The Truth About EVs

Electric cars are not all bad. But neither are they all good.

The problem is that most Americans – who have never driven an electric car – are mostly unaware of the bad, having been told almost nothing except the good. This is not unlike being told that sugar tastes good – without being told that too much sugar can give you diabetes, too. 

What is good about electric cars?

Well, they are extremely responsive – a better way to convey the meaning of “quick.” Even the ones not specifically designed to be particularly quick – such as Nissan’s Leaf and the Hyundai Kona electric I recently reviewed (here). Both get to 60 in about 7 seconds or so, which isn’t incandescently quick. Most run-of-the-mill family-type cars with four cylinder gas engines get to 60 in about the same 7 seconds or so.

But EVs like the Leaf and Kona electric are remarkably responsive, in that when you press down on the accelerator, they accelerate with an immediacy that is a function of electric motors not needing time to spin up to the point at which they make peak power. Electric motors make peak power immediately. Also, there is usually no transmission in between the motor and the wheels, which are directly driven by the motor. And there is no slippage – as would be the case with a clutch and is always the case with an automatic, which has a fluid coupling called a torque converter that allows the engine to freewheel while the engine is in gear and the vehicle isn’t moving.

So, the electric car is more responsive – and more efficient, in the sense of power delivery. They also have fewer moving parts, not having engines with pistons and valves and crankshafts (to name just a few of the parts within an engine and not counting all of the other parts inside the transmission, whether manual or automatic).

The EV is also very quiet. So quiet, in fact, that the government has mandated that EVs be fitted with a device that makes noise when they are being operated at low speeds – as in parking lots – so that people walking in the vicinity can hear it approaching. 

And – the big one – EVs can be “fueled” (recharged) at home, eliminating the need to stop at gas stations – or pay $5 per gallon for gas.

So much for the good. How about the bad?

If you make frequent use of the EV’s responsiveness, you will shortly have less of it available to use as using it frequently will rapidly deplete the EV battery pack’s charge. The same is true of load – as for example pulling a trailer with an EV. Or carrying a load of something heavy in the bed, if the EV is a truck.

This is the paradox of electric cars – and trucks. Use it – and lose it.

Literally.

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