Few years ago, most of us might not have seen an electric car, unless they lived in places like New York or California. Now several automobile manufacturers offer electric vehicles (EVs) which are readily available worldwide. Rising petrol/diesel prices and high levels of pollution have raised a question in everyone’s mind: Should I buy an electric car? There are a number of advantages to buying an electric car, such as lower running costs, reduced emissions and improved performance. However, there are also some downsides to consider before making the purchase, such as higher upfront costs and limited availability of charging stations. In this article we will look at the pros and cons of buying an electric car so you can decide if it is right for you or not.
An electric car runs entirely or partially on electricity stored in batteries, whereas petrol or diesel cars have an internal combustion (IC) engine that burns fuel and the power is used to run the car. JMK Research and Analytics has forecast that India's EV market share will rise to 12% by 2025-26. To help increase the market of EVs, the Government has launched Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid and) Electric Vehicles (FAME) which is currently in Phase II. Government is providing great financial benefits to consumers, such as subsidized registration and road taxes, as well as lucrative offers for car manufacturers.
An increasing number of today’s EV offers 280 to 400 kms of range in one charge. Tesla is the only automobile manufacturer that have all their models over 500 kms of range. The Tesla Model S was the former record holder for an estimated range of 650 kms. The Lucid Air currently holds the record has over 800 kms per charge. With an average range of 322 kms, most people will not be concerned about range for their daily commute. Factors that impact a car’s range include speed, driving habits, weather conditions, on-vehicle load, climate control settings, etc.
With a range of 300 to 350 kms on your EV, you’ll be ready for a nature’s call and snack break by the time the battery is getting low. If you travel on major highways, you should have no problem finding a charging station every two to four hours. However, it might be necessary to diverge from the usual route to find a charging station, which may extend your travel time by significant amount. Some EV owners also own a petrol/diesel car that they use for road trips. If you make few road trips for the year, you might consider renting a petrol/diesel car for your long road trips and using the EV for daily commute.
Pros and Cons
“You will need to consider various things before you buy an EV, such as your spending priority. Since you can buy a bigger car for the price of an EV, you will have to ask yourself if you need a bigger car or is it more important to go green and cover the additional costs with benefits over time,” says Kartikeya Singhee, Group Editorial Head of Girnarsoft, which runs the website cardekho.com.
Lower running and maintenance cost: EVs use electricity, and domestic power tariffs in India range from 8 to 10 rupees per unit, making monthly running cost a fraction of the cost of petrol or diesel. If your daily commute is 30 kms, your monthly spending on fuel will be 6,131 rupees (assuming a mileage of 16 kmpl and the price of petrol 109 rupees per litre). On the other hand, the cost of charging an EV will only be 844 rupees (considering battery capacity of 30.2 kWh, electricity charges 10 rupees per unit and a range of 322 km per charge). This means your cost per km for a petrol car is around 6.81 rupees, and for EV it will be 0.94 rupees. EVs have fewer moving parts which don’t require many fluids or filters, resulting significant savings on your maintenance costs. “Tata estimates around Rs 25,000 in maintenance over a period of five years,” says Singhee.
Cleaner environment: Zero carbon emissions and reduced air pollution from EVs are the most important factors for many buyers. Emission from the vehicle is zero, but the emissions from the power plants that produce electricity, especially coal or fossil fuel plants, need to be considered. In effect, the carbon emission for EV is not net-zero, but still much less than those of petrol or diesel.
Better performance: Studies show that EV batteries can convert 59% to 62% of energy into vehicle movement, whereas petrol driven vehicles can only convert 17% to 21%, making EVs more efficient. EVs are quiet, smooth and have fewer moving parts, resulting in very little vibration and a great driving experience. They also accelerate instantly and respond with excellent torque. They have flat floors due to fewer number of parts in their powertrains.
Tax benefits: From assessment year 2020-21, Section 80EEB allows a deduction of Rs 1.5 lakh against the interest paid on loan taken for purchasing EV. The loan is subject to sanctioned between April 1, 2019 and March 31, 2023 and is for individual taxpayers only. In some states of India, EVs are also exempted from registration and road tax cost. GST has also been reduced from 12% to 5%.
Drawbacks and Limitations
Higher purchase cost: A major obstacle to buying electric car is the high upfront cost. Though it can be offset by the lower running and maintenance cost, fuel and tax incentives, it is still a deciding factor for many since one can buy a bigger petrol car for the same price.
Lack of infrastructure: You can charge your EV at home, charging the vehicle at public charging station is cheaper, but they are very few in numbers. Both the private and public sectors are already building charging stations and have planned more, but it will take at least five years to build a large-scale network. Around 350 stations were built as a part of FAME Phase II. Tata has built over 1,000 stations and plans to build 10,000 more stations in three years. Indian Oil (IOCL) is the leader with more than 2,500 EV charging stations across the country, and plans to increase the number to 4,000 by the end of this financial year. IOCL aims to achieve net-zero operational carbon emissions by 2046. IOCL has already solarised more than 20,000 fuel stations across India (among highest in the world) with installed capacity of 116.4 megawatts (MW).
Longer charging time and limited driving range: A petrol or diesel car can be filled within 4 to 6 minutes, but charging an EV at home will take 6 to 8 hours. Even with a fast charger at charging station it will take 35 to 50 minutes to reach 80% charge. Considering a range of 280 to 400 km run in one charge, the lack of public charging stations makes EVs more suitable for daily commute rather than for longer road-trips.
High battery replacement cost and insurance: EV batteries are too expensive due to their advanced technology and large capacity. These batteries are very expensive to repair or replace if damaged as a result of lack of maintenance or an accident. Since the cost of battery increases overall IDV of the vehicle, the comprehensive insurance premium is much higher and does not compensate for any discount.
If the concern for green environment is very high on your mind, choose EV as the high initial cost will be compensate in a few years. Buy an EV if live in a metro with public charging stations or you can setup one at your home. You can also buy an electric car if you use it primarily for local commute rather than long road-trips.
Electric vehicles are very energy efficient, but will not have net-zero carbon emissions if the electricity for recharging does not come from renewable sources such as solar, wind or water. Also, there are concerns of large-scale mining activities for minerals such as lithium, cobalt, manganese, nickel and cadmium, used for manufacturing EV’s batteries. There may be other, more affordable, sustainable and environmentally friendly options to create an inclusive ecosystem. Below are some promising alternatives to electric vehicles.
Biomethane: It is produced by decomposition of wastes from agriculture, food processing, catering, etc. In terms of impact on environment, biomethane has 80% less carbon emission compared to petrol/diesel. Another advantage is that residues from biomethane production can be used as organic fertilizers for agriculture. Biomethane can be provided in liquid form giving a mileage of 12-15 kmpl.
Hydrogen: Some experts believe that hydrogen be a better option than EVs. They do not require expensive batteries. Vehicles based on hydrogen fuel cells will be the most environmentally friendly as they emit only H2O. However, with current technology, the initial cost of the car is very high. Moreover, producing and transporting hydrogen is a challenging task. As technology improves and new ideas are introduced, hydrogen may emerge as a challenger to EVs.
Hydrous ethanol (E100): Ethanol blending is being practiced in several countries, but Brazil has taken a giant leap by making vehicles that run on hydrous ethanol (E100). This is the purest form of ethanol and does not contain blended gasoline. Brazil is a leader in flex fuel engines due to its vast land area and well managed ethanol farming practices.
Biodiesel: This is a biodegradable, renewable fuel made from vegetable oils, recycled restaurant grease, animal fats, etc. It can be used in compression ignition (CI) engines. Existing engine technology typically requires biodiesel to be blended with diesel.
Solar: These cars have solar panels that covers most of their exterior. These are lightweight vehicles made primarily of carbon fibre. The only limitation is that it cannot run after sunset or during rainy/cloudy seasons without any auxiliary power source.
Dr. Pinaki Ghosh
Professor and Head,
School of Advanced Computing,
SAGE University, Bhopal