Although most cars are still powered by gasoline these days, auto manufacturers continue to innovate alternative fuel models. This is meant to help the planet by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. They also help vehicle owners spend less (or nothing at all) at the pump. Now, some cars can run on electricity without using any gas at all!
But what are electric vehicles (EVs), really? Are EVs actually better for the environment? Why don’t more people drive EVs? There are many reasons why the adoption of this newer technology is still on the rise, even though EVs aren’t the dominant form of transportation yet. Here’s what you should know about EVs, their benefits, and their drawbacks.
What Is an Electric Vehicle (EV)?
All-electric vehicles rely on large rechargeable batteries to get enough power to the engine. That system either partially or fully replaces gasoline and internal combustion. Many EVs can even be plugged into an outlet or vehicle charging station to recharge the car’s internal battery when it gets low.
There are a variety of vehicles that incorporate EV technology (battery or fuel cells powering the engine), including the plug-in hybrid vehicle, the hybrid vehicle, and the hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. No matter which one you choose, an EV will depend on less gas—or none at all—to get rolling.
What Are Hybrid Electric Cars?
Hybrid car models (whether they can plug in or not) are vehicles that run on both electricity (battery) and internal combustion (gasoline) to run. Although these types of cars still need some amount of gas to get by, a hybrid vehicle may use less gas to cover the same distance as a gas-only vehicle
Are Electric Vehicles Better for the Environment?
Yes, but with a caveat: EVs do contribute to some form of environmental pollution, either directly or indirectly. Although EVs are proven to have lower tailpipe emissions than a purely gas-powered vehicle, they still require electricity to run—and electricity production does create pollution. Some skeptics wonder if EVs are worth considering if powering them still impacts the environment.
Another common concern is that the production of an EV battery also uses up a significant amount of energy and resources. That amount of consumption, some believe, could outweigh the amount of energy to be saved by driving that EV. In other words, the “life cycle” emissions (energy and resources used to make and recycle each car) also affect the true environmental friendliness of a vehicle.
Experts indicate, however, that EVs can produce between 60%-68% fewer greenhouse gas emissions over their lifetime compared to standard gasoline-powered vehicles. Other studies about raw material mining indicate that, though EV battery production is a non-zero impact process, fossil fuel production requires much more mining comparatively.
Bottom line: although EVs do still have an undeniable carbon footprint, theirs is significantly smaller than internal combustion engines. Therefore, even though both vehicle types still produce emissions, it could take less time to recuperate the environmental damage done by an EV.
Why Are Electric Vehicles Becoming More Common?
Overall, EVs are more in demand today than ever. More drivers care about the environment, so they’re looking for cars that minimize pollution. Manufacturers are therefore selling additional options to meet the demand caused by this increased awareness—but sometimes those new models cost more than standard gas-powered vehicles. Although plenty of these new EV models are on the pricier side, more affordable options are becoming available each year.
These new models are also getting more efficient, too! EVs today can go more time between charges than the original EV models, which may reassure drivers who are worried about running out of charge while driving.
That all sounds great…so why aren’t EVs the primary car model yet?
Why Aren’t Electric Vehicles More Popular?
Now that we have outlined some of the benefits to owning an electric car, you may be wondering, “Why don’t more people drive electric vehicles?” If EVs are so excellent, why aren’t they the top car choice yet?
Typically, critics boil down common barriers to EV adoption into four categories: charger availability, between-charge performance, fewer model choices, and higher vehicle cost. In other words, drivers may be afraid to run out of charge in between charging stations (which are more scarce than gas stations), and consumers may balk at the lack of EV model choices along with the relative sticker price compared to gas-powered vehicles.
Charger Scarcity and Performance Between Charges
When we say “charging infrastructure,” we mean the availability of away-from-home charging locations for EVs. Although 90% of EV charging is completed at private homes overnight, EV owners do still need public chargers from time to time (especially when traveling). Despite that need growing, it is notable that there are still far fewer EV charging stations than there are gas stations. This could become an obstacle to having a smooth road trip.
However, in the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), a new funding program (National Electric Infrastructure Formula Program) was created. That program’s purpose is to implement $5 billion of funding to deploy a stronger network of EV charging stations according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Additionally, in 2022, the Inflation Reduction Act was signed into law. Among other things, this act was intended to create clean energy jobs and provide extra resources to improve EV adoption and charging availability. These two pieces of legislation might help vehicle EV owners keep their rides sufficiently charged.
That said, all-electric EVs currently range between 100-300 miles between charges, and plug-in EV hybrids typically cover 15-60 miles before switching to internal combustion. By comparison, a gas-powered vehicle tends to average about 25 miles per gallon, so the miles between refueling will vary based on tank size.
Lack of Electric Vehicle Model Options
Yet another reason why vehicle owners may avoid purchasing an EV is because there are more make and model options for standard gasoline-powered cars. The amount of EV options simply can’t beat the number of gas-powered vehicle options yet. As anyone in the market for a car will tell you: more options mean a higher chance of finding a vehicle that closely matches a driver’s needs.
However, as more and more consumers (and legislators) demand cars that run on cleaner energy, vehicle producers release more and more EV models each year. Therefore, this lack of relative choice is changing for the better as time goes by.
Initial Cost to Purchase Electric Vehicles
The perceived high cost of EVs is also worth taking a closer look at. Although EVs are on average more expensive than gas vehicles by thousands of dollars, experts predict that this price gap will only continue to close.
Additionally, the upfront cost of an EV could be offset by significantly lower fuel and maintenance costs—especially when the car is charged at home. Depending on where you live, powering your car with electricity could reduce the cost to power your car by almost 50%. These expenses could continue to decrease as EV infrastructure improves.
Get the Most Out of Your Electric Vehicle
Since part breakdowns on EVs (or any car) can cost thousands of dollars, you’ll want to make sure you do what you can to keep your EV in working condition. Care for your EV according to manufacturer instructions and protect it with a plan through CarShield to keep yourself ahead of covered mechanical failures before they happen. That way, you can keep your car charged and on the road for longer!