Electric Cars Are Just Better Than Regular Cars


Over at Green Car Reports, senior editor John Voelcker writes:

Electric cars’s secret advantage: they’re just nicer to drive.

But here are the reasons that electric cars have a secret advantage:

Tons of torque: Electric motors develop their peak torque (or “turning force”) from 0 rpm, meaning that the cars they propel tend to have great acceleration from a stop.

Sounds of silence: When electric-car makers suppress or silence the motor whine, electric cars are remarkably quiet–so much so, regulations will require them to emit noise at low speeds.

Smooth, calm, vibration-free travel: A reciprocating gasoline engine vibrates constantly, changing as it revs up and slows down; transmissions make their own noises as they match a narrow band of engine speed to road speed over four to nine different ratios. Electric cars don’t need any of that.

I couldn’t agree more!

I was a complete petrol-head in the UK: competing for years on race tracks in sprints and on hill climbs all over the UK. I drove many exotic machines on most of the UK’s best tracks. I love the noise, the speed and the power. When I visited Better Place in January I was looking to use my “Olea Hadash” rights to buy a new car so I had test driven a few nicer new cars.

I went to Better Place on a whim for a “tweet up” and to laugh at the stupid golf-cart cars. After the inevitable fancy movie: green save the polar bear spiel that I detest, we went out for a quick spin around BP’s 2km track. Basically a straight, a left hand curve a roundabout and back along the same road. I sat in the back while two women took their turns to drive.

Immediately the sense of quiet reminded me of a top of the line Lexus (like my father’s that I drive in the UK). I had to remind myself that this was a Renault Fluence ZE (my company actually leased for a while the 1.6l petrol engine version Fluence and it is a complete DOG of a car).

By the time I came to drive it I was starting to understand. Then I pulled away slowly, arrived on the straight at around 25 MPH and nailed the pedal and got a fright! It’s not a Tesla, but it jumped. I promise you have to have a turbo charged 2.0l or a 2.5l V6 to match this and be in the correct gear. And even then, over the first 50 ft, current electric cars will beat anything except exotics. It does run out of steam above 100KMH (which is largely an artificial limit) but that’s fine here in Israel. I found it matches my Honda up to 130KMH which is as fast as I’ve ever wanted to go on a road in Israel.

The lack of vibration, the silence while sitting in traffic, the INSTANT power because of no gear box make total sense. Electric cars are just nicer to drive. I gassed up my Honda Civic (petrol 1.8l) 22nd March. Today is the 30th. I’ve covered only 110km! And my own gas station is now hanging on the wall in my parking garage. For the longer trips to Haifa, the north or Jerusalem, the battery switch stations will be open in a few weeks.

Summary: Electric cars are much nicer to drive and price for price (especially if you lease the battery) they beat comparably priced petrol cars in comfort. Completely electric cars (i.e. not the Volt) will be simpler and cheaper to build and maintain than corresponding petrol cars, again excepting the battery.

There is no doubt that batteries will drop in price (or increase in capacity for the same price). There is a big cost difference between generated electricity to drive 1 mile and petrol (even before huge taxes). That gap isn’t going to go away soon so the economics are beginning to work when one amortises the battery as pre-bought fuel rather than a part of the capital cost of the car.

And I like the switch from local pollution in my kids’ faces to distant pollution at power stations. Have you been in Israel on Yom Kippur? Nearly all motor transport stops for 25 hours. Isn’t the air amazing at 4pm on Yom Kippur? They don’t stop the power stations so clearly the problem of local pollution is all from cars and other transport.

As to the geopolitical benefits: I do feel that our problem with Islam stems from the vast transfer of un-earned wealth that is guaranteed because of the complete domination of transport by oil. I like the salt for preservation of food argument prior to refrigeration: we need to reduce that one use of oil to the point where they no longer hold the power to move the price up because we can switch our demand down easily.

In the end I don’t think the US matters so much: it’s what happens in China and India thats going to make all the difference.

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