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The challenges of owning an electric vehicle

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I bought my first electric vehicle in 2019 and upgraded to a newer model just over a year ago. And recently, I placed an order to trade in my family’s gas-powered SUV for an electric one that should arrive later this year.

People often ask me about the challenges of owning an electric vehicle, and I can say from experience that it’s not much different from any other car I’ve owned. And while things aren’t perfect for EV drivers yet, I’m confident that giving up gasoline entirely will be a net benefit for my family. 

If you’re considering switching to an electric car in 2024, here’s my take (backed up with research, of course) on the challenges of owning an electric vehicle.

Range concerns are beginning to fade

Concerns about the limited range of EVs are well-founded. In the early days of electric vehicles, the all-electric range was extremely limited. One of the first such cars, the 2010 Nissan LEAF, could travel a maximum of 160 km on a full charge. The tiny Smart Fortwo could muster just 109 km on a charge.

In 2024, EVs are much more able to go the distance. Canada’s best-selling battery electric vehicle, the Tesla Model 3, can go up to 548 km on a charge – not much less than my Ford Escape goes on a full tank of gas. 

Practically all new EVs in 2024 are capable of going 400 km or more on a charge. Other popular models include the Chevrolet Bolt (417 km), the Hyundai Kona Electric (420km), the Volkswagen ID.4 (422 km), and the Hyundai Ioniq 5 (488 km).

Also read: The best electric vehicles in Canada

Range does take a hit in the winter, primarily due to increased demand for heating; my 2022 Kia Soul EV has been consuming 5 kw or more to warm the cabin during a recent cold snap with -15° temperatures. That translates to battery usage of about 8% per hour just for heating. Consumer Reports testing confirms that cold weather reduces EV range by 25% to 50% depending on how you drive.

Public charging infrastructure isn’t where it needs to be

Drivers are used to seeing gas stations on every corner and being able to fill up in five minutes or less. EV drivers don’t have this luxury. And while the availability of charging stations is improving, it’s still not where it needs to be in Canada.

Most EV drivers are still frustrated by dodgy public charging infrastructure. Out of 288 level 3 chargers in Toronto and the surrounding area, only 81 have a user rating of nine or higher on the EV charging website Plugshare. Others are in varying states of disrepair, frequently blocked by non-electric vehicles, or not available 24 hours a day.

Relief is anticipated shortly as Tesla has begun opening its Supercharger locations, of which there are 197 across Canada, to other makes. Most Superchargers have a minimum of eight stations and are located strategically close to highways and major centres. Many major EV manufacturers have agreed to implement Tesla’s charging standard in the next few years. Volkswagen, Subaru, Toyota, Lexus, Ford, Honda, GM, Nissan, Hyundai and Kia are among those planning to help their customers access Tesla’s charging network.

When public chargers are available and working well, the experience isn’t terrible. Some newer EVs can accept up to 350k W and add 100 km of range in as little as five minutes. The EV trip-planning tool, A Better Route Planner, estimates a Tesla Model 3 driver will need to stop just twice for a combined total of 30 minutes on a trip from Toronto to Montreal – barely enough time to grab a coffee and use the washroom.

Home charging can be slow and expensive

Most EV owners charge up at home, and using a standard 110-volt outlet to charge a newer long-range vehicle is not exactly a thrilling experience.

My 2022 Kia Soul EV adds about 20% to the battery overnight using household current – enough to travel about 64 km on a good day. As I rarely travel more than 100km in a day, this is more than plenty and my battery level typically bobs between 40% and 80%.

With a level 2 charger capable of delivering 6.6kW, a full charge would take me roughly 10 hours. These chargers come at a cost, however. The price to purchase a unit ranges from $500 to $1,200 and requires installation by a licensed electrician. But whereas the typical non-electric car consumes over $2,000 of gasoline per year, this one-time expense is at least justifiable.

Upfront costs are higher for electric vehicles

It’s no secret that electric vehicles cost more than their gasoline-powered counterparts. Take, for example, the popular 2024 Hyundai Kona. Whereas the gasoline models range from $28,681 to $43,181, the electric version costs $49,077 to $53,877.

A major contributor to the price difference is the cost of the EV battery, but another is that automakers are not releasing EVs without premium features. A few standard features on the Kona EV that are considered upgrades on the gasoline version include Adaptive Cruise Control, Highway Driving Assist, a 12.3” Full Digital Display Instrument Cluster, Dual-Zone Automatic Climate Control, Leather-wrapped Heated Steering Wheel, Roof Rack Side Rails, and Power Heated Side Mirrors.

The upfront costs of an EV can at least somewhat offset the ongoing cost of gas and maintenance. EVs don’t require regular oil changes, require fewer other fluids, and put far less wear on brakes (although they’re said to be harder on tires). And whereas the cost of charging isn’t zero, it’s far, far less than the average of $200 per month to fuel an average gas vehicle.

Charging costs far, far less than gasoline

You might be surprised to learn that charging an EV at home doesn’t make a huge difference in your monthly hydro bill. That’s because EVs are far more efficient with electricity than traditional cars are with gas.

My 2022 Kia Soul EV averages roughly 18 kWh per 100 km. Examining my last several hydro bills, I pay an average of 15.8162₵ per kWh. That works out to a total of $2.85 per 100 km travelled inclusive of tax.

My gas-burning 2017 Ford Escape, by contrast, averages close to 11 litres per 100km. At the current national average gas price of $1.395 per litre, that vehicle costs $15.35 to drive the same distance – more than five times the running cost.

Over the course of a year and assuming 20,000km travelled, that works out to a savings of $2,500 by choosing an electric car.

Public charging does admittedly cost more than home charging per kilowatt-hour, but you’ll never spend as much at a public charger as you would on a tank of gas.

Battery degradation is (mostly) inconsequential

Like all batteries, those in electric vehicles lose capacity over time but studies show you don’t need to worry about your EV’s battery becoming completely useless after a few years like the one in your iPhone will.

Research has shown that EV batteries lose about 2.3% of their capacity per year. That means that even an eight-year-old EV should retain well over 80% of its original range. Most EVs sold in Canada come with an eight-year/160,000 km battery warranty, so it’s very unlikely you’ll ever need to pay for battery maintenance, repairs or replacement.

Although this is the case, it's important to note that batteries can be a hefty expense after the warranty period passes. It's no surprise that some owners will opt to scrap the car, instead of purchasing a new replacement battery for $15,000 to $45,000. Used batteries, on the other hand, can run for around $10,000. 

Environmental rumours have been dispelled

A commonly heard rumour about electric cars says they’re actually worse for the environment than gas-burning ones. The story goes that so much pollution is generated in the production of batteries that it would be better to leave the lithium in the ground and continue burning fossil fuels.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) calls this a myth, citing research that shows electric vehicles produce less than half the greenhouse gas emissions of comparable gasoline cars over their lifetime. The EPA admits the manufacturing process is less environmentally friendly but clearly demonstrates that gas vehicles produce more from their tailpipes than EVs do in their lifetime.

Pollution from electricity generation is similarly a myth, especially at home in Canada where renewables provide so much electricity we’ve dubbed it “hydro.” According to the Canada Energy Regulator, 75% of Canada’s electricity comes from hydro and nuclear, and renewables make up all but 12% of production. Only Alberta, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick produce a significant portion of their electricity from non-renewable resources like natural gas or coal.

Insurance for EVs is not always more expensive than for gas cars

Since electric vehicles are more expensive, harder to repair and heavier, EV insurance must also be more expensive, right? The answer is no, not necessarily.

Comparing auto insurance quotes using, I found the average cost of insurance for an electric vehicle is only $1 more per month than a comparable gas model.

To research this, I compared five vehicles that come with both a standard gasoline engine and a battery-electric option. All of these quotes were pulled for “Jennifer Madeup,” a statistically average Toronto resident. Jennifer is 42 years old, commutes approximately 15 km each way to work and drives 20,000 km per year.

The choice to go electric does have minimal sway on insurance costs for individual cars, but on average there’s little difference between the two. 

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The bottom line

The truth is that there are challenges to owning an electric vehicle, but for the most part it’s a far more normal ownership experience than you may have been led to believe.

The most pressing challenge for electric vehicle owners in 2024 is that public charging infrastructure is still too unreliable for a stress-free road trip. Other challenges, like higher upfront costs, are offset by lower operating costs. And concerns about environmental friendliness and battery degradation are mostly overblown.

I, for one, am looking forward to becoming an EV-only household. In my mind, the benefits far outweigh the challenges and the future is looking better and better for electric vehicles in Canada.

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