Ridestory – An Automotive Blog with news and information for car enthusiasts.

3 years ago
The realities of buying an electric car

G-Wiz electric car

Electric car street side charging station.

We may wonder where our predicted jetpacks are, but we have something close – cars that we can plug into our walls to charge up, no gas needed (at least not all the time). You’ve heard that electric cars are more efficient and intrinsically more environmentally friendly, but what are the realities of buying an electric car?

First, let’s get our facts straight. Efficiency is defined as “the ratio of the work done or energy developed by a machine, engine, etc., to the energy supplied to it, usually expressed as a percentage.”

As for whether or not electric cars are efficient, electric motors convert roughly 75% of the caloric energy generated into motion. If you’re thinking, well, that’s not as efficient as it could be, think of this – a combustion engine typically converts only about 12% of energy produced into motion.

As for some of the other benefits of an electric vehicle -

  • Environmentally friendly - Electric vehicles are zero-emission vehicles (ZEV) as they emit no tailpipe pollutants. Though there are some that don’t consider electric vehicles because of the emissions produced at the factories that make them.
  • Performance benefits - There is no engine to turn in an electric vehicle (no crossing your fingers and praying that it will actually turn), and the ride is quite smooth – though of course a lot of that actually depends on the make of the car.
  • Less energy dependence – By default an electric vehicle means that you individually and as a household are leaning less on fossil fuels.The Tesla Roadster, an early model luxury electric vehicle, has a comparable MPG of about 100.

There are a good number of elements that will need to be refined if EV’s and BEV’s (battery-electric vehicles) will truly become mainstream, though -

These are a few things that you should really take into consideration before buying an electric car, and of course, take it for a spin and see if it’s the right fit for you! Cars should have at least an aspect of fun, after all.

  • Range anxiety coupled with a lack of charging stations – For this, I turn again as an example to my friend Jeremy over at BBC. (Top Gear, silly). In their most recent season, they did a drive-about testing the real-life circumstances of having an electric car with two models – the Nissan Leaf and the Peugeot Ion. There are some allegations flying around that it was a false road test, but the episode illustrates range anxiety quite well, wrapped up in the pretty package of British humor and television.

    When you are driving an electric car (or so it seems, I haven’t driven one myself) your range is affected as you drive – so you can’t necessarily start out with a range of 60 miles and expect to get to somewhere that is 59 miles away. There are a few factors that can lessen your range, including but not exclusive to

    • whether or not you run the AC
    • aggressive driving
    • aggressive acceleration

    Add in that there is not a large number of charging stations in the US – or anywhere for that matter, and you can easily see yourself stranded with a few tons of useless metal in a town in the middle of nowhere, three-quarters to your destination.

  • Space – While there may not be a traditional engine block in an electric vehicle, batteries are quite heavy and do take up a lot of available space in your car – both in terms of moving around space and storage space.
  • Charge time and battery life – it usually takes overnight to fully charge the battery on an electric car. Battery life – assuming you take care of the battery and aren’t too impatient with it – will last about 5 years. (And did you know that oftentimes when the charge of the battery is 80% of the full capacity – meaning the battery at “full charge” is only actually 80% – a lot of manufactures will accept that as “end of life”?)

    When you buy an electric car, you should definitely take into consideration the cost of replacing a battery about 5 years down the line – and electric cars are pretty expensive to begin with, anyway. The MSRP on a 2012 Nissan Leaf hovers right about the $35,000 mark with only standard features. Though there are some deductions available for federal tax savings, if you got the full deductions that would only put it down to just under $30,000.

  • Noise concerns – While the performance of an EV is a benefit, it is also a detriment to the public, especially those that are hearing impaired or blind – because an EV is battery and not combustion, even people with full hearing often don’t register that a car is coming. This can pose huge potential safety risks to the public, and the US has instated minimum noise levels for EV’s.

These are a few of the things that you should really take into consideration before you buy an electric car – weigh the pros of the fuel independence with the charge dependance and relative costs, along with what you would need the car for. If you’re someone who takes long road trips frequently, an electric car (or at least a solely electric car) is probably not for you.

Though massive strides are being made in the realm of electric cars, take seriously the pitfalls (and benefits) of an electric car before you write that check.


Jade Evans is a freelance writer who works with uShip – the go to folks to get your car shipping in order. She has always enjoyed cars, but hasn’t always understood car makers.

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