Are electric cars better than petrol cars?
With the growing interest in electric vehicles over the last decade, many people have weighed the best choices between petrol and electric cars. EVs are now in the mainstream market, but the first question that many buyers ask is whether electric cars are better than petrol cars. With the constantly changing legislation and technological advancement of electric cars, choosing between the two can be daunting. Let's explore both car types and their pros and cons.
What is a petrol-powered car?
A petrol car has an internal combustion engine and burns petrol fuel to power the vehicle. Its powertrain includes a transmission, driveshaft axles, engine and differentials. The mechanical engine sends power through the gearbox to the wheels after burning a mixture of air and petrol with the help of spark plugs that ignite the combustion. The internal combustion process releases mechanical energy that requires a transmission to relay the energy to the wheels. For a petrol car to perform optimally at various speeds, you need a range of gears. You can drive faster when switching to higher gears, while lower gears provide more torque. However, you need to rev up the engine to achieve the maximum power and torque.
Benefits of petrol cars
Some of the pros of using a petrol car include:
Affordable to buy
Petrol cars have been on the market for centuries. Hence, you can find an affordable car model that suits any budget. New cars are relatively affordable compared to electric cars since they are manufactured at a lower cost. If you buy second-hand petrol cars, the price reduces significantly due to the faster depreciation. You will also find many used petrol car options, further lowering the price.
Good driving agility
Most petrol cars have turbocharged engines to improve internal combustion and boost performance. Hence, you will have great performance and speed, and you can switch between gears effortlessly.
Less local air pollution
Petrol cars produce particulate emissions. These emissions usually contribute to local air pollution and can be linked to respiratory problems. Fortunately, the amount released from petrol cars is lower than diesel cars.
Fuel efficiency in short trips
Petrol cars are fuel-efficient if you use them to run minor errands around town, like picking up and dropping off kids. Modern petrol cars with turbo-boosted engines are fuel-efficient and responsive since turbochargers maximise internal combustion to generate sufficient energy.
Cons of petrol cars
Higher CO2 emissions
While petrol cars emit minimal particulate matter, they have a higher carbon footprint due to the emissions from their exhaust pipes. Internal combustion leads to the release of carbon dioxide into the environment, causing air pollution. With high CO2 output, you will pay more taxes based on the carbon dioxide released per kilometre.
Less fuel-efficient for long journeys
When you drive a petrol car, you will pay less per litre on fuel costs. However, you use more petrol on long-distance journeys than diesel cars. The engines use more fuel to generate power to propel the vehicles. While you won’t notice the problem with short trips, you will pay more for long motorway journeys.
High maintenance costs
Petrol cars have many mechanical components and moving parts. Hence, you are likely to pay more to maintain or replace the moving parts. You also need to do regular oil changes and routine servicing to keep the vehicle in good condition.
What is an electric vehicle?
An electric vehicle is an eco-friendly transport option that uses electricity instead of petrol or diesel fuel to power the car. Its powertrain consists of a motor and transmission with minimal moving parts. An electric car uses the energy stored in the battery pack to propel the car by transmitting it to the motor. The electrical energy is converted to mechanical and kinetic energy in the transmission to propel the wheels. Unlike a mechanical engine that vibrates during energy conversion, an electric car is silent.
Electric vehicles have one fixed gear. That means you don’t have to switch between different gears to accelerate the car, and it can attain maximum torque in seconds. The gears only move in clockwise and anticlockwise directions when you reverse or propel the car forward.
Pros of electric cars
Electric cars do not use an internal combustion engine. Hence, there is no particulate matter or carbon emission from exhaust fumes. Electric cars don’t have an exhaust pipe since they don’t need to release any gas. Zero emissions are possible in all-electric cars, but when you are using a plug-in hybrid, it generates low emissions. Electric vehicles are good for the environment since they reduce air pollution levels considerably and improve your carbon footprint.
Electric vehicles don't have many moving parts. Hence, they don't require regular servicing and maintenance. You don't have to worry about oil changes and the regular wear and tear from moving parts. Even the brakes are more durable in electric cars. The only maintenance cost you will incur is in the battery. However, it usually lasts over ten years before it requires replacement.
Quiet and smooth rides
Electric vehicles are silent, and you can enjoy quiet rides. The minimal moving parts reduce noise, and the engine vibrations are hardly noticeable. Using electric vehicles can minimise noise pollution in cities.
Cons of electric vehicles
Electric cars are expensive compared to conventional cars, whether you buy a new or used vehicle. Even hybrid electric cars are costly due to the limited supply and high manufacturing costs.
Electric cars use batteries that need charging regularly. Since most electric vehicles have shorter ranges, you may have to top up the charge on the road before continuing with your trip. Sometimes, finding a charging station along the road is challenging. If you are lucky to find one, you also have to charge the car for over an hour to perform optimally.
Electric vehicles have high torque, but they are slow compared to conventional cars. The instant acceleration doesn’t make them faster.
Cost comparison of electric and petrol cars
Are electric cars better than petrol cars? For most people, the decision depends on the cost of running and maintaining the vehicles. An electric car is more affordable to service and maintain than a petrol car. However, the initial high price of electric vehicles is a major limitation for many car buyers. If you compare the total ownership costs in electric and petrol cars, the savings from electric vehicles are noticeable in the long run. For instance, if we compare the Seat Leon Estate 1.5 TSI and MG5 Estate EV, the cost of running the Seat Leon outweighs the initial purchase cost of the MG5 EV.
When comparing the costs of petrol and electric cars, you factor in the cost per mile, servicing and road taxes. You will notice that the road taxes are heightened for petrol cars, especially in cities with low emission zones. While the initial prices of electric cars are high, the government grants provide huge savings.
Factors that favour EVs
Here are some factors that would make an electric car suitable for you:
Electric vehicles use electricity, and you don’t have to use petrol at the pump. Electricity is more affordable per mile compared to petrol, which reduces the running costs of your car. Components like regenerative braking also improve the battery range by converting kinetic energy during braking to improve energy efficiency.
Low maintenance costs
You can avoid frequent car servicing with an electric car. The few mechanical components reduce the maintenance and servicing intervals of electric vehicles. The reduced maintenance and running costs lower the overall ownership cost compared to the initial purchase price of an electric car.
Unique driving experience
Electric cars offer an engaging driving experience since they are silent on the road. With the quiet operation and simple driving controls, you will enjoy a unique driving experience. Some have technological features to assist with driving in traffic and parking, which improves the overall experience.
Factors that favour petrol cars
Some factors that favour the purchase of petrol-powered cars include:
The initial price of petrol cars is lower than electric vehicles. Conventional cars are the perfect choice if you are on a budget since you can find affordable new and second-hand options. It is difficult to find an affordable electric vehicle due to the limited supply.
Variety of options
Electric vehicles are new to the mainstream market, and you will have limited car options compared to petrol cars with centuries of history. Whether you want large SUVs or small hatchbacks, you will find petrol cars from diverse brands that suit your needs.
Internal combustion engines are responsive and provide superior performance. If you want a powerful car, you can find petrol vehicles with advanced technology and large engine capacities. Petrol cars also provide a good driving experience.
A vast network of service centres
Whether you want servicing or new spare parts, you can easily find them for your petrol cars. Conventional vehicles also have multiple servicing centres around the country, and you can repair your car anywhere.
Electric and petrol cars have benefits and downsides. Hence, you have to weigh your options and needs when choosing the ideal vehicle. For instance, electric cars are ideal if you reside in the city because of the many public charging stations. You have to buy a petrol car for areas with minimal infrastructure for electric cars.