Owning an Electric Car

By
Laurance Yap
Updated:
Sep 2022
Time to read:
6
min
If you make the leap into an electric car, what can you expect from the ownership experience? While EVs come with a lot of new and unfamiliar technology, most research shows that EV owners love their vehicles - and will never go back to gasoline.
Small group around a BMW iX that is charging

Now that you’ve decided to make the leap into an electric car, what can you expect from the ownership experience? Electric cars feature a lot of new technology, and while there are still a few unknowns, the prognosis is positive. Most drivers that make the switch to electric cars never go back to gasoline.

Driving Experience

If you’ve already driven an electric car, there’s not much we need to say: the experience of driving the future is addictive for numerous reasons. 

Electric motors produce all their torque right away – you have to wait for a gasoline engine to rev up – so acceleration is instantaneous. Electric cars are fast – and the fastest ones, even those with four doors, will accelerate more quickly than even a high-end super sports car.

Then there’s the smoothness. Because an electric motor has just one moving part, there are no pistons, valves, and shafts to cause vibrations. There are no jerky gearshifts to interrupt the smooth flow of power.

You get that performance without any noise, too. Whether you’re going fast, or sitting in traffic, an electric car is relaxing and silent to drive. Electric cars create less noise pollution than gas vehicles – so much so that in September 2020, U.S. regulators required electric cars to produce a sound at low speeds to help pedestrians who might be blind, partially sighted, or otherwise distracted, to hear them as they approach.

The Savings Factor

How much can you save by switching to electric? A Canadian study suggests you could save thousands – and the more you drive, the more you save. Clean Energy Canada analyzed several popular electric vehicle models, comparing total ownership costs with that of their closest gasoline equivalents over an estimated eight years of ownership, and 20,000 km (roughly 12,000 miles) a year. Without exception, they discovered that driving electric was cheaper than gasoline.

Comparing “normal” 2021 gas prices with the price of electricity during similar periods, some vehicles showed a total ownership cost of up to 37% less – enough to buy another vehicle after eight years!

While you might pay more for an electric car – for instance, the base price of a Volkswagen ID.4 SUV is approximately 50% higher than the popular Honda CR-V – that’s just one part of the total cost. Comparing the larger payment of an EV against the higher fueling and maintenance costs of a gasoline vehicle tells a different story.

Using average 2021 gas and electricity prices, costs of “fueling” the electric ID.4 were a third of the (relatively efficient) gasoline CR-V – and contributed to 22% lower cost per kilometer driven.

The reduction in fueling costs was also compounded with lower maintenance costs. With no oil changes to perform, and a simpler electric drivetrain, maintenance and repair costs for the EV were just over half that of the gasoline vehicle, offsetting the ID.4’s slightly higher depreciation – leading to a 28% reduction in cost of ownership over eight years.

Living with New Technology

Thanks to the simplicity of electric drivetrains, you won’t need to deal with major mechanical issues. Does this mean electric cars are more reliable?

A couple of recent studies – one by Consumer Reports in the U.S., and another one by Which? in the UK – suggests electric vehicles might less reliable than gasoline vehicles, at least within the first four years of ownership. The good news is that, while issues with electric vehicles do crop up, they are typically covered under warranty, and do not involve complex mechanical issues.

Which?, the UK’s equivalent of Consumer Reports, surveyed almost 50,000 drivers, and found 31% of electric vehicles had at least one issue, compared to just 20% of gasoline-powered vehicles. The problems were not with drivetrains – most issues were with technology features like infotainment screens, reversing cameras, and other gadgets.

Consumer Reports had similar findings. Most problems with EVs – which had a higher “issue rate” than gasoline cars – were associated with infotainment or other technology. In fact, they note the cheapest EVs like the Nissan Leaf performed much better, while Tesla models, packed with cutting-edge tech, were among the least reliable. 

Since most issues that come up with electric vehicles are software glitches, they can be solved with a reboot, an over-the-air software update, or a visit to a dealer. If a dealer visit is required for an electric car, it might take longer to be fixed. Electric cars’ software is more sophisticated and complex than the software running a typical gasoline vehicle – and requires attention from specially-trained technicians.

Recalls and Product Safety

With all of the technology in new vehicles, complicated supply chains, and the unpredictable use cases once they are in owners’ hands, it’s no surprise that electric car owners sometimes encounter problems that the manufacturer didn’t predict. That, combined with the increased pressure to get new products to market quickly, means that sometimes vehicle manufacturers need to recall vehicles to perform updates for safety reasons.

Some recent EV-related recalls include 2017-2019 Chevy Bolt batteries, which could catch fire and are being replaced by GM with new, upgraded batteries; software updates to the Kia EV6 and Hyundai Ioniq 5 to prevent them from rolling away when parked; and loose brake caliper bolts on Tesla Model 3 and Model Y vehicles. In all cases, repairs are performed for free. You can get an updated list of recalls, or look up recalls on your vehicle, at the NHTSA website.

The More You Drive, The More You Save

To conclude, as an EV driver you get to skip trips to the gas station. You get to save on maintenance – no more oil changes, and other components like brakes last longer than on gasoline vehicles. You’ll insulate yourself from rising fuel prices. And you’ll get to enjoy doing your part for the environment. If you own your car for longer than eight years, or if you drive it more than the average person, the savings from going electric are greater still. All this, plus you get to feel like you’re driving into the future every day. It’s no wonder that most electric car owners won’t ever go back to gasoline.

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