Taking the leap to new tech can be intimidating. Our emotions, both positive and negative, can also be misleading. (Come on, emotions!) If we’re being honest, social media chatter can often pile on.
Let’s change that by addressing common EV myths and misconceptions using objective data.
Myth 1: Electric Cars Are Unsafe and Catch Fire Frequently
This is simply not true, despite highly publicized news about the Chevy Bolt battery issues and recommendations to park Bolts outside to avoid potential risks. An FEMA report shows that there are 150 gasoline car fires every day, suggesting that it is the novelty of the electric car that grabs headlines, not the frequency of danger.
The National Highway Transit Safety Administration also studied the likelihood of lithium ion battery fires, finding it to be no higher than that of an internal combustion engine (ICE) car. Even the Chevy Bolt, which has been the talk of the EV world in 2021, has seen fires in only 0.01% of its vehicles, which is an order of magnitude fewer fires than the 0.07% of ICE cars that the National Fire Protection Association said caught fire in 2018.
In August 2021, Tesla released updated impact information. This included information about the frequency and risk of fire and explosions with EV batteries, putting the risk of gas car fires eleven times higher than the risk of an electric vehicle fire. From internal data, Tesla cars caught fire every 250 million miles driven, opposed to every 19 million miles with a traditional car.
Myth 2: Used EVs Have Bad Batteries and Bad Range
This is another case where our lack of experience with relatively new EV technology can color our perception. We have all used laptops and mobile phones, which degrade quickly and show marked degradation over short periods of time. While those have lithium ion batteries, similar to those in electric cars, the price and performance are dramatically different.
The batteries in electric cars are built to last and the data show it. The two longest running EVs are the Nissan LEAF and the Tesla Model S. Both of these cars are often still found running with their original batteries.
Anecdotal evidence shows that select high mileage EVs have lost between 5-10% capacity over the first 100,000 miles, but most battery manufacturers guarantee that you’ll keep at least 70% of your battery capacity over the first 8 years (or 100,000 miles). Since very few batteries are being replaced under warranty, we have to assume that this is a reasonable lower bound for the life expectancy of a used EV.
While we still recommend doing your homework before buying a used EV, you can be confident that used EV batteries have long lifespans. Most used electric cars that you will encounter have only been driven for a few years and have many miles left in their batteries.
Myth 3: Electric Cars Require More Maintenance
No way! EV maintenance is much simpler than traditional car maintenance because there are fewer moving parts. There are also no oil changes, transmission fluid to top off or spark plugs to replace.
Thanks to regenerative braking, the brake pads wear more slowly. Some Toyota Priuses with regenerative braking have the same brake pads for 100,000 miles!
You still need to consider the small things: tire rotations, air filters, suspension components, and steering tie rod ends. But this minimal maintenance should be only half the price of a combustion engine vehicle.
Over the vehicle lifetime, an EV is estimated to be up to $4,600 cheaper to maintain than a gas powered car, not including the savings from gas. The only potential surprise is that some people find that they have to replace their tires more frequently because EVs are heavier and have more torque than gas cars.
Myth 4: EVs Aren’t Better for the Environment
There was controversial analysis a year or two ago that suggested electric vehicles were not quite the silver bullet for the environment that people were making them out to be, due to the carbon-intensive nature of mining for battery components and car manufacturing, not to mention the carbon emissions associated with generating electricity.
There have been many confirmation studies to challenge and disprove that. The studies show that even if all your electricity is sourced from coal, electric cars are still cleaner because the electric motor is more efficient than an internal combustion engine.
A 2021 study conducted by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) looked at the full life-cycles of EVs compared to ICE cars, from raw materials to manufacturing to salvage, and found that:
“For cars registered in 2021, the report found that lifetime emissions for a medium-sized EV in Europe are between 66 and 69 percent lower compared to that of a gasoline vehicle in the same category. In the US, an EV produces between 60 to 68 percent fewer emissions. In China, an EV results in between 37 to 45 percent fewer emissions. In India, it’s between 19 to 34 percent lower.”
The difference in avoided emissions is due to the way electricity is produced in various regions. This study assumed that a car’s life cycle was around 18 years in total.
Now, if you’re really concerned about your carbon footprint, a used EV is the way to go. You avoid the demand associated with manufacturing a new vehicle altogether, and add only marginal emissions due to energy production. If you live in a state with a robust clean energy standard, or use solar-powered electricity, your total car-related emissions can be pretty close to zero.
If you’re ready to look for that first EV, here’s a helpful used EV guide.