EV Myths

Last Updated: 05/15/01

There are many myths and misconceptions connected with electric cars. Here are a few, e-mail me if I missed any. 

  1. Electric cars are slow.

  2. I would think that General Motors EV-1 with it's 0-60 time of less than 8 seconds, or the AC Propulsion tZero's time of 4 seconds would put that to rest permanently. If that doesn't do it, check out the National Electric Drag Racing Association. Would you like to try 8 seconds in the quarter mile?
     
  3. Electric cars don't have enough range to be practical.

  4. What is enough? My car has enough range to handle my commute to and from work twice without recharging. The national average is less than 30 miles per day. Sure I can't drive from one end of the state to the other, but that is not what electric cars are for. If we only had to worry about the pollution caused by cars on "road trips" down the interstate we probably wouldn't have a pollution problem. For long trips I drive my second car, a conventional Honda. The electrics cover all my in town needs and saves an awful lot of wear on the Honda. EVs are most efficient on the short trips where gas cars are least efficient. 
     
  5. An electric car is not really a zero emission vehicle.

  6. No, not always, but it certainly can be considered zero emission at the point of operation. With crowded cities this can be of major importance. It is also much cleaner overall than a conventional gasoline fuel car, even when including power plant emissions.  (EVs powered by zero emission sources of electricity certainly are zero emission.)
     
  7. Electricity still has to be generated somewhere and will still pollute the environment.

  8. Maybe, maybe not.  The electrical generation method certainly can be emission free, as in solar, wind, geothermal, hydroelectric and tidal power sources.  These resources are inherently zero emission, and can be used to produce electricity. They cannot produce gasoline. Even if powered by a coal fired power plant, EVs still are cleaner per mile than gasoline fueled vehicles. (1). 
     
  9. They won't work in cold weather.

  10. I drive mine in snow as do many other EV owners. The weather doesn't effect my car any more than a conventional gasoline fueled one. (My co-workers are rather jealous of my pre-heater though. I don't have to scrape the snow and ice off, because my heater has all ready thawed it off automatically.) 
     
  11. They are too expensive.

  12. Yes and no. GM and Ford seem to be trying to prove this one true. It doesn't have to be this way. If some of the smaller EV manufacturers could get enough orders to mass produce cars the prices would fall. I also believe the Japanese auto makers are going to steal a march on Detroit again. Just like they did in the 70s. They are going to have EVs on dealer's lots while the Big Three are still arguing. Meanwhile we have many small shops and individuals who are converting existing cars to electric. While most of these cars don't have the performance of the EV-1 they are very affordable. I had less than $3000 invested in my Jet 007 EV.
     
  13. They don't have air conditioning.

  14. That might have been true once, but no more. Most newer EVs like my Solectria Force have air conditioning. Some conversions do, others do not.  My Civic EV will if I ever get around to installing it.
     
  15. If you get caught in a traffic jam the batteries will run out of "juice" before you get home.

  16. Where do they come up with this stuff? The slower an EV is traveling the longer its range becomes. You might run out of gas in stalled traffic on the expressway, but a stationary electric isn't idling so it isn't using any power. 
     
  17. If you drive with the headlights and wipers on your range will drop off.

  18. If you drive an EV with the headlights on it will have less range than with them off. Maybe six or seven feet less, not anything significant. The load of headlights and wipers and such are probably about as relevant to range as the drag of hitting a big June bug. 
     
  19. What do you do if you run out of "juice" all of a sudden?

  20. Unlike a gas car which runs full power until it runs out of gas, an EVs performance drops off when the batteries are nearly discharged. They don't sneak up on you. A nice feature of lead acid batteries is what is called "local action". If you discharge the batteries on your EV and find yourself at the side of the road, a short wait of about half an hour will allow the batteries to "grow amps" and give you enough power for a few more miles. You can wait all year with a car with an empty gas tank but it will just stay empty. 
     
  21. There are gas stations everywhere, but no charging stations.

  22. Almost all EVs can charge from a regular household 110 volt wall outlet. I have charged my car while shopping at a local supermarket. They were delighted to let me plug my car in while I was shopping. Really, charging stations are everywhere, all you have to do is ask. 
     
  23. EVs use lots of electricity and are the cause of the power shortages in California.

  24. Really?  I don't think so. The large charger on my Civic pulls about the same amount of power as a dryer.  Smaller chargers pull less than most hair dryers.  If you think that represents even one percent of the electrical load for the whole state of California you are quite mistaken.  In addition, most EVs charge at night when power demands are low and there is a surplus of electricity.  If you are looking for real electricity hogs, look for the extra refrigerator or deep freeze many folks have even though it is almost always empty.  In most homes these use far more electricity than anything else in the house, and more than an electric car would.
     
  25. Every time the energy is changed from one form to another (chemical to heat to electric to mechanical), some is lost. This means still more must be generated. Also, transmitting power through power lines from the power plant will create additional losses.

  26. Certainly there are generation and line losses, but don't forget the transfer of power from oil rig to refinery to your neighborhood gas pump to your car is not without losses as well. At least power line losses only create heat, while oil spills and fuel evaporation directly create pollution. Once the energy gets to it, the EVs use it much more efficiently than gasoline fueled vehicles, with 88% actually driving the car.  85% of the energy in the gasoline is simply wasted by a conventional engine as heat and noise, leaving only 15% to drive the car. (1)
     
  27. Electric cars are much much heavier than gas cars because of the extra weight of the battery. No one has yet developed a viable replacement for the lead/acid battery. Since a heavier car requires more energy to drive it, this will mean increased  fuel consumption at the power plant.

  28. If all else were equal this would be true, but if you check the figures you will find it is not. My electric cars are both heavier than their gasoline powered counterparts, but despite this they still use far less energy per mile to travel. Consider this, a gallon of gasoline is generally listed as equal to 33433.9 watt-hours of energy. My Honda Civic EV conversion (with 936 pounds of lead acid batteries) uses around 220 watt/hours per mile. That means the energy in one gallon of gas would drive my car about 152 miles. My other Civic, a conventional gasoline powered version, averages 28 mpg on the same commute. So, I guess the added weight of my battery pack didn't make much difference, did it? BTW, the Civic EV is much more fun to drive, as it has more power and handles better.  My other EV, a four door Solectria Force (with 806 pounds of gell type lead-acid batteries) uses only 180 watt/hours per mile or the equivalent of 186  mpg. See any gas powered cars that can do that?
     
  29. An efficient, single point power plant should generate less emissions than millions of individual cars. However, today's best guess is that this advantage will be completely offset by the increased fuel consumption. In other words, there will be no decline in emissions at all, but there will be an increase in the amount of fuel consumed.

  30. Whose guess was this? The published numbers don't seem to match this conclusion. Plus this overlooks what may be the biggest advantage of EVs. As time passes, regulations and the technology governing power plant and automobile emissions become more stringent. Making new cars cleaner has no effect on the existing cars, but making power plants cleaner does effect everything powered by them, including existing electric cars. A recent study in California suggested that as many as one in five cars is being driven with the emissions control system disabled or improperly maintained. EVs don't change their emissions based on owner maintenance, and it doesn't get worse as the car ages.
     
  31. A recent study by Carnegie Mellon said that electric vehicles would be responsible for up to 60 times more lead pollution than was caused by cars running on leaded fuel.  Also, according to the study, a car running on leaded gasoline releases 35 mg of lead each mile. The lead released from battery manufacture for each electric car would be 2150 mg of lead each mile.

  32. Ah, the infamous Carnegie Mellon study. This study was so flawed even Carnegie Mellon seems to have disowned it. Among its highlights was basing its numbers on the experimental General Motors Impact, then showing the battery pack as weighing more than the total weight of the car. Also they concluded that absolutely none of the batteries would be recycled when the truth is over 97% of all lead acid batteries are already being recycled, because it is good business and profitable. Latter review of the study revealed errors in the lead calculation by a factor of 1000. Of course, EV batteries don't have to contain lead at all.  One of my previous EVs, a Dodge TEvan, had that batteries contained no lead and were rated to last the life of the vehicle. Had they used this van as the basis for the study I am sure even their flawed results would have been much different.  FWIW, it has been widely suggested that this study was funded by the auto and petroleum industry, but we trust them right? (2)(3)
     
  33. The electro-magnetic field generated by an electric car will improve your sex life.

  34. I am still researching this one. Oh my, its time for more testing. 


References
 
1. http://www.radix.net/%7Efuturev/pwrplnt.pdf
2. http://www.leadinfo.com/MEDIA/june95.html
3. http://www.emagazine.com/march-april_1997/0397feat2.html

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