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What Questions About EVs Do You Have?

From new EV owners to skeptics, lots of people want to know more about electric vehicles. Here are some answers to help make sense of this new world of all-electric transportation.

More people than ever are thinking seriously about buying an EV. Yet driving and owning an EV is a different experience than our lifelong fascination with internal combustion engines (ICEs). People who are now considering making the switch have lots of questions about EVs. Let’s answer some of those questions and alleviate concerns.

EVs are upscale, quiet, safe, efficient, and really fun to drive!

Electric vehicles (EVs) are in the news. We’ve been hearing about EV tax credits in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). High gas prices and Big Oil profits are making drivers angry. Extreme weather has convinced skeptics that we need to achieve zero emissions across all sectors, with a specific emphasis on transportation — greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from transportation accounts for about 27% of total US GHG emissions, making it the largest contributor of all.

EVs are expected to expand to 50 million by 2025 and close to 140 million by 2030. When questions about EVs arise, it’s good to have sources to reach out to about this imminent future. It’s important to be able to ask questions about EVs so all-electric transportation doesn’t seem overwhelming. You can ask your EV driving neighbor. Attend EV festivals.

And read reputable sources, like CleanTechnica.

How are EVs similar and different from my gas-powered car?

Cars that you grew up with have an engine, radiator, carburetor, and spark plugs. EVs don’t have any of those. In an EV, batteries store energy that helps the vehicle run. A motor in an electric vehicle converts electricity into mechanical energy.

Both types of vehicles have a pedal that is pushed to propel the car forward. EVs have regenerative braking, in addition, so when the car isn’t actively accelerating, the motor reverses direction, and power can be siphoned back to the battery.

I don’t think I can afford an EV. Aren’t they too expensive for middle class people?

Middle class people can afford an EV, but it takes an adjustment in how you think about the cost of owning a vehicle. Parity between EVs and ICE vehicles doesn’t require the sticker price to be exactly the same. That’s because, over the life of an EV, the total cost of ownership (TCO) is often less due to lower fueling and maintenance costs.

In a recent Consumer Reports survey, 33% of respondents said it costs less to charge an EV than to refuel a fossil burner, 31% cited lower TCO, and 28% cited lower maintenance costs. Don’t forget about those new EV tax credits available through the Inflation Reduction Act — they will help you save more money, too.

I’m afraid that I won’t be able to get to my destination before my EV runs out of charge. Is this a valid concern?

It’s true that you will want to pay attention to the charging level on your EV, but that’s really no different than being aware of your gas tank level. Usually, charging is done at home overnight, where it’s clean and convenient. If you have a trip that takes you away from home, you can use an app to learn where chargers are on your route. Many cities offer public charging stations — some are free! In a pinch, you can plug in at a regular wall outlet — that will take a lot longer than using a heavier duty, faster charging outlet, of course.

How far can an EV travel on a charge?

The earliest low priced EVs from the mid-2010s offered about 100 miles of range. Things have really changed quickly! Most EVs today travel somewhere around 200 miles on a full battery charge. Models with greater battery power can reach about 400 miles between charges.

Did you know that the US Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration says that the average person drives about 39 miles per day? That’s less than 20 miles each way.

Regardless of the range capacity, EVs perform well in start-and-stop driving during rush hour. They do consume their charge at a higher rate on the highway. Hot weather and cold temperatures reduce the range of electric cars because of air conditioner and heater use, but it’s an  incremental loss that is easily monitored.

Is an EV really better for the environment than an ICE vehicle?

Electric vehicles are better for the environment because they emit zero tailpipe emissions. Over the course of its lifetime, an EV will have less GHG emissions associated with it than an ICE vehicle. Additionally, as battery recycling technology continues to advance, this will help in reducing emissions by decreasing the demand for new materials.

EV manufacturing does have environmental drawbacks; then again, all manufacturing does. EVs deliver about 60–68% fewer emissions than gas- and diesel-powered vehicles. They lead to lower carbon emissions overall, even if the electricity generation to power them up still relies on fossil fuels.

I’ve heard that the batteries in an EV aren’t reliable and cost a lot to replace. Is that true?

When EVs first appeared on the scene a decade ago, battery technology was just starting out. But a lot has changed since then with battery life. In fact, most EVs include an 8 year or 100,000 mile (whichever comes first) warranty. Even when a battery has reached its lifetime ability to charge an EV — below 75-80% — it still has potential for use in other applications and is recycled/ repurposed.

Aren’t EVs less safe to drive than conventional cars?

Kelly Blue Book says that driving an EV is no more dangerous than operating a traditional gas-powered vehicle. EVs have cutting-edge safety and driver-assist features that are either standard or available options for most models. Some of those safety features include adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, forward collision warning, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, lane centering assist, rear automatic emergency braking, 360° surround camera system, and automatic high beam technology.

Final Thoughts: Questions About EVs

Questions about EVs are common because EVs are such a shift in our car-crazy culture. To summarize, however, EVs are far more efficient than conventional vehicles and produce no tailpipe emissions. They also typically require less maintenance because the battery, motor, and associated electronics require little to no regular upkeep. Plus, electric vehicles experience less brake wear thanks to regenerative braking and have fewer moving parts and fluids to change relative to conventional vehicles.

 
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Written By

Carolyn Fortuna (they, them), Ph.D., is a writer, researcher, and educator with a lifelong dedication to ecojustice. Carolyn has won awards from the Anti-Defamation League, The International Literacy Association, and The Leavy Foundation. Carolyn is a small-time investor in Tesla. Please follow Carolyn on Twitter and Facebook.

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