Why Electric Vehicles Are Fundamentally Superior to ICE


Tesla Model S

Tesla Model S

If your name happens to be Elon Musk, then explaining to others why electric vehicles are fundamentally superior to ICE is part of your job.

Model X to Come With Awd

Model X to Come With AWD

If you’re not Mr. Musk, but still an electric vehicle aficionado, then it should be your duty to explain the fundamental superiority of EVs to others.

It’s part of pushing our cause.

Below, we provide a few pointers that can be used (almost without dispute) to “make the case” for EVs:

  • An ICE vehicle can never be made to operate as efficiently as an EV
  • An ICE vehicle will always require more maintenance than an EV
  • The number of moving/breakable parts in ICE will always be higher than in an EV
  • No ICE will ever come with free gas for life.  An EV is offered today with free “fuel” for life (Tesla Model S Supercharging).
  • No ICE will ever offer the immediate torque and smooth power delivery of an EV.
  • If AWD is your cup of tea, EVs, with their infinitely controllable electric motors, beat ICE hands down.

We’re certain we’ve overlook at least a few examples of why EVs are fundamentally superior to ICE and we’re open to those who dispute our claims, too.

The idea here is to establish a working, agreed upon list of traits that make EVs fundamentally superior.

So, let’s add to/create that list in comments below.

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51 Comments on "Why Electric Vehicles Are Fundamentally Superior to ICE"

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The second and third points are pretty much the same thing – maintenance is lower BECAUSE there are fewer moving/breakable parts.

If you’re talking about fundamental differences between ICEs and EVs, it’s hardly fair to include “free fuel”. That is only currently available for one EV (hardly a fundamental property of EVs), and could conceivably be offered for an ICE (although I won’t hold me breath). However, you missed the obvious fact that the cost of fuel per mile is untouchable by an ICE is almost all cases. Plus, you have the ability to fuel from any number of sources – sources which get cleaner every year, while the production of gasoline get dirtier.

Yeah, and free requires that you plunk down $2K up front so it’s really more of a pre-paid deal.

Re: An ICE vehicle will always require more maintenance than an EV
True. The maintenance on my Volt has been 1 oil change in 2.5 years. Dreadful. 🙂 7K ICE miles out of 34K total miles on it.
I did take a 270 mile trip this weekend in the Volt (not including driving around at the destination). A Model S or X could have done this. I would likely have found a place to charge on L2 for a short while or just taking a little long route and hit the supercharger that was reasonable close (extra 25 miles each way).

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

No tire rotations?

How about the most important one of all… No trips to the gas station. But also should include things like quiet and clean.

Let’s add “the ability to make your own energy at home with solar panels”. Try refining your own gas! No, I’m not including recycling used cooking oil for Diesel engines because that’s already gone through a refining process.

They have never really shown a electric car in a Zombie Movie yet in that I think it would be very good in that it would be quite and it wouldn’t admit any of that oil smell. Or it would avoid having that load start up sound which along with those heavy engine noises trigger the zombies to go crazy.

You forgot what has been the primary driver of sales for the Model S:

The ICE will never have the power density or usable RPM range of an electric motor.

This allowed Tesla to fit a 400+ hp motor and transmission in a ridiculously tiny volume, and it’s still pretty efficient at high power levels (further increasing power density by keeping cooling requirements down). I guarantee you that the Model S would not be compared to large luxury sedans if it wasn’t so fast with so much room inside. The silent, smooth performance is a far bigger draw to buyers than eco-friendliness or gas savings for this class of automobile.

Going forward, this will be EV’s greatest allure: the marginal cost of more power is very low, and it has no impact on rated MPG. If GM and Nissan put in $1000 towards a bigger motor/inverter, their EVs would have far greater appeal. The Model E will have a tough time price matching a 316i, but it’s easy to do so against a 328i/335i.

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

If Axiflux motors pan out, think 150+kW and 2000+ lbft of torque.


Looking forward to production luxury EVs clocking sub 3s 0-60 and single-digit quarter miles..

I’m a bigger fan of induction motors, because they use only simple materials like copper and iron. If you look at the way machines do the winding when assembling motors (Nissan put out a great video, even though that’s a DC motor), I think the use of cheap materials (i.e. no permanent magnets) is key to getting costs down in the long term.

The LEAF uses an AC motor. “The advanced 80kW AC synchronous electric motor provides the quietest, smoothest ride you’ve ever experienced.”


My bad. I knew that as well, but just had a brainfart.

Anyway, the point I was making is this:

No doubt that Tesla is doing something similar, so induction motors will likely have an amazingly low cost floor.

In my opinion is biggest advantage of EVs is independence from big corporations, because you can produce your own electricity with solar, wind or hidro to charge your car. Silent and efficient drive are also big pluses, I hate waste.

This is true except you still depend on the maker and his dealership just like in ICE cars, because they own the CAN source code and are not about to release it to the Public Domain.

I think there should be a Law requiring they release it because they cut the small auto repair shops out of repairing their cars. And, who can afford the shop rate that dealerships charge? How about a requirement that when you buy a car the CAN source comes with it?

We should open-source every thing, real civilization is about cooperation not competition. You should check out the Zeitgeist Movement.

In terms of energy efficiency and range-capacity behavior, EVs are a much better match to the driving patterns and needs of most people.

They do far better in urban/suburban surroundings and short to medium drives, which for the family/individual car is the most prevalent form of automobile use.

Conversely, the ICE vehicle really expresses its potential in long, fast, unobstructed drives on the open road, and for prolonged off-grid situations. That’s when it reaches peak efficiency, and that’s when its engine feels best.
In the urban/suburban, never-far-from-grid use pattern, ICE is inefficient, it emits more tailpipe junk, and its systems degrade faster.

The ICE hybrid, while commendable for its prevention of idling waste, is basically a kludge and a place-holder until EV technology matures.
Long-term, if and when EV volumes and specifications reach the level they need to be at (millions/year production, 120-150 mile range for the economy EV, >10 year battery life), we should see a transition to a majority EV fleet, with various types of hybrids (mostly PHEV) filling all kinds of special-use niches.

The biggest risk I see to that happening, is oil companies and oil exporters deliberately undercutting the price of gas to make EVs less financially attractive.

I like the list idea. Early adopters will be the educators. For those of us that have made it our hobby, we love articles reporting the latest chemistry advancements like those found here on insideEVs. The list helps hone the delivery of keeping it simple and meaningful in sharing your experience.

#5 and #6 state it in one manner, but it is also important to conclude to the ICE driver that it is simply more “fun” to drive. I sometimes forget to simply state that “It’s just more fun”.

In my book, the single most important benefit to full electric drive is that you can make electricity in so many ways, it is literally the universal fuel. You can fuel your car from burning wood in a steam engine driven generator, or a gas, diesel, geothermal or natural gas generator, or even battery swapping or charging from a large battery bank (Tesla proposed added supercharger functionality). Of course most electric cars are charged using a mix of commercial sized coal fired, natural gas turbine, nuclear or hydroelectric with a growing amounts of commercial wind and solar generation making the world grid cleaner and more sustainable and you can pull this commercial power from any outlet any where in a pinch, in addition to rapidly growing set of dedicated chargers, many for free across the country. But, best of all, is that many can choose to live where they have access to home scale electricity production by either solar, microhydro, and wind generation. The later two require a fairly sizable and properly located piece of property limited to pretty much the rurals, but solar is cheap enough and is available from a roof top space perspective to at least 65%… Read more »

A comprehensive list of the advantages of EVs is a good thing to have but if it will be used to convince others to drive electric, it’s important for the presenter to narrow that list down to just those things that would be convincing to the listener. Everything else is noise, and is counterproductive (see Barry Schwartz, “the Paradox of Choice”)

So that means listening first – what’s most important to your audience about their car? Just focus on those issues, or closely related or complimentary issues. (I.e. low operating costs = low fuel cost and low maintenance cost).

Wow, thanks for that reference. It’s a bit off topic, but really interesting to me. We have so many choices presented to us that eventually if we try to find the “best” choice we may end up agonizing over the choices and are more likely to feel regret about the ultimate decision (and potentially becoming neurotic or depressed in the process). Those who can simply choose an acceptable option and move on are less likely to suffer this problem; if we have fewer choices, we generally don’t miss them as much as we’d think we would. What did this have to do with EVs ???? Oh, right. Hone in on what the ICE driver perceives as “the problem” with EVs and give some good examples of how they are good and getting better. I think the hardest one to overcome is those who live in apartments or park on the street, which is a LOT of people. In wintertime an EV sucks monkey if it’s been out all night in the cold, without some warming electricity. If overnight charging should be the way to go (it should) then EVERY car needs a dedicated EVSE circuit. With gasoline stations one pump… Read more »

While I agree with you list 100%, it doesn’t mean EVs are superior as the title says. As some one who owns 2 hybrid and a plugin car, I reluctantly say that you failed to mention the most fundamental factor that discourages most people from replacing ICE vehicles with EVs: battery. It is currently still:
– too expensive to make and to be replaced
– taking too long to recharge

Therefore, I think ICE vehicles are still better in general unless you include the environmental factor as part of the conversation.

You make some good points, Quan, but here’s another way to think about it that may provide you with a better user experience and economic gain. 1. Too expensive. When you calculate the total cost of ownership, the only valid way to do cost comparison, an electric car is much cheaper to operate than an ICE car. Just add up all the money you spend on gas over the useful life of the car. Even if you only drive a modest 12k miles a year, at say 25 mpg, that’s just a few dollars shy of $2,000 yr at let’s say an average of $4 per gallon (calculating forward, it will almost certainly be more). Even if you only drive that car for only 10 years (average is now approaching 12) that’s $20k in fuel. Versus less than $5k worth of electricity. You’ll save a lot more in lower maintenance costs. 2. Recharge takes too long. Everyone needs to sleep, and all the electric cars on sale can charge in less than 8 hours. So the time to charge is kind of a red herring. Even if you’re like Elin musk and only sleep four hours a night (apparently), the… Read more »
Using a 25 MPG figure to compare an ICE vehicle to an EV is disingenuous. For ICE vehicles you should use the mileage figures for fuel efficient hybrids, currently 50 MPG combined for the Prius and 47 MPG for the 2014 Accord Hybrid. The next generation Prius coming out in one or two years is expected to have a combined 55 MPG to 60 MPG rating. The cost of electricity in the U.S. varies greatly. One issue that is mostly ignored by the EV community is the extremely high cost of electricity in the densely populated northeast. The cost of electricity in the New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut tri-state area is $.20/kWh or greater. In NYC, Con Edison currently charges $.22/kWh, and absolutely refuses to offer a plan with a time-of-day discount for night charging or any special plans for EV owners. Con Edison also recently requested a rate increase. In NYC the annual cost to drive an ICE 2014 Prius 12,000 miles (your figure) as calculated on fueleconomy.gov is $850 (12,000 miles @ 50 MPG combined using $3.56 per gallon for regular gasoline, the current average price of gasoline in NYC on GasBuddy.com). In NYC the annual cost… Read more »

This is the same challenge Ev sales in China will face with large apartment building dwellers and limited infrastructure for charging.


Sven, yes there will be some scenarios, like apartment dwellers without enlightened property managers, and who can’t charge at work, who EVs are not a good fit for.

But saying that BEVs should only be price-compared to hybrids is a pretty narrow construction. So much so that it seems… disingenuous.

Why is comparing a Ford Focus EV to a Ford Focus, or a Nissan Leaf to a Nissan Versa, or a Fiat 500e to a Fiat 500 or.. (I could go on).

Unless you are going to dismiss out of hand the fact that most people do in fact drive and buy ICE’s, the argument doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

An electric car isn’t limited to 80 miles per day. Just 80 miles per leg without recharging. A whole lot of people who want to go somewhere on the weekend could easily get to their destination (the famous “grandma’s house” example comes to mind), charge overnight (even at 120v) and then get home with little or no inconvenience and a significant fuel cost savings.

ECI.com, Quan Le clearly stated that he owns two hybrids and a plug-in. You countered Quan Le’s point that BEV’s are too expensive by stating that he can realize “economic gain” from the cost savings of operating a BEV over a 25 MPG EV. Your argument is invalid since Quan owns a high MPG hybrid such as a Prius or C-Max that gets 50 MPG, not the 25 MPG that you use in your calculations. You also missed the main point of my comment. In the densely populated Northeast, electricity is so expensive that the electricity costs of BEV’s are on par with the gasoline costs of hybrids!!! In other words, in NYC it is NOT cheaper to operate a BEV than a hybrid ICE. You used the gas costs of a 25 MPH ICE to “pump up” the claimed savings of driving an EV. That is what is disingenuous about you argument. Why not make the savings look ever greater by comparing an EV to a 10 MPG Hummer? You used an 80 mile EV in your comparison rather than a Plugin Prius and it’s paltry battery to put EV’s and their operating costs in the best light. In… Read more »

22¢ per kWh? Sven chose the most expensive electricity in the continental US against the most fuel-efficient car. Tell me that’s not spinning the truth a bit.

My next house will have a Solar City array on the roof. My fueling costs will be ZERO.

Your fueling cost is NOT free since your fueling equipment cost about $2/W up front…

You have to amortize your solar panel cost over the energy usage by your EV over the course of years….

Even excluding appartment dwellings, there is still a very large customer base with access to home charging. On the order of 1000x plug availability compared to gas stations. 119k gas stations in the US. 60% of housing units are detatched homes.

It saddens me that (1) we do not truly know the cost of the full life cycle of our fuels (e.g cleaning up the mess we’re making for future generations), and (2) most people think about the upfront cost of gas and electricity without any regard to any educated guesses of what the final cost will be. I have little doubt that the descendants of both a NYC Prius driver and a NYC Leaf driver will be paying more for the Prius’s fuel.

Sven, you are cherry-picking.

You looked at a Prius, but neglected to note its higher price compared to, say, a Versa or Cruze or other $15-18k car used as a reference when people say EVs are too expensive.

You chose NY for your electricity costs, which is well above the national average. You even mention NY drivers who fill up out of state, which is a tiny fraction.

You mention households without access to a plug where they park. Also less than half of households.

Range is indeed an issue, but not only is this article talking about fundamentals and the future when batteries go down in price, but we’ll have range extenders for those that occasionally need more range.

Mint, we were discussing operating costs of EV’s vs. Hybrid ICE vehicles and ICE vehicles. But if you want to discuss purchase price, the Prius is one of the leading cars in retaining it’s value after purchase. In contrast, the residual value of a Leaf falls off a cliff after it rolls off the dealer’s lot. The poor residual value of BEV’s is the reason why the vast majority of people choose to lease a BEV, rather than purchasing one. I’m not cherry picking. The purpose of this article by the eminent Mr. Loveday is to “explain the fundamental superiority of EVs to others” and to “provide a few pointers that can be used . . . to “make the case” for EVs.” My main point is that in the densely populated Northeast, electricity is so expensive that the electricity costs of driving a BEV are on par with the gasoline costs of driving a hybrid ICE!!! In other words, in the northeast (NYC in particular) it is NOT cheaper to operate a BEV than a hybrid ICE. You failed to address or refute my main point. Are you conceding that in the northeast BEV’s are not cheaper to operate… Read more »

I stated that the electricity rates in NY, NJ, & CT are $.20/ kWh or greater. Their populations are 19.57 million, 8.865 million, and 3.59 million, respectively, for a total population 32 million. These 32 million people pay $.20/kWh for electricity.

Easy there, Sven… more than half of the population of NYS does NOT live in NYC. Up here in Syracuse, electricity costs $0.12/kWh, and NJ is 300 miles away, not 500 feet. I still agree with your main point, but I always cringe when I see a New Yorker completely neglecting a significant portion of the state.

Fair point about about about the different electrical rates in upstate vs downstate NY. I can only speak of the cost of electric in NYC and the surrounding downstate counties. Average electric rates for different states can be found at this link.


It appears that the average electric rate in the northeast has gone down over the last couple of years due to lower natural gas prices.

In my original post I calculated what it would cost me as a NYC resident to fuel a Leaf vs. a Prius or Accord Hybrid. The cost was about the same, and I stand by that analysis. BTW, I own a Volt and an very happy with it, but the cost to fuel a Prius or Accord would be less for me.

Sven, I will concede your point that if a driver does not have access to a convenient plug and reasonable electricity rates, there are fewer advantages to driving electric. I’ve operated a BEV without home charging for a few months, and it was a lot less convenient to be sure. I would not recommend a BEV to someone who did not have easy access the their “fuel”. I’ll refer back to my original point about the advantages of BEVs being relative to the intended audience. And some people may find no advantage at all. I believe that is a small percentage of the US population. It will be interesting to take a closer look at the BEV vs hybrid TCO analysis, which I will do over the next month. But even at $0.20 per kWh, the operating cost of an EV is a lot lower than *the comparable* model, which is probably a more fair comparison than a random hybrid. Operating a hybrid which gets a claimed 50 mpg is still burning a fossil fuel. Burning half as much is better, to be sure, but no possibility of hydro, solar, wind geothermal, etc. The four families I know who operate… Read more »
I disagree with your assertion that when analyzing fueling costs EVs should be go up against “comparable” ICE models rather than “random hybrids.” If your considering purchasing an BEV, you’re most likely cross shopping it against an ICE hybrid, plugin hybrid, and EREV. The BEV shopper would not even consider buying an inefficient regular ICE vehicle that gets 25 MPG. In fact, many if not most BEV shoppers probably already own a hybrid, and they are looking to trade it in or to add another vehicle to the stable. These potential BEV buyers have no interest in buying a regular ICE vehicle, they only a BEV or a hybrid/plug-in. Thus, comparing a the fueling costs of a BEV and a 25 MPG ICE is useless to most BEV buyers. I agree that when operating a 50 MPG hybrid you are still burning fossil fuel, but operating any EV that’s connected to the grid is also still burning fossil fuels since a significant portion of electricity is generated by burning coal and natural gas. When you do your analysis, check mileage figures at fuelly.com. The Prius, Prius C, Prius V, and Civic Hybrid all meet of exceed their EPA estimates. There’s… Read more »

There are too may variables to generalize. Each driver should do his/her own calculation based on their own $/kwh, $/gal, mpg and maintenance costs of their alternate car. In my case, my ICE SUV gets only 10mpg on short trips around the city. My BEV goes 4.5 miles on a kwh which costs $0.038 on a special time of use rate for EV owners. By my calculation (at $4/gal of gas) I’ve saved $4,680 in fuel costs alone over the 12,000 miles I’ve driven electric.

NYC’s costs have nothing to do with fundamentals. It has to do with incentivizing lower electricity use by pricing it in way completely unrelated to wholesale price.

Fundamentally, BEVs will have better residuals than ICEs due to low cost of maintenance and fuel. The LEAF has awful residuals because buying new gives you a $7500 tax break and the 2013 model lopped off $6000 from the price. On top of that, there is a high uncertainty in battery life right now. That won’t be the case in the future.

Actually, NYC’s high electric cost are probably due to high union labor and pension costs, and the high cost of upgrading the buried infrastructure as electricity use increased due to population growth and the growing use of electronics, computers, etc.

My favorite feature of an EV is producing my own fuel. My second favorite is paying absolutely no attention to gas prices. I don’t know about everyone else, but those fluctuations in gas prices drove me crazy, made me do things like shop at grocery stores I hated, just so I could get cheaper gas. I heard a couple of guys at coffee talking about where to get the cheapest gas, and I laughed because I had absolutely no idea what a gallon costs these days.

My favorite thing about EV driving is the known monthly cost up front. There is no fluctuation in my fuel cost because I have a fixed contract!

Cash flow considerations are not discussed in retail situations. But should be.

In September of 1882 Edison started generating power from a central station in New York to local customers, starting the modern age of power with a DC generator. In 1895, Nikola Tesla, backed by Westinghouse performed the same feat using AC power transmission and AC generators at Niagara falls. Why the latter feat would be remembered as the birth of modern power, even though it was 13 years after Edison’s first power plant was the location of its clients: 25 miles away in Buffalo, New York. Like water and gas before it, electricity had leaped from being a power source usable only near its generator to being a network in its own right. Without that network, power would have been useful only with a generator driving each neighborhood, or perhaps each individual large building. It was the success of the power distribution network, mating different methods of power generation with every household and business in america, and made electricity the wonder of the new age. And eventually it changed everything, to the point that we consider it a major crisis to be forced to go without it. But that network stopped at the border formed by anything that moved. Vehicles,… Read more »

Should read “2 decades”, not 20. Oh for an edit function.

Documented battery tech is around 200 decades old. See Baghdad battery. Probably much older than that.

Also, Nicola Tesla wanted to broadcast (give away) power, Westinghouse was against this because there was no way to meter usage and charge for its consumption.

Wouldn’t that be something: If Nikola’s dream of worldwide wireless power came to be, we would be driving electric vehicles WITHOUT BATTERIES.

How do think we are going to handle 1,000,000,000,000 W of power radiating in the mid air?

Sitting still in a traffic jam, you use much less power than an ICE.

No exhaust fumes. (At the vehicle)

Vehicle inspection will be faster with no emissions to test, and may be cheaper as well.

Because of regen breaking, your front wheels will stay cleaner, longer.

You can’t commit suicide by leaving it turned on in your garage.

The only way that EVs would take over the market is to drop price and raise gasoline price.

Most people buy cars would care less if it is green unless it is the color of money. The “green” part is ONLY the bonus. Even Prius got popular b/c it saves people gas money. Tesla has one of the lowest MPGe among all plugin cars, but it sells just fine b/c it got great performance. I know plenty of Tesla buyers were former Porsche, BMW or Audi owners. They bought Tesla b/c it is cool, powerful and “rare”, NOT b/c it is green.

Yeah, your right. Some people just haven’t got the memo on the relationship of air quality and athsma and COPD. Not to mention climate change.

I predict electric cars will get a good boost right after the first big crop failure.