The Benefits of Electric Cars

A complete guide that covers the primary benefits of electric cars for drivers.

Summary

Electric cars offer a range of financial, performance and environmental benefits when compared with internal combustion engine vehicles.

They are:

  • Greener.
  • Faster.
  • Cheaper to run.
  • More convenient to own.
  • Soon to be cheaper to buy or lease.

Electric cars are greener

Electric cars are greener than internal combustion engine vehicles by a number of key measures, with the exception of the carbon intensity of the manufacturing process (although this will change as economies of scale are achieved through mass production).

Energy Efficiency

Electric cars are far more energy efficient (85-90% efficient) than internal combustion engine cars (17-21%), which means that they use less energy to get you from A to B.

Less energy used means less produced, which in turn means less CO2 emissions produced by non-renewable energy sources and the wider energy supply chain.

Energy Source

However, it is often claimed by sceptics that electric cars just move the pollution to the power station; it’s called the “long tailpipe theory”.

To an extent this is true. But it fails to note that pretty much all power stations are greener than internal combustion engines in terms of energy and carbon efficiency.

The mix of power generation we actually use (which includes wind & solar as well as power stations) is far greener than an internal combustion engine and getting greener all the time.

Exhaust Emissions

Electric cars have zero exhaust emissions, which means they do not emit any harmful exhaust gases or soot in densely populated areas. Likewise, with coal now becoming a small part of the power mix, very little air pollution at all is released from modern power generation.

In contrast, the exhaust emissions from vehicles with internal combustion engines is a significant source of CO2 that contributes to global climate change and air pollutants that harm people’s health at a local level.

Air pollution is often described as a public health emergency, with urban air pollution for many UK towns and cities well above safe limits and not improving. It is clear that road transport is the primary contributor of harmful gases and particulate matter and that electrification is a key part of reducing this.

Tip: Harmful air pollutants are a combination of gases (like NOx and CO) and particulates, found in soot from (particularly diesel) combustion, but also tyre, road, brake and engine wear. Electric cars still release particulates from tyre, road and brake wear, but brake wear is much reduced because of regenerative braking. If air pollution remains at high levels after all vehicles are zero emission (a big if, because a lot of progress will be made), the tyre and road surface industries will be targets for improvements.

Manufacturing Process

It is true that building an electric car is more carbon intensive than building a traditional car; it was estimated as about 50% higher by Ricardo in 2011.

This is due to the process of lithium ion battery manufacture but as economies of scale improve and renewables power more of our factories (both BMW and Tesla have impressive commitments to this) the total carbon emissions per vehicle will decrease.

Even with a production deficit to overcome, the EV is now more than twice as efficient over its life time than even a small diesel combustion car. And of course this situation will continue to improve as the grid gets even greener.

Network Image London
Charging on the go

Electric cars perform better

Contrary to the cliche, electric cars are fundamentally superior to combustion vehicles in terms of power, torque and acceleration. On the whole they handle better too, due to their low centre of gravity with their heavy batteries mounted in the chassis.

To give a bit of detail on quite how spectacular electric car performance can be, here are some impressive demonstrations:

  • Tesla Model X beating an Alfa Romeo 4C sports car in a drag race, while towing and Alfa Romeo 4C sports car.
  • A few clips of the unearthly acceleration of the Tesla Roadster (top speed >250 mph).
  • Volkswagen I.D. R trying to beat the Pike’s Peak hill climb electric car record. And actually setting the all-powertrain, all-time record by over 15 seconds!

But of course, even the Nissan LEAF offers great around town nippiness. Instant torque from zero revs make all electric cars great fun to drive

Yes, for long distances on the track, combustion engines are still winning for the time being, their hugely energy dense petrol giving them better range, but this will likely change as energy density in batteries continues to nudge upwards.

And anyway, vanishingly few of us ever take their car on the track. We want our performance to nip away from the lights, safely overtake and enjoy a (responsible) brisk drive in the countryside. In all of these roles the electric car is winning.

Tip: When choosing between an internal combustion engine vehicle and an electric car you may have to sacrifice performance. But only if you choose the car with the internal combustion engine.

Electric cars are cheaper to run

Depending on your electricity deal at home and how efficient your electric car is, you can drive from 2-5p a mile. This equates on average to ~£1,000 a year in fuel savings by driving electric.

There are other great cost saving benefits as well; to learn more about the costs of driving an electric car please visit our dedicated guide here.

Electric cars will soon be cheaper to buy

Probably the biggest barrier to people getting in an electric car is their cost, which is primarily because of the cost to make the electric car’s battery.

Thankfully it is also the area where arguably the most progress is being made. With battery costs falling at circa 20% per year, we will soon reach a point where a full battery electric car is the same price to buy as an equivalent petrol car.

Shortly afterwards it will become even cheaper. It’s around this point that we expect mass adoption to hit, as discussed by Pod Point CEO Erik Fairbairn in this video.

Tip: In Norway electric cars are often as cheap, or cheaper to buy than internal combustion engine cars, due to tax incentives. Despite other barriers (limited range of early models, infrastructure challenges, one of the world’s least hospitable environments for electric motoring) more than half of Norway’s new cars are electric.

Electric cars are more convenient to own

If you own a petrol car, your car is definitely not fueling itself while you read this. If you own an electric car, it may well be.

Our cars are parked 95% of their life. Electric car drivers make use of that time to put energy into them at their destination, rather than detouring to a petrol pump to wait to fuel and pay a fortune.

Now electric cars are available with ranges of 200-300 miles, if you are able to charge at home or work, each time you get back to your car in the morning or evening you will likely find it full. It is hard to explain what a quantum leap in convenience this offers until you try it.

Tip: Pre-heating is one of the true convenience wins of electric car driving. You won’t fully understand convenience until you have walked to your pre-heated, fully charged car on a freezing day!

  • Share this guide