By now, we should all know what electrical vehicles are. They’ve become a mainstream part of the collective consciousness of the automobile world in recent years, mostly thanks to their surge in popularity and the focus on government policy that’s effectively banning fossil fuel vehicles. Even so, there are varying opinions as to whether EVs are ’the future’ however – and that’s understandable, given that they’re still relatively new technology and how they challenge what we know of driving and refueling our vehicles.
As with many other new pieces of tech, there is misleading information swirling around EVs. To EV or not to EV is a continual debate, and one that comes with much baggage to unpack. To name a few: the climate crisis that is an ever present and growing concern, the higher cost of EVs that is still an issue, and the whole ‘will I get stuck in the middle of nowhere if I can’t find a place to charge my car’ thing.
If any of these issues speak to your tormented indecision about which sleek new ride you want to cruise around in for the next couple of years, you’re in luck! We’re here to tell you all the pros and cons, the yays and the nays, of EVs.
This will be a popular one – EVs are a lot cheaper to recharge and look after. With oil prices speeding upwards, it may be good to note that charging your car from gasoline to electric power will be a lot more affordable long-term. It was recently found that EV servicing costs are 30% lower than a gas car, due to its lack of internal combustion engine and fewer moving parts.
While maintenance costs may be lower in the long run, initially your EV might make your bank account a little bit sore. With EVs being the in demand ingenue of the vehicle industry, it’s no surprise that the numbers attached to some of those cars might make you back away. However, half the new EV market is priced about $40,000 now, so it might not be unreasonable to wonder whether or not your gas car is going to truly be more affordable when thinking about the added cost of gas and maintenance.
And who doesn’t want that? The climate crisis has been a looming threat for decades and is now unavoidable. Arguably, one of the most relevant and urgent topics today, reducing carbon footprints can be done through buying reusable Tupperware, thrifting clothes, reducing unnecessary consumption, taking the train and – oh – for those who rely on their cars, buying a hybrid or EV. Using an EV will give you a big ol’ zero in terms of tailpipe emissions – which is a huge source of pollution. Research by TomTom has shown that if big cities like Paris upped their EV usage by just 1%, Co2 emissions would be reduced by 220,000 tons per year.
It must be noted that to create EVs, a higher amount of CO2 is emitted than when making a gas car. The fact that an EV has no tailpipe emissions, however, offsets the manufacturing of the vehicle as it’s driven. Ultimately, as countries move to renewable energy, EVs are only going to get cleaner, whereas gas cars will always have to emit polluting fumes.
EVs are only going to get cleaner, while gas cars will always add to pollution.
Despite reducing carbon footprints and tailpipe emissions, EV batteries still do unfortunately contribute to the emission of toxic fumes. The electricity used by EVs is also often generated from non-renewable energy sources, which has a negative indirect effect on the environment. There is also the growing strain on electricity grids, due to an increase in EV popularity. However, electricity suppliers are moving towards using more renewable resources which will eventually reduce the issue and make EVs an even better choice.
Non-renewable resources are also being used to make the batteries such as cobalt, which can produce hazardous tailings and seep into the environment, leading to nearby communities coming into contact with those dangerous materials. There is also significant concern about the amount of ewaste EVs will create when they reach the end of their life. However, there is promising research that is the start of recycling EV batteries in order to reduce environmental harm. An MIT study last year found that EV batteries have the potential to be used as backup storage for solar power.
While the car industry has historically been a large contributor towards pollution and carbon emissions, things are beginning to change. Government interventions with deals such as The European Green Deal and The Paris Agreement are forcing automotive companies to look into ways to become more carbon neutral. EVs are a large part of that and are leading the way for carmakers as they ‘go green’ and make more sustainable choices. It’s a small step, but it’s one that could have a huge impact down the road (pun intended), especially when you think about how integral cars are and how transportation will never, ever stop being needed.
Recently, the Guardian reported on the Erin Brockovich pollutant - hexavalent chromium (Cr6) – having contaminated local water sources in the Indonesian village Kawasi, where one of the largest nickel mines resides. With the EV industry booming, nickel, which is a key component in most EV batteries, is in high demand. Despite the mine insisting that the water is not contaminated, the local hospital has reported a surge in ARI cases, with over 900 patients being treated in a village of 4,000. Half of those cases are in toddlers and infants.
Cobalt, a key component in many EV batteries, has also created a set of problems. In 2020, 70% of the world’s cobalt came from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). A report by UK based corporate watchdog Raid and Congolese lawyers revealed that many multinational mining companies working in the DRC keep their workers in poverty and offer poorly paid jobs. In some mines, wages as low as 30p an hour exist, alongside a host of other issues such as no contracts and meager food rations. With cobalt sales expected to rise exponentially in the coming decade, addressing the ongoing exploitation is an urgent need.
As with so many industries, the exploitation of labor and endangering of human rights is a huge issue. Of course, this is not limited to the EV industry. In 2016 it was found that carmakers had links to illegal mines in India that were benefiting from child labor and debt bondage.
Charging an EV’s battery is also more efficient in terms of energy, with EV batteries converting 59 to 62% of energy into vehicle movement. In comparison, gas cars only convert 17 to 21% which shows how an EVs battery puts more energy towards powering the car than filling up from a gas pump.
While we’re on the topic of charging, we should also discuss the length of time it takes to charge an electric car. Undeniably, gas powered cars win in this area. While charging is getting faster, with some charging stations only needing 30 minutes to get an EV to 80 percent capacity if you have a compatible vehicle, there’s no doubt that it can become wearisome always having to factor in the time it will take for your EV to charge while on long road trips. A Level 1 charger – which is the slowest kind – can take up to 24 hours to fully charge your EV, so if you’re driving a lot and don’t have the time to leave your car charging overnight, this can become a bit of a pain.
However, EVs are often technologically superior to their gas counterparts, with option to watch Netflix in your Tesla as you wait for your car to recharge. It’s a simple pleasure, but a good one nonetheless, especially if you get bored while waiting.
Because EVs are fully electric, there’s no whiny engine in need of an oil change. An EV’s brakes won’t wear down as quickly either, thanks to regenerative braking. The electric power can also make for a more fun driving experience, because EV motors react quicker and provide instant torque.
It can take up to 24 hours to fully charge your EV.
Alright, we’re going to talk about it. The big one. In fact, this is probably one of the largest ‘cons’ in most peoples’ books. The worry that you might not be able to drive far enough in your EV and you’ll end up stranded. Or that you’ll have to continually charge your car. It’s something that many car owners worry about. And that’s fair. Of course, you want to be able to use your car for long-distance trips and not be constantly set back by charging needs.
But the thing is, while EVs might still have long-range problems, their batteries are becoming more and more superior by the day. Over the last ten years battery technology has seen EVs increase their range by over 17%. Battery prices are also falling, by approximately 85% between 2010 and 2018. Not only does this promise more affordable EVs with longer range but displays the fast pace with which the EV industry is moving.
As for charging itself, infrastructure in many places, such as America, is becoming more focused on catering to EVs. The US government announced its intention to place a charger every 50 miles along designated highways, allotting $5 billion from its infrastructure bill for this to be achieved. Charging at home is also a simple solution, with most EV owners only need to charge every few days at home in order to meet their needs.
But if you’re still concerned, you have something called range anxiety. Luckily for you, we have a whole article telling you exactly why you shouldn’t be worried. Click here to have that fear thrown out the window.
Ultimately, it’s up to every individual to decide what suits their needs best. Currently there are options that can cater to those who make longer journeys, as well as those who only need a car for shorter trips. And don’t forget about the options in between – it’s not just gas vs EV. There are also hybrid vehicles, a great option for those still on the fence about an EV’s long-trip reliability and for those who want to be truly eco-conscious, there’s always your bike or public transport.
Transportation isn’t just about getting from A to B, yes that’s the majority of it, but there are numerous problems in between that with no one size fits all solution. Rather than defaulting to the car for every trip, it also pays to ask ourselves if there are better options.
That being said, EVs are most definitely the future of cars, with more and more car companies turning their long-term goals in that direction. Just recently, Mercedes-Benz predicted that 50% of its sales would be from EVs by 2025. As technology continues to move forward and the world evolves and develops solutions to the problems of today, it’s looking likely that plugging your car in with a charger will become the norm, standing by a gas pump will be a thing of the past.