The skinny on electric cars

by James Hills for Club LT

EV is the future … I’m sure you’ve heard that over and over in the media. From my perspective it’s true but it’ll be a long time before we’re going to be able to completely ditch the trusty, reliable internal combustion engine. Regardless though, the next couple decades are going to be a pretty exciting time for anyone who loves cars. Here’s what you need to know about electric cars today.

EV Adoption is Driven by Politics More That Reality

Despite recent attacks on California’s unique leadership position in protecting air quality and automotive efficiency standards, it is politics over practicality that is currently driving EV adoption.

While I sincerely have enjoyed my experience driving electric cars including the Chevy Bolt and Nissan LEAF, it’s still an experience filled with compromise. You need to want to drive an EV … not simply a car. Governmental forces in Europe working to reduce climate change impact, combined with the high cost of gasoline there and in Asia are driving industry to innovate. That’s probably a good thing long term but the reality is that today’s internal combustion engines coupled with advanced hybrid powertrains are a vastly superior solution offering performance as well as mileage benefits that a pure EV won’t be able to touch for decades.

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 What’s It Like To Drive an Electric Vehicle?

The old joke about driving a souped up golf cart isn’t too far from the truth but that’s changing. Vehicles like the Mitsubishi MiEV are pretty much exactly a street-legal golf cart. However, cars like the 2020 Chevrolet Bolt (259 mile range), Kona Electric (258 miles), Tesla Model 3 (240 miles), come closest to being a vehicle that is practical and affordable. Each of those cars above is priced starting in the mid-$30,000’s.

If you live in an area with plenty of DC fast charging and have a Level 2 charger at your home, any one of those might be a good option. However, for long distance travel over 200 miles then it’s going to be a chore finding a charging station and then waiting 30 minutes or more to fill up.

The Actual Experience of Driving the Car is Pretty Exciting

Most of us are familiar with the feel of an internal combustion engine and shift points as we accelerate, but with an EV the acceleration is immediate and smooth with unexpectedly high torque. This is extremely evident with the Tesla Model 3 “Performance” trim where you can get a mind-bending acceleration of 0-60 in 3.2 seconds and a top speed of 162 mph, plus a range of 310 miles! It comes with a premium price too – starting price for the Model 3 Performance is $47,315 vs $30,315 for the Standard Range Plus.

That’s why vehicles like the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid are actually far more exciting to drive compared to their traditional siblings. Since they are using the electric motor to give you that immediate burst of power while the engine catches, up it blends the benefits of both types of power. The Jeep Wrangler and RAM trucks have a similar feature available to assist with towing – providing that initial torque to get the truck moving faster and more efficiently.

Other manufacturers such as Toyota and Hyundai are investing heavily into hydrogen fuel cell technology to power vehicles. Instead of using a chemical battery the fuel cell produces electricity by processing hydrogen into electricity, heat, and water. This technology has some interesting benefits such as the ability to refuel in the same way you put gas in your tank. Except it’s hydrogen

Despite the promise of quick acceleration and clean energy, the reality is that most EVs today are still biased towards efficiency over comfort. Literally everything that you enjoy about driving takes energy and that means that car won’t go as far. This includes basic things like: vehicle weight, air conditioning, electronics, and the ability to go fast.

While you can go fast with the AC blasting cold air in your face on a hot day, you’ll find that manufacturer stated range will melt away like a Popsicle in the sun.

What’s The Future of Electric Vehicles?

We will continue to see innovation with electric vehicles and in particular battery technology over the next few decades. Aside from cost, the primary barrier for mass adoption of EVs is range anxiety.

With new battery technology able to charge faster and hold more power, much of that will change.

However, we also need to focus on developing more clean electric power plants and infrastructure to support millions of electric cars on the road. That is ultimately going to be the challenge; while you might buy a new car every 6 years, new efficient power plants, power lines, and charging stations as easy to use as gas pumps will take decades or more before they are able to provide the infrastructure needed to support an EV future.

The future is bright and EV technology will continue to advance but don’t worry about your current car being outdated any time soon.

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About James Hills
James writes the ManTripping blog and lives in southern California. For more than a decade, ManTripping has been a leading male lifestyle blog covering food, fashion, travel, toys, action and adventure – you know, man-things. James shares his wisdom regularly on Club LT and is often featured in the Club LT podcast.

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