A lot of people are surprised to learn just how heavy electric cars are. Despite them being so fast and monsters on the track, they are significantly heavier than traditional cars with internal combustion engines.
Electric cars are heavier because of the added batteries, reinforced framework and suspension, and the metal armor around the battery to protect it. This added weight slows down the vehicle and limits the total range you can achieve.
Believe it or not, there are only 7 major reasons why electric cars are so heavy. In this piece, I’ll tell you about all of them and describe what this means for your car. Let’s get started.
What Determines a Car’s Weight?
Every part of your car will decide how heavy the final product is. It might not seem meaningful, but even the rims on your car can make a big impact.
The Importance of a Car’s Weight
Sure, the car is riding on tires that spin so you might not think the overall weight really matters. Truthfully, the weight of your car is one of the few factors that determine how fast your car can go.
Even though you’re riding on tires, the motor still needs to move all the weight under the hood.
Looking at the physics of motion, the big variable is mass. Another way to say mass (when you factor in Earth’s gravity) is weight.
When something is heavier, it takes more force to move it. Compare moving a couch to move a sock. The heavier thing takes a lot more to move.
In terms of cars, heavier things take more power from an engine. The catch-22 is that this often means dropping in a more powerful, heavier, engine to compensate. When things get heavy, they get even heavier.
If you put a Smart Car engine into a big Ford F150, I doubt you’d go anywhere. An engine that can comfortably drive a 1,500-pound Smart Car won’t do squat in a 5,000 pound F150.
There are 7 big things that change when you change a car’s weight:
- Top speed
- Ride height
- Distance to a complete stop from motion
- Total range (for EVs)
How Horsepower Factors In
This is also a good time to talk about horsepower. I did an in-depth guide about horsepower earlier on my blog, but I’ll keep it simple for this article.
1,700 horsepower means something completely different depending on the vehicle’s weight. For a freight train, it might not be enough to start moving. For a little Koenigsegg Gemera, it means a 1.9 second 0-60 time.
When you compare cars, horsepower should always be considered alongside total weight. It’s the reason why it’s currently a little tricky to compare equivalent horsepower of ICE cars and EVs right now.
Average Weight ICE vs EV
How far off is the average weight between an EV and an ICE car?
EV: Currently, half of the EVs on the road is between 3,300 and 4,400 pounds. Almost every option on the market is over the 3,300-pound mark, up to the Mercedes EQV which weighs 5,800 pounds.
Gas-powered cars: A typical compact car weighs 2,900 to 3,200 pounds.
That means that EVs are an average of 750 pounds heavier. Sure, that isn’t a huge deal, but it’s still pretty considerable. This extra weight can completely change a lap time, even with the most skilled driver behind the wheel.
Things That Change in EVs
At this point, it’s pretty clear that EVs weigh more. This change in weight is due to the change under the hood between an ICE and EV.
A lot of things change when you compare an ICE to an EV. In my guide to converting your gas-powered car to an EV, I detailed all of the big changes.
The simple fact is that these two types of cars are hardly comparable when you strip them down and look at the components.
Things That Don’t Change an EV’s Weight (Or Even Lessen it)
There is also a shortlist of items whose weights don’t change or get lighter if you look at an EV and compare it to a gas-powered car.
Most of the parts of the interior will stay unchanged. Seats, steering wheels, and paneling can be copied and pasted.
In addition, the HVAC system and any infotainment can be basically unchanged.
An EV will strip weight when it comes to the transmission, emissions equipment, and fuel tank. Yes, Tesla’s still have transmissions, but they’re a lot lighter.
For reference, the gas alone in your Honda Civic weighs about 75 pounds, plus another 20 pounds for the metal tank itself.
Even the motor is a lighter alternative to an internal combustion engine. A Civic’s engine weighs around 405 pounds while a Chevy Bolt’s motor only weighs 168 pounds.
7 Reasons Why Electric Cars Are So Heavy
As I hinted earlier, the differences between ICE cars and EVs are the main reason why there’s a big weight difference between the two. Let me explore this topic and show you 7 reasons why electric cars are so much heavier.
1. The Battery Pack
Battery packs can get really heavy. These packs provide the electricity that your car needs to function. Specifically, they’ll drive the motor and any electrical components inside of your car.
For a Tesla Model 3 Long Range car, the battery pack alone weighs just over 1,000 pounds. This makes up roughly a quarter of its 4,250-pound total weight.
With new battery technology, the hope is to dramatically reduce this weight. A big reason why they’re so heavy is due to how many Lithium-ion battery cells are needed. Since this technology isn’t super efficient, Tesla winds up throwing a ton of battery cells in their cars to improve the total range.
2. Extra Comfort
For a brand like Tesla, comfort and luxury are two big focuses of their vehicles. The added comfort can also add pounds to the scale.
Things like plush seats, heating elements, and enhanced creature comforts are adding weight to your ride. In my opinion, it’s definitely worth the added weight, it’s just something worth noting.
3. Added Electronics
While electronics aren’t especially heavy, their weight tends to add up. An EV has to have some extra onboard computers, sensors, and cameras. These might work out a few dozen pounds.
4. Body and Framework
When the overall weight of the vehicle increases, the bodywork has to get stronger. For an EV, this means thicker metal and a more robust crumple structure to accommodate the added weight.
5. Beefier Suspension
In addition to a stronger frame, your EV also needs a beefier suspension to deal with the extra weight. With an upgraded suspension, your car will be able to manage bumps in the road and give you a smoother-feeling ride.
If you put the same suspension on an EV that you have on a typical compact ICE car, then you’ll feel every pothole go through your spine.
6. Added Charging Hardware
Although you’re ditching the fuel tank, you still need a way to get juice into your car. An EV has an external charger that plugs into the vehicle overnight, replenishing the battery just like your phone does.
It also has internal components that convert the incoming stream of electricity to a charge that your car can use. This adds extra weight to your vehicle.
7. Metal Armor Around the Battery
If a battery gets punctured or severely damaged, it can wind up exploding. To avoid this disaster, there has to be a strong shell around the battery that protects it.
This shell is made of heavy-duty metal that acts like armor. When you say “heavy-duty” and “metal” in the same sentence, you already know that there’s extra weight added.
Interesting Fact About Heavier EVs
There’s an interesting phenomenon in the world of EVs, and it might be why manufacturers are reluctant to make skinnier cars.
A heavier car will regenerate more electricity going downhill or while braking.
Regenerative brakes add mileage to your car without the need to charge it. When you’re coasting down a hill, your car uses the extra kinetic energy and transforms it into usable power for your battery.
Conceptually, you can just roll your car down a long enough hill and generate a full charge for your battery without having to physically charge your car.
Why Don’t EV Manufacturers Lighten Their Cars?
It’s interesting to learn that EVs are so much heavier, and manufacturers aren’t doing anything to lighten them. These cars are supposed to be the cutting-edge technology, but they can’t even shed weight in comparison to a traditional ICE car?
Well, it’s not at the top of their list currently. They’re fighting bigger battles like extending range, speeding up charging, and maximizing the performance of their motors.
I predict that weight-saving efforts will be made once we find a new battery technology that checks all the boxes on a consumer’s list.
In the meantime, they can use the idea I just talked about (regenerative braking) as a way to explain why they haven’t made their cars lighter yet.
The extra weight in an EV is largely due to the battery pack and required shielding for the batteries. For more car knowledge, explore my website. Be sure to check out my list of car products that every car owner needs.