Are Electric Cars a Worthy Purchase?


Russell Roach

An electric BMW in the school parking lot. While not as common as their Tesla counterparts, electric BMWs have been steadily increasing in popularity over the past few years.

Russell Roach, Reporter

Electric cars are touted as the future of a carbon-neutral society and an overall better value than gas-powered cars. Many brand the combustion engine as an ‘archaic device’ that should be phased out, but are electric cars the answer?

While electric cars can be a glamorous purchase and a solution to reduce emissions, they are not the only solution to the climate crisis, nor are they necessarily a great value.

My sister and her husband are owners of a 2021 Tesla Model 3, the best-selling electric car worldwide. They’ve experienced all the challenges that come with battery-powered transportation.

For example, they sprang for the Standard Range Plus model, which has a reported range of 264 miles; however, the range is actually lower due to charge limits; to protect the battery, the car should only be charged to about 80%. This is sufficient for day-to-day trips, yet the variability in range for most electric vehicles makes them dedicated commuter cars with little adaptability in other situations, undesirable for such a high price tag.

Furthermore, electric cars are unaffordable for many Americans — installing home chargers alone can cost up to $1,000 for the most economical version, assuming the home has all the necessary electric connections in the garage. The cheapest electric vehicle (EV) base model, the Chevy Bolt, costs about $26,000, excluding extra features such as rear park assist or leather seats. Those in difficult financial situations cannot justify a purchase or make the shift to EVs for combating climate change.

Superchargers, which are similar to gas pumps but for EVs, can be used to quickly and cheaply recharge the car instead of installing a home charger. This, however, negates the huge bonus of not paying for gas. These ‘quick’ superchargers still take up to half an hour for a full charge and have costs comparable to gasoline in many areas. At the moment, it would be wiser to use a gas-powered car for both the increased range and speed of filling up for a similar price.

The batteries contain expensive materials that mitigate the promise of carbon neutrality. Lithium, the major component in most batteries, requires huge mining pits that, according to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, releases over 15 tons of carbon dioxide for every ton mined. In many cases, it seems these batteries are as bad for climate change as their gas-powered counterparts. According to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, many larger EVs such as the GMC Hummer produce more CO2 than many gas-powered sedans. About 60% of America’s electricity is generated by fossil fuels, which — until the grid is carbon free — will make EV’s victims of “upstream emissions,” or emissions resulting from the fossil fuels used to generate electricity.

That being said, it’s true that electric cars come with some sleek features such as full touchscreen displays and self-driving. However, some gas-powered cars implement these luxury features as well. These add-ons certainly don’t make up for the lack of range, cumbersome price, or the deceiving promise of carbon neutrality. 

These issues might be ironed out years in to come, but presently, EVs are not worth the investment.