Electric cars use electromagnetic power generated by electrical batteries and motors as a secondary or sole source of propulsion. But what are the pros and cons of switching from a traditional motor vehicle to a hybrid (HEV), plug-in hybrid (PHEV), or battery (BEV) electric car?
The principal advantages of electric cars are enhanced performance and efficiency, increased cost savings, and lower environmental impacts. Disadvantages of electric vehicles include shorter ranges, higher upfront costs, and long recharging times. These advantages and disadvantages are reviewed in detail below.
Advantages Of Electric Cars
Electric cars have several notable advantages over conventional vehicles that rely on internal combustion engines for their power.
1. Enhanced Performance And Efficiency
The first advantage of electric cars is their performance and efficiency.
Electric cars perform more smoothly and quietly than conventional automobiles. PHEVs and BEVs can operate exclusively with electric motors, so they are nearly silent when in all-electric mode because their electrical motors have fewer moving parts than internal combustion engines.
The vehicles are also highly energy and fuel-efficient. These novel cars use less fuel than their conventional counterparts because they have electric batteries and motors assisting (or replacing) the cars’ gas-powered combustion engines. When the vehicles are in all-electric mode, they do not consume any fuel until switching to hybrid mode.
Another reason for the efficiency of electric vehicles is that they have regenerative braking. Regenerative braking allows electric cars to apply electromagnetism to capture kinetic energy from the wheels when vehicles slow down. The energy from the braking system transfers to the battery, where it is stored for later use when engaging the electric motor.
The regenerative braking systems in electric vehicles prevent energy loss (in the form of heat) that occurs when drivers apply the brakes in traditional non-electric cars.
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2. Increased Cost Savings
Electric cars are potentially less expensive to operate than vehicles with gas-fueled combustion engines, at least over the medium and long term.
Reducing fuel expenses is perhaps the most significant cost saving that one obtains by owning an electric car. When driving an HEV or PHEV, the combustion engine requires less fuel to propel the vehicle because it receives assistance from the electric motor!
In the case of PHEVs, the fuel savings are magnified when the cars are driven in all-electric mode. When PHEVs draw power solely from their electric motors, they do not consume any fuel until reverting to hybrid mode and activating the combustion engine.
BEVs offer the most dramatic fuel cost savings because they only have electric motors and batteries, so these vehicles never consume gasoline or any other fossil fuel.
Electric cars also provide cost savings because they generally require less maintenance, repair, and replacement of engine and brake parts. Electric motors are cheaper to maintain than internal combustion engines due to their lack of moving parts. The motor and braking components are also not subject to intense pressure, heat, and friction.
Compared with non-electric cars, the combustion engines in HEVs and PHEVs generally last longer and have lower maintenance costs. Conventional motor vehicles rely exclusively on their engines for power. This means their engine parts are exposed to higher levels of wear and tear, which translates into increased maintenance costs.
3. Environmental Benefits
A crucial advantage of electric cars is that these vehicles cause less harm to the environment than traditional motor vehicles.
Electric cars offer environmental benefits through reduced fuel consumption. The extraction and processing of fossil fuels is a significant source of air and water pollution. Consequently, motor vehicles that use less gasoline or diesel are better for nature.
Another critical environmental benefit of electric cars is that they produce less harmful exhaust emissions than their combustion engine equivalents.
HEVs and PHEVs produce fewer exhaust emissions than non-electric cars due to their decreased fuel consumption. The tailpipe emissions of HEVs and PHEVs drop to zero when the vehicles are in all-electric mode.
BEVs have the lowest impact on environmental air quality. This electric car does not produce exhaust emissions because it only runs on electricity and does not have a combustion engine that consumes fuel.
Disadvantages Of Electric Cars
While they have several advantages over conventional automobiles, electric cars also have disadvantages.
1. Limited Range
One of the disadvantages of electric cars is their limited range when operating in all-electric mode (a limitation that applies specifically to PHEVs and BEVs). Battery capacity is the primary factor that limits how far an electric car can travel before needing to recharge.
The average range of non-electric cars is 350 to 450 miles. By comparison, PHEVs can only travel about 20 to 40 miles when powered exclusively with their electric drive-trains.
BEVs have larger batteries than PHEVs, ranging between 150 and 300 miles.
The limited range of BEVs and PHEVs makes the current generation of this technology better suited to daily commuting in urban areas than extended road trips.
It is worth emphasizing that HEVs and PHEVs travel further than non-electric cars due to the power their electric drive-trains provide. HEVs have a range of roughly 500 to 700 miles. PHEVs driven in hybrid mode (when the electric motor and combustion engine operate simultaneously) can travel 450 to 550 miles.
2. High Upfront Costs
Electric cars have higher upfront costs than conventional vehicles with combustion engines.
There are several reasons for the high purchasing price of electric cars. For instance, the battery packs in electric cars are more complex and expensive than traditional car batteries.
The high purchase price of HEVs and PHEVs is also due to their pairing of combustion engines and electric motors. Consumers are paying for two independent drive-train systems in a single vehicle.
The limited number of electric cars in production is another reason for their high upfront costs. Though production rates are increasing, fewer electric cars are manufactured annually than traditional, non-electric vehicles. Electric cars are yet to benefit from economies of scale like mass-market cars with combustion engines.
3. Long Recharging Times
A third disadvantage of electric cars is that they take a long time to recharge their batteries. This negative aspect applies specifically to PHEVs and BEVs because they use electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) to charge their batteries.
There are different kinds of EVSE, with some being slower than others at recharging electric car batteries. Level 1 EVSE is a portable cord and plug that attaches to a generic 120-volt domestic electrical outlet. This supply equipment is the least costly but only provides roughly two to five miles of driving range per hour of recharging.
Level 2 EVSE is fixed or mounted in place, often at urban filling stations. This equipment connects to 208V or 240V outlets and supplies between 10 and 20 miles of range for every hour the battery charges.
The DC Fast Charger offers the shortest recharging time but is the most expensive type of EVSE. This supply equipment provides electric car batteries with a 60 to 80-mile range after 20 minutes.
Electric cars have several advantages and disadvantages when compared to conventional non-electric vehicles. The advantages of electric cars include higher efficiency, cost savings, and environmental benefits. Disadvantages of electric cars include their limited range (in all-electric mode), long recharging times, and high upfront costs.
Many of these disadvantages will likely be overcome as electric car technology advances. In the meantime, anyone considering an electric car should weigh the pros and cons and determine whether the vehicles meet their specific circumstances.
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