My Case Against Electric Cars
In a previous post I mentioned how it did not make financial sense to buy an EV for my use case even with all the government incentives. In this article I will explain what other factors affected my decision to buy an electric car. Before I begin, I want to mention that like most things in life, some decisions are very subjective and personal. Take the case of home ownership. Some prefer to own a house and settle in one place. Others prefer the flexibility of moving around and not having to worry about repairs and general maintenance of the house. We all know which makes more financial sense, still we might prefer one over the other purely because of our personal taste.
Even if you take the case of organic food, it is more of a personal choice. Yes it does not make financial sense to buy organic food when we can buy fruits and vegetables at a lower price. Yet some of us prefer to buy the expensive organic food in the hopes that it is better for health and environment. Likewise, it is possible that EVs might not make financial sense, but perhaps they are better in some other ways? Lets find out my perspective.
For the longest time, I wanted to switch over to an electric car because of the technology. I love innovations of all kinds and EVs are no exception. This was some 4 years or so ago when there weren’t any government incentives. I was interested in Mahindra e2o because that was the only affordable EV at the time. It did not make financial sense even then, but I was wondering if I can drive around the city in the car and save on petrol while being somewhat kind to environment. I had the same issue back then too which was that the battery pack needs to be replaced and they are quite expensive.
Another problem with EVs is the range. The 100 kms or so range of Mahindra e2o was hardly confidence inspiring. While it made sense as a city car, it will not work for any kind of long drives, not that we ventured too far from Bangalore, but still. Fortunately at the time I used to have 2 cars, so I was wondering if I can sell one car and switch over to EV. The EV could be a city car and the other car could be used for long drives. After much deliberation I gave up the idea. Eventually we sold the second car just before pandemic which was a good thing in retrospect.
Now that longer range EVs are available, I started to get interested again. By now, we decided not to have two cars, so I get only one choice when switching cars. Either I take the plunge into EVs or I continue with gasoline. Thankfully, the newer versions of EVs are coming with a much longer range than the 100 KMs offered by Mahindra e20. Take Tata Nexon EV Max for instance. It has a rated range of over 400 KMs and I am sure you can achieve it if you drive carefully. All good right? So what is the problem? Well, it is the charging stations or the lack there of that is the problem.
If we have to go on a long drive, we better make sure there are fast chargers along the route somewhere. Then we could charge the battery quite a bit while stopping for breakfast or lunch. Except, there aren’t any fast chargers along highways as yet. In the grand scheme of things, government wants electric charging stations to be installed alongside petrol stations on all highways, but it will take a long time for the infrastructure to come. Moreover, fast charging is more expensive per KW compared to regular charging and they are a strain on the batteries degrading them faster than normal. Which means the battery will need replacement earlier than usual. So most people might not prefer this option.
It may not be a big deal for me since I normally I don’t prefer long drives at a stretch. A 400 KM drive and an overnight break is more preferable. Take for example if I wanted to drive from Bangalore to Hyderabad – a distance of almost 600 KMs. We can halt at around 300 KM mark for an overnight stay and charge the car at the hotel or a friend’s place and continue the onward journey in the morning. All good, except, where will you find a 15A plug near a hotel or friend’s apartment? I am not sure either hotel or apartments have access to 15A sockets near parking. Not only that, but, even if they have one, how will they “charge” us? (get it?) They wouldn’t know how many units we consumed unless they have an electric meter specifically for it.
All these reasons discouraged me from buying an EV. As I explained in my previous post, I am not particularly impressed by the environmental benefits, so that went for a toss as well. Moreover I prefer a small car for city driving, which means the range will be poor no matter what (small car means smaller battery). An alternative to this issue is to buy an electric car for the city and rent a car when traveling out of city. While the cost of renting a car is pretty steep, it could be one option, I am considering. But there is an even better option which is to replace my two-wheeler with EV for the city and keep the car as a gasoline engine for everything else. The cost analysis for a two wheeler gasoline vs electric is coming soon.