After doing extensive research on the most environmentally friendly cars, my fiance and I decided to buy an electric car. As a zero emission vehicle, an all-electric car is arguably the most eco-friendly car available. And although we are thrilled with our purchase, even the best electric car has its trade-offs. Here are the pros and cons of electric cars straight from the mouth of an owner. We bought the 2011 World Car of the Year, the Nissan Leaf electric car.
The Pros of a 100% Electric Car
- All-electric cars are zero emission vehicles. It’s clear that vehicle emissions wreak havoc on air quality, and it’s particularly evident in big cities like Los Angeles where smog control is always an issue. With so many cars on the roads around the world, eliminating car emissions is a major step toward improving the environment. Hybrids were a good first step, but they only significantly reduce emissions when you are sitting in traffic. When your foot is on the gas, traditional hybrids are similar to driving a regular car. Electric cars are truly eco-friendly cars that have no tail pipes and no exhaust and driving an electric car is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint.
- You don’t need gas. Ever. As gas prices continue to rise, we can’t help but feel a tremendous sense of satisfaction knowing that with our Nissan electric car, we’ll never need to worry about the price of gas.
- Tax incentives. The United States Federal Government gives tax credits to people who purchase approved, eco friendly vehicles; we saved $7500. Many states offer incentives too.
- Utility incentives. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is giving us a $2000 rebate for installing a separate meter for the car charger and they are giving us a lower rate on the electricity used to charge the car compared to our normal rate.
- You can drive in the carpool lane. This is a selfish benefit rather than an environmental one, but amazing nonetheless. It’s nice to be rewarded for buying a zero emission car with the gift of legally speeding past bumper to bumper traffic. The high-occupancy vehicle lane (HOV lane) is typically reserved for cars with more than one person to encourage people to help save the environment and carpool. When hybrid cars first came out, many states allowed them HOV lane access, but those benefits are being phased out for traditional hybrids. In California, traditional hybrid cars no longer have HOV access, and HOV lane eligibility is reserved for all-electric vehicles like the Leaf, hydrogen fuel cell cars or compressed natural gas vehicles such as the Honda Civic GX. Additionally, a maximum of 40,000 people with partial zero emission vehicles such as the Chevy Volt or the new Prius Plug-In Hybrid will also be given carpool lane access in the state.
- Fast acceleration. Electric cars like the Leaf and the Tesla have really, really fast, smooth acceleration. I can always get ahead when I need to with nothing more than a light touch of the pedal for an effortless and incredibly fast glide.
- Electric cars are very quiet. After driving an electric car for a while, you realize just how noisy regular cars can be. There’s no rumbling engine noise when you start the car, nor while you are driving. The children of the future won’t say “vroom” when they play with toy cars. Perhaps they’ll make quiet electronic, beeping sounds instead?
The Cons of an All-Electric Car
- Not going the distance. As amazing as the electric cars of today are, they cannot go as far on a single charge as a car that has a full tank of gasoline. The Leaf can go 120 miles if you drive approximately 38 miles per hour. If you drive on the highway, the distance you can go is cut in half. We have a regular, gas powered car that we can use for longer drives. If having a second car is not an option for you, you can always rent a car when you feel a road trip calling. Basically, 100% electric vehicles are great local cars for commuting to work and running errands, but you have to always consider the distance you are going to travel before you hit the road. If you take a lot of long trips, you may prefer a Chevy Volt or a Prius Plug-In Hybrid, both of which run on gas when your charge runs out.
- The charging challenge. When you buy an electric car, you need to get a charging station for your home. You can charge with a regular 120-volt outlet, but it’s pretty slow. The Leaf takes about 12 hours from zero to full charge with a 120-volt outlet compared to 6 hours or less if you charge with a 240-volt outlet. Once you’re set with a charger at home, then you have to consider where you can charge when you’re out and about. If there aren’t any public EV charging stations near you, you will have to make sure that you have enough power for a round-trip. As electric vehicles become more popular, this should become less of an issue over time.
We love our all-electric car, and are happy with our purchase. We have adapted to living with the limitations, and feel good about the money we are saving while improving the environment. If you’re in the market for something new, I highly recommend that you buy an electric car!