13 Electric Vehicle Myths Busted
Electric vehicles (EV) have come a long way in the last few years, so more and more people are seeing them as a viable alternative to conventional petrol or diesel cars and vans, hence the 141,000 plug-in cars and vans on the road at the start of 2018. However, there are still a lot of myths flying around when it comes to switching from the combustion engine to the electric motor and we want to put some of the most common ones to bed.
Myth 1 – The manufacturing process means EVs are not actually ‘green’ after all
It’s long been bandied about that the manufacturing process for electric vehicles and their batteries creates a bigger carbon footprint than traditional vehicle manufacture, meaning that they are not so green after all.
Studies have shown that if the same plant, using the same energy source, was to manufacture an average petrol car, it would involve emissions equivalent to 5.6 tonnes of CO2, while an average electric car would be around 8.8 tonnes (43% of which is the battery manufacture). However, several electric car plants, including some owned by Toyota and Nissan to produce their electric vehicles, have started to use renewable energy to power some of this manufacturing process, which should significantly reduce this figure.
Studies have also found that over the complete lifecycle of comparably sized petrol car and electric car, manufactured and run using the same energy source, an electric car has a carbon footprint of approximately 25% less than its petrol counterpart due to it’s cleaner operation when in use.
Myth 2 – Charging electric cars is bad for the environment
People using electricity from the national grid to charge their EV are still damaging the environment by using energy generated by fossil fuels.
Electric cars are cleaner to run than internal combustion engine vehicles. The electric motor in an EV will be more than 90% efficient, whereas internal combustion engines are only 30-45% efficient. The EV therefore requires 2-3 times less energy to travel the same distance.
We also need to look at how clean the fuel is. In the UK, electricity emits 0.35 kgCO2/kWh and an electric vehicle can travel 3-7 miles on 1kWh, depending on the model of the vehicle. So each mile travelled will emit between 0.05 and 0.11 kgCO2 per mile travelled.
By contrast, even the smallest internal combustion engine cars will be emitting 0.18 kgCO2 per mile travelled, according to BEIS. Luxury cars would be using 0.3 kgCO2 per mile, and 4x4s a whopping 0.35kgCO2 per mile. So it can be seen that electric vehicles are much cleaner than their combustion engine counterparts, even when using ‘dirty’ grid electricity.
Of course, more and more energy companies are offering ‘green-only’ options and specific ‘electric car tariffs’ to households who want their home and vehicles to run on renewable energy. Some of the same green energy can also be used by public and workplace chargers, depending on which company owns and runs them.
It is also possible for homeowners with solar panels to charge their electric vehicle directly from the electricity generated on their own rooftop, which would be completely zero emission transport.
Myth 3 – You never get the advertised mileage range in an EV
If you have the heating, air con, wipers or the radio on in an EV, you get significantly less miles than advertised from the battery. Also, EV batteries degrade and their capacity is reduced, so you’ll soon be getting a smaller range than you should for that reason too.
Much like the MPG values given for conventional cars, when the amount of fuel used is dependent on several factors, including driving style, temperature, settings within the vehicle and the type of journey, the same can be said for EVs using their battery power.
EV manufacturers say that the impact of driving accessories, such as air con, the windscreen wipers and stereo, have a negligible impact on the range of the car, and each generation of electric cars uses new technology to refine this further. A much bigger impact is driving style e.g. accelerating quickly rather than gradually.
When it comes to EV battery degradation, if the lithium batteries in electric cars are used as instructed, many EV owners report that even after their cars have travelled 100,000+ miles, they are still experiencing at least 80% of the full range. This is easily enough for most car owners’ purposes day-to-day, as only 2% of UK car journeys are 50 miles or more in distance.
Myth 4 – EV batteries are not covered by the car’s warranty
Batteries aren’t included in EV warranties, and cost thousands to replace, making electric cars very risky to buy.
All EV manufacturers now include battery warranties with new electric cars and vans. The length of these does vary from brand to brand e.g. the latest Nissan Leaf with a 40kWh battery is covered by an eight-year or 100,000 miles warranty. When you consider that a standard warranty for a petrol or diesel vehicle ranges from 3-7 years, depending on the manufacturer, this might help to put the battery degradation consideration into wider context.
Some manufacturers offer a battery lease rather than buying it outright when the vehicle is purchased, for a monthly fee, meaning that there are no replacement costs to the consumer if the car requires a new battery during the agreement period.
Myth 5 – EV batteries aren’t green to dispose of
The lithium batteries in electric vehicles will go to landfill, or even worse, can’t even be disposed of in this way, causing harm to the environment and making EV green credentials misleading.
Around 90% of the material in lithium EV batteries can be recycled. However, just because a battery has lost around 20%-30% of its capacity (the point at which EV batteries are usually replaced), doesn’t mean that the life of the battery is over. There is a growing industry for using second hand EV batteries as power storage for homes and businesses with solar PV systems. Renault are currently running a pilot scheme for this by using ex-EV batteries in some of their Powervaults. Nissan are also producing their own home battery product called Xstorage made from 2nd hand vehicle batteries. It’s estimated that using batteries for this purpose after they have had 8-10 years in an EV, can extend their lifecycle by another 6-10 years. If ex-EV batteries are used in a mobile home, camper or boat which is only used for a few months of the year, this estimate could be extended significantly.
Myth 6 – Electric vehicles put too much strain on the National Grid
When everyone gets home from work and plugs in their EV at 6pm on weekdays, it will cause too much demand on the National Grid and the whole system could collapse.
Even if all 36.7 million cars on UK roads were fully electric, they would consume about 75 TWh per year. UK electricity demand is around 300 TWh, so fully electrifying transport would increase our electricity demand by 25%.
We then need to look at when this electricity would be being used. Carbon Commentary have crunched the numbers on this and have shown that if all cars were to be charged between 6 and 7pm at night then we’d need to be able to supply 4 times the power that we currently do (which would mean 4 times as many power stations!).
However, if all vehicles were charged overnight between 22;00 and 06:00 then electricity demand would increase by 15GW. In the UK, our electricity demand at nighttime is typically 16GW lower than peak demand, so full electrification of EVs could be accommodated easily within the current system.
With the implementation of smart charging, where, for example, cars plugged in at 6pm would not actually be charged until several hours later, when there is less demand, the load on the National Grid can be eased.
In future, we would expect battery storage in vehicles to be used to soak up excess renewable electricity generation, especially offshore wind, and to discharge back to the grid (vehicle to grid technology) in times of low renewable energy supply.
At a smaller scale, for a growing number of EV owners who also have a solar and battery home system, the amount of electricity they need to draw from the grid to charge their vehicle may be minimal, as it could be charged directly from solar power during the day.
Myth 7 – Charging takes too long and is too much hassle
Charging an EV at home overnight can take as long as 12 hours. Even using a dedicated charge point at home can take up to 6 hours. These lengths of time are not practical for car users.
Charging an electric vehicle can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 12 hours to charge. This will depend on the size of the battery that the specific EV uses, and the output of the charging point.
Most home charge points (by which we mean specially installed charge points and not a standard UK power socket, which can trickle-charge with 3KW) are either rated 3.7KW or 7KW. The type of charge point that you can have installed at home depends on your household system and whether you have a single or three phase power supply.
The Nissan Leaf (with a 30KWH battery) would take around 4 hours to charge from zero to full using a 7KW home charging point. With a fast charger (22KW) or a rapid charger (50KW) at a service station or other public place, a full charge is much quicker, in some cases taking around 30 minutes. Most people simply plug their EV in overnight at home to charge as they sleep; or, if on a longer journey, they use service station chargers to top up as needed en-route. A charging cable is usually provided when you buy the EV (and can easily be stored in the vehicle), or can be purchased separately, and are usually often available at public charge points.
Myth 8 – There aren’t enough public charging points in the UK
Publicly accessible EV chargers are too few and far between in the UK, meaning drivers might run out of juice on longer journeys or have to reroute significantly to get where they are going. This makes driving an EV on longer journeys really inconvenient and stressful.
As of the start of 2018, there are approximately 10,000 public EV chargers available in the UK. These are not all compatible with every vehicle, and the cost of charging your vehicle with them varies, depending on the companies and organisations running them. Some are free, but many will charge for the amount of electricity you use or the amount of time spent charging. You may need to download an app and potentially add funds to a specific network’s account in order to use a public charger. Others may accept contactless payments at the charge point.
Zap Map is a site and a smartphone app that provides regularly updated information about where to find EV chargers, what types of charging are available, whether any issues have been reported about that charging point and sometimes even when the charge point is in use (for those that have live data available).
Local councils across the UK are currently organising the installation of more publically available chargers in council-run car parks and other public spaces, so we expect the 10,000 figure to swiftly rise. It’s expected that there will need to be around 25,000 public charge points by 2030 to satisfy demand.
Those EV drivers who are unable to charge at home, usually because they are travelling on a long journey and need to top up as they go, can use the apps and site available to plan their journey ahead of time. If travelling through areas of the UK with less public charge point coverage, we recommend contacting the service stations or charge point companies ahead of your journey to check that the charger you wish to use is currently operational.
Myth 9 – EVs cost much more than petrol and diesel equivalents
It costs significantly more to buy an electric vehicle than it does to buy a similarly-sized car or van that runs on petrol or diesel. The cheaper running costs of an EV don’t make up for this.
A recent study has shown that pure electric cars currently cost less over four years than equivalent petrol and diesel vehicles in the UK, by around 10%.
When taking into account the depreciation, tax, maintenance, insurance and fuel costs (and the current UK government subsidies) the electric cars come out as costing less than the other types of vehicle.
Several manufacturers of EVs, including Renault and Nissan, say that they expect it will be cheaper to own and run a medium EV such as the Nissan Leaf, even without the government subsidy, by 2025 or sooner. This is due to a projected fall in both production and battery costs as more and more electric vehicles are produced.
Currently, the cheapest electric vehicles cost around £14,000 after subsidy, which is significantly more than an entry level model of an equivalent petrol car. However, when taking all factors into account, EVs still come out cheaper over four years because of significantly lower running costs, according to the research done at the University of Leeds.
Myth 10 – Installing an EV charging point at home is really expensive
It can cost hundreds to install a charging point at home. Then, if I move house a few years down the line, I’ll have to pay for a brand new one again and won’t be able to get it subsidised next time.
There is currently a government grant scheme in the UK run by the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) that subsidises the cost of EV charging points at the homes of electric car owners. There are a number of different chargers available, so costs can vary, but the grant covers up to 75% of the cost (£500 max) for the hardware and installation. This means that the cost to homeowners fitting an EV charge point at home starts from around £300.
If the homeowner moves house, it’s possible under the terms of the OLEV grant to take the EV charge point with them to be installed at the new property by a qualified electrician (costs to be covered by the homeowner) rather than having to leave their charging point behind and pay for a new one at their next home.
Myth 11 – EVs are unreliable in the winter
Lithium batteries in phones and other gadgets struggle in cold temperatures, so it stands to reason that EVs will too, as they use a similar type of battery.
Extreme temperatures can have an impact on petrol and diesel cars as well as electric vehicles and reduce the economy of all cars. However, many of the latest EVs have the capability to warm up the car and battery whilst still on charge (often can be done by smartphone app) and a thermal management system to keep it at optimum temperature, meaning that when you’re ready to go, so is the vehicle; a ready-defrosted car without you even needing to step outside.
EV owners living in colder climates, such as Canada and Norway, report no noticeable performance drops in cold weather, although sometimes range is slightly reduced in below freezing temps, returning to normal when the temperature rises by a few degrees.
Myth 12 – Electricity bills will skyrocket if charging an EV at home
Plugging in at home will result in much higher domestic electricity bills than before
There is no denying that if you use more electricity at home by starting to charge an EV, it will result in an increase in your energy use and bills. However, the trade-off is the money saved on conventional fuel for your vehicle. An average cost to charge a Nissan Leaf (30KWh version) using a residential charge point (7KWh) could cost anywhere between £2.00 – £5.00 for 150+ miles of range (depending on your energy tariff). Driving the same distance in a petrol version of a similar car could cost around £15-£20 in fuel. We’ve calculated the running costs of major brands of electric vehicles, and they can be as low as 1p/mile if charged on cheap night-time electricity.
Homeowners who want to charge one or more EVs at their property can switch their energy provider and tariff to one that specialises in this type of energy use, which can work out considerably cheaper than sticking with a regular tariff. If most charging of EVs is done at night, some tariffs give you a significantly lower rate for electricity used in off-peak hours (usually midnight-7am).
Those houses with solar PV systems already installed can usually utilise this energy to charge their EV, rather than drawing electricity from the National Grid, if the car is parked at home during daylight hours. Those with solar PV and battery systems can use energy generated during the day at night to charge an EV.
Myth 13 – My local trusted mechanic won’t be able to service/maintain my EV
Only expensive dealership mechanics will be able to service, maintain and repair electric vehicles, and my trusted local independent mechanic won’t be able to do the job so I’ll have to pay through the nose.
As of December 2015, approximately 1,000 UK mechanics/technicians were qualified to work on pure electric vehicles, with another 1,000 in training at the time, all belonging to the main dealer networks producing most of the country’s EVs.
The Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) wants to ensure that only registered technicians who have undergone certified EV and PHEV training courses can work on EVs, which means that independent mechanics will need to ensure that their technicians are fully up to speed in order to not be left behind as EV ownership continues to grow.
A 2016 study by Loughborough University, theorises that up to 320,000 jobs can be created by the EV industry in the UK, which would include many upskilled and new specialist mechanics and technicians able to work on electric vehicles, both as part of the dealer network and for independent garages. As things stand, most EV owners will need to use their dealer network technicians for servicing and maintenance at this time.
If you have any questions about EV charging, the grant application process or would like to speak to us about a charge point installation, please contact us for more information.