We’re halfway through the year and already 300,000 plug-in electric vehicles have been sold in the U.S. in 2013. On top of that, this week BMW announced it will begin mass production of its own line of electric vehicles (EVs), the i3. At nearly 4% of the automobile market in the U.S., the steady growth of EVs shows no signs of letting up. However, contrary to conventional wisdom, the strength of the industry rests not only on its environmental and economic benefits; EVs also make for some incredible driving machines.
To be sure, a lot of the appeal of EVs has to do with allowing drivers to forsake the maleficent gas pump. According to the Department of Energy’s “eGallon” program, a (hypothetical) “gallon” of electricity for EVs costs about $1.18, 3x less than an actual gallon of gas. On top of that, many EVs get over 100 miles per gallon equivalent, turning the energy costs of driving into an afterthought. Of course, they also emit zero greenhouse gasses, and these two reasons alone are usually enough for prospective buyers to commit.
But EVs offer another huge incentive for car owners: their inherent performance advantages over gasoline-powered vehicles. Unlike internal combustion engines, which take time to convert gasoline into energy, battery-powered engines have all of their energy available at any given moment; as soon as the driver pushes down on the pedal, the car picks up speed. This makes for some incredible acceleration. For instance, the Nissan Leaf, a family hatchback, can go from 0-60mph in 7 seconds, impressively quick for 110 horsepower vehicle and a full second faster than the popular 2012 Honda Civic. The 85kw Tesla Model S can go from 0mph to 60mph in 4.2 seconds, the same as the 2011 Mercedes Benz C63 AMG.
The Tesla Model S (via Autoblog.com)
Speaking of the Tesla Model S, it is perhaps the perfect encapsulation of the electric vehicle as pure driving machine. The Model S was named Motor Trend’s 2013 Car of the Year, as well as Automobile Magazine’s 2013 Car of the Year and the highest-scoring vehicle in Consumer Reports’ 77 year history. "It's the performance that won us over," said Automobile Magazine editor-in-chief Jean Jennings. "The crazy speed builds silently and then pulls back the edges of your face. It had all of us endangering our licenses.” The Model S can get up to 420 horsepower, which is more than the 2013 Porsche 911 Carrera S and only 10 horsepower less than the Chevrolet Corvette.
Electric vehicles offer a much smoother ride than the jolting, coughing nature of gas-powered cars. In fact, EVs are such quiet, smooth rides that sound-proofing engineers need only to focus on reducing the sound of light noises, like air conditioners and power steering, in electric vehicles. To top it all off, an electric vehicle is much less prone to mechanical failures than a gasoline-powered vehicle, largely because electric vehicles contain only about 5 moving parts, whereas an internal combustion engine has over a hundred.
So yes, a lot of the success of electric vehicles has to do with the satisfaction you feel when you zip by lines of cars waiting for gas (what the Germans call schadenfreude). But it’s important not to ignore the other benefits of EVs; when you’re flying by the rush hour jam at the gas station, you’re doing it really smoothly, you’re doing it really quickly, and you’re comfortable knowing you won’t be visiting the mechanic behind that gas station any time soon.
Kyle McGuiness is a Communications Intern at ACORE.