV at home but is an important step to making EVs convenient and the new standard across all 50 states. 

Electric Vehicles on the World Scale

Although electric vehicles have been around for close to a decade, sales and adoption of EVs into society are spiking around the world. China has been a major forerunner in the use of electric vehicles, but several European countries leading the way in renewable energy are seeing rapid spikes in their use of electric transportation as well. 

In fact, Europe saw a growth of 44% in 2019 after securing 60 billion to use towards the production of EVs. And while the US holds on to strong ties with the fossil fuels industry, we are steadily heading in the same direction. 

The global automotive market still largely revolves around gas-powered vehicles, but a global change will eventually bring everyone on-board. Even U.S. automotive manufactured Ford is looking towards the future, claiming to premier their F-150 as well as the famous Mustang as electric cars within the next two years. 

What We Can Expect to See Next

Electric vehicles are undoubtedly the way of our near future. From private electric cars to service vehicles and public transportation, the EV industry is growing rapidly and expanding into all aspects of our lives. 

As the market rapidly grows, it is important to continually improve the production process alongside it. The market aims to reduce the impact of harmful emissions that humans leave on this planet as well as on ourselves, and is accompanied by an effort to be made accessible to everyone. 

So, What is the Truth About Owning an Electric Car?

As it is now, even fully electric vehicles that draw 100% of their power from the grid have no choice but to use grids that are not entirely powered by renewable energy. The production of batteries also creates an undesirably high amount of emissions, To top it off, desires to decrease the costs of production alongside the increased need for materials has led to human rights abuses and unethical use of child labor. 

There is an inevitable transition period in which improvements on original ideas are being made, and the kinks are still being worked out. As an active push towards improving all of the aspects of the industry continues alongside its growth, we can only hope that EVs will soon be a better solution to transportation all-around. The world’s transition from a long-standing dependence on fossil fuels may not be a simple one, but changes must be made to the entire process to achieve the greater goal of truly improving planet Earth.

Jordan Fromholz

I'm an electric car owner, enthusiast, and founder of the Plugin Report. As a Chemical Engineer with over 14-years in the energy industry, I've made my passions be renewable energy, batteries, and electric cars. My family lives on Maui where we drive our 2017 Nissan Leaf and share everything there is to know about electric cars.

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