Andrew Moseman has covered science, technology, and transportation for publications such as The Atlantic, Inverse, Insider, Outside, and MIT Technology Review. He was previously digital director of Popular Mechanics and now serves as online communications editor at Caltech. He is based in Los Angeles. Read MoreRead More
Electric Cars Are Better. Period.
Here’s why you’ll love owning an EV.
Fear of the unknown is only natural. It’s no surprise many drivers who are unfamiliar with electric vehicles worry that if they make the leap to this new technology, their lives will be plagued by problems they’ve heard about on the news like range anxiety or long recharge times. Predictably, those with a political ax to grind against electrification stoke those fears, hoping to paint EV as a deficient or inferior product, or a sacrifice big government wants you to make for the greater good. They are wrong.
I won’t lie to you and say EVs are flawless. There are things gasoline gas does that electric cannot, such as making a Cannonball Run across the country with a bare minimum of stops. What you might not realize if you’ve yet to drive or own an EV, however, is all of the ways that they are clearly, obviously better. Yes, the climate case for electric vehicles powered by renewable energy is the big, bold-faced reason to move away from internal combustion. Even if you set aside green reasons to buy an EV, the electric life is an upgrade.
Get one great climate story in your inbox every day:
Fearmongering about EVs often focuses on long-distance driving, since this is the one place where gasoline holds a clear advantage — yes, it is slightly more cumbersome to rely on EV fast-chargers than it is to pull off the interstate for five minutes or less whenever you need gas. As charging gets faster, though, and battery ranges get longer, the inconvenience gap is shrinking. At a certain point, the distance you can travel down the highway on one charge will be greater than or equal to the amount of time you’d want to go between bathroom breaks, anyway.
Now ask yourself: What are your driving habits actually like? If you’re like most Americans, you take the occasional long road trip, but 90 percent of your driving happens within a few dozen miles of home: getting groceries, commuting, dropping off the kids at dance practice. (There’s a reason most auto accidents happen within 15 miles of home. It’s where we drive.)
You don’t need gasoline to live like this. EV owners can plug into the garage after work and wake up each morning with more than enough range for the daily grind. No more stopping at the gas station on the way home from work and standing out in the blazing heat or freezing cold to pump fossil fuels into your car.
Saying goodbye to the gas station also, mercifully, means saying goodbye to paying for gas. As I write this in Los Angeles, the average price in California has exceeded $6 per gallon, while the national average is up to $3.79. For a variety of reasons, it’s difficult to do an apples-to-apples cost comparison between gas and electric. They don’t commonly use the same units; electricity can have a much different price per kilowatt-hour depending on the time of day and whether you charge at home or at a public fast-charger. However, although you can find studies that bend over backward to twist the numbers to favor gasoline, driving electric typically costs less per mile. The gap gets bigger if you live in a state with high gas prices or do nearly all your charging at home, where it’s cheap.
Those savings, along with government incentives, made the higher up-front cost of an EV easier to swallow. So does the potential for less routine maintenance. I can’t tell you how nice it is to forget about oil changes.
Then there’s performance.
Today’s super-deluxe EVs post bonkers zero-to-sixty times. High-end versions of the Tesla Model S, Lucid Air, Porsche Taycan, and even the Rivian R1T pickup truck hit the mark in three seconds or less. The reason is mechanical: An electric motor can deliver all its torque from a stop, while a gas engine is particular about just where it can reach peak horsepower and torque.
This truth matters even if you’re not planning to spend six figures on an electric car, because it means even the more modestly priced EVs are just fun to drive, with lots of zip off the starting line. Forget the car guy stats: What will make you happy is the feeling as your EV silently pins you back against the seat or effortlessly accelerates to highway speed as you merge — the moment of Zen that has been promised by a thousand cliched car commercials. And you don’t have to spend a hundred thousand dollars to get it.
EV ownership also delivers other little quality-of-life improvements. For example, full climate control: A big battery means you can blast the car’s AC or heat for a long time without running a gasoline engine. It means you’re not polluting the neighborhood’s air as you sit there idling for minutes on end, waiting for the kid you’re picking up to get in the car already. It means you can preheat or pre-cool the car from inside the house, or leave the vehicle on Dog Mode so it air-conditions your pooch while you run into Starbucks.
A combustion vehicle will always be a rolling, carbon-emitting power plant. An EV has the potential to be much more — part of a smarter, more integrated future. Homeowners with solar panels could use that clean energy to fill up their car batteries. And when more vehicles join the Ford F-150 Lightning in offering two-way charging, more EV owners will be able to use their cars as a power supply that could, for example, keep the house lights on in case of a blackout.
Electric isn’t for everyone. Not at this moment, anyhow. For people who can’t charge at home or at work, the challenge of getting electricity at public fast-chargers can be too annoying or expensive. If you drive lots of miles off the beaten path, far from the interstate highway system, you might wait, justifiably, until the map fills in with more chargers.
For the urbanite or suburbanite, it’s time to get real. We all want our cars to do everything, and yes, for the occasional journey of four-plus hours, it’d be slightly easier to keep burning gas. Life isn’t summer vacation, though. Life is driving to work and to date night. Life is sitting in traffic and then feeling that sweet exhale of accelerating when it finally opens up. Electric isn’t just better for the planet — for everyday driving, electric is better for you, too.
Read more about EVs: