There are many advantages to changing to a plug-in electric vehicle (EV). Are there any drawbacks to going electric?
Yes, there are two related issues, which are drawbacks. Issues, which are, nonetheless, being resolved by engineers and material scientists: Range Anxiety and Long Charge Times.
The number one concern is driving range on a single charge. This issue is captured by the phrase “range anxiety” which scared off many earlier generation buyers.
As of September 2018 there are three fully electric vehicles which resolve range anxiety issues: The Tesla Model S (100D), the Chevy Bolt, and the Tesla Model S (60D). These vehicles have ranges of 335 miles, 238 miles, and 218 miles on a full charge.
The next best are the 2018 Nissan Leaf with 150 miles and the Renault Zoe with 180 miles (available in Europe). There are a handful of other EVs whose range is adequate for most commuters (VW eGolf, Hyundai Ioniq, bmw i3). The top three vehicles can handle any commute as well as go on short day trips with a charge at the destination. By 2020 there will be a dozen different vehicle manufacturers making EVs with ranges of 200 miles or more on a single charge, and half a dozen with ranges of 300 miles or more (see here).
Even then, as you do now, you will need to charge if you are driving beyond the range of your vehicle (say 200 or 300 miles). Which brings us to the related issue of charging times, which is the second biggest concern about EVs.
The concern here is the time it takes to charge the battery of the EV. Can you “fill up” the battery in 10 minutes? The answer is “No.” What about 30 minutes? Possibly, with the fastest charge available.
The first response to this drawback is that one should not compare charging an EV to filling up a conventional vehicle. Can you fill up a conventional vehicle at home or work while sleeping or working? No, but that is generally how you will charge your EV, while you are home (not driving) and the vehicle will be ready to get you where you need to go in the morning.
To understand this issue you need to realize there are multiple charging options out there. There are basically three levels of charge available, you might think of them as slow, medium and fast. Slow (level 1) uses your standard 110 volt AC outlet. Medium (level 2) uses a 240 volt AC outlet (like most clothes dryers, air conditioners and fridges). And DC fast charge options are available for an EV that can handle it. Tesla has a system of proprietary DC Superchargers, and other EVs use one of two other types of plugs known as CHAdeMO or SAE combo. For more on plugs and charging see here. The Fast charge options provide about 100 miles of charge per hour, the medium (level 2) charge provides around 25 miles of charge per hour, the level 1 charge is only useful overnight, as it provides around 4 miles per hour.
So, if you are on a day trip or a road trip, you will need to plan charging stops where you can sit and have a meal or do something for at least an hour as well as be sure to fully charge the vehicle over night. This, however, is changing and more and faster charging networks are on the horizon. One charger can reportedly provide 120 miles in 8 minutes.
The good news about both of these drawbacks is that they are not permanent drawbacks, they are being resolved in real time. In the near future, EVs will have greater range on a full charge than conventional vehicles on a full tank of gas and DC fast charging stations are popping up everywhere with Billions of dollars being poured into new charging infrastructure worldwide (see here and here). I will continue to follow these “drawbacks” and report on them on this blog. The anticipation is that by 2020 they will be less serious, by 2022 even less an issue, and perhaps by 2025 there will be no real drawbacks to going electric.
The Cost Issue
A third drawback, that I would be remiss if I didn’t mention, is cost! In 2018, the best EVs are still more expensive than comparably functional conventional vehicles. That’s just the way it is. You can get into a very functional gas-powered vehicle for under $30,000. This is much more difficult to do in the best EVs without government rebates. This is changing just as fast as the other issues. And like those other issues, prices for EVs are expected to fall below the prices for conventional vehicles in the near future, likely by 2025 (see here, here, here).