Should You Buy an Electric Car?
The future is…still not here yet.
By: Anthony Fongaro | June 2015
We are constantly being told that we are running out of dinosaur juice (fossil fuel) for our cars and alternative methods must be put in place once we run out. The number one alternative to powering our cars by gasoline or diesel is by electric power. How a car is driven by electricity alone is quite complex and boring, but the trend so far is to use a device called a battery. Well, many batteries. After driving a few vehicles that run off of battery power, I’ve had a few enlightening thoughts.
You go through your standard procedure. Open the door, sit in the seat, wonder why there’s a “Ford Racing” hat on the dash, close the door, put on your seatbelt, remember your redneck friend was talking about NASCAR and left his hat, and then press a button to turn on the car. A weird beep and whizzing sound occurs, then…nothing. Silence.
In fact, if the radio isn’t on when you press the “On/Off” button, you would think the car was off. We are used to the reassuring sounds of internal combustion. But you don’t have time to be amazed by how you can hear your neighbors fighting three houses down because you have to drive!
Being an electric car, nothing really seems conventional. Yes, mostly every car these days has infotainment screens that show you everything from your navigation to your passenger’s thoughts.
Where electric cars differ are their dash boards. Because these are electric cars, you don’t get a tachometer or any dials, because dials are so 2004. Everything is digital and in bar form.
Is that a bad thing? No, just not what we are used to.
So you’re en route to grandmother’s house listening to your Bluetooth-enabled smart phone when you get the urge to accelerate. The car makes no fuss, doesn’t scream at you like a regular car does, it just kicks you in the back and accelerates.
Electric cars have something called “instant torque”, so when you accelerate from a dead-stop, they are using the maximum amount of pushing power. Look up Tesla P85D Insane Mode to see what I mean. You get up to speed and go from excited to horrified, because you just noticed the range left on the battery.
I think the term “first-world problems” stems from driving a battery-powered electric car and seeing the range get down to 10 miles. You think to yourself “oh crap I have 10 miles left! But wait, is it really 10 miles? My destination is only 4 miles away!”
And remember, everything uses the battery! Everything! Those heated seats that are keeping your bum warm? That’s sapping the range. Air-conditioning on high? Hope you don’t have to go very far. Thankfully, you can press a button to put your car into some type of “Eco” mode that reduces your power and you have regenerative brakes that can sap back a bit of juice for the battery while braking.
Filling up a normal car takes a few minutes and does cost more than filling up an electric car, but filling up an electric car takes…longer. Much longer. If you have a standard plug, it can take more than 16 hours if you’re on empty. This means you’ll have to buy a charging station for your house and usually charge it at home.
There are charging points where you can pull up and charge your vehicle, but you should probably bring a book while you wait. You’ll find a lot of these in the dolphin-saving state of California as well as in major cities, but in the rest of the United States, you may not have a charging station close to your house.
Electric cars also cost significantly more than conventional cars since they aren’t exactly common yet. But there are federal and state incentives depending on the state you live in. These state incentives can be additional tax credits, reduced electric charging rates, sales tax exemptions, carpool lane access, and rebates.
At the end of the day, do I recommend buying an electric car? Yes! And no. Yes if you work close to home, can put in a charging station in your garage, have charging stations close to you, and can deal with the fact that you probably can’t go more than 100 miles unless you have the $70,000 for a base Tesla Model S.
If you are still curious about electric cars or are considering buying one, get one on an extended test drive. BMW has an extended test drive for their i3, which is a great car to get the feel of what it would be like to own an electric car.
So the bottom line is this: I actually do like electric cars for their library-like quiet-driving experience and hopefully someone (probably Tesla) can build an affordable electric car with a 200 mile range. For now though, don’t expect to take a cross-country journey in an electric car anytime soon.