It’s no secret electric cars are awesome—the fact that EVs are the only cars most people younger than 30 have ever been excited about should make that clear, if launching a Tesla Model S in Ludicrous mode hasn’t done that for you already. But despite their obvious awesomeness, it’s equally clear that future electric cars still need to improve in some essential respects before they can serve everyone’s everyday transportation needs.
Before we dig into the improvements needed for prime time, however, it’s worth taking a little deeper look at what makes electric cars so great. If you’re still getting up to speed on the future electric car revolution, check out our EV primer for gearheads.
Electric Cars Have Tons of Torque
Whether you’re familiar with the scientific definition or not, torque, in layperson’s terms, means acceleration. The current production-car ruler of the 0-60-mph roost is the Tesla Model S, clicking off a scalding 2.3-second run in testing by our sister publication, MotorTrend. The Tesla isn’t a fluke, either; the Porsche Taycan Turbo S ran to 60 mph in just 2.6 seconds in MT testing, and even more affordable, econobox-style electric cars get the job done in less than 7 seconds.
Electric Cars are Quiet
Drive a modern car back-to-back with a 20-year-old version of itself and in addition to more power and more technology, you’re likely to find the new car to be significantly more luxurious in its materials and design, too, even if the car you’re sampling wouldn’t be considered a luxury car at all. But one area where no gasoline car, not even a Rolls-Royce or Bentley, can compete with electric cars is quietness—and quietness is perhaps the most luxurious vehicular trait of all, except, perhaps, ride quality. So, in a way, even a Chevy Bolt or Nissan Leaf is more luxurious than your neighbor’s new BMW—unless that BMW is the i3, of course.
Electric Cars Don’t Burn Gas
No matter where you stand on the issue of climate change—with the data or against it—burning gasoline in a world where electric cars exist feels barbaric. Sometimes a good dose of barbarism is just what we need; typically not on the morning commute, though. Want to feel like you’re living in the future? Drive an electric car. Yes, we know, Grog no want future! Well, fine, Grog. Gork do want future, and future is electric.
With those handled, we can turn our attention back to the things future electric cars will need to do to shut up the critics and live up to the hopes and dreams of the car buying public.
Electric Cars are Slow to Charge
It’s true that electric cars charge faster just about every year, with new battery packs, new chargers, and new electric-car companies constantly upping the ante. Yet even after a decade of such improvement, it still takes a minimum of 20 minutes to top-up an electric car with a meaningful amount of electricity in terms of driving range. That’s easily four times what it takes in a liquid-fueled car, and it’s a pain point in the user experience. Future electric cars will need to be time-competitive with liquid fueled cars to gain market share—absent further government intervention, anyway.
Electric Cars are Expensive
So you want to buy an electric car? Hope your bank account is in good shape. While it’s true that not all electric cars are as expensive as the Tesla Model S P100D or the Porsche Taycan Turbo S, the new additions to the market sitting around the $30,000 mark (after government incentives) like the Hyundai Kona Electric and its corporate cousin, the Kia Niro EV, are simply peppy economy cars. Aside from the electric drivetrain, what you’re getting isn’t often substantially different from the gasoline-powered version of the same vehicle; using the Kona and Niro as examples again, the gas-powered equivalents are typically priced from about $20,000. No, you’re not going to make the $10,000 difference back in gas savings before you replace it with a new one; according to the EPA, the difference in cost to run the gasoline Kona versus the Kona Electric is about $700 per year, depending on the type of gasoline-powered Kona you’re comparing to. That means you’d have to drive the Kona Electric for nearly 15 years before you’d be ahead of the game.
Electric Car Performance Degrades Quickly
Before you start shouting, by “degrade” we mean that repeated attempts at extreme performance driving result in rapid reductions to range and repeatability. Tesla’s “Ludicrous” mode is legendary for exemplifying this trait: Yes, it will get your Tesla to 60 mph quicker than just about anything on the road, but it will also significantly reduce remaining range, and may even lock you out of the performance mode if it determines the battery level has fallen too low or components are overheating due to the massive currents flowing through them during Ludicrous acceleration. Yes, we know the Model 3’s launches are somewhat more repeatable than those of the Model S, but there’s still an appreciable drop in performance on sequential runs in our experience with the car. The best electric car yet in terms of performance repeatability is Porsche’s massively impressive Taycan Turbo S, but the fact that the Taycan is the notable exception proves the rule.
It’s also worth noting that we didn’t count electric car range as one of the negatives of EVs, even though it’s clear that future electric cars will continue to increase their range capabilities. Why? Because many electric cars are already available with ranges that match or exceed the single-tank range of their gasoline counterparts. Now the problem isn’t getting enough battery on board to deliver a meaningful range, but to do so without breaking the bank or taking forever to charge.
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