12+ Disadvantages to Electric Cars
Updated: Apr 29
You probably already know that not using/owning a car is the most eco-friendly option. It is one of the few reasons I don’t own a car anymore (and I don’t regret it). However, the reality is that not owning a car is not always a solution, for example, if your job demands it or if you or close relatives/friends don’t have public transport close by. An electric car seems like a good solution to a regular car or is it? Read about 12+ disadvantages of electric cars for you and our environment.
The biggest disadvantage of an electric car is for the environment even though you may initially think the opposite. The production of batteries for your electric car is not as green as you might hope. Electric cars require a large lithium-ion battery as their energy source. Lithium-ion batteries are chosen as these are very energy efficient however, they are not very environmentally friendly to produce. The indigenous communities living near lithium mines in Chili and Argentina are not properly informed about mining projects on their lands. They are given insufficient information about the potential impacts it may have on their water sources as mining lithium is very water-intensive. The Andes mountains are a very dry land area, but the extraction process of lithium requires water 500,000 gallons of water per ton of lithium . In some other regions in Chile, 65 percent of the available water is used up in the production of lithium. The lithium brine then requires 12 to 18 months to evaporate. Any water returned to the farmers (that use the water for the country's food production) could be tainted with chemicals. This lengthy evaporation process of the lithium brine can be sped up by heating the water resulting in faster evaporation. However, this process requires the burning of fossil fuels. Unfortunately, with increasing demand, the desire for faster and cheaper production of lithium may outweigh the environmental impacts.
Human right violations
The batteries for electric cars require, next to the previously discussed lithium, cobalt. Cobalt, which was traditionally mined as a by-product of nickel and copper, is now up in demand against a limited supply. Most cobalt mines can be found in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). According to UNICEF, in 2014 about 40.000 children were working in mines across the DRC. Next to child and slave labor, people are exposed to toxic waste leakage and radioactivity in the cobalt mins which is again a great disadvantage of electric cars.
Even though it is claimed that lithium-ion batteries can be 95% recyclable, the reality is, it is more easily said than done. Lithium-ion batteries undergo irreversible changes during their lifespan. Meaning that they can’t be recycled anymore but they need to be completely taken apart, the lithium extracted, and then re-manufactured. This isn’t a simple process. Battery manufacturers incorporate several chemicals into the battery to speed up the manufacturing process or increase durability. These used chemicals different per company and are company secret making it difficult (labor-intensive) and therefore expensive to repurpose. Moreover, this chemical mixture has been known to explode when handled incorrectly. Because of these difficulties, only 5% of the lithium batteries are recycled while the rest ends up in landfills.
Electric cars are more expensive
While an electric car may be more economical in maintenance, when you are on the market for a new electric car, it certainly isn’t. Electric cars look very similar to regular gasoline-powered cars the big difference is the battery. This is also what makes a car expensive. The battery in a car is very large to make sure you can drive a decent mileage but this comes with a hefty price tag. As such a large battery costs anywhere between $6.000 and $20.000 (depending on the model) you can expect to this much for a new electric car compared to a gasoline-fueled one making it another great disadvantage for electric cars.
Even though electric cars may be cheaper to drive, they are more expensive to purchase and insurance is higher as well. This is again due to the large battery that is very costly to replace.
Price of electricity
It is no secret that the price of gasoline has increased significantly over the past year (especially in Europe). This makes the use of an electric car even more attractive but don’t forget that electricity is not free. Also, the price of electricity is increasing and an electric car requires a lot of it. So, when using an electric car you can expect to see an increase in your electric bill.
Loss of value
According to Forbes, an electric car will lose about $5,700 of its value over the first 5 years of ownership. This is considerably higher compared to the value loss of a gasoline-powered car.
The battery of an electric car is what drives the car. The entire vehicle is designed around this massive battery. It is the most expensive part of the entire car. Most electric cars come with a warranty that is usually 8 years or about 100k miles. This may sound like a great deal but you have to keep in mind that the average car is on the road for about 12 years. This may indicate that you need to replace the battery of your electric car at some point in its lifecycle. As your car loses value over time, the costs of replacing the battery may be even higher than what the vehicle is worth. As mentioned before, the battery for an electric car can set you back somewhere between $6.000 and $20.000 (depending on the model) so you have to carefully make the decision whether or not replacing the battery is worth it to you.
Another big disadvantage of electric cars is that you can’t charge your electric car as easily as you can fill up the tank for your gasoline-powered car simply because there are a lot fewer public charging places. This is luckily something that has been worked on over the past few years but it can still be a challenge to find a place to charge your car.
Finding a place to charge your car can be a challenge and when you have found a place to charge your car it can take a long time for it to be fully charged. At a regular charging point, it may take up to 8 hours for your car to be fully charged when it was empty. This depends on the size of the battery and the charging station as well as a battery can be charged much faster at a rapid charge station.
An electric car is battery operated, you are completely dependent on it how far you can go with your car. As batteries as weather-sensitive, this can have a big impact on your range. In a cold climate, you can expect your range to reduce by about 12%. If you decide to turn on the heater on full blasts as well this can be over 40%.
Big and heavy
Again due to the massive battery, an electric car is rather big and heavy. This is because consumers want a decent range while driving an electric car which means the car needs a bigger battery and bigger batteries weigh more and take up more space on the car. In some cases, it even changes the shape of the car to accommodate the increased size of the battery.
Electric cars are silent
Another big disadvantage of electric cars is that they are silent. Because an electric car does not have a motor running, this means that they hardly make a sound. This is especially the case when they drive at a slower speed. This can be dangerous for cyclists or pedestrians who are paying more attention to the traffic around them that make a sound. Pedestrians are about 40% more likely to be hit by an electric car compared to a petrol or diesel-powered car. This percentage is even higher for people who are (partly) blind.
The impact on the environment, unethical mining conditions, and the impossibility of recycling the lithium-ion battery are the reasons why I don’t have an electric car yet. I firmly believe that there will better alternatives for either the lithium-ion battery or the electric car in general. I just have to be patient.