Expert Insights

Best and Worst Things About Driving an Electric Car

Laurance Yap
October 19, 2023
If you're switching from gasoline to an electric car, you'll want to know what to expect. Here are some of the best things you'll love about making the change - and some things you should plan ahead for.
aerial short of car driving through a dense green forest

Gas vs Electric: The Differences

If you’re thinking of moving from a gasoline vehicle to an electric vehicle, you may wonder what will be different about the driving and ownership experience. There are a lot of great things about driving an electric car that you will love – and will make you never want to go back to gasoline. But there are a few things you need to be aware of as well.

Increased Performance

The evidence from industry surveys is clear: once drivers actually get behind the wheel of an electric car, they are much more likely to buy one. A prime reason is the performance. Electric motors produce instantaneous torque – you don’t have to wait for the engine to rev up to produce all its power, like you do in a gasoline car. It’s not uncommon for electric vehicles to have way more power than equivalent gasoline cars, and they’ll almost always have superior 0-60 times.

Comfort and Refinement

Fast, powerful cars generally come with a lot of noise and drama, but one of the best things about electric cars is how refined they are. Electric cars are quiet – so much so that legislation requires them to make some external noise at low speeds to alert pedestrians to their presence – but they are also smooth. The lack of noise, combined with the lack of vibration and harshness, makes EVs feel incredibly relaxed and calming to drive. That’s true even for entry-level electric cars.

EV Convenience

With no engines that need to be started and warmed up, electric vehicles let you just hop in and get going – after you’ve unplugged them, of course. Many electric vehicles have proximity keys that unlock them and wake up all the systems as you approach; by the time you’ve settled into the driver’s seat, the climate control is active, the screens are turned on, and all you need to do is select drive. Some EVs can even pair to your smartphone, eliminating the need for keys.

Nissan Leaf driving in a carpool lane on a busy interstate

Carpool Lane Access

Many cities and regions around the U.S. and other countries offer some great perks for drivers of zero-emissions vehicles. One of the best benefits is carpool lane access, even when you’re driving alone. In large cities with clogged highways like Los Angeles, where dozens of lanes of traffic can be at a standstill during rush hour, driving an electric car can save you a lot of time on your commute as well as a lot of money in gasoline bills.

Electric Parking Privilege

The trend of offering preferred parking for environmentally-friendly vehicles started when hybrid cars were introduced in the late 1990s and early 2000s. That trend continued as electric cars came to market, with many public parking lots, community centers, and public parking lots offering preferred parking for electric, hybrid, and plug-in hybrid cars. Some parking lots even offer charging for your EV in these preferred spaces, making electric car ownership even sweeter.

Low battery warning light on instrument panel of electric vehicle

Variable Range

All vehicles lose range in cold weather, no matter what powers them. But because gasoline is so widely available, and filling up takes a relatively short amount of time, we don’t really notice the effect the winter has on the range of our conventional cars. But because range anxiety remains an issue for customers considering electric cars, we’ve become fixated on EV range – and the way it drops in the winter or during cold weather is that much more noticeable because it’s staring us in the face from our instrument cluster. Depending on the overall efficiency of the vehicle, the equipment installed, and the temperature, an EV can lose a quarter of its range in cold weather. While that drop can seem significant, remember that most of your daily driving will be well within the lower number if you charge at home or work, and that the range drop only really matters if you’re taking a longer trip and have to charge along the way.

Varied Charge Time

If you’re used to filling up a gasoline car, the experience at any gas station is roughly equivalent: it takes the same amount of time no matter what station you’re at. That’s not the case with electric cars, where not only are there three different levels of charging available, but also different specs within those three levels – charging speed can vary from glacial to super-fast, depending on the kW rating of the charger. Furthermore, just because a charger is super-fast doesn’t mean that all EVs can take in all that electricity equally fast: charging speed is limited by the kW rating of the charger, or the kW rating of the car, whichever one is lower. That’s why it’s important to use an app or the GreenCars charging locator to find the charger that’s right for your specific need.

Charge Cost

The cost of a gallon of fuel is relatively consistent in most areas of the country. However, how much you pay for a charge can vary widely based on where you charge. Level 3 fast chargers, which are a convenient and fast top-up on long trips, are the most expensive. Charging at home or at work is significantly less costly, especially if you set your car to charge during off-peak hours. Doing so may get you access to the most advantageous rates, and save you the most money.

Porsche Taycan Turbo S on the Nürburgring

Vehicle Weight

There’s no way around the fact that batteries are heavy. As we demand greater range from electric cars, their batteries have grown in weight – which brings some drawbacks to the electric driving experience. First, the heavier batteries actually make EVs less efficient: an electric motor requires more energy to move all that extra mass than if the battery were lighter. Second, the weight of EVs means increased wear on their tires and suspension – even if, thanks to regenerative braking, wear on the brake system is reduced. And finally, all that weight means that EVs can be more dangerous in a collision – not for their own occupants, but for pedestrians or those in the other vehicle.

Battery Degradation

If you’ve had a cell phone for a few years, you’ve probably noticed that it doesn’t hold a charge quite as well as it did when it was new. Over time, an electric car battery will lose a little bit of its capacity. Its range when it’s a few years old will be slightly less than when new. There are ways to mitigate this degradation, however – limit your use of Level 3 fast chargers, and drive moderately, and you’ll maintain as much capacity as possible.