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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Tornare

Is the Electric Car For You?

Updated: Jan 14, 2022

Since Tesla entered the automotive market a decade ago, many manufacturers have developed electric cars. But what are their advantages and disadvantages and are they suitable for your mobility needs?

Carequest Sàrl car broker Switzerland, focus on the plug of an electric car being charged

Advantages

Performance

Electric vehicles are more efficient than the competitors with combustion engines. Firstly, their converted power tends to be relatively high. So does their torque figure. In addition, torque is immediately available regardless of cruising speed. This is reinforced by the absence of a gearbox in most electric cars. This is not the case with combustion cars, where the available torque depends on the number of revolutions per minute (rpm) and therefore on the speed. Furthermore, combustion engines lose most of their energy in heat, which is not true of electric motors. Finally, the placement of the batteries in the floor increases the weight but lowers the centre of gravity of the vehicle, which improves its dynamic characteristics. In conclusion, electric cars offer appealing performance.


Smooth driving

Electric cars have a smoother ride. Indeed, the absence of a gearbox (in most cases) makes driving smoother. In addition, regenerative braking allows one-pedal driving. In short, when the driver releases the gas pedal, the car slows down more strongly because of the resistance created by regenerative braking. In most cases, it is therefore no longer necessary to use the brake pedal. The elimination of the internal combustion engine adds to the comfort, as the lack of noise makes life inside the car quieter.


Charging

Charging is often seen as one of the weaknesses of electric cars because of the time required and the lack of infrastructure. Both of these arguments remain valid, however, home charging systems (wall boxes or 220V plugs) allow the vehicle to be charged overnight at reduced rates. This has two advantages. Firstly, the battery is full in the morning without having to go to a charging station or, in the case of a combustion engine, a petrol station. Secondly, the cost of charging is lower. In addition, the car can become an integral part of a building's electricity grid by offering the possibility to store energy (produced by solar panels for example). Thus, despite some disadvantages, the electric car charging system has advantages, especially when an electrical installation is available at home.


Disadvantages

Range

The range remains one of the main issues concerning electric vehicles. This is often referred to as range anxiety, which refers to the fear of breaking down due to running out of electricity. However, this criticism seems less and less valid. Indeed, recent improvements have made it possible to get closer to the range of combustion engine vehicles. However, it is necessary to differentiate between the range in the WLTP cycle (claimed range) and the actual range, which is generally only 50% to 80% of the claimed range. In addition, charging infrastructures are booming and ahead of other technologies such as fuel cells. The average daily distance travelled by car by residents of Switzerland is still less than 40 kilometres. Nevertheless, the charging time remains one of the weaknesses of the system despite recent progress. The variety of chargers and methods (card, app, adapters, etc.) can also be a constraint.


Price

Electric cars are still relatively expensive compared to comparable models with combustion engines. For example, the base price of a Volkswagen E-Up! is more than 50% higher than that of a standard Up! The electric Volvo XC40 is 60% more expensive than the basic petrol model. For the Opel Corsa, the difference is almost 100%*. However, electric vehicles offer better performance and are often well equipped. In addition, there are other economic advantages. Firstly, the need for maintenance is greatly reduced by the simplicity of the engine. Also, certain consumables are used less. This is particularly the case for brakes thanks to the regenerative braking system. Secondly, some insurance companies offer premium reductions. Finally, some cantons and cities subsidise the purchase of electric cars. There are also tax exemptions, but these vary greatly from region to region. These are relatively limited in Switzerland compared to other European countries.

*Differences at the time of writing.


Transport

Although some electric cars offer more storage space than those with combustion engines due to the absence of engines and other components, they are not always suitable for carrying materials. This is because electric vehicles have a high curb weight due to their batteries. This limits the load capacity of the vehicle. In addition, transporting materials or towing a trailer increases energy consumption, thus reducing the vehicle's range. Although this is also the case for combustion engines, electric vehicles seem to be more affected because of their recharging time.


Carbon footprint

Finally, many questions remain open regarding the carbon footprint of electric cars, particularly concerning battery recycling. Studies tend to conclude that electric vehicles have a better overall ecological balance than combustion cars. However, the extent of this difference varies depending on the research and the factors analysed. In Switzerland, the electricity mix is favourable to a positive balance due to the high proportion of renewable energy (approx. 2/3) and the absence of coal-fired power plants. In summary, despite some vagueness and unanswered questions, electric cars seem to be environmentally friendlier over their entire life cycle.



Is it for you?

This article highlights some of the advantages and disadvantages of electric vehicles to inform and is not intended to advocate for or against electric mobility. In general, the transition to electric cars requires some behavioural adaptations. This is typically the case for journey planning. It becomes necessary to take into account a possible recharge. Also driving is different from that of a combustion car. Energy recovery and the absence of noise can be surprising (for better or worse). Therefore, it is up to each individual to analyse his or her situation, expectations and needs to make an informed decision. At Carequest, we are happy to help you in this process and offer you the model that best suits you, whether it is electric, hybrid or fuel-powered.


 

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