Electric Vehicle Benefits Differ By Owner
Sustainability With more than one million plug-in vehicles sold globally and monthly sales rates on the rise, a growing number of car buyers are deciding to go electric. Why are they making this decision?
easons to go electric fall into three categories: financial, environment, or comfort and convenience. Before delving into the different reasons we need to clarify the two types of electric vehicles.
The first type is a battery-electric vehicle (BEV), which only has batteries. When the batteries on a BEV are depleted the vehicle needs to recharge before travelling further. Examples of BEVs are the Tesla Model S, Nissan Leaf, and BMW i3.
The second type of electric vehicle is a plug-in hybrid vehicle (PHEV), which has both a grid-charge battery and a gas/diesel engine. PHEVs generally have smaller batteries than BEVs because when the batteries are depleted the engine can turn on and the vehicle continues to travel. Examples of PHEVs are the Chevrolet Volt, Audi A3 e-tron, and BMW i3 REX. Within the industry some people differentiate between PHEVs and extended-range electric vehicles but it is simpler to categorize any plug-in with an engine as a PHEV.
For both BEVs and PHEVs, energy savings is a consideration. Every electric kilometre traveled saves money compared to a gas kilometre. So, the economic question is simple: can you drive enough kilometres to give a payback on the extra cost of the car?
For BEVs this results in a Goldilocks-style sweet spot. Drive too little and there aren’t enough electric kilometres to give a good payback. Drive too much and the vehicle may not have enough range. Drive just the right amount, the economics are excellent and the range is sufficient. Some drivers in this sweet spot are saving hundreds of dollars every month.
Ask most EV owners and you will hear it’s the smoothest car I’ve ever driven — and, it’s peppy!
Since PHEVs have the engine backup there isn’t an issue of driving too much, it simply needs to be driven enough. Personally, I exceed the electric range in my PHEV every day and drive a little bit on gas. Using up my electric range every day I save $4–5 a day.
To simplify the purchase decision a growing trend in the industry is to capture driving data off the current gas vehicle and feed that into a software system that generates a savings estimates based upon that person/family/fleet’s specific driving habits. This process removes the guess work and factors in differences in how models operate and how they are impacted by weather.
The environmental benefits are clear in Ontario. Even in the U.S. electricity grid, which includes notable amounts of coal power, there is still an environmental benefit of going electric. In Ontario, where our electricity is 10 times cleaner than the U.S., the greenhouse gas benefit is large.
The most overlooked but critical benefit to EV ownership is comfort and convenience. Ask most EV owners and you will hear it’s the smoothest car I’ve ever driven — and, it’s peppy! EV owners also enjoy not having to stand in the bitter cold pumping gas and appreciate making fewer visits to the repair shop. My Volt is about to hit 180,000 km and has only needed two oil changes since the engine runs so little.
The convenience is why more buyers are deciding now is the time to go electric.