I’m a huge fan of Tesla and electric vehicles (EV) in general, but my friends often ask me why someone would buy an electric car. I’ve always thought it’s obvious, but they wouldn’t be asking me if it was so. That’s why I decided to put all pros and cons in a short blog post.

Before we start it’s important to mention that EVs aren’t a new concept at all. Actually the first vehicles were built in the 19th century by people like Thomas Davenport (1835) and Robert Davidson (1838). So what we have here is an (almost) 200-year-old concept that is being reinvented and improved. Of course, there are a lot of variations of the engines nowadays (e.g. fuel-cells, flow-cells) but the core concept, using electricity to generate motive power, stays the same.

So, here is my list.

Pros

  • Zero tailpipe emission* – less CO2 and other “vitamins & minerals”. The EVs may not be 100% green, but they are greener than all internal combustion engines (ICE) we are using now.
  • Simpler and more reliable – EVs have far less moving parts than any ICE. There is no oil, spark plugs, timing belts, oil and fuel filters, clutch, fuel injectors, and so on and so forth. Some say that the Tesla Model S has only 19 moving parts (?)
  • Less maintenance – no need to regularly change oil, filters, belts, etc. Less parts mean simply less chance for something to break.
  • Lower cost per mile/kilometer – the cost depends on the type of car, but in general it’s far less than the gasoline cars. To find out more take a look at Charge time & cost or Savings calculators on Tesla’s web site.
  • Quieter – yes, this doesn’t seem so important, but believe me when you ‘hear’ this video you will see the difference.
  • Existing infrastructure – compared to hydrogen cars you can practically charge your electric car everywhere there is an outlet. You just have to plug in your adaptor and wait…

* Of course there is pollution on the manufacturing site of the batteries, cars and electricity but at least it’s concentrated in just a few places, which can be controlled, monitored and improved much easier.

Cons

  • High upfront cost – The prices for the three best-selling models for 2013 are starting from $21 500 (Nissan Leaf), $32 000 (Chevy Volt – hybrid), $70 000 (Tesla Model S).
  • Slow charging** – the time needed depends on the car, but in general you’ll have to wait a couple of hours for 100% charge. That’s why most electric car owners prefer to charge their cars at night, when the price per kWh is lower and you have plenty of time.
  • Low mileage – with average mileage of about 100 miles (160 km) or less the EVs are mainly suitable for city driving. Tesla cars are the only 100% electric cars that have a mileage greater than 200 miles (320 km).
  • No electricity, no car – if an EV runs out of power you cannot just bring a “can” of electricity like you’d do if your car was a gasoline one. You have two options; find an outlet nearby or repatriation.
  • Poor design – most of the electric cars, with some exceptions, are actually pretty ugly. It’s almost like a punishment for daring to choose an alternative technology.

** Tesla owners can use the Supercharger network where they can charge their car batteries up to 80% for about 40 min for FREE. Battery swap will be also available as shown in this video.

 

If you want a luxurious, 100% electric car, with a long mileage, at an affordable price (i.e. about $40,000), you’ll have to wait, since there is no such animal at the moment. Maybe in 2-3 years time, when Tesla releases their Model III, there will be, but for now you’ll have to compromise with something luxury/mileage/price. That’s why owning an EV today is mostly for fans and believers who, regretfully, cannot provide the needed critical mass for now. To speed up the process we need the support of the big players in the automotive industry, that should act more as leaders and less as followers. We also need legislation (worldwide) that rewards and encourages the development and adoption of vehicles using alternative (not only EV) energy sources. After all, reducing the CO2 emissions is an important step to preserve the climate of our “pale blue dot”, isn’t it?

Do you plan to get an EV yourself? Are you happy to get it now or would rather wait until it gets better? Eager to get your thoughts.

Useful links:

Tesla Motors

Nissan Leaf

Chevrolet Volt

Top 10 Electric Cars 2013 (VIDEO)

List of electric cars currently available