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3 major differences between electric cars and gas-powered cars

Last updated 10/15/2022 - Originally published 9/28/2020
Written by SimpleTire

There are some obvious differences between gasoline vehicles and electric vehicles. Instead of a gas tank, you have a battery. Instead of a gas pump, a charging station. Instead of an engine, electric motors. But these are all just different components that perform the same essential function. There are more fundamental differences between gas and electric cars that may not be so obvious. Let’s take a look.

Electric Cars Have Much Fewer Moving Parts

Electric cars may be technologically advanced, but their innards are actually a lot simpler than cars with combustion engines.

A traditional vehicle requires hundreds of parts to take the energy from the gasoline in the tank and turn it into power that turns your wheels. There’s the engine (itself remarkably complex) transmission, drive shafts, differentials. not to mention all the various belts and fluids.

An electric vehicle has a lot less going on. A battery sends electricity through a controller to motors that turn the wheels. This simplified setup means that electric cars require less maintenance. There’s no engine to replace, no fan belts, air filters, spark plugs… So while an electric car itself is more expensive than a comparable gas-powered car, they become more economical after you consider maintenance costs.

Electric Cars Still Have Limited Range

Range is one of the biggest limiting factors for electric vehicles. We don’t often worry about range with gas-powered ones, since it only takes a moment to fill your tank back up. But for the sake of comparison, let’s look at the top-selling car of 2016:

Toyota Camry

  • Fuel Economy: 28 MPG (combined)
  • Fuel Capacity: 17 gallons
  • Range: 476 miles

How does that compare with top electric car seller Tesla’s upcoming model?

Tesla Model 3

  • Range: 215 miles

Even Tesla’s longest-range vehicle — the Model X P100D — maxes out at 289 miles.

And for many, this is the biggest issue with electric cars. Low on gas? No sweat — just pull into the next station (they’re everywhere). Low on juice? Little sweat — find the nearest charging station (they’re not everywhere) and make yourself comfortable. It’ll take a while. Which brings me to my third point…

Charging a Battery Takes a Lot Longer Than Filling a Gas Tank

In the US, gas pumps dispense fuel at a max rate of 10 gallons per minute. So our Toyota Camry from earlier, with its 17-gallon fuel tank, takes less than 2 minutes to fill up and be back to its full 476-mile range.

If we’re looking at miles of range per minute spent refueling, that’s 280 miles per minute.

If you take your Tesla to one the company’s superchargers, you can go from 0% to 80% in 40 minutes, 100% in 75 minutes. So for a full charge that gives you back your 215-mile range, you’re getting 2.8 miles per minute.

Ooo, check it out — I love when math works out like this. Filling a gas tank is 100 times faster than charging a battery.

This isn’t so much of an issue for your daily commute. If you plug in your electric car overnight while you sleep, you should be fine. But if you want to take a longer trip, you’ll have to plan where charging stations are.

Back in 2013, Tesla tried to address this issue by announcing its battery swap program. Rather than wait around while your battery charges, you could simply drop off your spent battery and get a fully charged one. They showed it off in an on-stage demonstration, showing that they could swap out the batteries of not one but two Teslas in the time it took someone else to fill a gas tank (including time fiddling around with credit cards and gas caps).

But you know what? Tesla’s battery swap program died. People didn’t want to pay for a full battery when they could just wait a little longer and get their existing battery topped off for free.

I personally really want an electric car. I have a bit of a lead foot but I also hate to waste fuel, and having an electric car would let me feel free to floor it at the green lights. And even though it takes time to charge, I really like the idea of being able to take a cross-country road trip and not pay a cent for gas. Not to mention when self-driving car technology gets better, maybe I won’t even have to pay attention!

And oh man, not having to worry about oil changes and all that? Very attractive.

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