Battery Electric versus Traditional Vehicles: How Do They Compare?

Be it by changing consumer preferences & values, government regulation, or a mixture of both, it is now widely accepted that electric vehicles will have an increasing role in transportation.

Looking to purchase a new vehicle? This information piece intends to help you determine whether a Electric Vehicle (EV) or Internal Combustion Engine Vehicle (ICEV) is the best option for you. Also touched upon is some of the changing aspects that affect the global automobile industry, and bits of history are included to provide insight and context.

ICEVs, which require gasoline or diesel to operate, have dominated the passenger vehicle market for decades. There are three main types of EVs, classified by the degree that electricity is used as their energy source. These are Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs), Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs), and Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEVs).

Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEVs) are not included in this review because the area of most potential for hydrogen technology to gain traction is in commercial transport and stationary power. Outside of Asia where hydrogen technology is most popular, major automakers are reducing or scrapping investments in passenger vehicle FCEVs. At any rate, there will likely be exciting developments for passenger vehicle FCEVs going forward. Nikola, a company that designs and manufactures FCEV semi-trucks, recently unveiled the Badger which will be the first hydrogen electric pickup truck widely available. Similar to other countries announcing their own hydrogen research initiatives, in May of this year Australia established a fund worth AUD$300 million dollars for hydrogen projects.

To compare BEVs with traditional ICEVs, the following factors have been selected for analysis:

  1. Costs (Buying New, Energy and Maintenance)
  2. Performance
  3. Safety
  4. Availability
  5. Range
  6. Lifespans of Various Models

1. Costs

In previous years, there were only a very limited number of BEVs available, although many people are not aware that electric cars were actually an invention of the 1800’s. At the time, battery technology was primitive compared to what’s available today and when Henry Ford mass-produced the Model T with his newly created concept of the ‘assembly line’, electric cars became less attractive and died out.

The shift away from gas vehicles towards electric is slowly happening. All over the world, more and more countries are pledging to pivot entirely towards electric car production and ownership. For instance, England is banning the sale of new petrol, diesel and hybrid cars from 2035. Germany recently announced that it will be forcing all of its gas stations to also install charging stations.

England is banning the sale of new petrol, diesel and hybrid cars from 2035.

Whether it be by providing subsidies on new BEV sales, tax incentives and/or legislation it is currently governments that are the driving force for electrified transportation. It is intriguing to watch this unfold in front of all of us as we are on the edge of another great industrial revolution. Electric cars are here to stay and over time are only going to become more efficient and cost-effective versus their combustible counterparts. Even so, it will likely take decades before BEVs have achieved majority market share which means internal combustion engines will continue to dominate the marketplace for the foreseeable future.

Buying new?

Since their introduction during recent years, BEVs gained a reputation for being costlier to purchase new than ICEVs. Below is a price chart of the most popular EV models in North America (aside from Tesla’s) that became widely available in recent years alongside similar ICEV options from the same automakers.

Electric Vehicles Comparable ICEVs
Vehicle (base model) Purchase Price (US$) Vehicle (base model) Purchase Price (US$)
2018 Nissan Leaf $30,875 2018 Nissan Sentra $16,990
2019 Nissan Leaf $29,990 2019 Nissan Sentra $17,990
2020 Nissan Leaf $31,600 2020 Nissan Sentra $19,090
2018 Toyota Prius $24,685 2018 Toyota Corolla $18,600
2019 Toyota Prius $23,770 2019 Toyota Corolla $18,700
2020 Toyota Prius $24,325 2020 Toyota Corolla $20,617

There's agreement amongst industry participants that by the mid-2020’s widespread cost-parity can and will be achieved between ICEVs and BEVs.

Tesla was the pioneer in luxury electric cars and is still the market leader.

Some governments are increasing the fees for the ownership, licensing and registration of BEVs due to the loss of tax revenue from gasoline consumption, which is usually highly taxed. It would be wise to compare these types of associated fees, recurring or otherwise, before purchasing a BEV in your area.

Major manufacturers of automobiles such as General Motors, Ford, Volkswagen, Fiat Chrysler, Toyota and Hyundai have all been in the news collectively pledging hundreds of billions of dollars for research and development of electric vehicles. Some of the automakers have partnerships with battery manufacturers and some have partnerships with each other to reduce costs and spread risk. Based on company announcements to date, it is fair to say that we will have more than triple the number of current options for electric vehicles by 2025.

What about energy?

Energy costs typically deviate between sources and regions. This is caused by the relative availability of the specific energy type for different regions, the local methods that are implemented for energy generation or extraction, government subsidies and regulations, and even government ownership of energy assets and/or strategic partnerships.

Currently, in most developed areas of the world, costs of electricity to charge and operate a BEV are very comparable or below that of a vehicle requiring gasoline or diesel. When you consider that some of the energy being used to power BEVs is recaptured through regenerative braking, energy efficiency is more pronounced in EVs. The price of gasoline in the first half of 2020 has been wildly volatile and even without the disruption from a pandemic, semi-frequent price wars for market share of oil can contribute to fluctuating prices for gasoline. For BEV owners in the US, the Energy Information Administration reports average 'eGallon prices' for the nation and each state, which is calculated using the most recently available state by state residential electricity prices.

What about costs to the environment?

Volkswagen installed cheat devices on their emissions systems to downplay actual emission levels.

Manufacturers of ICEVs have been subject to increasingly stringent vehicle emissions legislation in Europe and Asia and are subject to serious government fines if compliance doesn’t occur, as we saw in 2015 from ‘dieselgate’. Volkswagen was found guilty of installing cheat devices on their emissions systems to downplay actual emission levels, and as a result has paid over US$33 billion in government fines and settlements from car owners across the globe that say they were intentionally misled regarding the actual emissions from their vehicle. Catalytic converters are the primary exhaust emission control devices used to transform toxic gases and pollutants into less-toxic pollutants by catalyzing a redox reaction (an oxidation and a reduction reaction).

Palladium, a precious metal and sister to platinum, is the metal that is mostly used in catalytic converters of gasoline engines and has more than doubled in price over the past couple years as tighter emissions standards were rolled out in Europe and Asia. Platinum is the metal used most in the catalytic converters of diesel vehicles, and one of the reasons platinum has dropped in value over the last few years is because after dieselgate, European car buyers dramatically moved away from purchasing diesel vehicles. Prior to 2015, these types of vehicles actually had majority market share of new vehicles sold in the EU.

Is it true that electric vehicles are better for the environment?

Sometimes electric vehicles are wrongly perceived to be entirely void of any pollution. While most of the environmental impacts generated by ICEVs are localized to the combustion of gasoline in the vehicle engine, the manufacturing process for BEVs generates more widely dispersed and damaging environmental impacts, offsetting a considerable portion of their overall advantage with respect to greenhouse gas emissions. Nonetheless, it is true that (in most cases) over the course of a BEVs production and lifetime it will emit less pollutants and have a smaller carbon footprint than ICEVs would, but the source of energy must be derived sustainably for a maximum reduction in emissions to be fully achieved.

Many electrical grids worldwide generate a portion or most of their electricity by burning coal or other forms of fuel that inflict serious harm to the environment and human respiratory health by contaminating the atmosphere. Take into consideration your local energy source(s) and do some research to find out how the electricity you use on a daily basis is generated. The cleanest forms of energy are considered to be from renewable sources such as solar panels and wind turbines. Electricity that is generated through nuclear plants is also considered fairly clean, depending on if the nuclear plant properly disposes of the toxic waste.

The cleanest forms of energy are considered to be from renewable sources such as solar panels and wind turbines.

Energy availability is another important consideration for many consumers. Charging stations are required for automobiles that are fully battery electric, and the availability of these stations is currently limited, especially in comparison to the relatively plentiful number of gas stations in most countries. However, many governments are actively providing incentives for companies that want to build and install these stations, some governments such as Germany are forcing gas stations to also have charging stations available for BEV drivers. Alternatively, some gas station chains are taking initiative with respect charging stations, such as Petro-Canada. The subsidiary of Suncor announced they have built Canada’s first coast-to-coast EV fast charge network, with a charger every 250 km or less from Halifax, N.S. to Victoria, B.C. Only BEVs are capable of charging on a level 3 fast charge while PHEVs come with adapters that can be plugged into any common electric outlet. There is concern that many electrical grids would not currently be able to withstand the additional loads required to charge electric vehicles on a massive scale, and so there is numerous corporations and governments working to address this potential issue.

Maintenance?

Compared to ICEVs, electric vehicles have lower maintenance costs due to the fact they use significantly fewer moving parts, do not require oil changes and can go much longer intervals before needing brake maintenance. However, many electric cars heavily utilize technology which has its own pros and cons. Vehicles that rely heavily on technology and software are susceptible to getting 'bugs', which can be hard to troubleshoot and/or expensive to fix. Electric vehicles are designed to be updated over the air to receive regular updates from the manufacturer and actually operate more efficiently because of this ability. For instance, in late 2019 it was reported by Electrek that Jaguar told I-Pace electric vehicle owners it was releasing a software update that extends vehicle range by up to 8%.

2. Performance

The comparison of performance between vehicles with internal combustion engines, and vehicles that are fully battery electric is dependent upon the person and their preferences. If a person enjoys driving in a quiet vehicle or has a preference for more control in terms of speed, an electric car would probably be their first choice. It has been reported however that the road noise, i.e. the sound of the tires on the road, is highlighted by the lack of engine noise.

Acceleration is more easily achievable in electric vehicles than in vehicles that use internal combustion engines, for instance the 2020 Tesla Model S has been clocked going 0-60mph in 2.41 seconds in “Cheetah Mode”. Handling of electric vehicles is said to feel very smooth as the underfloor batteries, which are quite heavy, help to keep the cars’ center of gravity better aligned even when moving. When letting off the accelerator, the regenerative braking found in many BEVs and PHEVs seems to make deceleration occur more quickly than in a vehicle with an internal combustion engine.

3. Safety

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is an independent, nonprofit scientific and educational organization dedicated to reducing the losses, deaths, injuries and property damage from motor vehicle crashes.

According to the US Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy: “EVs must undergo the same rigorous safety testing and meet the same safety standards required for conventional vehicles sold in the United States as well as EV-specific standards for limiting chemical spillage from batteries, securing batteries during a crash, and isolating the chassis from the high-voltage system to prevent electric shock.” While fires and explosions originating from the batteries in EVs are uncommon, the associated fire risk and hazard has become a major safety concern for EVs.

BEVs tend to have a lower center of gravity than conventional vehicles, making them less likely to roll over and often improving ride quality. One safety concern specific to electric vehicles is their silent operation; pedestrians may be less likely to hear a BEV than a conventional vehicle. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is studying ways to address this issue, such as requiring BEVs to emit audible sounds at low speeds. This option is already available on many models, including the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is an independent, nonprofit scientific and educational organization dedicated to reducing the losses, deaths, injuries and property damage from motor vehicle crashes. Last year, the Tesla Model 3 earned an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ award which is the highest safety award given by the organization. The Model 3 received the same award this year, although there are many other ICEVs that also received the award.

4. Availability

There is an ever-increasing number of options for electric vehicles in terms of the available models from various producers in almost every developed nation in the world. All the major auto-manufacturers in the world are retooling production facilities to develop BEVs and PHEV or are building new facilities for this purpose. By 2025, there will almost certainly be over 50 different BEVs available in North America and even more PHEVs and HEVs.

5. Range

The range for BEVs has always been a source of anxiety for new purchasers or people considering the purchase of an electric vehicle that uses only a battery. However, battery technology has been quickly improving with the result being faster charging times and longer ranges for many BEV models.

See below a list of some of the most recent BEV models available with the longest ranges:

  • 2020 Nissan Leaf Plus - 226 miles (361km)
  • 2020 Jaguar I-Pace - 234 miles (374 km)
  • 2020 Kia Niro - 239 miles (382km)
  • 2020 Hyundai Kona - 258 miles (412km)
  • 2020 Chevrolet Bolt - 259 miles (414km)
  • 2020 Tesla Model Y - 315 miles (504km)
  • 2020 Tesla Model X Long Range - 325 miles (520km)
  • 2020 Tesla Model 3 Long Range - 330 miles (528km)
  • 2020 Tesla Model S Long Range - 373 miles (597 km)

2020 Jaguar I-Pace, offering up to 234 miles of travel between charging times.

Also, since electric vehicles are perceived as being good for the environment, automakers are beginning to ensure that the raw materials needed for the production of batteries are sourced responsibly. This means they’re looking to eliminate any child labor associated with their supply chains, and ensuring that the mines producing these raw materials are operating sustainably and are respecting the local environment. These factors can add to the cost of production, but companies with lithium or other battery metal projects located in safe and established mining jurisdictions should benefit from this initiative. One main worry for the industry is that there won’t be enough lithium available in the coming years because of the considerable amount of the metal used in BEVs and the lack of investment in mineral projects in ideal jurisdictions.

For buyers that want the environmental and economic benefit of using less fossil fuels such as gasoline or diesel, a PHEV might be a good option to consider. There is widespread speculation that HEVs and PHEVs will be a bridge for many consumers, potentially warming them up to buying a BEV down the road.

6. Lifespans of Various Models

For ICEVs that are well-maintained, buyers that purchase from new can expect to see the vehicle achieve over 200,000 miles (320,000km) or 10-15 years of intermittent use. If you were to look at the lifespans of BEVs from the late 2000’s or early 2010’s, the battery technology was less advanced resulting in batteries that need to be replaced more frequently, at considerable expense.

Currently, most manufacturers are offering 8-year/100,000-mile warranties for their batteries. However, there has been some interesting headlines coming out lately from GM and Tesla, both claiming to be developing a ‘million-mile’ battery which could be a game-changer for the industry. There should always be a healthy dose of skepticism directed towards companies that are making curious announcements. A lot of developments are in preliminary stages and it won't be until down the road when time has proven and validated these claims.

In the short to medium term, majority of those in the market for a new vehicle will be more inclined to go with the long-established ICEV, but the widespread adoption of BEVs is looking quite inevitable down the road.

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New Age Metals Inc. is a mineral exploration company focused on the exploration and development of North America's palladium-rich primary Platinum Group Metals deposit, the River Valley PGM Project (100% owned by NAM) located in the Sudbury region of southern Ontario. Additionally, the company owns the Genesis Project in Alaska, a drill ready PGM-Ni-Cu project located in a safe mining jurisdiction.

The Company also has a Lithium Division with eight lithium and rare elements projects, of which two are drill ready.

Our philosophy is to be a project generator, explorer and project operator with the objective of Optioning/Joint Venturing our projects with major and junior mining companies, through to production.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this blog are for informative purposes only. To the best of our knowledge, the information presented in the blog are accurate, however, we do not guarantee the accuracy of information. The views conveyed do not constitute investment advice and readers should seek professional advice when making financial decisions. Readers should not rely on the information, and those who do, do so at their own risk. New Age Metals is not licensed as an investment advisor.