Going electric is cool, but gas-powered cars will always be cooler

Electric cars represent the future of the auto industry. It’s not a question of “if” anymore. But, just because there’s a surge of momentum in desire for electric cars, that doesn’t mean that electric cars will always be better than gas cars. On the contrary, gas-powered cars will remain relevant even as the EV revolution comes in full swing. Automakers can make proclamations about the robust future of EVs as much as they want, but there are more than 100 years of history behind gas-powered cars that nobody, not even the biggest auto brands in the world, can just sweep under the rug. Electric cars offer advantages in a handful of ways, but they still have a long way to go to prove to the people that they’re better than gas-powered cars.

Distance matters

2019 Toyota Yaris Sedan
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Automakers have done a tremendous job extending the range of electric vehicles but, for the most part, most electric cars still can’t compete with the range offered between fill-ups by gas-powered vehicles. Furthermore, charging a vehicle is still nowhere near as fast as filling a gas tank. If you’re buying an affordable electric car, there’s a chance that you’re getting cars with a battery range of just 120 to 150 miles, maybe less in some instances.

Opt for range-topping EVs like the Tesla Model S and you can drive uninterrupted for around 370 miles in long-range form.

But these numbers still pale in comparison to the kind of range gas-powered cars have. Sure, most gas-powered vehicles average around 300 miles on a full tank of gas, but the more efficient models can have more than 500 miles of “range” before they run out of gas. Models like the Kia Forte, Hyundai Elantra Eco, and Toyota Yaris Sedan all return around 35 mpg (combined). Depending on tank size, you can travel anywhere between 380 and 490 miles before you start running on fumes. Electric cars can’t beat that, at least not yet.

Fuel Economy Comparison
Fuel Economy (combined) Range (miles) Tank Size (gallon)
Toyota Yaris 34 377.4 11.1
Hyundai Elantra 35 490 14
Kia Forte 35 490 14
Tesla Model S 0 373 0

Lack of charging stations

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We’re still at a point where gas stations outnumber car charging stations by a ratio of 1,000:1, maybe even more.

The point here is that the availability of car charging stations can make electric vehicles less suitable to drive, especially on long road trips.

Imagine taking a road trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco. That’s a distance of almost 400 miles. If you’re driving a fuel-efficient car, you can make that trip on one full tank of gas. You might still have to make pit stops along the way, but they won’t be because you’ve run out of fuel. Now, take that same trip in an electric car and you’re all but guaranteed to stop at a charging station because you’re going to run out of juice before you reach the Bay Area. In some ways, you can count yourself lucky because you’re driving to a place where there are enough charging stations available. Imagine making a similar trip covering the same distance in places where there aren’t as many charging stations around. It’s a nuisance that can be avoided if you instead bring a gas-powered car on your trip.

Time is money

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Speaking of charging stations, there’s something to be said, too, about the time it takes to charge an electric car’s batteries. Let’s face it; charging an electric car can be an issue, especially if you’re in a rush. In the likely event that you need to charge your EV, you’re going to have to come to grips with the reality that you’re going to spend more time waiting for the batteries in your car to charge as opposed to filling up your car’s gas tank with fuel. The latter takes no more than five minutes.

Charging a battery pack, on the other hand, can take up to eight hours, especially if you’re using a Level 1 or Level 2 charger.

Heck, even fast charging stations take up to 30 minutes to charge a battery pack to 80-percent capacity. That’s not even a full charge! It’s a manageable issue for some people, but it also comes with the caveat that if you plan a trip using an electric car, you need to do it carefully because running out of power can’t be solved by a quick pit stop at a charging station. You’re going to have to wait.

Nobody mentions maintenance and replacement costs

2016 Tesla Model X Drivetrain
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It’s true that electric cars rid you of the problem of paying for gas. But just because you save on fuel, that doesn’t mean you save on everything else. Those battery packs, for example, are expensive. They’re not as expensive as they used to be — battery packs used to cost around $1,000 per kWh a decade ago — but still, they’re still going to put a dent in your pocket.

The Tesla Model 3’s battery pack costs $190 per kWh while the Chevrolet Bolt’s battery pack is estimated to cost around $205 per kWh.

Multiply that by their total output and you’re looking at costs of around $12,000 to $20,000 to replace. While there’s no certainty that you’re going to have to replace them in a specific period of time, if you own an electric car and drive it long enough, there’s a good chance that a battery pack replacement will be in order down the road. Who knows, you might have to do it more than once over the lifetime of your electric car. Imagine paying more than $50,000 for an electric car, only to pay a fortune on a battery pack replacement down the road. We’re not even taking into account other issues that could happen to these cars.

Prices for electric cars could balloon depending on where you are in the world

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This isn’t so much of a problem in the U.S. or a lot of European countries that offer fuel cost savings, tax credits, and incentives for electric cars. But what about the rest of the world? Unfortunately, the concept of an electric car is still foreign in a lot of areas in the world, particularly those that don’t have the infrastructure to support EVs.

In some cases, electric cars won’t end up in these places for at least another decade.

In other cases, it’s possible that some governments could impose higher taxes on electric cars, making them more expensive than they already are. Some countries even classify electric cars as “exotics,” which means that they fall under the same classifications as performance car brands like Ferrari, Lamborghini, Porsche, Mclaren, Rolls-Royce, and Bentley. It’s surprising to think of it these terms if you live in a country like the U.S., but that’s the reality a lot of people face in other parts of the world when it comes to potentially owning an electric car.

Electric cars actually need fossil fuels, too

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There’s no denying that electric cars produce zero carbon emissions. But just because that’s true, that doesn’t mean that electric cars have no reliance on fossil fuels. See, electricity needs to be produced for electric cars to actually drive. There are a number of ways to do that, including hydropower, renewable sources, and nuclear power. But none of these things are the biggest sources of electricity. Five years ago, the U.S.

Energy Information Administration determined that 67 percent of America’s electricity came from fossil fuels, the same fossil fuels that electric cars supposedly have no use for.

Well, EVs need them — including coal, petroleum, and natural gas — because, without them, we don’t get electricity unless we go through other aforementioned means. Granted, those percentages are expected to drop with more focus being placed on renewable energy sources, but until we completely stop using fossil fuels to produce electricity, EVs will still rely on them, even if it’s indirectly. At least we know that gas-powered need fossil fuels. EVs need them, too. It’s just that nobody mentions it.

Electric car technology is still in its infancy

2018 Nissan Leaf Drivetrain
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There will come a point when electric cars will dominate the road. That seems like a foregone conclusion now that every automaker that’s worth its salt has shifted its focus into developing as many EVs as it can. But that day hasn’t arrived yet. For now, gas-powered cars still rule the roost. This is what happens when you tap into the numbers game.

For every electric car in the market today, there are probably 10,000 or more gas-powered cars in the market.

You can still choose to buy an electric car, but you should know that you’re doing so knowing that the entire EV universe has yet to be fully explored. We know what we’re getting our hands on with a gas-powered car. There’s literally more than 100 years of history and evolving technology to tap into to see their benefits. As promising as electric cars are for the future, there’s still not a lot of history there to suggest that this is the way to the future. I know it sounds like a choice between a sure thing and an untapped prospect, but that’s the reality of the situation, too. Electric cars could dominate the roads of the world in the future. There are multitudes of points and evidence to suggest that we’ll end up in that place. But what if…we don’t?

Being quick off the line is fun, but sustained top speed is where the real thrill lies

Gas-Powered Cars Will Always Be Better Than Electric Cars - Here's 10 Reasons Why
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Ok, so this applies mostly to high-performance electric cars and their gas-powered counterparts. It also puts the spotlight on your preference between being quick or being fast. If you want to be quick off the line, the electric car is the way to go, in part because they generate more torque than their gas-powered counterparts and it comes instantly. That’s an important distinction because torque is what drives a vehicle forward. Electric cars also don’t need traditional transmissions, eliminating part of the process of routing the power to the wheels.

With electric cars, the power goes straight to wheels and it doesn't take time to build toque as we experience with gas-powered engines.

That’s where you get instant acceleration. But here’s the caveat: just because electric cars are quicker off the line, that doesn’t mean they’re faster. The problem with electric cars, at least compared to their gas-powered counterparts, is that they’re less likely to sustain that quickness because of the lack of a transmission to channel that power to higher notches. Gas-powered cars, on the other hand, don’t have that problem. That’s why when you see an electric car and a gas-powered performance car in a race, the safe bet is always on the electric car to accelerate quicker but on the gas-powered car to eventually catch up and pull ahead in a matter of seconds.

No sound, no fun

2019 Rimac C Two
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Electric cars generally produce less sound than their gas-powered counterparts. Some people think that’s a good thing, particularly for everyday EVs, but when we start talking about performance EVs, the lack of sound can be viewed as robbing someone of the experience of listening to a gas-powered engine’s full audible might. Imagine you’re in a long stretch of road and you want to unleash the full performance capability of your electric car.

You slam the pedals and the EV unleashes a burst of speed. You’re feeling good about yourself. Then you realize that you’re already going over 100 mph and your car is emitting a soft whizzing sound.

It’s not exactly the kind of sound you’d want to hear from a performance car, but that’s what you pay for when you buy a performance EV. Now, put yourself in a performance car that’s powered by a naturally aspirated V-12 engine. Heck, a turbocharged V-8 or a turbocharged V-10 engine can do the trick, too. The difference in driving pleasure is as clear as night and day, especially if you’re driving one with a manual transmission. The shriek of a V-10’s engine when you change gears is one of the purest and most beautiful sounds you’ll ever hear in a car. That’s something that EVs can’t replicate, at least not yet.

Pricing and variety conundrums

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Automakers have done a great job at managing the price points of their electric cars. The fuel-cost savings, tax credits, and state incentives also help cut prices of electric cars, at least if they’re available in your state. But even with these advantages, electric cars are still generally more expensive than gas-powered cars. Not everyone can afford an electric car, at least when you compare the cost of owning one to a gas-powered car. Some people can afford EVs without breaking a sweat. That’s great.

But, by and large, most consumers still prefer gas-powered cars because they’re generally softer on the wallets.

Plus, the lack of choices among electric cars means that you could be forced into buying an EV that you’re not fully sold on in the first place. There will come a point in time when this changes, particularly once automakers start rolling out full electric car lineups in the market. But until that day comes, the choices favor gas-powered cars more than they do electric cars.

Kirby Garlitos
Automotive Aftermarket Expert - kirby@topspeed.com
Kirby’s first exposure into the world of automobiles happened when he caught Knight Rider on television as a five-year old boy. David Hasselhoff didn’t leave much of an impression on him (that happened later on in Baywatch), but KITT certainly did. To this day, Kirby remains convinced that he will one day own a car with the same ‘spirit’ as the original KITT (not the 2008 monstrosity). He doesn't know when that will be, but until then, he’s committed to expressing his love for KITT, and all cars for that matter, here at TopSpeed.  Read More
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