Between the new European directives and the release of new models of electric vehicles more and more frequently, it is clear that the replacement of the thermal vehicle fleet is well underway. Indeed, by 2035, it will simply be impossible to buy a new car that will be equipped with a combustion engine. This, therefore, implies massive electrification of the park, whether we like it or not.
As of today, many advantages are in favor of the electric vehicle: from cost to use to its more ecological aspect; there is great interest for customers to take the plunge. However, with a recharging infrastructure that could still be improved and real constraints to be taken into account, especially during long trips, some people prefer to keep a gasoline or diesel vehicle to avoid these inconveniences.
We are therefore going to come back to the main positive and negative points of an electric vehicle in an attempt to provide an objective point of view on the advantages and disadvantages compared to a thermal vehicle (also called internal combustion). Between costs, refills, performance, and comfort of use, let’s see what is easily surmountable and what is not in an electric car.
Purchase cost is a major obstacle
An electric car has a very high purchase price, whether we like it or not. Indeed, if the buyer of a vehicle in France spends an average of 27,000 euros, the choice of electric vehicles at this price is very limited. To put things into perspective, consider the 50 least expensive vehicles on the French market in July 2022 according to Auto-Moto: prices range between 10,990 and 23,690 dollars, and only three electric ones are part of this top 50.
Worse still, the most affordable electric, the Dacia Spring, ranks only as the 32nd cheapest car on the market, with a starting price displayed at 19,800 dollars. Admittedly, electric vehicles are still entitled to an ecological bonus which reduces the final price to be paid by the customer, but this will not forever.
What’s more, the three cheapest electric cars on the market are the Dacia Spring, the Renault Twingo Electric, and the Volkswagen e-Up! It cannot decently be considered as the main vehicle of a household, whereas thermal cars at the same price can do so much more easily.
In addition to new vehicles, the second-hand market is also less developed for electric vehicles than thermal ones, and thus obtaining a vehicle for only a few thousand euros is still mission impossible in 2022. This drastically limits access to electric mobility for many households and clearly remains a major drawback of electric cars.
Unfortunately, for people hesitating between several vehicle models and with a limited budget, it is very unlikely that they will turn to an electric car today. With such a high displayed price, this necessarily repels many people, even though their use of a vehicle would be amply compatible with electric mobility.
However, this is going in the right direction since many manufacturers are announcing the future arrival of cars for less than 25,000 dollars, such as Volkswagen with its ID.2, Skoda, which is aiming for 20,000 dollars, or Ford with an electric car planned for $25,000.
Fortunately, although the acquisition costs are against electric cars, the cost of use remains unbeatable, as we will see below.
Cost in USE
An electric vehicle is generally much less expensive to use than a thermal vehicle. Indeed, considering home charging at the current average price per kilowatt hour (0.1740 dollars ) and a pessimistic consumption of 18 kWh per 100 kilometers, the price barely exceeds three euros to travel 100 kilometers. According to our observations, a Volkswagen e-UP type city car consumes an average of 12 kWh per 100 kilometers in peri-urban and city use, compared to 18 kWh for a Tesla Model 3 type sedan in peri-urban and motorway use.
According to Ademe, the latest figures available indicate an average consumption of gasoline vehicles of 6.80 liters per 100 kilometers and 5 liters per 100 kilometers for diesel vehicles. Thus, with a current average price of around 1.90 dollars per liter, the cost per 100 kilometers would be 9.50 dollars for a diesel car and almost 13 euros for a gasoline car.
In this way, 100 kilometers in a thermal vehicle costs three to five times more than in an electric vehicle charging at home, which corresponds to the daily use of a connected car. Worse still, while it is now possible to lower the cost of recharging thanks to certain free recharging terminals or even variable-price electricity offers (off-peak hours, for example, or offers dedicated to electric vehicles), the price of gasoline remains difficult to minimize.
Similarly, the maintenance costs of an electric vehicle are much lower than those of an equivalent thermal car, mainly thanks to a simpler design of the powertrain.
Where a thermal vehicle periodically needs an oil change, oil changes, or engine overhaul, an electric vehicle needs virtually no periodic maintenance. This is also the reason why Tesla simply deleted its scheduled maintenance in 2019, for example, judging that it was not necessary to bring owners back for optional actions.
In use and in conventional conditions, there is, therefore, no possible doubt: an electric car is very economical compared to an equivalent thermal vehicle. But we will see that there are use cases that reverse this trend, in addition to adding an additional constraint related to charging: long trips.
Less simple and sometimes costly travels
We explained it earlier: on a daily basis, there is no way for a thermal vehicle to be more economical thanks to the reduced price of electricity at home. That being said, on long journeys, the situation can be very different, as fast charging prices can quickly soar.
As we have previously established, the cost per 100 kilometers of a thermal vehicle is generally between 10 and 13 euros, both on a daily basis and on long trips. Or slightly more with motorway service stations. In an electric vehicle, however, fast charging costs you much more than the famous three euros per 100 kilometers of charging at home.
In practice, the fast charging tariffs at the various market players are between three and five times more expensive than the price of domestic electricity, but this is not the only factor that drives up the bill.
Indeed, where a thermal vehicle sometimes consumes less fuel on the highway at high speed than in an urban environment, for an electric car, this is not at all the case. Motorway consumption tends to soar with an electric car, which is then much more painful when recharging: in addition to paying more for electricity, it takes much more to travel 100 kilometers than everything else of the year.
It is not uncommon to arrive at an average price per 100 kilometers for long journeys in an electric car, reaching 10 euros or even exceeding 15 dollars per 100 kilometers. This, therefore, exceeds the fuel cost of a thermal car, and the trend is, unfortunately, for fast charging prices to rise, so much so that we even wondered if the golden age of the electric car was not already behind us.
However, there are solutions to reduce these costs when charging at fast terminals, such as subscriptions or partnerships between the manufacturers and operators of these terminals.
What’s more, you often have to learn to navigate this veritable jungle of cards and other applications to use charging stations, which can be a real headache for new owners. Fortunately, new systems are being put in place, such as Plug & Charge, with many manufacturers.
Finally, as you are aware, the current autonomy of electric vehicles often does not allow you to take advantage of long journeys as you would in a thermal vehicle. It is necessary to stop more frequently to recharge, with an average of 30 minutes of charge every two hours of motorway driving at 130 km/h for a conventional electric car.
Some fast charging champions allow the charging time to be minimized, but this remains more restrictive despite everything. This shows the value of not only focusing on the range of an electric car but also on its fast charging, as shown in this ranking of the fastest cars on long journeys. Above all, electric cars with very long autonomy will be arriving in 2023.
Fortunately, if long trips are rare, the average cost per 100 kilometers smoothed over the year will remain well below five euros, which remains impossible to match in a gasoline car.
The pleasure of driving: an advantage for the electric?
If long journeys are not where electric vehicles shine, they can make up for driving pleasure, which is often a big advantage over their thermal counterparts.
An electric motor, for example, provides the breathtaking acceleration, thanks to the maximum torque available instantly. This is why Teslas, in particular, impresses with accelerations sometimes worthy of Supercars compared to equivalent thermal vehicles.
In addition, thanks to the design of an electric car and its battery on the floor between the two running gears, the center of gravity are very low, which allows excellent road holding. The negative point is that electric vehicles are generally quite heavy (the battery weighs around 400 kg), and thus the body roll can be more marked.
Driving comfort is also an argument in favor of the electric, thanks to the absence of vibrations linked to the engine or even to the silence that reigns on board. Indeed, although some still appreciate the hum of a combustion engine, it is clear that in urban areas, in particular, electric vehicles are much more suitable.
The smooth driving allowed by the absence of gear ratios to change is also a major advantage of the electric car, which makes driving in town very pleasant. Similarly, low-speed maneuvers are much smoother than in a combustion engine vehicle, thanks to easier acceleration management.
Finally, a significant advantage of the electric car: is regenerative braking. We have already gone back in detail to what this consisted of, and it must be admitted that once you have gotten used to driving in this way, going back is difficult.
Besides that, driving a combustion-powered car, even with an automatic gearbox, means constantly using and abusing the brake pedal, which is much less pleasant than “letting” the vehicle slow down by taking your foot off the accelerator.
The perfect electric car is still not on the cards, and you must accept the constraints inherent in electric mobility before taking the plunge. Indeed, whether on long journeys where you have to adapt or at the time of purchase where the price remains an obstacle, we cannot deny the existing disadvantages.
However, we ought to now no longer fall into the lure of prejudices approximately the electric vehicle and preserve a goal factor of view. Whatever happens, it stays a purifier opportunity to the thermal vehicle, intending to disappear steadily.
European manufacturers are all banking on the electrification of their fleets, and the future of the automobile is heading in this direction. The current question is not so much whether the electric car has more advantages than a thermal car, but rather whether today an electric car is made for you or not. Because willingly or by force, we will all go through it, even with the inconveniences that this entails.
The latter will be less and less present as innovations arrive. For example, from 2023, the arrival of cars with a range of 1,000 km in China, or fast charging in 10 minutes next year and 5 minutes shortly. Without forgetting, solid batteries will revolutionize the sector and greatly reduce costs.