Petrol and diesel cars vs electric – no contest


Electric car expert Dr Euan McTurk reveals yet more winning advantages of electric cars.

Simple and silent

From the minute anyone gets into an electric car, the benefits start to become clear. It’s all a lot simpler. There’s no gearbox to worry about, so there’s no need for a clutch. There will simply be some buttons, or possibly something like an indicator stalk, that just say Backwards, Forwards and Park. 

When you switch it on, you’ll realise that the engine is wonderfully silent – although it will generate some artificial noise at low speeds to warn pedestrians that you’re nearby.

Easy, instant power

The power delivery is immediate and smooth, from the very first press of the accelerator. It won’t rush away with you – it’s easy to drive – but you’ll find a lot more power available as soon as you want it. There’s no lag, no waiting to get up to speed, like you’d have with a petrol or diesel car.

Smart braking that also recharges your battery 

With a petrol or diesel car, even if it’s an automatic, when you take your foot off the accelerator the car will keep coasting along for some time as it uses up its energy. But with an electric car, you get regenerative braking, which transforms the act of slowing down into something much more positive.

Regenerative braking captures the kinetic energy of the vehicle moving forward. This slows the engine and, at the same time, that captured energy is stored as electricity in the battery. So, put simply, you’re recharging your car’s battery by slowing down. 

This also means that if you’re smart about your driving, you can more or less drive with just the accelerator. You hardly need to use the brake pedal at all. Oh – which means yet more benefits…

Dr Euan McTurk

Image of Dr Euan McTurk

Longer-lasting components 

This is confirmed not only by many happy electric car drivers, but also by mechanics who work on these things all the time. 

The greatly increased brake-pad life is because you’re slowing the car with regenerative braking rather than using the brakes. And, while petrol and diesel cars have hundreds of moving parts, electric cars have very few. So there’s much less to go wrong, and fewer parts to wear out. You’ll enjoy much better reliability and there’s not nearly as much to service.

Even with older electric cars, unlike older petrol and diesel cars, you can continue to have confidence that they’ll start first time and get you where you want to go.

If you can charge from home, you can also wake up to a full tank. There’s no more driving to a petrol station and hanging round the pumps – your whole refuelling routine effectively takes a few seconds. Plug it in at night, then go off and enjoy your evening. The car does all the work for you, which is a nice productive use of its time as well as yours.

Better range awareness 

People who haven’t owned an electric car worry about their range, but actually you get a lot less information about your range with petrol and diesel cars – just a simple dial that’s not hugely accurate. With electric cars, you get really accurate information about your battery percentage, range, fuel efficiency and so on. Once you’ve charged in public once or twice and found out you can trust your car, you’ll quickly feel confident.

Thumbs ups, not death glares 

This is a bit of a fun one. If you’re parked in your electric car with everything running – engine, air conditioning, radio, the works – you won’t get glared at by passing pedestrians. Because, unlike petrol and diesel cars, your idling electric car won’t be sending out clouds of polluting fumes. 

Talking about air conditioning, there’s even an app you can get on your phone that lets you pre-condition the air in your car before you get in – whether you want it warm or cool. As if that wasn’t convenient enough, if you’re plugged in and charging, the power to do all of that will come from the grid, not your battery.

I think, in fact, it’s a thumbs-up all round for electric cars.

Dr Euan McTurk is a consultant battery electrochemist who runs Plug Life Consulting. He spends most of his time helping industry, academia, government, business and media with everything to do with electric cars. What Euan doesn’t know about electric cars simply isn’t worth knowing.