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5 common EV misconceptions, half truths


With the growing number of EVs hitting the market, there is more attention than ever on this vehicle type. There are also a lot of EV misconceptions fueling social media comments.

Looking at our YouTube channel and website, I see misconceptions and half truths posted daily. While EVs and their adoption are a very debatable topic, facts should play a key role in these discussions. Sadly, they aren’t, and this is causing misinformation and frustration to spread like wildfire. So, let’s take a stab at addressing some of the more common EV misconceptions.

EVs = 100% environmentally friendly

One of the biggest EV misconceptions is whether or not they are environmentally friendly. The fact is, coming off the line they aren’t better for the environment than gasoline vehicles. Yet that’s not the whole truth, just part of it.

Digging into the issue, you can see EVs will eventually be more environmentally friendly when looking long-term and holistically as part of a new global energy effort. This is because, over the course of ownership, the net savings from the reduction of CO2 emissions will make it the more green option.

However, when you drive an EV off the lot today, it causes more damage to the environment because of how the batteries are mined and the vehicle is manufactured.

TheDrive.com recently reported on emissions for the Polestar 2, a niche EV maker acquired by Volvo in 2015. They are the only EV automaker to disclose a complete life-cycle carbon assessment.

The report states its long-range battery from the Polestar 2 creates “17 metric tons of CO2 from refining raw materials, seven from the batteries, 2.1 from the chassis’ manufacture, and half a ton for disposal, totaling 26.6 metric tons.” This number is 10 tons more than the 16.7 tons released by producing a similarly sized hybrid Volvo XC40.

According to the International Energy Agency, the Volvo XC40 emits 475 grams of CO2 per kWh based on global energy mix. This means, when compared to the Volvo XC40, you would have to drive the Polestar 2 68,000 miles to break even on the emissions generated when it was built.

Another consideration is where the grid gets its electricity. While the emissions of an EV are environmentally friendly, where the electricity comes from may not be. Areas in the Midwest, for example, use coal. And while the West Coast may use a lot of wind and solar power, they still rely on fossil fuels to some extent. However, nuclear power has actually seen a resurgence as of late with a new plant announced for Wyoming and $1.1 billion investment to keep a California nuclear plant online for years to come.

The point: Change is going to time. This means, yes, the EV you drive off the lot today is not entirely environmentally friendly. But it will be — either at some point in your ownership of the vehicle or in the years to come.

13 hours to charge for 260 miles!

A few weeks ago, I had a Ford F-150 Lightning, and I spent a considerable amount of time and energy covering all the different aspects of this fully electric truck.

One of the videos was on the charging times and cost when using an at-home 220-volt charger. While the video’s success showed me people are really interested in this technology, it also showed how much confusion there is about charging times and distance.

For instance, one well-intentioned individual surmised since it took me 13 hours to charge for 260 miles of range, then this means a road trip would result in spending days trying to get to your destination because you’d have to spend all day charging instead of driving.

While some readers might be shaking their heads at this comment, I hear it all the time from people I speak with. The length of charging times really has people confused.

Let’s simplify: There are three different ways to charge, and those charging times vary greatly.

  • Level 1: Equivalent to using a 110-volt jack in your garage. This will take days to charge your EV battery. Days.
  • Level 2: What I installed in my home. This allows you to charge your EV overnight (or in my case 13 hours).
  • Level 3: This is the fastest charging available, and typically what you see at public chargers. It adds anywhere from 3 to 20 miles of range per minute.

So, when I took the Lightning on a road trip. I made sure to have it fully charged at home (13 hours), then we made our normal stops along the way, charging for 30 mins here and there. Basically, when we would stop to eat or use the restroom, I charged the truck. Did I need to? Nope. But since it was new technology for me and I was curious about fast chargers, I wanted to charge it.

This 200-mile-plus road trip had us charge once for 30 minutes even when I didn’t need to charge. On the way home, I charged twice for a total of an hour. Therefore, it was only one 13-hour charge at the beginning, and a few 30-minute charges along the way because Level 3 fast chargers are, well, fast.

Unless you are going on a road trip or towing, you will typically charge at home, not at a fast charger. And, frankly, depending on how far you drive in a day, you probably won’t even need to charge every night — I mean, it’s not like you top off your gasoline at the end of every day.

Batteries cost too much to replace

Another of the frequent EV misconceptions is about the absurdly high price of replacement batteries for EVs. Many people seem to add the price of the battery to the vehicle to calculate their total investment. But let me start by asking you this question: Would you factor the price of a new engine into your gas truck purchase? Probably not. So why are people so focused on the battery and its cost? Because it’s new, and new technology is both scary and expensive.

Yes, battery replacement battery prices are really high, but as most batteries will last between 10 and 20 years, the likelihood of you needing to replace the battery in the vehicle’s lifetime is really slim. Additionally, federal law requires EV makers to cover batteries in an 8-year, 100,000-mile warranty. So if something weird does happen, and the battery needs to be replaced, it will probably be covered by warranty.

In the off chance you do need to replace the battery after 8 years or 100,000 miles, keep in mind the technology won’t be new at that point, and prices will likely be lower.

In April, Reuters reported that price had fallen to $105/kWh in the first quarter of 2021 before soaring to $160/kWh at the same time in 2022. This is due to increased demand and lack of supply. However, with more mining, advancements in other materials to produce batteries and the economics of scale, the kWh battery price should return to the $100kWh number and could go even lower.

Old batteries sit in landfills

Another hot topic revolves around what happens to an EV battery after it is no longer powering a car. The thought here is they just sit around, leaking toxic materials back into the environment and end up stacking up in a landfill like the often shared, non-recyclable wind turbine blades photo.

But the important thing to know here, is even after a battery no longer works for a car, it still has life left. In fact, it’s still capable of energy storage. And so you’ll see companies like Nissan that use old batteries to power mobile machines or store energy on solar grids.

Toyota also announced a partnership with Redwood to create an end-of-life solution for batteries for recycling, remanufacturing or repurposing them from hybrid vehicles. They want to create a closed-loop system where they collect the batteries and reuse them in various ways.

A complete recycle of the battery, is not there today yet. However, as the economics of scale emerge where recycling the batteries is cheaper than manufacturing, battery recycling will become more prominent.

EVs are costing taxpayers annually

This EV misconception is a doozy, especially since taxes are everyone’s favorite subject.

The question here revolves around the gas tax and how EVs don’t pay it.

Every time you put fuel in your gasoline-powered vehicle you pay taxes on this fuel. This tax money goes to pay for the roads you drive on. A pretty fair tradeoff for taxpayers who want smooth roads. Since EVs don’t use fuel, they don’t pay the gas tax.

This seems unfair. Except it isn’t. EVs get hit with other fees to balance the scales.

Currently, 31 states have laws requiring a special registration fee for plug-in electric vehicles, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. There is also a fee for plug-in hybrid vehicles in 18 of those 31 states. All of those fees are in addition to the traditional motor vehicle registration fees.

The fees range from $50 to $200 annually with some states looking to tie these fees to consumer price index or another inflation-related metric.

State governments are taking notice in the drop in fuel taxes revenue and are actively collecting additional fees or considering plans to do so in the future as EVs become more popular.

The bottom line on EV misconceptions

There are a lot of things to consider and debate as EVs rise in prominence. While they aren’t going to replace gas engines just yet (or maybe ever), EVs are going to be a part of our world. So, let’s ditch the EV misconceptions (like being forced to buy an EV) and argue with facts — not the latest headlines aimed at firing up the critics.

Tim Esterdahl

Automotive Journalist Tim Esterdahl has been a lover of trucks and SUVs for years. He has covered the industry since 2011 and has pieces in many national magazines and newspapers. In his spare time, he is often found tinkering on his '62 C10 pickup, playing golf, going hunting and hanging out with his wife and kids in Nebraska.

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