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Mythbusters: EV Edition

Few things generate more myths and uninformed hot takes than a new technology, and in the age of fake news, electric vehicles (EV’s) are subject to many false reports.  Let’s bust the five most prominent EV myths.

 

Myth: There won’t be enough power for all the EV’s we will supposedly drive in the near future.

Reality: The power demand from EV’s is not as drastic as portrayed, and the grid is growing to meet it.

Critics who assume EV owners will collapse the grid are assuming the vast majority of EV’s will be charged during peak demand and charged each day. However, most Americans commute about 40 miles per day, and would need to charge once or twice per week. Charging later in the evening instead of during peak demand would make this even less of a problem.

As for grid capacity, it’s growing daily, and has met challenges like this before. In the first two decades after World War II, Americans put unprecedented new demands on utilities with air conditioning, power-guzzling CRT TV sets, and washers and dryers. The grid was strengthened as a result.

For full details on grid support for EV’s, see our recent article on the subject.

 

Myth: EV’s are as bad for the environment as gas cars (or worse) because of their manufacture.

Reality: The carbon and pollution an EV saves far outweighs the impact of making it.

The idea seems logical: Automobile manufacturing is a resource-intensive process, and making an EV battery requires the mining and transport of rare earth metals, new factory processes, etc. So, all that must outweigh any CO2 and pollution the car will save, right?

Not so. It is true that manufacturing the battery of an EV creates a significant carbon debt. As a result, the total carbon footprint of making an EV is 150% of the footprint to make a gas car. But over the course of its life, the gas car will emit 267% as much carbon as the EV!

 

Myth: EV’s are as bad for the environment as gas cars (or worse) because of where they draw power from.

Reality: More renewables are coming online, and high carbon sources are disappearing fast

A political cartoon aptly captured this idea when it showed a clean EV powered by a cord plugged into a filthy coal-burning power plant. But coal and other high emission sources are being decommissioned rapidly, replaced by an exploding inventory of renewables (wind, solar, and biogas) and by cleaner natural gas generators. In fact, natural gas is serving as “bridging fuel,” ensuring the grid has reliable power until wind and solar are common.

 

Myth: EV’s can’t be useful for the average user because they are too expensive/don’t go far enough/there aren’t enough chargers

Reality: Improvements in the vehicles and charging networks make EV ownership easy.

Once, EV ranges were short and you could have any kind of car you wanted, as long as it was an expensive generic sedan. Finding a charger could be an adventure. And road trips? Fuhgeddaboudit.

Today’s EV fleet ranges from a Maserati supercar to work trucks like the F-150 Lightning. It also features family cars of every type, including crossovers and SUV’s, and prices are comparable to the same types of gas cars.

Charging networks are also growing. The infrastructure bill even included funding for a national network of 500,000 chargers that will make highway travel a breeze.

 

Myth: EV’s catch on fire easily and/or explode

Reality: EV’s are actually safer than gas cars in this regard.

Though it’s true misused or improperly stored lithium-ion batteries or improperly installed charges can catch fire, this myth is the result of irresponsible news coverage. Media outlets have portrayed fires as common when they are rare, and even blamed fires aboard cargo ships on the EV’s in their holds.

Let’s dispel the cargo ship myth first: The International Union of Marine Insurers has said “[N]o fire onboard a ‘roro’ or pure car and truck carrier (PCTC) has been proven to have been caused by a factory-new EV.”

What about cars on the road? EV’s make up 20% of the cars in Norway, and an analysis of data from first responders found that gas cars were burning at a rate (30 fires per 100,000 cars) that is six times higher than that of EV’s (5 fires per 100,000 cars).

 

Conclusion

Many technologies are misunderstood and even feared until they become so common people wonder what the fuss was about. EV’s are coming out of the fog of misinformation and beginning to take their rightful place in American life.