The shift toward electric vehicles is poised to be the fastest technological switch the auto industry has ever seen. While most cars currently on the road are gasoline powered, hybrids and plug-in hybrids will help bridge the gap until more all-electric options hit the market.
Automakers around the globe have started augmenting new gasoline engines with an investment into electric powertrain technologies as customer tastes shift. As more Canadians factor long-term sustainability into their major purchase decisions, many are left wondering: should my next car be an electric vehicle (EV)?
However, like all vehicles, EVs come with a list of pros and cons that shoppers should consider before choosing their next new car or truck.
Below, we’ll look at some of these, as well as some tips to help you make a better purchase decision.
EV charging and maintenance
Unpredictable fuel costs are a primary driver of customer interest in electric vehicles. With a gasoline engine, your car can be refueled in minutes, adding hundreds of kilometres of driving range at any number of widely available gas stations. With an EV, recharging takes longer.
On a Level 1 charger, which runs on a standard 120-volt household power outlet, charging might add about six kilometres per hour to the battery. That’s about 60 kilometres added overnight in your driveway. Halve this rate in the coldest months of the year if you’re parking and charging outdoors. On a more powerful Level 2 charger, which runs on 240 volts, home charging adds about 40 kilometres per hour to the battery of your EV. This means that even a depleted battery can be charged to full (or very close to it), overnight in your driveway. On a Level 3 Fast Charger, which have a much higher voltage and, as a result, are available only at public charging stations, not the residential level, most EV batteries can be charged from nearly empty to 80% in about 20 to 30 minutes.
You don’t need to wait until your battery is low to charge it up, or fill it to the max before you’re done. Many EV drivers adapt to adding sips of electricity to their battery wherever it’s convenient to do so. And unlike a gas-powered car, an EV can be recharged while you’re off doing other things. Refuelling a gas vehicle, however, requires you to stop what you’re doing for the time it takes to fill the tank.
Also, where your gasoline-powered car or truck requires regular oil changes, tune-ups, filter changes and the like, maintenance with an EV is nearly nil. The EV has no oil or filter to change, no gaskets or spark plugs to wear out, no transmission fluid to flush, and tune-ups can be done via automatic software updates right in your driveway while you sleep.
Car insurance: gasoline vs. electric vehicles
Is insuring an EV more expensive than insuring a gasoline vehicle? That depends on a multitude of factors that will vary for each shopper, and the vehicles they’re comparing. Insurance rates are set based on complex formulas that consider a wide range of factors.
Many EVs come with advanced safety systems that make them less likely to be involved in a collision, which can drive rates down. Still, the hardware powering those systems (not to mention the battery pack) tend to be pricey to replace if damaged, which can drive your annual rate up.
Do some shopping around and see how EV insurance rates will affect your purchase decision. Several insurance companies offer “green” discounts. In fact, more recently, Aviva Canada introduced a $2,000 subsidy for customers who upgrade to an EV after a total loss of their gasoline vehicle. It's offering other perks, including enhanced battery protection if the battery is damaged in an accident, free towing to a charging station in the event of a dead battery, and a premium discount of up to 10%.
EV battery lifespan and replacement costs
Some EV owners have reported battery-related issues, up to and including outright battery failure, which can be extremely pricey to fix. But the vast majority do not. In fact, EVs come with a lengthy warranty period covering their battery and electrical components. The norm is eight years, or 160,000 kilometres of coverage, with some automakers offering longer warranty periods.
The reality is: all batteries, including the one in your smartphone, laptop and gas-powered car degrade over time. The EV battery is no exception. According to one study, EV drivers can expect a reduction in capacity of about one to two percentage points per year.
As automakers continue to advance battery technology, degradation will likely become less of an issue. Owners can play a role in limiting battery degradation, too — by following manufacturer instructions related to charging levels and long-term storage of their EV while they’re not driving it.
When trying to decide between an EV or a gas-powered car, ask yourself these three questions: How much do I drive daily? How often do I make long trips? And how much time do I have to charge my vehicle?
What EV options are available in Canada?
According to CAA, Canadians looking for an EV currently have about 60 options to consider. These include affordable models like the Nissan Leaf and Kia EV6, which come priced from around $40,000 to $52,000, as well as pricier luxury models like the Polestar 2 and Tesla Model 3, which cost in the range of $57,000 to $63,000, respectively.
High-end automakers have come up with no shortage of six-figure luxury electric models, like the Porsche Taycan, Tesla Model Y Plaid, and Mercedes EQS, giving shoppers an all-electric alternative to the performance luxury car.
Automakers like Ford, Audi, Jaguar and Toyota are offering EV models to their shoppers, while newer all-electric brands like Vinfast, Lucid, and Rivian are entering the market, expanding the selection. As more used EVs find their way to market, the opportunity to own one will broaden to include buyers who may have more conservative budgets in mind.
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