The electric car, green transport, plug-in vehicle, connected cars, and many more synonyms indeed are the most trending buzzwords today among the automobile fraternity and enthusiasts alike. But will these buzzwords bring the same magnitude of change in our lives the I.C.E. vehicles did almost a century ago and rendered the actual horse-powered transport obsolete.
Many experts forecast electric vehicles to be the vanquisher of the smoke emitting mighty I.C.E. vehicles. They believe that electric vehicles will make the I.C. engines obsolete and this world a better place to live. However the question that arises is, “Are we ready to part our ways with our old frenemy”. The answer unfortunately is- not yet.
Why are Electric Cars so Expensive
There are a lot of articles on the benefits of electric cars and bikes, some even go to the extent of declaring them as the messiah, the solution of all our pollution worries but one must not forget that electric vehicle technologies are still in primitive stages and there are many teething troubles which are preventing us from ushering into a new era of pollution-free cars. New developments are taking place with each passing day but there is still a long road to go for E-vehicles to be mainstream. So what is keeping people from adopting e-vehicles?
There is a long list of drawbacks and many factors to blame for holding us back. Whether blame it on the short-range, lack of infrastructure, or long charging times, it will take a while for electric vehicles to be popular.
The most prevalent issue which concerns the average consumer and keeps the electric revolution away from masses are the high initial costs associated with electric vehicles. With the exception of cars targeted for the high-end populace such as Tesla Model S, most of Electric vehicles are way more expensive than their I.C engine counterparts which offer same features. For e.g. The Hyundai Kona which is an amazing EV by all means still falls way behind when compared to Hyundai’s own premium offering Tucson which is similarly priced.
What are the reasons for the hefty price tags of Electric vehicles
The answer comes in several parts –
For starters the electric vehicles are a “Disruptor” – because of the hefty investments manufacturers did in R&D of I.C. engines for over a century, Electric vehicles are the last thing they want to make. So the electrics that they build are priced at a premium. The motor with much fewer parts as compared to I.C engine which also needs a gearbox will render these investments obsolete. Additionally electrics require less maintenance and consumables due to which supply chains for products like engine oils, clutch plates etc. which took 100+ years to be established and required unaccountable and humongous amounts of investment would be rendered useless. The existing players in automobile space are resisting this transition and asking for a premium on their Electric vehicles which leaves the new players without any real competition to force them to bring down the prices.
Why are electric car batteries so expensive
Another reason is the high cost of the battery packs. Electric vehicles require Lithium-ion cell batteries which are complicated and expensive to manufacture. A lot of R&D is still required in battery technology which requires a huge sum of money. Further the raw material required for the batteries i.e. lithium isn’t cheap and is quite difficult to source at economical prices. Companies are ready to pay a huge amount to acquire raw material. Lithium prices have amplified dramatically due to the increased use of li-ion batteries in consumer electronics.
Rare earth metals in electric car batteries
But lithium isn’t the only material behind the high prices of batteries, a major role is played by cobalt which is rare, difficult to obtain, and even more expensive compared to lithium. Cobalt acts as the negative terminal (Cathode) in a lithium-ion battery and drives the cost of lithium-ion batteries far more than lithium itself does.
These batteries are prone to explosions due to overheating if proper heat-dissipating arrangements are not ensured which requires extensive research and complex manufacturing techniques
The lithium-ion battery technology is not fully mature yet and many problems still exist. There are issues with heat management, voltage control, charging time which needs to be tackled and the current solutions for the above problems are complex and expensive and add up in the cost of vehicles. A lot of progress has been made but it will take more time for technology to mature enough for the costs to come down.
High battery installation cost
Another factor that we need to keep in mind is the cost of installing the battery packs in the vehicle. Battery packs have considerable weight and thus may affect the dynamics of car if not placed appropriately. In order to place the battery pack such that proper weight distribution is ensured, many changes are required to be made in the existing chassis which are designed for the I.C.E vehicles. This requires extensive R&D and testing which further bumps up the price.
The scale of battery production
The economies of scale also plays a role in the high prices of Electric vehicles. The I.C counterparts as we know of today are mass-produced at such a scale one can’t even begin to fathom. The huge scale mass production helps conventional manufacturers to cut costs. Electric vehicles don’t enjoy this luxury
Another reason is the proper fail-safes needed in order to minimize the damage in case of a crash or any unforeseen circumstance. In the event of crash, there are mechanisms to isolate batteries and cut off the supply in order to prevent electrocution to the rider as well as the rescue team. These features require special sensors and technologies. It is also necessary to comply with the stringent safety norms all over the world and pass the crash tests. Electric vehicles need to undergo the same rigorous safety tests and meet the same safety norms which are compulsory for conventional vehicles. All these ultimately reflects in the price of vehicles.
Despite all the drawbacks which makes the electric vehicles expensive, presently the Number of electric vehicles sales are increasing rapidly and heavy investments are being made in batteries and related technologies. So slowly but steadily the costs are coming down and sales are going up. As a result we will reach a tipping point when the electric vehicles will at least be equivalent if not better than I.C.E vehicles in terms of cost. But when, Well that is the real question.