Your Next Car Should Be Electric

Tesla's proving that the future really is electric

Man standing next to Tesla Model 3
Man standing next to Tesla Model 3.

Lifewire / Lance Ulanoff

All my cars are gas-powered, but I dream of an all-electric car.

Yesterday, after weeks of speculation that the wheels (get it?) had come off at Tesla, the company reported stellar sales – well beyond demand – along with stunning (for them) delivery numbers for the increasingly popular Model 3 all-electric car.

There’s also some anecdotal evidence of Tesla’s popularity. I see them on highways all the time and just this morning in midtown Manhattan I spotted, in the span of a few minutes, two Teslas traveling a few blocks apart. Seeing Teslas in the wild is still a little like spotting purple carrots in the grocery. The majority of carrots are still orange and, obviously, the roads here and elsewhere in the U.S. are still choked with combustion cars. We haven’t exactly hit the electric car tipping point.

You Know You Want One

Person recharging electric car
Getty Images 

Still, Tesla’s news got me wondering about public sentiment on all-electric vehicles. Its been 22 years since the first Hybrid Toyota Prius went on sale and more than a decade since Tesla launched its first all-electric roadster. In that time, Telsa’s launched three additional models (with Model Y in the wings) and most major auto manufacturers are selling their own EVs (electric vehicles). In other words, you have choices.

There are indications that you’re already making those choices. Combustion car purchases apparently peaked in 2018 and most experts expect them to decline going forward. This is due, in part, to a growing number of consumers eschewing car ownership for ride sharing.

There are also environmental concerns. Worst-case scenario reports say we could run out of fossil fuels, including gas and coal, by 2081.The U.S. Energy Information Administration, says supply should be “adequate to meet the world's demand for liquid fuels through 2050,” but disputes reports that say we’ll run out anytime soon, claiming that “over time, global reserves will likely increase as new technologies increase production at existing fields and as new projects are developed.”

That stance, though, doesn’t address how continued fossil fuel use impacts climate change.

Yes, You Do

Fossil fuel plant
 Getty Images

With all these considerations in mind: resources, climate, buying options, I wondered if, perhaps, more people really are interested in all-electric vehicles. So, I created a Twitter poll and asked:

You next car will be:

  • Electric
  • Gas
  • Hybrid
  • I’ll take an Uber

Quickly, I had 118 votes and an interesting trend. Electric led the pack with 33% of the votes, with Gas and Hybrid almost deadlocked at 25% a piece. Yes, a substantial 19% aren’t interested in owning a car.

This result and Tesla’s recent sales success do not mean electric cars are taking over the world. On a quarterly basis, Tesla still sells just a fraction of the number of cars sold by major auto manufacturers. In Q1 of this year, Ford sold over half a million vehicles, the majority of them trucks (Tesla’s own pickup truck – which is expected to compete with the Ford F150—is expected later this year). Toyota North America sold almost a quarter of a million cars in March alone. The vast majority of these cars are combustion vehicles.

Your Reasons are Wrong

Man at supercharger station
 Getty Images

But I tend to agree with Tesla CEO Elon Musk who on Tuesday said, “It’s basically financially insane to buy anything except an electric car that is upgradeable to autonomy. It’s just nuts.”

Musk contends that the long-term resale value of any combustion car will do nothing but decline. Even before the advent of electric cars, we used to joke that your new car started depreciating the minute you drove it off the lot.

Electric cars like Tesla’s Model 3 change much of the equation of car ownership. Maintenance costs plummet because there’s no piston-pumping giant engine to maintain, oil, and repair. Electric cars have typically, one or more much smaller electric motor positioned near the wheels. The largest component in most of these cars and, I would argue, the one that degrades the most, is the battery. Like the battery in your smartphone and even with the best battery management software and technology, your electric car battery will store less energy over the years. Fortunately, the batteries that sit under the floorboards are relatively easy to replace.

Tesla success in the electric car space has come mostly through delivering on the promise of an “affordable” car. The base Model 3 now cost $39,900.

There remain, though, concerns and misconceptions about electric cars:

  •  I won’t be able to find a charging station.
  • So, I’ll pay nothing to charge my car?
  • Charging my car will cost as much or more than gas?

You Fear the Wrong Thing

Open electric car parking space
 Getty Images

Tesla reports nearly 700 supercharging stations around the U.S., capable of recharging the car in under an hour. Since most of Tesla’s cars have a fully charged range of over 300 miles and the cars themselves provide ample guidance on when to charge and where to find these stations, this isn’t much of an issue. In 2015, I took a lonely 300-plus mile ride in northern Minnesota to what I called the most remote charging station in the U.S. During the last few miles, the Tesla Model S warned that we needed to find a charging station, but it never slowed down or stalled (and we did find the station).

Popular YouTuber Casey Neistat recently took his Tesla Model X on a cross country road trip where he reported:

“On an average I had to stop for supercharging every 2-3 hours and a charge took 20-40min. I never minded, breaks felt appropriate. I never had trouble finding a supercharger, but I also never really stopped thinking about the charging process, it was a big focus of the trip.”

Owning an electric car does change your mindset a bit because there’s no escaping the fact that, for now, traditional gas stations far outnumber electric charging ones.

It’s also not always free to charge these cars. Original Model S and X owners got free supercharging for life. Model 3 owners pay when they charge at a super charger station. Filling up on electricity can cost as much as $22. At home, you get charged your typical electricity rate, but it may be hard to see how much the electric car is adding, since it’ll be blended in with the rest of your electricity bill.

Different is Good

It's important to remember, though, that an electric car is really nothing like your gas vehicle. Electric cars don’t even have traditional brakes and brake pads to wear down. Instead they use regenerative braking systems that rely on the motors to slow the vehicle down. This also serves to “regenerate” a little electric energy that you then get to reuse when you start accelerating.

In fact, electric cars have more in common with your iPhone than they do with gas powered cars. Most have large cabin screens (some have games) and considerable (artificial) intelligence. Even the Model 3 is equipped with the company’s autopilot system (it’ll cost you another $6,00 for fully autonomous driving).

Am I projecting my own desire for a Tesla Model 3? Absolutely, but I still think you’re crazy not to want one.