10 Facts about electric cars

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Electric cars, also known as EVs, have recently gained newfound popularity. Global EV sales rose 40% between 2019 and 2020, due to the growing availability of different types of affordable electric cars, Tesla’s historical stock market success and rising fuel costs. Besides the 19 EVs available from Tesla, Nissan, Kia, Porsche and other manufacturers, there are an additional 18 models expected before 2021 is over — and another 29 to 30 that may be released in the next few years.

The car industry is rapidly changing, with the latest alternative-energy vehicles fostering technology that seems light years away from the combustible-engine vehicle. Extended ranges and a growing network of high-speed EV chargers make it possible for the electric-vehicle driver to travel further, removing one of the biggest objections consumers have. Bankrate weighs the pros and cons of electric cars and discusses how they work.

Electric cars in 2021

Key takeaways:

  • EV battery costs have dropped $1,000 per kWh in ten years. (Bloomberg)
  • There were 25,313 charging stations in the U.S. by the end of 2020, triple the 7,340 there were in 2014. (U.S. Department of Transportation)
  • California leads with 12,389 charging stations, followed by New York, Florida and Texas with 2,000 or more each. (U.S. Department of Transportation)
  • There are 10 million EVs on the road. (S&P Global)
  • 122,016 EVs were sold in March 2021 setting sales records. (U.S. Department of Transportation)

Some significant developments are pushing EVs into the forefront. As more electric cars are produced, the cost to produce batteries has dropped, making the electric vehicle more affordable. Today, batteries are approaching a remarkable price of $100 per kilowatt-hour (kWh). Ten years ago, batteries sold for more than $1,100/kWh. Considering that the battery is the most expensive electric vehicle component, the car has become more accessible to the masses.

In addition, charging stations have more than tripled from 7,340 in 2014. By the end of 2020, there were 25,313 charging stations throughout the country. California leads with 12,839. New York, Florida and Texas have the next highest number of charging stations, with 2,000 or more EV charging stations each.

There are over 10 million EVs on the road. EV sales dropped in 2020 to 296,000 units from 331,000 in 2019 due to the pandemic. However, things turned around in 2021. According to the Bureau of Transportation, March sales set records for all types of electric cars. The all-time high of 122,016 EVs sold grew the EV market share to 7.6%:

  • Hybrid-Electric Vehicles (HEVs): 75,959
  • Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs): 33,370
  • Plug-In Hybrid-Electric Vehicles (PHEVs): 12,687

Key electric car facts

Electric vehicles are not a passing trend; they become more affordable each year and consumers are becoming more comfortable with the idea of plugging in instead of fueling up. A recent survey by Consumer Reports found that 71 percent of U.S. drivers would consider buying an EV in the future. One third of the respondents said an EV would be their next purchase. Other interesting electric car facts include:

  • The first electric vehicle was created in 1832. (Energy.gov)
  • An EV would cost only $1 in energy to travel the same distance as a gallon of gas, which currently averages $3.04. (Energy.gov)
  • A Tesla Roadster is faster than most sports cars, with an acceleration speed of 0 to 60 in 1.9 seconds. To compare, a Ferrari or Lamborghini accelerates from 0 to 62 in 2.8 to 2.9 seconds. (Tesla and Auto Express)
  • Nearly half the EVs in the world are in China. (Global EV Outlook)
  • Roughly 96% of EV owners would buy or lease another one. (AAA)
  • EVs are more efficient. Up to 80 percent of the battery energy powers the vehicle, compared to 14% to 26% of the energy from a gasoline-powered car. (Energy.gov)
  • About 57% of consumers avoid EVs because they worry about running out of charge but only 5% of owners have run out. (AAA)

What is an electric car?

An electric car is powered by an electric motor instead of a gas-powered combustion engine. An EV’s battery can be charged at home or at an EV charging station. The Alternative Fuels Data Center (AFDC) reports that the most popular EV manufacturers are:

  • Tesla (Model 3 and Model X)
  • Toyota (Prius PHEV)
  • Chevrolet (Bolt)
  • Nissan (Leaf)

Types of electric cars

Electric cars come in three main types:

  • Hybrid-Electric Vehicles (HEVs): HEVs combine a gas-powered engine with one (or more) electric motors. An HEV does not plug in; it collects energy through regenerative braking. The Toyota Prius may be one of the best-known HEVs.
  • Plug-In Hybrid-Electric Vehicles (PHEVs): Similar to an HEV, the main difference is that a PHEV is able to plug in to charge. The Prius also comes as a plug-in version.
  • Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs): Also known as an all-electric car, it needs to be plugged in to recharge. Teslas are BEVs.

How do electric cars work?

An electric vehicle works similarly to a gas-powered car. However, EV drivers may spot some differences from gas-powered vehicles, such as:

  • Quiet operation: Many passersby often get startled and say they did not hear an EV approaching, and first-time owners say they sometimes are not sure if their car is on.
  • Sluggish acceleration: Some of the hybrid EVs are designed to accelerate slowly and coast, which takes some getting used to. However, electric plug-ins, such as the Tesla or Porsche EVs, are very fast.
  • Marked deceleration: EVs typically take advantage of regenerative braking to recharge the battery. Letting off the accelerator could cause the car to noticeably slow down more than a regular vehicle.
  • Extra trunk or “frunk” space: Pure EVs don’t have a combustible engine. Therefore, the front hood is empty and, in many models, used as a front trunk.

What powers electric cars?

EVs use batteries to power the vehicle. A traction battery pack drives the vehicle’s wheels. You will find that some cars use electric motor-generators that work to drive the EV and regenerate the battery.

Pros and cons of electric cars

Electric vehicles have come a long way in the last few years — and have much more room for improvement. Consider the following benefits and drawbacks.

Pros

  • Energy-efficient: Gas vehicles waste most of the energy they produce. In comparison, up to 80 percent of a battery’s energy powers an electric car.
  • Lower maintenance costs: EVs do not have an engine that needs maintenance or oil replacement. And in the case of pure-electric vehicles, brake use is minimal due to the regenerative braking that automatically slows the car down when you let your foot off the accelerator.
  • Smaller environmental impact: EVs do not emit pollutants from tailpipes and do not require as much (or sometimes any) gasoline.

Cons

  • Cost: Although the cost is steadily decreasing, EVs are still 10% to 40% more expensive to buy than a gasoline-powered vehicle.
  • Range: According to Energy.gov, electric vehicles can only travel 100 to 300 miles in one charge, depending on the model.
  • Charging: Charging an EV takes much longer than filling up a car with fuel. Charging a Tesla at a Supercharger could take 45 minutes to one hour. Charging at home could take an average of 11.5 hours and could potentially cause a very expensive electric bill.

How much do electric cars cost?

Many factors affect the cost of owning and driving an electric vehicle. Compare the price of driving a gas-powered car to an EV, and you will see some balance between the savings and higher costs of owning an EV.

Average Cost Gas Vehicle Electric Vehicle
Fuel/energy $2.85 $1.16
Purchase price $40,857 $55,600
Annual average for full coverage car insurance $1,674 $1,550 to $2,963
Annual maintenance $9,200 $4,600

Technology and infrastructure advancements are making EVs an excellent alternative to gas-powered cars. You could eliminate your gas bill and become part of the sustainable movement. Best of all, driving an EV does not mean you compromise performance or fun — many models are well-equipped to drive as comfortably and capably as a traditional combustion vehicle.

Written by
Cynthia Paez Bowman
Personal Finance Contributor
Cynthia Paez Bowman is a finance and business journalist who has been featured in Bankrate, Business Jet Traveler, MSN, CheatSheet.com, Freshome.com and TheSimpleDollar.com. She regularly travels to Africa and the Middle East to consult with women’s NGOs about small business development and works with select startups and women-owned businesses to provide growth and visibility.