The Top Ten Myths about Electric Vehicles


III. The Top Ten Myths about Electric Vehicles

Myth 10: EVs will have limited driving range per charge.

Mostly Wrong. EVs will have a range that exceeds two to eight times both the average daily miles driven and the length of the average trip in the U.S. Depending on the desired driving range, models will have options to acquire larger battery packs for extended ranges. Other models will include a small gas engine that kicks in to recharge the battery if the range is exceeded. Also, the battery chemistries and packaging, with the aid of active research and development funding, will continue to show marked improvements. If you are a single car owner and you regularly need a long driving range capacity, you should you should not be an early EV adopter.  However, if you are a two-car owner, it may make sense to transition to one of cars early. By the time the older second car (still gasoline powered) needs to be traded in, the technology will likely have improved to provide even longer driving ranges. (See Primer—How does the EV battery technology work? What is the driving range of an EV?)

Myth 9: EVs failed the consumer adoption hurdle twice before, they won’t make it this time either.

Wrong. In 1922 the electric streetcar was a popular mode of city transportation. But its demise may have resulted from collusion among those commercially interested. In the 1990s, GM’s fully electric EV1 did not fail for lack of consumer acceptance. Rather, GM chose to lease and not sell the 800 EV1s it put into the U.S. market.  At the termination of each lease, GM declined to renew and reclaimed the cars, ultimately to scrap them. (See Prospects—The History before the Future.) 

Today, many, many factors are different. EVs, which have superior driving performance, no pollution for the driver, occupants or the environment and which produce nearly no engine noise, may be one of the most important solutions we can bring to bear on our growing global greenhouse gas emissions. (See Prospects—The Current Outlook.)

Myth 8: Electric Vehicles will crash the electric grid.

Wrong. Studies indicate that if every household had an electric vehicle, total power usage would only increase 10% if power companies employ load distribution technologies. Wind holds particular promise for charging EVs since wind generation principally occurs in the afternoon and at night, when the vast majority of EV recharging is expected to occur. Moreover, since generated electricity cannot easily be stored, and since peak usage occurs during the day, in theory, power can be stored in an EV’s batteries, but this technology has not been incorporated into current EV design.

Myth 7: Electric vehicles are not cost effective to drive.

Wrong. Assuming gas at $2.8/gallon, the Chevy Volt in full electric mode will cost 2 or 3 cents per mile, versus 12-15 cents for a gas-driven car. Annually, this can save over $500. Moreover, repair and maintenance for EVs has been estimated to be only 65-70% of conventional gas cars. (See Primer—What will it cost per mile to drive an EV?)

Myth 6: Electric vehicles will cost too much to buy and own.

Wrong. Much of the early press surrounding EVs has focused on Tesla’s Roadster, which is designed to compete with Ferraris. Behind the flashy headlines, most manufacturers have announced EVs or PHEVs for the U.S. market. Models will be available in all price ranges. Sticker prices of EVs will be likely be higher than their gasoline engine counterparts until economies of scale are achieved. Federal tax rebates of $7,500 will help lower the purchase price and state incentives, if any, will help further. In addition we need to add back he cost to install a 220V charging line estimated at of $625. (See Primer—What will EVs cost to purchase?)

Total ownership cost for an EV will need to factor in the lower cost to drive and the lower cost of repairs and maintenance.  Hypothetically, if a Nissan Leaf were owned for five years, at $3.80/gallon of gasoline and $.11/kWh, an owner of the Leaf would save $6,942 (5 x $1388).  In addition, the repairs for the EV would cost approximately $378 ($540 x .35 x 2) for two years of out of warranty service in a five year period.  While the relative sticker prices of an EV and a comparable ICV are not known presently, in its favor the EV can be credited with a hypothetical $14,195 ($7,500 federal incentive + $6,942 operating savings + $378 repair savings – 625 charging line installation).  (See Primer—What is the total cost of ownership?)

Myth 5: Battery packs, once past their useful life will be as bad for the environment as the averted CO2.

Wrong. After ten years in use, EV battery packs are expected to carry 75% of their original charge. Upon replacement, this still permits EV battery packs to find an aftermarket for use by utilities or others for warehousing renewable energy or providing residential power back-up systems. In addition, commercial interests are now developing plans for lithium ion recycling. “The vast majority of material in lithium ion batteries is recyclable.1 (See Primer—How does the EV Battery Technology work?)

Myth 4: EVs use batteries that are know to spontaneously combust.

Way wrong. EVs use Lithium ion batteries. The safety concerns are related primarily to the older cobalt-based lithium ion cells used for portable electronics, which have since been improved upon. 

Myth 3: EVs will be too complicated compared to ICVs.

Way Wrong. Electric motors are far simpler in design and construction than a conventional internal combustion engine. Besides the far fewer moving parts and much quieter operation of an EV motor, owners of EVs will not have to stop at the (sometimes untidy) gas station for a fill-up nor have to take their car in for the scheduled oil changes. We are certainly not saying that EVs will be flawless. Doubtlessly, given new elements in the technology there may be problems and even recalls. However, the starting point for operating an EV is probably far more advantageous to the owner than is generally perceived. (See Primer—What is an EV and how does it work?)

Myth 2: Electric Vehicles will not help limit greenhouse gas emissions.

Way Wrong. Electric vehicles provide an improvement that ranges from an estimated 29% less emissions on today’s HEVs to 49% less for a 40-mile electric range PHEV, to 55% or more for a full EV. When the EV is charged with power from a renewable resource during off-peak hours (e.g. charges during night time from wind) the emission relief approaches 100%. (See Primer—Why is the U.S. pursuing the adoption of EVs?)

Myth 1:  Electric vehicles will perform like oversized golf carts.

Way wrong. We have driven Priuses for nearly five years and we have test driven the available Tesla. We agree with the testimonials given about the performance of the EV1 in the documentary Who Killed the Electric Car? We expect that driving enthusiasts, who can do without the reinforcing loud sounds of an internal combustion engine, will find the acceleration and handling of many of the pending models of EVs either equal to or superior to their internal combustion relatives.

1 “Electrification Roadmap” Nov 2009, p 13, Sponsored by The Electrification Coalition, Washington, DC,