Why Aren’t You Driving an Electric Car?
By: Michael Olson
Currently electric vehicles are often seen as expensive toys for the wealthy or as small, short range, ugly vehicles with the sole appeal of being eco-friendly. This has been the case for over 20 years with no obvious change. Why do electric vehicles make up such a small portion of car sales and why are there few affordable standard consumer vehicles that are electric instead of gas?
Electric vehicles have been around for a long time. Some of the first automobiles built in the early 1900s were electric, though EVs were not truly mass produced until around the 1990s. After decades of gas powered consumer car development, several manufacturers began to look at electric vehicles as a way for customers to cut back fuel costs and to reduce emissions. A significant factor in manufacturers’ ability to create these cars was improvement in available battery technologies and power electronics. While these EVs had significantly more range, speed, and comfort than those before, the electric vehicles of the 1990s and 2000s still had many downsides compared to gas powered cars. They lacked the range and speed of gas cars, and took a long time to charge. These electric vehicles were also far more expensive than similar sized gas cars. All of these downsides meant that production numbers of electric vehicles were many orders of magnitude lower than gas vehicles.
Recently, battery technology has continued to improve and decrease in price. There are now several electric vehicles available that are less of a compromise than the electric vehicles of the early 2000s. There are now vehicles that have equivalent range to gasoline vehicles, though they still cost more than gas vehicles of similar size. There are also EVs that are near the price of their gas equivalent, though these usually lack the range a gas car would have. The charging time for nearly all electric vehicles has come down drastically in the last 10 years, however it is still an order of magnitude slower than filling a gas car. The tesla model 3 has similar range and is faster than equivalent gas cars but costs a notable amount more. The Chevy bolt is near equivalent gas cars in price but lacks the range of the gas vehicle. Current electric vehicles still require compromise when compared to gas vehicles, though the trend is continuing in the right direction, and electric vehicles may soon be better options than traditional gas vehicles.
Within the last 3 years, nearly every major car manufacturer has announced that a majority of their lineup will be electric within the next 15 years. These manufactures already have some electric models available, and as more and more are purchased, the incentive for the manufacturer to develop and improve EVs has increased. Massive manufacturing facilities for EV battery packs are being created, since the battery pack is the most expensive single component of an EV, this has a large impact on driving down the manufacturing cost of electric vehicles. This cycle of increased demand and improvements to technology is reaching the point where it will make more sense to purchase an electric vehicle instead of a gas powered car.
Today’s electric vehicles may still require compromise, but they have improved to the point where anyone buying a new car should think about what they need their car to be capable of, then consider if an electric vehicle would work for them. As technology improves, manufacturing increases and prices drop, the number of people who find an electric vehicle is right for them will ever increase. So, next time you’re shopping for a car, consider looking for an electric vehicle.