RU An EV Noob — Part 1, Why Buy An Electric Vehicle?

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The popularity of electric vehicles is becoming very apparent in so many ways. In many places, the price of used electric vehicles is actually increasing, because demand is so high. In the case of the Tesla Model 3, some people are paying more for a recent used car, than the price of a new one. This is because they are not prepared to wait in the reservation list to get one. In my own experience, I see more and more electric vehicles on the road. Where I used to have the charging stations to myself when on my travels, now I see more and more electric vehicle drivers charging alongside me. I think I will soon be joining a queue, as there will be more drivers needing a charge than available chargers.

I started to think that for every new electric vehicle driver, there must be a number of people considering whether to go electric, and what to buy. Certainly, Autotrader is saying that enquirers for electric vehicles are the biggest increase of all categories. So, I thought it would be a good idea to write some articles to give good advice and information to new drivers and prospective new drivers of electric vehicles, to smooth the way for them. This is the first article in the series and answers the simple question, “What are the advantages of an electric vehicle over a conventional car?”

So, here I go with some answers:

1. Global Warming

As the IPCC report makes clear, we have fewer than 10 years to switch to renewable energy to avoid catastrophic climate change. It is not so much a “lifestyle choice” — but a necessity for survival — for everyone to switch to electric vehicles in the next few years.

Governments are sleepwalking off the cliff, with totally inadequate responses. Any targets set are so far into the future as to be meaningless. Currently, that leaves it to individuals to cut down their carbon footprint via their own initiative, and driving an electric vehicle (instead of a polluting fossil-fueled car) is an important step.

2. Pollution

As is already apparent, pollution in cities is killing people, affecting the physical and mental development of children, and also making people of all ages chronically ill. It is plain antisocial to drive around in a vehicle that has an atmospheric pollution pipe sticking out the back, belching out filth in everyone’s faces. We must change to electric vehicles, walking, cycling, and electric mass transit.

Some detractors try to make out that pollution is simply transferred from the tailpipe to the power-station chimney. Wind, hydro, solar, and storage do not have chimneys. Most people with electric vehicles use 100% renewable energy for charging, where possible. As the number of electric vehicles increases, so will the provision of renewable energy. In the meantime, where polluting power stations are still in operation, these are away from the city. Pollution is easier to minimize from one large power plant than thousands of privately owned vehicles. Also, both industries need to clean up, so it doesn’t make sense to wait for the power plant industry to be completely renewable before also working to clean up the auto industry.

Photo by The Erica Chang (some rights reserved)

3. Quiet

Noise pollution is something that affects us, but which we have come to accept as “normal.” Electric vehicles provide a much quieter means of transport, both outside and inside. When I am driving my electric vehicle on the motorway, I can enjoy conversation and music without the strain of trying to listen above the background noise. Some people try to claim that electric vehicles “should” make a noise, artificially, to be safe. Electric vehicles make enough tyre noise to be easily detectable, and people seem to get on fine with bicycles on the road, which make essentially no noise at all.

4. Cheap to Run

Here in the UK, electricity costs me about £1 for 50 miles of motoring, compared with at least £6 for 50 miles using fossil fuel. Electricity and fuel prices vary considerably from country to country — and even within the same country, different prices can apply — but that is the kind of ratio you can hope for (1:6).

Road tax is £0, and there is very little servicing required over and above what is tested for in the annual safety check (“MOT” in the UK). There are no oil changes, no filter changes, no spark plugs, no belts, etc. to regularly change, and no clutches or gear boxes to break down. The mechanics are about the same as an electric drill, with motor, step-down gear, and speed controller. Electric vehicles are so simple that they are super reliable, and could last 1 million miles or more.

Batteries will lose some capacity over time but are designed to last around 10 years, and even then will remain functional, but just with reduced range. If you have an electric vehicle with a fairly long range to start with, a 5% loss of range is nothing significant. Even a 20% loss might leave sufficient range. It is a decision for each individual owner.

As batteries become ever cheaper, by the time any driver needs a new battery, replacements are likely to be very cheap. As electric vehicles become more ubiquitous it is likely that not only cheap replacements but also longer range upgrades will be available at affordable prices from third-party suppliers. For fossil-fueled cars, there are plenty of places doing reconditioned engines, gearboxes, clutches, exhaust systems, etc., and similar businesses could be doing battery replacements in a few years time.

5. Convenience

There will be no more trips to the fuel station to fill up with smelly, expensive fuel. I just plug in when ever I get home, so my electric vehicle is always ready to go. On longer journeys, here in the UK there are fast chargers at every motorway (freeway) service area (rest stop).

People make a big issue out of electric vehicle range, but most people stop after about 100 miles for a rest, in which case an electric vehicle with 140 miles range or more is ideal. I just plug in when I get to the service area, have a break, and then the car is ready to go when I am. Read more on this topic here.

Charging at Hopwood Park, M42, UK

6. Driving Pleasure

With no gearbox, and lots of torque, accelerating away in an electric vehicle is fast and smooth, with no gear changes. Electric vehicles have sophisticated traction and brake distribution control, so will transfer all the power to the road, without any wheel spin or skids. There is a documented report of a Tesla Model X towing an articulated lorry (semi truck) out of trouble after it had gotten stuck on an icy road where the lorry couldn’t get sufficient traction.

The weight distribution, with the weight at or just above the axles and the heaviest component, the battery, under the floor equally between the four wheels, offers a very low center of gravity. This gives every electric vehicle (optimized in this way) a racing-car level of handling, making it very safe and sure at speed.

The braking is electromagnetic, generating electricity to put back into the battery as it operates. This is called regenerative braking. On most electric vehicles, that regenerative braking comes on simply by taking the foot off the accelerator, and so makes driving very easy, using just the one pedal. The function is usually divided between the accelerator and brake pedals, either with choices or fixed.

When driving my car, 90% of the time I just let off the accelerator for braking. When I want stronger regenerative braking, I just lightly touch the brake pedal. The friction brakes only come on by pressing down on the brake pedal; something I rarely do, and only for unexpected needs.

7. Low Depreciation

Cars running on fuel will become unsaleable soon because of bans and charges in cities making them undesirable, especially as people begin to realize how superior electric vehicles are. Electric vehicles are becoming so popular now that the demand for used electric vehicles is much higher than supply. That keeps the price of used EVs much higher than equivalent fossil fueled cars. This is not so good for first-time buyers, but good when you are upgrading later on. I reckon to save about £100 a month, so cost of ownership is less overall.

Car sales - Freepic.comBusiness vector created by Freepik

8. Safety

Electric vehicles are not only more stable on the road, but in the event of a crash, with no engine and gearbox at the front, the crumple zone is bigger, giving a longer energy absorption time. The kinetic energy of your car is half the mass times the square of the speed. A speed of 60 mph has 4 times the energy of 30 mph, not double, which is one reason why speed is a killer. A speed of 60 mph is also 88 feet per second, which is the other reason speed is dangerous, because of how much ground is covered so very quickly. In an accident, as much of that energy as possible is converted in the emergency braking, but any left over is absorbed by the crushing of the bodywork. The more bodywork that will crumple, the longer the time during which energy is absorbed, and so there’s less impact shock for the occupants.

Many electric vehicles have safety features that keep you a certain distance from the vehicle in front, provide 360 degrees of surveillance, and provide warnings and automatic emergency braking.

See CleanTechnica’s report The EV Safety Advantage for more on this topic.

9. Electronic Wizardry

That leads nicely to the next advantage. Some people say that an electric vehicle is not a car with an onboard computer but a computer on wheels. Certainly, in the case of Tesla vehicles, the features of the electronic systems are very extensive, and even get over-the-air updates, so you can wake up one morning to find your car has entirely new features that it didn’t have when you went to bed. Useful features like keeping the distance from the car in front automatically and steering to keep you in the center of the lane are already available on some electric vehicles.

The Tesla Model 3 has all the interfaces and informational outputs on a dash-mounted, 15-inch touch-screen. It has no dials and has buttons all over the dash, like cars have had for decades, but displays everything you want to know right there, including satellite navigation and speed. All that you might normally set using buttons, you set just like on a smartphone, using various selections on the touchscreen. That represents a learning curve, just like your new phone, but once familiar, it’s something you never want to be without.

One of the recent updates on Tesla Model 3 has been moving it a stage nearer to fully self-driving capability, with a “summon” facility added that allows you to call your car to your side. You won’t need to worry about forgetting where you parked. Your car will come to you.

10. A Better World

Since oil has been a major resource and essential for the economy of many countries, both as producers and users, much evil has been done to ensure the continuing flow and dominance of oil. Many despotic regimes are financed by oil.

Many of the recent wars in the Middle East have been either about oil or financed by it. Oil has provided the money for all the guns and explosives to reduce the entire Middle East to rubble, to kill and maim millions of people, including children. Even in our own countries, the greed for oil revenues has corrupted governments and our democracies through the web of lies and deceit woven to protect the private interests of the oil oligarchs.

Even global warming, through burning fossil fuels, has been understood by the fossil-fuel industry for 50 years. For about the same time, that knowledge has been actively suppressed and the facts deliberately confused by the industry, even though global warming, left unchecked, will destroy civilization — and eventually all life on the planet.

The quicker we all move to electric vehicles, the quicker we can set aside the evils that flow alongside the flow of oil.

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Andy Miles

As a child, I had the unrealistic expectation that I would learn about, and understand, absolutely everything during the course of growing up. Now, at the other end of life, I am fully aware of how much I have not learnt and do not understand, and yet, I remain interested in everything. My education, starting with an arts degree and going on to postgraduate studies in everything from computer science to hypnotism reflected my broad interests. For 20 years, I worked in local government. I am now retired, living in North Leicestershire in the UK, with plenty of time for doing whatever I like. I have always had a keen interest in everything alternative, which includes renewable energy and energy efficiency and, of course, electric vehicles. So, naturally, I have taken ownership of an EV, now that they are affordable and practical forms of transport. Writing is also one of my great pleasures, so writing about EVs and environmental issues is a natural evolution for me. You can find my work on EV Obsession, and CleanTechnica, and you can also follow me on twitter.

Andy Miles has 49 posts and counting. See all posts by Andy Miles