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, compared to far less than one EV fire each day. This suggests that it is the novelty of the electric car fire 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. 

While it's true that lithium ion battery fires can be harder to put out than a traditional fire, emergency services around the country are getting up to speed on how to handle the very rare EV battery fire.

Myth 2: 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 electric cars that rely heavily on regenerative braking go upwards of 100,000 miles on the same brake pads!

That's not to say there is no upkeep. Like in any car, it's important to keep up on 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 3: EVs Aren’t Better for the Environment

There was controversial analysis that tried to argue that electric vehicles are not as good for the environment as people like to think. The argument was based on the carbon-intensive nature of mining and processing battery components, the emissions associated with transporting these components, and the carbon emissions associated with generating electricity. 

But, since that piece came out, there have been many follow-ups that disprove it. While manufacturing a new EV is more emissions intensive than manufacturing a new gas car, EVs in America become cleaner than gas cars after just 2 years on the road. In fact, 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.  

Myth 4: Electric Cars Die in Cold and Hot Weather

Recurrent has been conducting winter weather range analyses for several years now to help drivers and shoppers know what to expect in terms of range loss due to the cold weather. And while some cars can lose quite a bit of range, it is temporary. As soon as the temperatures creep up, so will your range.

One of our team members also performed an idling test on his Tesla Model 3 to challenge the claims that an EV would not be able to idle as long as a combustion engine if stuck in traffic.

Shocker: it's not true.

Also: ditto in the summer.

In terms of the heat, recent data suggests that until the temperature gets above 90 degrees, you will see range loss of less than 5%. When the mercury hits 100 degrees, though, you may start to see more substantial range loss. In both the case of the heat, and the cold, most range loss is due to the use of climate control -- A/C or heat.

Luckily, in almost any EV, you can mitigate that range loss by preconditioning your car using the app. And, there are steps you can take to protect the long term health of your car.

Myth 4: 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. In fact, using our own driver population of over 15,000 cars, we found that only 1.5% of batteries have been replaced. Of course, there are selection biases in the population of drivers who decide to be a part of Recurrent's community, and we are relying on self-reported data, but it is still great evidence that batteries are holding up well.

Anecdotal evidence shows that select high mileage EVs have lost between 5-10% capacity over the first 100,000 miles, and around 1-2% a year. Most battery manufacturers guarantee that you’ll keep at least 70% of your battery capacity over the first 8 years (or 100,000 miles).

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. 

If you’re ready to look for that first EV, here’s a helpful used EV guide.