Most Common Electric Car Myths and Questions

Most Common Electric Car Myths and Questions

There are many electric car myths and questions. Each next generation of technology must pass through the curiosity of the consumer until it is finally accepted. 

Take the iPhone for example. At first, consumers balked at the idea of a multi-hundred dollar phone made of glass that has things called apps (whatever those things are). At the same time, consumers wanted the new technology but had no idea what it was truly capable of. Today, the iPhone, and smartphones in general, is ubiquitous and overwhelming the standard phone. 

While it is generally agreed electric vehicles (EVs) are the future, some individuals fight the change due to FUD–fear, uncertainty, doubt. Here’s to settling those fears, clarifying those uncertainties, and calming those doubts. 

Most Common Electric Car Myths and Questions:

Myth: EV batteries only last a few years

Surprisingly, some individuals believe EV batteries will only last a couple of years. While there is some correlation between a typical cell phone battery degradation and an electric car battery, EV batteries are made quite differently. 

While it is true EV batteries degrade over time, they do so very gradually. Carmakers designed these batteries to withstand thousands of cycles, high and low ambient temperatures, and occasional high voltage DC Fast Charging. Per Electrek, Teslas lose less than 10% of battery capacity after 160,000 miles. 

In addition, most automakers couple the battery with a Thermal Management System (TMS). A TMS ensures the battery remains at a neutral temperature to prolong the life of the battery. 

For assurance, automakers provide a standard 10 year/100,000 mile warranty on the battery system. Should anything go arie within this period, the automaker will cover the repair. This, however, is unnecessary as there are already several cases of electric cars well over 100,000 miles with their original battery. 

Check out Eric Belmer’s PHEV Chevy Volt that went over 450,000 miles (over 165,000 of which were on the battery). There’s also the Tesla shuttle service, Tesloop, which has eight Teslas over 200,000 miles. In fact, one is over 440,000 miles!

Tesloop's Fleet of EVs over 200,000 miles
Tesloop’s Fleet of EVs over 200,000 miles
Image credit: Tesloop

Question: Can you charge EVs in the rain?

The answer to this one is quite simple: Yes. EVs are made to withstand the outdoor elements including car washes. 

Myth: EVs catch fire in a crash

Can EVs catch fire in the event of a crash? Yes. Can ICE vehicles (gas cars)? Yes. However, per Tesla’s Annual Vehicle Safety Report:

From 2012 – 2019, there has been approximately one Tesla vehicle fire for every 175 million miles traveled. By comparison, data from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and U.S. Department of Transportation shows that in the United States there is a vehicle fire for every 19 million miles traveled.

In order to provide an apt comparison to NFPA data, Tesla’s data set includes instances of vehicle fires caused by structure fires, arson, and other things unrelated to the vehicle, which account for some of the Tesla vehicle fires over this time period.

Tesla Annual Vehicle Safety Report, 2019

In other words, ICE vehicles are nearly 11 times more likely to catch fire than Tesla’s electric cars (the most popular EV).

Question: How long do EVs take to charge?

It depends on what level of charging. EVs charge at three levels: 1, 2, and 3. 

Level 1 utilizes 120 volts–the common household outlet. For a PHEV (Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle), it takes around 10 hours to charge from 0-100%. For a BEV (Battery Electric Vehicle or all-electric), it takes over 30 hours from 0-100%. 

Level 2 utilizes 240 volts–like an electric dryer. At these speeds, a PHEV charges in around 4 hours, while a BEV takes around 8 hours. 

Level 3, more commonly known as DC Fast Charging (DCFC), utilizes over 400 volts! These quick chargers are found only in the public due to the high voltage. Typically, due to the size of the battery, only BEVs charge at these speeds. DCFC takes around 30 minutes from 10-80% charge. 

For more information about charging, see the two-part series How to Charge an Electric Vehicle: Part 1 and Part 2

Myth: EVs are slow

EVs are actually fast, quite fast. For example, take the unassuming Chevy Bolt. The Bolt can go 0-60 MPH in 6.5 seconds. A comparable ICE vehicle, like the Honda Fit, goes 0-60 in 10 seconds. A significant 3.5 seconds. 

Then there is Tesla. A Tesla Model S can go 0-60 in less than 3 seconds. That is certainly quicker than a golf cart.  

Question: How much do EVs cost?

Electric cars range in price just like ICE vehicles. For a basic, no thrills commuter EV like the Hyundai Ioniq, the cost is $25,545 after the federal tax credit. On the other hand, a well-equipped Tesla Model X can cost over $100,000. 

It is important to note, however, that just because it is a Tesla means it is ultra-expensive. The Tesla Model 3 starts at less than $40,000. While it does command a higher price tag than the average car, it is definitely attainable to many individuals. 

Myth: EVs don’t have enough range

More commonly known as range anxiety. The fear of running out of juice is common for many prospective electric car shoppers. Ironically, per a AAA study, range anxiety actually dispels with EV ownership. Per the study, 95% of surveyed EV drivers have never actually run out of range. 

In terms of mileage, EVs vary from a Nissan Leaf with 150 miles of range to a Tesla Model S with 373 miles of range. Lately, most BEVs being released this year have at least 200 miles with many exceeding 300 in the next few years. 

If 300+ miles of range still isn’t enough, there is always the PHEV option. Since PHEVs have both electric and gas, there is no range anxiety. Popular options include the Honda Clarity and the BMW i3, which have 47 and 114 miles of range, respectively, before the gas kicks in. 

Question: Can EV batteries be recycled?

Yes. EV batteries contain a mixed recipe of natural earthbound metals such as lithium, cobalt, and nickel. Per a report by the Institute of Energy Research, new recycling companies and auto manufacturers are just beginning to recycle these “spent” batteries. For an EV, a battery is considered past its useful life when the energy capacity is less than 70% of the original capacity. 

Recycling company Li-cycle is currently recycling 100% of the lithium from the EV battery by smelting the element. Automaker Nissan has reconditioned old Nissan Leaf batteries as a battery backup for streetlights. GM has reconditioned old Chevy Volt batteries as energy storage at one of its data centers.

As more and more EVs hit the road every year, the greater the need for recycling and reconditioning of spent batteries. The good news is there are already companies working on these solutions. 

Myth: EVs emit more emissions than gas from coal-fired power plants

It is true that coal-fired power plants are a very dirty way to create electricity. However, even so, electric cars are still cleaner for the environment than ICE vehicles. Per a study by the Union of Concerned Scientists, when looking at the overall lifecycle emissions, an EV releases nearly half the emissions than a comparable gas car. Specifically, the study found an EV released 28 metric tons of CO2 during its life, while the comparable gas car released 57 metric tons of CO2. 

In the graphic below, EV MPG is re-rated based on their energy supply cleanliness. Given the average gas MPG in the U.S. is less than 25 per Reuters, EVs are the cleaner option in the entire U.S. (even in coal country). 

EV MPG Emission-Weighted Region Graphic
EV MPG Emission-Weighted Region Graphic
Image credit: Union of Concerned Scientists

To find out how much cleaner an EV would be in your zip code, use the interactive How Clean is Your Electric Vehicle tool to learn more. 

Closing Thoughts:

Hopefully, your fears, uncertainties, and doubts are rest-assured by these answered electric car myths and questions. EVs are a large advancement in technology. Personally, when I first got my EV, I, too, was unsure of a lot of these myths and questions. Over time, however, I became comfortable with the easy daily operation of the vehicle. While things like how to charge and fear of range anxiety went away quickly after ownership, the joy of the instantaneous torque never got old. 

However, it is important to note that recycling/reconditioning of the spent EV battery is still a major concern for the future of EVs. While progress is being made today, there will soon be millions of old batteries needing to be addressed for a second life. Otherwise, we will have a significant e-waste problem. 

If there are any other myths or questions you still have after these most common electric car myths and questions, feel free to let me know in the comments below.

Stay charged!