More myths busted about electric cars

Apr 27, 2010 By Jim Motavalli

I recently went to Finland to drive the all-electric Think City plug-in car (thinkev.com), which is already on European roads and coming to the U.S. later this year. To help it have a soft landing, Think CEO Richard Canny (who spent 25 years at Ford) put together these nine myths about electric vehicles (EV). I've had my own version, but Richard's list is quite different and well worth sharing. He's not an objective party, of course, but he has hands-on experience.

Here are Canny's nine electric vehicle myths:

1. You are just moving the pollution out of the cities to the countryside.

Busted: Electric vehicle motors are three-to-five times more efficient than gasoline-powered vehicles. While it's best to power EVs from (which are growing quickly), the efficiency of EVs makes them cleaner, producing less carbon, under any situation -- even when they are charged using coal-fired electricity.

2. Customers will never buy a car with less than a 200-mile range.

Busted: So-called "range anxiety" diminishes when people get used to driving EVs on a daily basis. It's just like charging a cell phone overnight. You plug it in, and in the morning it's ready to go, fully charged. As more EVs hit the road, businesses and cities will add charging points to encourage EV use. EVs can also be fast-charged (our system goes from zero to 80 percent charged in just 15 minutes) to help cover those rare situations when an EV will be needed to cover more than 100 miles in a single day.

3. The battery won't last.

Busted: EV batteries are designed to last at least 10 years and more than 100,000 miles. There are cars on the road in Europe with batteries approaching the 10-year mark. Some EVs have been on the road in Europe with packs approaching the 10-year-old mark, and modern lithium-ion batteries will definitely meet or exceed that target.

4. You'll need to build a lot more .

Busted: Actually, there's enough off-peak electricity in the U.S. to power 79 percent of U.S. driving demand. As more EVs are deployed, it's important to ensure that the smart-charging (time-based charging management) and vehicle-to-grid connectivity progresses as well. A connected network of millions of micro-energy storage devices (which is what EVs will become) provides significant opportunities to improve the stability and performance of electric grids and better balance peak demand.

5. We're going to run out of lithium - and isn't it poisonous?

Busted: Lithium carbonate today comes from dried salt lakes in South America (Chile, Argentina and Bolivia) and China. There are also other huge sources for lithium, although these are more expensive to develop. Lithium can even be extracted from salt water and projects are under way to do this. The industry will not have a shortage of lithium for the next decade. It is also possible that new battery technologies will be based on other light metals like zinc or nickel. Lithium from used batteries will be recycled in dedicated recycling plants. Lithium batteries contain no poisonous heavy metals like lead in lead-acid batteries or cadmium in NiCd batteries.

6. The infrastructure has to come first.

Busted: The best way to deploy EVs is to get cars on the road first, then add infrastructure. If there are no EVs to use those plugs and parking spots, people see it as wasteful. We think infrastructure is a small part of good policy at a federal, regional and local level to support EV early adopters.

7. They're not safe.

Busted: Highway-certified EVs meet all the same safety and crash test requirements as regular production cars with some important extras.

8. The technology is too complicated.

Busted: A modern electric car has only about five main moving parts compared with hundreds in an internal-combustion engine. There are no regular visits to the dealership for an EV. No oil changes, no filters -- even brake pads last two-to-three times longer than in conventional cars, because EVs use regenerative braking to recapture the energy that would otherwise be lost while braking. Your first trip to the dealership with an EV for scheduled maintenance is at 40,000 miles to check the brake pads. Eventually, you'll need new wiper blades and tires. But that's about it!

9. Fast charging EV batteries in 15 minutes will wear them out quickly.

Busted: Modern prismatic batteries can be developed with fast-charging in mind. The critical technology is in the cell design to manage battery temperature during charging. Limiting fast charging to the zero to 80 percent range also protects battery life. We think that 95 percent or more of all EV miles will be driven on cars charged during overnight off-peak periods when electricity is cheaper and readily available. Fast charging locations provide reassurance and peace of mind for those occasional days where more than 100 miles are required.

Explore further: Material generates steam under solar illumination

More information: Earlier story: Five myths about electric cars - www.physorg.com/news188543729.html

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User comments : 46

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nada
Apr 27, 2010
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
JeffJohnson17
2.8 / 5 (12) Apr 27, 2010
Cool can't wait to buy one of these and drive by the gas station when its $4.00 and up.
I wish they would bring back Thomas Edison's Nickle Iron battery. But I guess its bad business to make a rechargeable battery that lasts over 30 years. A Chinese company is actually making some but with the shipping and all they are very expensive.

pauljpease
4.9 / 5 (17) Apr 27, 2010
Um, you're missing an important difference between an iPad and an electric car. An iPad doesn't replace anything, it's a new technology with new functionality, so it makes sense that a lot of people will buy it. You don't have to give up something that is in some ways better and more convenient for something you're not sure of. Also, most people don't know anyone with an electric car, and most people today buy things when they know someone personally who has that thing and will vouch for it. Like iphones and ipads, their peak sales occur after they have reached enough of the market that pretty much everyone knows somebody who has one already. Once you know someone with an electric car you'll be more likely to buy one yourself.
J-n
3.8 / 5 (11) Apr 27, 2010
I suspect that folks don't go out and buy an EV because of their lack of availablity, and that they cost a lot more than dirty cars because they are not produced in as large numbers. I would also suspect that a large number of folks are confused about the issues addressed in the article. Just because you are confused about the facts of the situation, and something about Electronic Vehicles makes you upset, does not make the information included in this article any less true.

Many folks have a spare 500$ for their entertainment funds.. many are afraid, as you are, to drop a few 10k on an EV that has so many myths and old information surronding it.

I dunno maybe you've got some refutations of the facts presented here... but it seems more like you're just on the Anti-EV Pro-FOX bandwagon.

I feel for your ignorance.

J-n

paulo
Apr 27, 2010
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
TheWalrus
3.4 / 5 (8) Apr 27, 2010
@nada

I notice you didn't address any of the points in the article. You also compared apples to oranges and went on to say myths are true.

Give me one reason not to laugh at your feeble "arguments."
donjoe0
2.6 / 5 (8) Apr 27, 2010
Pure propaganda. Everyone knows the most important question is "Will driving it cost me more per mile or will it be cheaper?" yet no-one seems to want to answer it.

I take from this that EVs are still the more expensive option.

So there you have it. It's that simple. Those other things matter too, but this is the key.
MorituriMax
3.7 / 5 (3) Apr 27, 2010
I need a meter at home that displays how much it would cost to operate (charge) an EV if I owned one. It could be as easy as the electric company which I go online to pay my bill putting a meter on their site, when I login to pay my bill it would show me different costs depending on how often and when I charged it.
PPihkala
4.3 / 5 (4) Apr 27, 2010
It is known fact that the electricity used to charge the EV is cheaper than to buy the gasoline to move similar ICE vehicle. The problem is that because EV costs currently more, it depends onto your mileage per year whether that lesser cost per mile will repay the higher purchasing price. In time the price of EVs will get smaller, so the needed mileage to repay the price difference with smaller energy costs will diminish. At some point it will make sense to buy EV instead of ICE, but when that will be depends on each individuals driving habits.
THoKling
3.9 / 5 (7) Apr 27, 2010
If the information was provided by an independent source, rather than from Canny, I would be less skeptical. I never rely strictly on information from one source, anyway, but it's still amusing to see this tactic in action. It's easier to rely on one source than many.
Newbeak
4.6 / 5 (5) Apr 27, 2010
I'll wait till Consumer Reports tests one.That magazine is my bible.
paulthebassguy
2.5 / 5 (8) Apr 27, 2010
I agree with previous comments - this article is definitely one sided propaganda. There are a few down sides to electric cars and this article does not mention them.

I would consider buying an electric car in the future if I was informed about both the positive and negative aspects, but this article is not very informative.
ChiRaven
4.3 / 5 (6) Apr 27, 2010
The cost equation works in the long run, given that the price of gasoline will inevitably go up faster than the price of electricity.

The problem is the limited range. These just won't make it for an 8 hour trip to visit relatives, and there is no good way to make them do it until the infrastructure is VERY advanced, i.e., charging stations almost as ubiquitous as gasoline stations are today.
ChiRaven
1.4 / 5 (5) Apr 27, 2010
And one additional problem is that the motors for these vehicles depend on rare earth elements to make them light enough to be feasible. That may limit production quantities of these vehicles in the future.
theophys
4 / 5 (4) Apr 27, 2010
I don't see what the fuss is about. A new car comes out. It's fuel is cheaper than gas, but it has limited range due to its need to charge. It's not nearly as sexy as a mustang, but it is much more environmentaly friendly.
Just like any vehicle it has its pros and cons. Smart buyers will weigh their options and make the choice themselves.
BanderaT
5 / 5 (8) Apr 27, 2010
When gas gets 4 Dollars. Making a payment on a new electric car will be the same as keeping your tank full every month on your old car. I'm spending over 400 dollars a month now at current prices, and I don't travel more than 80 miles a day. I want a new car. I will keep the gas burner for the long trips that I do about 4 times a year. I drive every day. I will be paying for 1 oil change a year if that. Can't wait.
wolfkeeper
3.5 / 5 (6) Apr 27, 2010
The first one isn't really true. Although the electric motor itself is much more efficient, the power generation is only about 35% efficient or so, and then on top of that you get losses in transmission, storage and then the electric motor.

This compares with internal combustion engines that are about 25%.

Basically, it's more or less a wash. OTOH the power station is easier to scrub its exhaust gases, and the power doesn't come from oil, which is running out, it comes from other sources like coal, natural gas, nuclear, geo, wind, solar etc. etc. which is a much more flexible mix and can be *much* greener.
brant
4.5 / 5 (6) Apr 27, 2010
There is no reason that electric cars have to look like they do. They dont really want to sell them.

If there was one that looked like a Ferrari I would buy it in a heartbeat!!!!
magpies
2.7 / 5 (6) Apr 27, 2010
I know the real problem with it... Its not a really fast sports electric car. If they make really fast sport electric cars rich people will want to buy them and then the poor people will see rich people buying them and decide they want one also. Then demand will go up and they will become more common. But... I would rather just walk or bike.
Jeswin
5 / 5 (2) Apr 28, 2010
Hmm many misconceptions I have had pertaining to the electric car...
shaunc
4.6 / 5 (7) Apr 28, 2010
For your fast EV look no further than teslamotors.com This is super sexy and super fast and EV! Price at $130,000 might put you off though: unless you are an oil baron!

Almost all journeys are very short ones so EV make perfect sense. Also many families have 2 cars so no great loss.

I agree that this article is not balanced but think Jim made that clear at the outset when introducing Canny's "myths".

I believe that EV's are inevitable and there will be huge incentives to make the switch such as tax breaks, free parking, free charging for staff in government (and other) offices etc. In London EV's do not pay the toll either and this is a great start.

Hybrids (IMHO) are a cop out and you end up with the worst of both options but at least this could be seen as a transition from ICE to EV.

Let's see the prices come down quickly but this will only happen if manufacturers start mass production and there is serious competition.

I also agree that most EV car designs look like shit!
DKoncewicz
1.8 / 5 (5) Apr 28, 2010
200 is not enough to go on a trip and might not be enough for some people without needing to return home to recharge.

Charging stations would need to be as numerous as gas stations to make people comfortable with driving far from home.

Would also need some sort of backup option in case your car runs out of power, similar to a spare can of oil you'd keep in your car now. A portable battery that doesn't lose its charge for example, that could be plugged in and drive you for 50km or so.

Until those things are addressed I couldn't see myself making such a switch. Electric cars are a good idea, but they need to work on those three specific things I just mentioned.
wolfkeeper
3.8 / 5 (4) Apr 28, 2010
200 is not enough to go on a trip and might not be enough for some people without needing to return home to recharge.

How often do you do this though? When you do- just hire a conventional car.

Electric vehicles are wayyyy cheaper, so you would still save money.
PaulScott
Apr 28, 2010
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
hagureinu
3.2 / 5 (5) Apr 28, 2010
what about the range in a cold weather? when it's -20c outside, is it still 200 miles?
CreepyD
2.4 / 5 (8) Apr 28, 2010
The range myth isn't busted, I wont buy a car with with anything less than 500 miles.
Either more range is needed or recharge stations need to start appearing. I've still never seen one.
I visit London often and would expect to see them there at least.
If I want to go on holiday in one of these, I'd be truely stuffed.
John_balls
3.4 / 5 (8) Apr 28, 2010

The range myth isn't busted, I wont buy a car with with anything less than 500 miles.
Either more range is needed or recharge stations need to start appearing. I've still never seen one.
I visit London often and would expect to see them there at least.
If I want to go on holiday in one of these, I'd be truely stuffed.

Over 85% of people in the U.S. drive less then 50 miles a day, get over yourself.
Shootist
1.4 / 5 (11) Apr 28, 2010
Lots of spew.

The United States does not have the surplus electrical generating capacity to convert even 10% of our vehicles to electric (battery).

Pig in a poke, aka Pixie Dust.

Come back after you have completed those 100 1GW fission plants we need to move into the future.
El_Nose
3.6 / 5 (5) Apr 28, 2010
@ creepy

then you bought your first car like what two years ago and had them make the gas tank bigger...

at 35 mpg -- you need 14 gallon tank and most cars that get 35 or more only have a 11 gallon tank.

and the 45 mpg vehicles are hybrids with a 10 gallon tank.

-- The US does have the capacity today for 30% of vehicles to convert to electric power

why? well slow charging takes four hours and is recommended at night... now lets talk about kilowatt hours needed to charge .. EV need less juice than running your air conditioner on a hot summer night give it up Shootist

and id anyone read the part that said
[p] Richard's list is quite different and well worth sharing. He's not an objective party, of course, but he has hands-on experience [/p]

it wasn't meant to be objective it was meant to sell vehicles
powerup1
1 / 5 (2) Apr 28, 2010
@nada, "myths are true", hahahahaha...I love it. All I can say to that logic is WOW!!!
Skeptic_Heretic
5 / 5 (3) Apr 28, 2010
@nada, "myths are true", hahahahaha...I love it. All I can say to that logic is WOW!!!

Mythbusters would have crappy ratings if it wasn't for people questioning myths.

I'mm one of the 15% that a 200 mile EV won't work for. Unfortunately I'm going to have to wait until they have roadside quickcharge or battery swap in common and remote locations.
3432682
2.5 / 5 (6) Apr 28, 2010
We need some actual prices per mile for electricity for this car. Then we can compare that to our own cost per mile for gasoline. Mine's about 10 cents per mile.
PaulScott
5 / 5 (4) Apr 28, 2010
We need some actual prices per mile for electricity for this car. Then we can compare that to our own cost per mile for gasoline. Mine's about 10 cents per mile.


In the U.S., the average cost of a kWh is 10.4 cents. The Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt will travel about 4 miles on a kWh. That equates to about 2.5 cents per mile. Also, there is virtually no maintenance required, no time spent going to a gas station, and the cars always work.
PaulScott
1 / 5 (3) Apr 28, 2010
Lots of spew.

The United States does not have the surplus electrical generating capacity to convert even 10% of our vehicles to electric (battery).

Not true! A recent Department of Energy study concluded that there is enough excess power on the grid at night to charge over 180 million EVs without adding any new capacity. Last year alone we added over 10 gigawatts of new wind energy and almost 2 gW of solar. That's enough new renewable energy to charge 10 million EVs.

BTW, here in the U/S., we waste more energy than we'd use in EVs if everyone drove and electric car. Efficiency is imperative.
Pig in a poke, aka Pixie Dust.

Come back after you have completed those 100 1GW fission plants we need to move into the future.

RJB26
5 / 5 (1) Apr 28, 2010
eh, they're moving in the right direction i suppose but until they quit designing these things to look like elf shoes im going to pass. 30 grand and up for these little clown cars is a nonstarter for me. to be fair ive seen a couple of nice ones but they are upwards of 100,000.
Skeptic_Heretic
2.5 / 5 (2) Apr 28, 2010
eh, they're moving in the right direction i suppose but until they quit designing these things to look like elf shoes im going to pass. 30 grand and up for these little clown cars is a nonstarter for me.


The Lexus EVs are going to look the same as the regular line when they come out. I'm waiting for one of those. It'll be pricey, but it'll probably be the best option.
BanderaT
4 / 5 (2) Apr 28, 2010
How many of you have access to only one car.
CWFlink
3.3 / 5 (3) Apr 30, 2010
Short trips? ...use a golf cart. Virtually every home in communities built around golf courses include a garage for the owner's cart. The family uses the cart to go to the pool and grocery while dad's at work. BUT... Dad works in the city 50 miles away and the extended family lives 4 to 8 HOURS away, in different directions.

Electric cars can help, like the golf cart. But until they can carry a family to grandma's or uncle Bill's two states away, they will not supplant the gasoline powered hybrids.

But.... life/work in the cities seems insane to me. I hated city life when in college and never went back. If you are a city dweller, THANKS! Stay there and please don't learn what you are missing.... after all, you wouldn't want to pay for the gas to travel out here!
MarkyMark
4 / 5 (1) May 01, 2010
Short trips? ...use a golf cart. Virtually every home in communities built around golf courses include a garage for the owner's cart.


I love how you say "Virtually EVERY home in communities", i have yet to see this where i live.

As to the EV idea i consider it a good one for those who do not travel much (if you dont mind the price of the car), but its not really there for those who travel far especially with the lack of charging stations. Also the design.... Why not use some imagination?
Sirussinder
4.7 / 5 (3) May 01, 2010
yeah, as if I can pull my boat with an electric car.

I would like to see full sized vehicles instead of clown cars and a defrost that can heat up a car in 5 mins at -30 C temperatures first.

Plus an air cond that can run full blast all day at +30 C
Skeptic_Heretic
3 / 5 (2) May 02, 2010
yeah, as if I can pull my boat with an electric car.

I would like to see full sized vehicles instead of clown cars and a defrost that can heat up a car in 5 mins at -30 C temperatures first.

Plus an air cond that can run full blast all day at +30 C

Electric motors operate at far higher torque than conventional engines. EVs are already used to Haul planes, and I'm not talking 747s I'm talking C140s, Boeing Super 7's. etc. EVs have far more towing than even diesels do. Your AC blower runs on electric in all vehicle, the pump itself can be turned by anything, including the output shaft of an EV engine. I'm a gear head, but EVs are the way the world will go. I just wish they could full charge in 5 minutes, making them comparable to gas in the only way they really fall short.
BanderaT
5 / 5 (2) May 02, 2010
Any time you see a train , think of GMs Volt. Same Principle. Just a lot smaller but obviously scalable. Using both utilizing heat from the combustion engine while charging batteries.
Lord_jag
1 / 5 (3) May 02, 2010
And one additional problem is that the motors for these vehicles depend on rare earth elements to make them light enough to be feasible. That may limit production quantities of these vehicles in the future.

Rare earth elements... like iron? Aluminum? Copper? Oh yeah... really rare
Newbeak
5 / 5 (2) May 02, 2010
Any time you see a train , think of GMs Volt. Same Principle. Just a lot smaller but obviously scalable. Using both utilizing heat from the combustion engine while charging batteries.

I agree totally.The Volt is the best of both worlds.For the 85% who travel less than 50 miles a day,it means all electric driving.For those who want to take a driving vacation,it also works,albeit with greater use of gasoline.No need for two cars.As battery technology improves,it would need less and less backup from the ICE.
Skeptic_Heretic
5 / 5 (2) May 02, 2010
And one additional problem is that the motors for these vehicles depend on rare earth elements to make them light enough to be feasible. That may limit production quantities of these vehicles in the future.

Rare earth elements... like iron? Aluminum? Copper? Oh yeah... really rare

No, lanthanides like Cerium, Promethium, Neodynium, about 11kg per EV in all.
mostmarc
not rated yet May 02, 2010
What about heating the car in the winter??????
Parsec
not rated yet May 03, 2010
There is no reason that electric cars have to look like they do. They dont really want to sell them.

If there was one that looked like a Ferrari I would buy it in a heartbeat!!!!


Last I heard the Tesla was a pretty sexy sports car with a good range and incredible performance.
Forestgnome
1 / 5 (1) May 03, 2010
I won't argue merits of ICE's vs. EV's, other than I'm afraid EV's are here to stay. I'm a dyed-in-the-wool motorhead, and frankly I'll mourn the passing of ICE's. I think the age of the automobile was one of the most wonderful times in American history. I'm sure there will be as much as a love affair with EV's as well, but for me that's a different generation. Just as I was forced into buying a cellphone as pay phones at gas stations disappeared, I'll probably be forced to buy an EV when it gets harder to find a gas station. I think that'll happen. I just hope I'll still be able to find gas to power my dragster. Just like my guns and my Bible, I'm clinging to my gas automobile!
nevdka
not rated yet May 12, 2010
It's a bit unfair to compare the average ICE vehicle to the average electric vehicle. There are small ICE cars that get ~60 miles/gallon (http://www.ford.c...conetic) but people still buy SUVs that don't. Saying electric cars are more efficient is like saying netbooks are cheaper than supercomputers.