Ah, the holiday season! Sleigh bells are ringing, carolers are singing, and road trips to family gatherings abound. Like many, you might be looking at your driveway thinking, “It’s time for a new car.” This time of year is certainly a great one to consider biting the bullet. As new models come to market, the previous year’s models go on sale. There are great deals to be had! But which car to choose? It might not surprise you to hear that we are bullish on electric vehicles (EVs). With an EV, you can reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions—thus helping the planet—and save money at the same time!
A 2019 survey from Consumer Reports and the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) found that 63 percent of prospective car buyers in the U.S. are interested in EVs. However, even with interest levels rising, another recent study by AAA finds that most Americans still aren’t ready to buy. Not yet.
Why is this? EVs present several new, sometimes intimidating, considerations for drivers. Along these lines, there are a number of EV myths that cause people to hesitate. These concerns may have been true at one point but no longer need to be.
We want to help you sort through the facts. So in this post, we present and de-bunk the five most common EV myths.
Myth #1: EVs Are Low-Performance Vehicles
One of the most common EV myths is that they are as slow as golf carts. In fact, they are generally quicker than their gasoline-powered counterparts.
Electric motors generate 100 percent of their available torque instantly. This means that when an EV presses the accelerator pedal, the transition from stationary to speed is almost instantaneous. The top version of the Tesla Model S is one of the quickest cars in the world, with a 0-60 mph time of only 2.1 seconds. Of those who have test-driven the Tesla and decided to buy, many note that they made their purchase because “it was fast, and it was fun to drive.”
The Leaf SL Plus is a bit slower to accelerate, at 0-60 mph in 6.5 seconds. However that is still extremely competitive as compared to conventional internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles.
EV technology has advanced to the point where it can compete with that of comparable ICE models. You can absolutely save money and reduce environmental impact while maintaining all of your performance expectations for your ride.
Myth #2: EVs are more expensive than conventional vehicles
Also among the most common EV myths is the concern that EVs are more expensive than their conventional counterparts.
It is true that the upfront price of an EV is still higher on average than that of a comparable conventional vehicle. However, the upfront costs of EVs are continuing to decrease over time.
And on top of that, the true price of a vehicle includes the lifetime costs of owning and operating it. EVs become very competitive when you incorporate subsidies and the ongoing savings that drivers enjoy over the life of their EVs. A study by the Electric Power Research Institute, which examined lifetime costs of the electric Nissan LEAF and Chevy Volt, showed that EVs consistently performed better than conventional vehicles due to lower fueling and maintenance costs.
On top of that, many EVs qualify for the U.S. Federal government tax credit of up to $7,500. We should note that the exceptions here are Tesla models. Credits phase out during the calendar year after an automaker sells 200,000 full electric and/or plug-in hybrid models. Tesla hit this milestone in 2018. Credits on Tesla vehicles are now $1,875. They will likely be eliminated on December 31, 2019 (so act fast if you’ve been eying one!). General Motors is likewise hitting the 200,000-unit mark and will see its subsidies shrink moving forward.
Several states offer their own subsidies to EV buyers in addition to the Federal tax credit. In Colorado, EV purchases are eligible for a $5,000 state income tax credit. And California residents can receive a cash rebate of $2,500-$4,500 from the state, depending on their income. You can find a full list of Federal, state, and private EV incentives that apply to you on the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Alternative Fuels Data Center (AFDC) EV Laws and Incentives website.
This is one of the EV myths that is partially true. However, though most EVs are currently priced at a premium compared to similar conventional vehicles, their upfront price tags continue to drop. EVs become even more competitive when you incorporate fuel and maintenance cost savings over the lifetime of the vehicle as compared to conventional models. To calculate your specific savings, use the U.S. DOE AFDC Vehicle Cost Calculator.
If you want to drive an EV but are currently on a tight budget, consider a used model. You can acquire a pre-owned EV quite cheaply. This is because the federal tax credit applies to a used EV’s resale value. Also, pre-owned EVs have fewer miles on them than conventional vehicles. This means they’ve typically endured less wear and tear than that of a used ICE vehicle.
Myth #3: There Are Not Enough Public Charging Stations
The third in our list of the most common EV myths is a lack of public charging station accessibility. In the aforementioned AAA survey, 63 percent of respondents cited “not enough places to charge” as a reason they were unsure or unwilling to choose an EV as their next car.
As you can see from the U.S. DOE AFDC Charging Station Locator, there are a growing number of public charging stations available throughout the US. But in cities where EV penetration is increasing quickly, there is still a relative shortage of public chargers. State governments and private charging station manufacturers alike are working to address this issue. In fact, California, New Jersey, and New York have announced combined investments of $1.3 billion to build even more public charging infrastructure.
The private sector is also making it easier for EV drivers to access existing charging stations. For example, EVmatch is leveraging the sharing economy to increase access to reliable EV charging options in a similar way to Airbnb. Using the EVmatch app, EV drivers can find and reserve charging stations rented out by homeowners and businesses. This increases publicly available charging options by taking advantage of existing resources versus requiring new designated “public” charging stations.
On top of this, public charging is typically less of an important factor for EV owners than they expect. For people who live in apartment complexes and don’t have access to home charging, public stations are important. However, for the most part, EV owners tend to cover most of their charging needs with at-home and at-work charging.
There is still a shortage of public EV charging stations as compared to the gas stations based on the ratios of pumps/plugs to vehicles. So this is one of the EV myths that is also partially true. However, the number of public charging stations of all levels is increasing. And so are resources that empower EV owners to access existing (previously private) charging infrastructure at homes and offices.
EV owners may have to do initial research to understand public charging options for longer trips. But the infrastructure is robust enough that access is no longer a significant barrier.
Myth #4: EVs Will Run Out Of Charge While I’m Driving
According to the same AAA survey, 58 percent of consumers said they wouldn’t commit to EVs because of “range anxiety,” the fear that they will run out of charge while driving.
EVs have an average range of 194 miles for every charge, which is just under half the range of traditional vehicles (418 miles). They require 8-12 hours to recharge completely, compared to the few minutes it takes to refuel with gas. However, with increasing investments into and improvements to technologies, the driving range of EVs is continuing to increase. And as the range increases, the likelihood of running out of charge is diminishing. On top of that, more DC fast charging stations are becoming available for quick charging stops along major highways and in shopping centers around the U.S.
On top of this, EV proponents counter that people drive less than 40 miles a day, on average. While this statistic is true, it can be a somewhat misleading statistic. People don’t necessarily drive a consistent, predictable number of miles each day. In fact, most people drive relatively few miles on a typical day. But they also take trips over that are more than 40 (or even 100) miles of driving. For these trips, EV drivers will still need to plan ahead. They can’t yet assume that they’ll have access to public charging access over their route, as they can with gas stations.
EV battery capacity has advanced enough that “range anxiety” is not longer a day-to-day concern for EV drivers, as it used to be. EV range can more than cover people’s typical daily driving needs and even the mileage of regional road trips. However, EV owners still have to conduct initial research to map out public charging options for longer trips.
Myth #5: They Aren’t Actually Greener
As with the first of our EV myths, the argument that EVs don’t offer environmental benefits couldn’t be further from the truth. Electric motors convert 75 percent of the chemical energy from their batteries to power the vehicle. By comparison, ICE vehicles convert only 20 percent of the energy stored in gasoline. What’s more, EVs emit no direct tailpipe pollutants. However, some argue that EVs aren’t actually greener than ICE vehicles because of the emissions associated with battery production and the indirect tailpipe pollutants that power plants produce when generating the electricity that fuels EVs.
EVs tend to fare best in emission comparisons when charged in parts of California, New York, and the Pacific Northwest. This is because renewable energy resources are more prevalent in these regions. Their impact is less in central U.S. states like Colorado, Kansas and Missouri. This is because the areas have greater dependence on fossil fuels to produce electricity. However, the UCS has found that EVs are still responsible for less pollution than conventional vehicles, regardless of region of the U.S. To understand the emissions related to your electricity source, see the U.S. DOE AFDC Emissions from Hybrid and Plug-In Electric Vehicles website.
Some also worry about the environmental impact of battery materials. But according to a report by the California Air Resources Board, technology improvements have led to an EV development process that results in less than 25 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions than traditional ICE vehicles. On top of that, EV batteries have many reuse and recycling options. EV batteries can have second and third lives beyond their automotive use. For example, some new businesses apply used EV batteries as backup power in buildings. Some carmakers are even going into that business themselves to integrate reuse and recycle options.
The incremental environmental benefits of EVs vary as compared to ICE vehicles. This difference is predominantly driven by the fuel mix for electricity production in the region where an EV is charged. Regardless, the direct and well-to-wheel emissions of EVs are still less than those of ICE vehicles.
There are important concerns regarding the labor that is used to extract lithium. But fortunately, many automakers are committing to ethical lithium sourcing.
Time To Hit The Road In An EV
There’s no question that EVs are gaining momentum. For the past several years, sales have consistently climbed year over year. And most recently, the first half of 2019 saw U.S. EV sales increase by 22% as compared to sales over the same period in 2018.
Many still hesitate to purchase an EV because of a few pervasive EV myths. As we have shown, while these myths have been true at one point, they are no longer the concerns they’ve been made out to be. Equipped with this piece’s information, give EVs a more serious look for your next vehicle! Whether you’re looking at new or used options, we’re pretty sure that an EV won’t disappoint.