Lately I’ve seen a lot of bad publicity about electric vehicles (EVs). I want to give you straight scoop based on the thirteen years of experience I’ve had driving EVs. There are advantages and disadvantages to EVs just as there are to internal combustion engine (ICE) cars. EVs are not a good choice for many people, but they are great choices for most.
Perhaps the biggest disadvantage is that they cost more initially to purchase. But you make that up and more over the life of the vehicle in fuel and repair costs. If you have your own charging station at home (or a subsidized one at work), your energy costs will be less than a third of gas costs. Over time that alone will more than make up for the purchase cost differential. This is especially true if you have solar panels. Many utilities are no longer paying people for the extra power from roof panels, but you may be able to charge your EV with it, in which case it’s free.
Consumer Reports recently reported that EVs have “more problems” than ICE cars based on owners reports. I have no way to review or dispute that, but it hasn’t been true in my experience. I bought a 2001 Nissan Leaf and in the 10 years I owned it, I never had any actual repairs or servicing other than two or three minor ones that any car could have (e.g., minor body repair, wiper blades). I now drive a 2021 Volvo XC40 Recharge. In the three years I’ve had it, the same is true. I just had my first actual repair (as distinguished from a regular service check, which found no issues): replacement of the hoses that carry windshield washer fluid. A rodent chewed through them. Clearly, that has nothing to do with it being an EV. I’m not sure if “problems” means repairs (cost) or inconvenience. I believe that if you compare repair and servicing costs of the two, EVs would be much cheaper than ICE cars. They certainly have been for me.
The cars that scored the worst according to Consumer Reports were other models than my cars, especially Jeep, Rivian, Chrysler, and Mercedes, all of which are very new to electric vehicles, not even having much prior experience with hybrids.Tesla was mostly reliable except for the Model S. But from what I read many EV problems cure themselves through rebooting or retrying whatever it is since it’s often a software problem. That’s happened to me, but hasn’t required a trip to the dealer and hasn’t cost anything. There are regular free software updates delivered over the air (OTA) to fix such little things.
So those “problems” are an inconvenience, true, but think about the inconveniences you get from ICE cars. The biggest one, of course, is you have to keep going to a gas station. With an EV, you don’t need to go anywhere, at least if you have charging at home or work. If you don’t, an EV probably isn’t for you. ICE cars also require regular oil changes and emissions checks. EVs don’t. ICE cars have catalytic converters stolen. EVs don’t. Thieves steal ICE cars, not EVs. ICE cars need brake jobs; EV’s don’t since they slow mostly with the motor (regenerative braking). In many places you can drive EVs in HOV lanes solo but not ICE cars. I think of all of those as ICE “problems” that EVs don’t have. Consumer Reports failed to weigh those things, probably because ICE car owners don’t think of them as problems and don’t report them as such.
Another EV problem in the news is how hard and slow it is to charge an EV in sub-freezing temperatures. I’m sure the individual reports are accurate, but answer me this: why don’t drivers in Norway and Canada have this problem with their EV’s (virtually all new cars in Norway now are EVs)? The answer: people there keep EV’s in a garage in their house and charge there where it’s well above freezing. And when they do charge outside at a public station, they precondition the battery like it says to do in the manual. Most people in those countries live close to where they work and rarely take long road trips. It’s easy to charge at home there. Americans, with their selfish entitlement attitude, are unique in thinking it normal to drive hundreds or thousands of miles. If you’re a road tripper, or live in a cold climate and park outside then an EV isn’t for you; or else if you’re a 2-car family, make one of them an ICE car. I took a road trip in my Volvo (~1800 miles R/T) and it was a pain stopping and charging, but it’s doable.
The public infrastructure for EVs is still being worked out. It’s not there yet, but it is improving every day. New technologies are emerging making charging simpler, faster, easier. Everyone I know who has owned an EV says the same thing I do: I’ll never go back to ICE. Driving an EV is so much more fun and convenient. There’s a lot of misinformation about the environmental benefit of EVs but the reality is that they do help greatly toward the greenhouse gas problem. In California about 80% of the electricity is produced from renewable, non-polluting sources (solar, geothermal, hydroelectric, etc.) That’s not true in other states, and some oil-producing states have been hostile toward EVs. So they aren’t for everyone there, but even if you’re not a tree-hugger, you’ll enjoy driving an EV unless you are one of those exceptions I’ve identified.