What's It Like to Own an Electric Car vs. a Gas Car?

Sebastian Blanco | Aug 08, 2022

Electric vehicles (EVs) often get compared to smartphones. Society changed when smartphones became widespread, and many people who remember the world before the devices can explain how they are similar to and different from landlines. Furthermore, the pros and cons concerning their impact on people and their behavior are plainly evident.

What's It Like to Own an Electric Car vs. a Gas Car

Now, something similar is happening with EVs. As more people switch to EVs, we're discovering a similar impact on how people live compared to gas cars. Most days, living with an EV means unplugging in the morning, driving all day without worrying about how many miles are left in the battery, and returning home to plug in again. The experience is not unlike that of a smartphone, but instead of serving as a communication device, an electric car is a transportation device.

This article explains the differences between owning an electric vehicle and a gas-powered car, and looks at the everyday EV driving experience.

Charging an EV vs. Refueling an ICE

There is one difference between owning an EV and an internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle that is easy to understand: with an EV, you never need to visit a gas station again unless you need to use the restroom. But you will still need to figure out how to keep your EV's battery charged.

If you have a home charging unit, starting each day with a full battery pack and zero range anxiety is easy. Comparatively, most ICE drivers must visit a gas station when their tank is nearly empty.

If you don't have a home charging station, you can power up your EV at a public or workplace charging station. Reliance on public charging makes the EV ownership experience similar to the ICE ownership experience, except that it can take significantly longer to recharge an EV's battery than to refuel an ICE. 

To alleviate that "waiting period," many EV drivers prefer daily charging, plugging in every night at home or a public charging station even if there's more than enough electricity in the pack to cover the miles they plan to drive the next day.

Recharging every day is especially simple if you have a home charger. When you arrive home, you plug your car in, and if you don't want to, you don't have to think about the charging process until the next time you want to drive. At that time, you simply unplug, hang up the charging cable, and drive off.

Public charging can take more time, especially if the charger at your first destination is busy or not working, and you have to drive to find another one. Smartphone apps can locate nearby chargers, but it helps to learn about the EV infrastructure in your area, so it is easier to find a public station when you need one. Still, when using a public charger, you may need to sit and wait while the battery charges, whereas at home, you can plug the car in, plop yourself on the couch, and then go to bed without worrying about completing the task.

Recharging a battery from empty to around 80 percent full can take 20-40 minutes using a fast-charging station. The time required depends on the EV you own and the power rating of the fast charger. Using slower, Level 2 charging stations can take many hours, depending on how much you need to recharge the battery. Many public charging stations are in locations where people want to spend time anyway, like shopping malls or sports stadiums.

Some EVs make it easy to relax inside the car while it recharges. The Hyundai Ioniq 5, for example, offers a driver's Relaxation Comfort Seat that can automatically recline to what Hyundai calls an optimum position for napping or reading. Since you can leave the car turned on while charging, climate control and infotainment systems will still function.

What are the Differences in the Driving Experience?

For the most part, driving an EV is like driving an ICE vehicle, but there are some differences. Some EVs are "always on," automatically turning on when you approach the car while carrying the key fob. Other EVs have push-button start like many of today's ICE models. Once you confirm the vehicle is on (there's no engine noise, of course, so look for indicator lights on the dashboard), shift into "Drive" and press the accelerator pedal to start moving.

Brisk acceleration highlights another notable difference between EVs and ICE cars. EVs are noticeably quieter than combustion engines and offer smooth acceleration since there are no transmission gears. EVs can be so quiet that the law requires they emit sound for those outside the car when it is moving slower than 19 miles per hour. At higher speeds, tire and wind noise make up for the lack of a rumbling engine.

Another difference is that EV drivers often enjoy one-pedal driving, which is precisely what it sounds like. Thanks to regenerative braking, some EVs will gradually come to a complete stop when you remove your foot from the accelerator, mimicking the use of a brake pedal. Others will slow down to around 5 miles per hour, and then the driver must bring the EV to a complete stop. Either way, one-pedal driving capability means EV drivers never or rarely touch the brake pedal.

EVs Reduce Maintenance Costs

Since they have no spark plugs, timing belts, or oil to change, an EV's maintenance costs are lower than for gas cars. Electric-vehicle owners can also replace their vehicle's brake pads less frequently because regenerative brakes use the motor to assist in slowing down the car, thus reducing brake pad wear. In addition, there are fewer moving parts in an EV, which means fewer things can break, reducing emergency repair costs. However, some regular maintenance items, like wiper blades and tire rotations, cost about the same no matter the powertrain.

The Department of Energy calculates the scheduled maintenance costs for an EV at six cents per mile, compared to 10 cents per mile for an ICE vehicle. The independent researchers at Consumer Reports found that electric-vehicle drivers will likely save an average of $4,600 in repair and maintenance costs over the life of their EV compared with an ICE car.

EVs are More Connected than Gas-Powered Cars

Many EVs connect to the Internet, which allows drivers to use an automaker's official app to remotely control charging and heat or cool (pre-condition) the cabin while it is plugged in. Pre-conditioning preserves energy stored in the battery pack so you can go further on a charge while beginning your journey with a car that's already heated or cooled.

EV charging station apps are also helpful, as you can find stations and see if they are currently in use, if they're non-operational, and more details on the station itself, like charging speed. Some apps even let you book a time slot to charge at a particular station, preventing unnecessary waiting.

Summary

Owning an EV can be easier, quieter, and cheaper than living with a gas-powered car. You must make some adjustments, but the transition might feel familiar if you have a smartphone and still remember life with a landline.

To learn more about the different types of EVs currently available and arriving soon, check out our Shopping Guides and New Car Previews.

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