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Aug 2014

Electric Cars Are So Much Better — Let Me Count The Ways

08 August 2014 | Posted by Zachary

Nissan Leaf

Electric cars are genuinely a huge step above gasoline- or diesel-powered cars. This is not well known, as not many people can even name an electric car. However, the number of people who know about the advantages of electric cars is increasing very fast. Here are 4 clear benefits of electric cars:

1) Electric cars have excellent acceleration

It’s common in the car world to talk about how fast a car can go from 0 to 60 miles per hour (0 to 100 kilometers per hour). Some electric cars have excellent times for such acceleration (for example, the Tesla Model S clocks in at about 4.2 seconds), but all electric cars have excellent acceleration in a much shorter span. They have “instant torque” that provides them with power right as you step on the pedal. Think of the jolt a golf cart or electric tram has wen stepping on the pedal.

This seems like a minor point, perhaps just something 19-year-old boys would care about, but it is actually a huge one in my opinion. When you want to accelerate onto a highway or into a roundabout, this allows you to do so much more easily. For normal people, this is a wonderful benefit that will be greatly appreciated.

2) Electric cars drive more smoothly & more quietly

Whether you’re driving a BMW i3, a Tesla Model S, a Nissan Leaf, a BYD e6, or some other electric car, the drive is very smooth and quiet. Electric motors are very efficient and don’t lose as much energy in unnecessary vibrations (which result in noise). Furthermore, electric cars don’t require so many belts, tubes, and extra moving parts, again reducing vibrations and noise. The invention of the muffler was one of the critical inventions that helped gasoline cars beat out electric cars in the early 20th century, as they made the noise from gasoline cars more bearable. These days, gasoline cars are much quieter than they were then, but they still aren't as quiet as electric cars are naturally. 

3) Electric cars cut pollution tremendously

Electric motors are 3-4 times more efficient than gasoline engines. Greater efficiency results in less energy wasted, so less energy is needed for transportation and less pollution is created.

In the United States, fuel efficiency rankings are created by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and are put in terms of miles per gallon (MPG). For electric cars, there’s no such thing (since the cars use electricity, not gasoline or diesel), so the EPA creates a “miles per gallon equivalency” (MPGe) rating. In 2013, the average new car had a rating of 24.8 MPG. For comparison, the most popular electric car, the Nissan Leaf, had a rating of 114 MPGe. That makes the Nissan Leaf 4.6 times more efficient than the average new car.

The most efficient car in the United States is now the BMW i3 electric car, with a rating of 124 MPGe. The most efficient non-electric car is the Toyota Prius hybrid, which has a rating of just 50 MPG. An electric motor makes a big difference when it comes to cleaning our air and protecting our climate.

4) Cheaper (for some people)

This is one big advantage for some customers but still isn’t an advantage for some others. Thanks to the great efficiency of electric cars, the cost of operating an electric car is very low. However, because of the relatively high cost of the batteries used in electric cars, if you don’t typically drive much, an electric car is likely to cost a bit more than a “comparable” gas car. (Note, however, that there’s really no such thing as a “comparable” gas car, thanks to the three benefits noted above.)

On the other hand, if you drive an average amount or if you drive a lot, then there’s a good chance you will save money over the time period you own a car. For people like taxi drivers who drive a lot, the savings can be staggering, which has been demonstrated in pilot programs using the BYD e6 electric car and the Nissan Leaf electric car.

As production goes up, economies of scale are achieved and technology costs come down. We’ve seen electric car costs come down tremendously in recent years as demand and production have boomed. However, much greater drops are expected in the coming years, which will make electric cars much cheaper than gasoline cars for the majority of people. Keep your eyes peeled, and consider jumping into an electric car this year if you haven't done so yet.

Image: Nissan Leaf by Nissan

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