September 1, 2015
Hybrids are great because they cut fuel consumption to reduce emissions and save drivers’ money. However, a step-up in eco-friendly transportation, electric vehicles, have zero tailpipe emissions and cost little to nothing for a charge. But what are the drawbacks of EVs?
While hybrids like the Toyota Prius and the Chevrolet Volt can recharge themselves using their combustion engines, electric vehicles cannot. For a short commute to work this will rarely be a problem, as the average EV range is between 50 and 150 miles, and some models like the Tesla Model S have a range of up to 270 miles. As long as you remember to plug-in when you get home, any range concerns dissipate. However, for holiday travels, family road-trips and backcountry adventures, one charge may not be enough.
To encourage EV purchases and facilitate travel for owners of electric vehicles, Tesla has built a line of EV Supercharging stations across the country. Though they currently only work for Teslas, they are strategically-placed along major roadways to allow for cross-country trips and cost nothing. Other companies, such as EVgo and Coulomb Technologies’ ChargePoint network, have also made it possible to travel longer distances in EVs with charging stations in most major metropolitan areas.
Another concern is the time it takes to charge electric vehicles. If your battery should die in the middle of the day, spending hours at a charging station may dampen road-trip morale. Luckily, Tesla’s stations can provide a half-charge in 20 minutes and an 80% charge (recommended), in 40. Alternatively, EVgo stations can add a range of up to 150 miles in an hour. Without these stations, however, a full battery may require a while longer, from 4 to 8 hours.
Buying an EV will undoubtedly cut tailpipe emissions, but there are also issues regarding the source of your charge. Though Tesla plans for many of its stations to be solar, that goal is far from realization. Any charging station you choose, you’re supporting whichever utility they’re buying from, which may be renewable, but may not. If you live in California there is a much better chance that your electric vehicle is receiving a charge from solar or wind power, as the state has a relatively large and expanding renewable energy industry. At home, the electric vehicle’s owner is best qualified to say if their electricity is provided by coal-fired plants, natural gas or renewable sources.
Should you choose to go EV, these considerations replace those faced when buying standard or hybrid cars. How many highway miles to the gallon? becomes what is range on a full charge? One must ask, where is the nearest charging station? and where does my electricity come from? Phasing fossil fuels out of personal transportation is possible now, thanks to EVs, but it requires more than an EV purchase alone.
Photo Credit: ChargePoint, Tesla, EVgo Presskits