EV Myths dispelled

Busting the electric vehicle myths that are creating negativity toward electric cars.

Although electric vehicles are becoming more popular, there’s still quite a bit of disinformation about the technology. Some of it stems from genuine concerns about a new and relatively unknown form of propulsion, while some is sheer scaremongering. We break down the myths, so you have the information you need to make your own mind up about electric vehicles.

Myth 1: The range isn’t good enough

That depends on what you define as “good enough.” In 2019, the average Irish vehicle – including cars, trucks, buses and everything with a number plate – covered just under 17,000km a year. That’s the equivalent of less than 50km a day. So, if you can charge every night, a range of 50km is theoretically “enough.”

Obviously, the real world doesn’t work that way, but it’s worth considering how far you will travel in an electric vehicle. If you’re just going to use it around town, you can get away with a car with a smaller battery, such as the Fiat 500e, which has a range of just over 300km. But if you’re travelling further afield – even if only occasionally – consider a bigger car such as the Mercedes EQE, which covers more than 600km on a charge.

Admittedly, those numbers are “official” figures taken from the Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP), which every manufacturer must put its vehicles through. There are questions about its accuracy, particularly with regards to electric vehicles, but it works as a comparison. So, while the EQE may not manage 600km on every charge in the real world, it will still cover roughly twice the mileage of the Fiat between trips to the plug.

Myth 2: Charging takes ages

There’s no doubt about it: it takes longer to charge an electric car than it takes to fill up a petrol car. Or does it? Because if you wake up in the morning with an almost-empty tank of fuel, you have to go to a petrol station to fill up, and that could take 20 minutes. But if you have an electric car and home charging, you can charge it on your driveway overnight without spending more than a few moments plugging in.

Admittedly, that’s a specific circumstance, but the point is that things aren’t as cut-and-dried as they seem. So, while fully charging an MG4 EV from 10 per cent to 100 per cent on a home ‘wallbox’ charger takes around eight hours, that doesn’t mean you have to waste eight hours doing nothing. Time it right, and you could sleep right the way through.

Even on a longer journey, a 150kW public charger, such as those you might find at a service station, will recharge the same MG’s battery to 80 per cent (that’s enough to cover 280km on the WLTP test) in 39 minutes. That’s about the right amount of time for a trip to the loo and a spot of lunch. And remember, the MG is far from the fastest-charging EV out there. Hooked up to a 300kW charger, the Porsche Taycan can recharge its battery to 80 per cent in less than 20 minutes.

Myth 3: Electric cars catch fire

While it’s true that electric cars can and occasionally do catch fire, there’s no evidence to suggest they’re any more prone to spontaneous combustion than conventionally fuelled cars. In fact, the data suggests electric cars are actually less likely to catch fire than their fossil-fuelled equivalents.

However, once an electric car has caught fire, the battery cells used by most vehicles can be very difficult to extinguish – more so than with a petrol- or diesel-powered car – and most fire services recommend simply letting the vehicles burn themselves out, rather than fighting the fire as they would with a combustion-engined vehicle.

Myth 4: The battery has a short life

Some people have suggested that just like the battery in your phone, the vehicle’s battery will degrade over time, to the point where it will become unusable in a short time. And although batteries do degrade slightly as they are used, reports of their early demise are often exaggerated.

In fact, manufacturers offer battery warranties to give customers peace of mind. MG, for example, includes the battery in its seven-year, 150,000km warranty, and will replace or repair a car’s battery if they drop below 70 per cent of its original capacity during this time.

There are also things you can do to help prolong the life of your car’s battery, such as charging the battery using a ‘wallbox’ home charging unit as much as possible, because fast-charging can impact battery life.

And don’t worry about disposing of batteries when they come to the end of their lives, either. While battery disposal isn’t as easy as throwing a fuel tank in the crusher, it’s still possible. And the components can even be recycled. But some prefer to simply use the battery for something else, and there are schemes to use old electric car batteries for stationary energy storage. Renault and Jaguar Land Rover have produced schemes that do exactly that, either on an industrial or domestic level, giving batteries a second life.

Myth 5: The car could electrocute passengers

Rumours have circulated that electric cars can electrocute drivers if they have a fault, due to the high voltages used in the vehicle. But manufacturers were wise to such dangers long before they started marketing electric cars, so every precaution has been taken to prevent such a thing from happening. The battery cells are hermetically sealed to prevent any chance of water or people getting in, and therefore effectively removing the chance of electrocution, while crash-testing procedures include piercing the battery to ensure there’s no fire or electrocution risk should that happen in an accident. Naturally, the high-voltage systems do require special training for mechanics, but when treated correctly, they are safe to work on.

Myth 6: The car will only be as fast as a milk float

Try telling Rimac that. The Croatian car maker has made an electric hypercar capable of 0-100km/h in 1.74 seconds and a top speed of more than 400km/h. In fact, electric cars tend to be faster than their petrol- and diesel-powered equivalents, because there’s no lag in the power delivery. Electric motors deliver maximum torque from a standstill, whereas a combustion engine has to wait to get into its optimum operating range. And because electric cars seldom have gearboxes, there’s no waiting for gear changes, either. As a result, the basic MG4 EV has 170hp and gets from 0-100km/h in around 7.5 seconds, which is faster than a similarly priced Volkswagen Golf.

Myth 7: Electric cars are prohibitively expensive

It’s true that electric cars aren’t always cheap, simply because the technology is new, and the prices have not levelled out yet. But they are getting cheaper, as proven by Tesla’s recent price reductions and the influx of brands – particularly Chinese ones – selling cheap electric vehicles.

And it isn’t just the Chinese brands slashing prices. Dacia is launching a compact electric car called the Spring in 2024, and that’s set to be the cheapest electric vehicle on sale.

And that’s just purchase prices: we haven’t even mentioned running costs yet.

Myth 8: Rising electricity costs mean it’s cheaper to run a petrol car

It’s true that electricity is not as cheap as it was, and petrol prices have stabilised, but it’s still cheaper to run an electric car than a petrol-powered vehicle. This is especially true if you charge at home and take advantage of cheaper off-peak electricity deals, such as those available for overnight use. And while you might find public charging more expensive than domestic charging, it’s still competitive in terms of cost per kilometre. And we highly doubt many electric car owners will charge solely on public chargers – at least not without a price-cutting subscription.

Myth 9: The rare metals in batteries mean petrol and diesel cars are more eco-friendly over their lifetimes

It’s true that most electric cars use metals that are not mined in the most eco-friendly fashion but reports of their impact on the credentials of electric vehicles are often exaggerated. Studies have found that electric vehicles are almost always less polluting than a petrol vehicle over the course of their lifetimes – from the beginning of the manufacturing process to the end of the scrapping process – even if the electricity used to power them comes partly from fossil fuel sources.

Myth 10: The infrastructure won’t be able to cope if we all go electric

The government has acknowledged concerns about electricity supply if we were all to switch to electric vehicles overnight, but that won’t happen. Instead, the demand is expected to grow gradually, and the government is already working on improving electricity supplies to stay ahead of demand.

Similarly, there’s concern about the charging network away from major routes, where you can sometimes go long distances between fast charging stations. But that too is improving, with more chargers going in as the number of electric cars on the road grows.

Myth 11: Electric cars are less reliable

There’s no evidence to back that up at all, and though electric cars can suffer from all the same issues with ancillary features (such as infotainment tech or heating) as petrol- or diesel-powered cars, they are mechanically more reliable.

That’s because the electric motor is a remarkably simple device with just one moving part, whereas a petrol engine has thousands of components that all have to work together. As a result, the chances of having a failure are much lower with an electric motor. As a bonus, because the motors will also use regenerative braking (gathering energy normally wasted during deceleration) to maximise range, they put less strain on their brakes.