Five myths about electric cars

March 23, 2010 By Jim Motavalli
Honda FC Sport prototype EV.

Despite how many times they're told differently, some Americans persist in their belief that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Sorry, nope. And almost as enduring are the myths about the forthcoming electric vehicles. So let me use my bully pulpit here to dispel some of the more common rumors, half-truths and innuendos.

1. will be slow "Ralph Nader-mobiles." Definitely wrong. I've driven every single one that will be out this year, and not one of them was a slug. Electric motors benefit from huge low-end torque, so they're actually very fast indeed off the line. That makes even some of the little econo-boxes capable of blowing off complacent Camaros and Mustangs. And some EVs, such as the Tesla Roadster and Fisker Karma, are serious high-performance cars.

2. Electric vehicles will be expensive. This is a half-truth, since the purchase price will indeed be higher than you're used to paying. Expect $35,000 to $40,000 for entry-level cars the size of a Subaru Forester. But the last time I looked, nobody was subsidizing my purchase of gas-powered cars, and there is money for EVs. Specifically, there's a $7,500 federal tax credit for the purchase of battery cars, and a second credit of up to $2,000 that will pay up to 50 percent of your home charger installation. It's even better if you live in certain states. California just launched a $5,000 "cash-for-clunkers" type rebate (much better than a tax break) to early adopters of EVs there. Other states are similarly generous. Oklahoma (who knew?) subsidizes half the purchase price of battery cars, which made it possible to buy Wheego EVs for only $2,500, and more than 100 have already been sold there.

3. Electric vehicles will be unsafe. You're not going to get shocked when you plug them in, and battery acid won't spill all over you in an accident. , working with the Society of Automotive Engineers, have standardized the ultra-safe five-pin J1772 connector. Battery packs, heavily protected from passenger compartments, will be mostly under the car. The biggest safety issue so far is whether they'll be heard by pedestrians, a challenge some carmakers are addressing by having them produce tailor-made noises (they could even be like ringtones).

Here's a video look at some of the newer (and sexier) EVs, many of which will be headin' out on the highway soon.

4. Charging electric vehicles will be a hassle. Never have I seen so many great minds working to make something as simple as possible, and they've pretty much succeeded. Carmakers and charging companies are lobbying for, and will probably get, streamlined rules for home wiring, which should reduce installation times from a month to 24 hours. Your home charger (about $2,000 installed) is likely to be addressable like the cable box, which means you'll be able to program charging times from your laptop or cell phone. Utilities are very pro-EV, and will be offering lucrative time-of-day pricing to encourage customers to charge at night. But you don't have to get up in the middle of the night to plug-in _ the charger will be smart enough to start the clock ticking on its own.

5. Electric vehicles aren't really clean because they use electricity from coal plants. This one is undoubtedly true, in that battery cars are not "zero emission" on a "well to wheels" basis. Coal power is indeed dirty power. But, all things considered, EVs are still much better for our planet than gasoline cars. According to Sherry Boschert, author of the book Plug-In Hybrids: The Cars that Will Recharge America (New Society), EVs reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 11 to 100 percent (depending on the type of power plant) compared to internal-combustion cars, and 24 to 54 percent compared to hybrid cars. Even if all our plants burned coal, we'd still reduce CO2 by as much as 59 percent with people driving only EVs. Boschert's primary source was a study by the federal Argonne National Laboratories.

Explore further: Electric cars rolling out


Related Stories

Electric cars rolling out

December 16, 2009

( -- Electric vehicles are far from new, but we are still a long way from electric cars being the norm. Now two new electric cars may bring that goal a step closer.

Toyota to release solar charger for electric vehicles

October 27, 2009

( -- Toyota is developing a solar charging station for electric cars and plug-in hybrids, making a green technology even greener. It has also designed a battery charger for mounting inside an electric vehicle ...

Mercedes to Produce a Fully Electric Gullwing

August 7, 2009

( -- While it may be inherently wasteful to enjoy luxury cars, it can still be fun to look at -- and even drive -- them. And, if you are concerned about the environmental impact of such cars, you can breath a ...

Drag racing goes green as US electric cars shine

September 6, 2009

Far from the fury of traditional race-tracks, spectators got a glimpse of the future as they watched electric cars rev up, and silently bomb off around the Mason-Dixon Dragway.

Recommended for you

What do you get when you cross an airplane with a submarine?

February 15, 2018

Researchers from North Carolina State University have developed the first unmanned, fixed-wing aircraft that is capable of traveling both through the air and under the water – transitioning repeatedly between sky and sea. ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

5 / 5 (1) Mar 23, 2010

A good accurate article on EV's. I've driven them every day for a decade and saved large amounts of money, gas and my running costs are 25% of similar ICE's. Next yr gas will be $5/gal just as these EV's come out will make them look real good.
2.3 / 5 (3) Mar 23, 2010
If they are so good then why are EV and/or hybrids marketeered so aggressively? Right, marketeers are smarter than a skeptical technician.
3 / 5 (3) Mar 23, 2010
They are advertised aggresively because of the price tag punch ... just like minivans started out a little pricey and then they got really cheap -- well these will start out expensive and then we will just get used to paying more ( joking joking ) hopefully the faster they go mainstream the faster the price will drop -- like the personal computer went from 2k to roughly $400 over 20 years.

And most Americans - and i have not run into any that would disagree - know that there were no WMD in Iraq... that was a statement meant for the trolls.
3 / 5 (4) Mar 23, 2010
A disadvantage carefully avoided is, for us in the north, either no heat in the winter or heat + very limited range.
1 / 5 (4) Mar 23, 2010
deatopmq has a good point...
my thinking...convert the wheels into a type of alternator to at least provide some charge back to the batteries during operation, along with the energy capturing shock absorbers...and maybe some small wind turbines on the front of the vehicle. Granted, it would not offset the total power taken, but I would think it would slow the rate of power loss due to the trickle charge being fed back into the vehicles batteries...
5 / 5 (3) Mar 23, 2010
the real solution here is the extended range ev a small generator preferably a microturbine or high efficiency diesel would be ideal for making sure people dont get stranded and for powering air con/ heaters until we get batteries that are up to the job. This would enable biofuels to fill the clean liquid fuel energy gap and get all of us in the west off middle east oil. This move to ev's/hybrids is going to set us free though it will be expensive in the transition
2.3 / 5 (3) Mar 23, 2010
The small cockpit size and insulation, along with warm clothing, should allow just the waste heat from the electric motor, to keep the cars comfortable.
3.5 / 5 (2) Mar 24, 2010
the waste heat from the electric motor, to keep the cars comfortable.
Waste heat is inefficiency.
4.8 / 5 (4) Mar 24, 2010
LuckyBrandon has a good point...
convert the wheels into a type of alternator to at least provide some charge back to the batteries during operation,
If this alternator is made must a little bigger and more efficient then we can violate the First Law.
along with some small wind turbines on the front of the vehicle. Granted, it would not offset the total power taken, but I would think it would slow the rate of power loss due to the trickle charge being fed back into the vehicles batteries...
2 / 5 (3) Mar 24, 2010
Confirm concern with e cars in north - plus disposing of the batteries remain a concern. As to WMD - most Americans still believe 911 was fully investigated - rich and naive - great combo!
1.8 / 5 (5) Mar 24, 2010
My complements and the Darwin Award to all those pontificating, myopic idiots who think Saddam was not a weapon of mass destruction.
1 / 5 (2) Mar 24, 2010
There is not anywhere enough Li mined to satisfy potential demand.
3.3 / 5 (3) Mar 25, 2010
If you insulate the cockpit well (something that current cars don't do at all) then the amount of energy needed for heating is quite small. Think of all the things that are used in homes which could be applicable here without causing a weight issue: Vaccum isolation in doors, double glazing for windows, heat reflective interiors, ...

An advantage of EV over gasoline powered cars is: You get heat instantly - no more waiting until your engine heats up. No more 'blind driving' until everything defrosts. Sure it will reduce your range a bit. But since these types of cars will be mostly 'second cars' used by commuters you'll be very well aware of how much range you need - so buy accordingly.
1 / 5 (1) Mar 27, 2010
if the car is slightly insulated, then it could be heated when plugged in for a tiny cost of energy. It could even heat up a large heat "reservoir" and use that to store heat for the trip until the next plug in.

We are so accustomed to hanging out at a pump for 15 minutes every week, why is it so much more trouble to take 10 seconds whenever you get in or out of your car to plug it in? Sure that takes time, but you do realize that you don't have to wait at the gas pump anymore, right? Oh and you also don't need to wait at the oil change place either.
1 / 5 (1) Mar 28, 2010
you'll have plenty of heat. Tesla uses advanced cooling systems that remove heat from the cars systems. I'm sure the engineers would love to dump it somewhere convenient, the cab being the obvious choice. Heat is waste, but it is unavoidable, you don't need to worry,the car isn't running at room temp. Turbines on the front would likely increase drag and counter any energy generating benefit of using them.
2.3 / 5 (3) Mar 28, 2010
The US Electrical grid no longer has the excess capacity to provide this additional energy.

Also the system has degraded over time. In 1970 the standard delivery was 250/125V. Today the system isn't expected to delivery more than 108/215V.

Without the Electric Cars the US needs 100GW in additional capacity. What's a greenie to do?
1 / 5 (1) Mar 28, 2010
How do you heat the cockpit of an electric car?
You wind the windows up!
You wear a jumper and a coat!

How do you think people kept warm for the first 50 years of automobile travel.
not rated yet Mar 29, 2010
No law prohibits carrying cargo in the cab, or portable heaters with their own power supply. However, don't try that with portable gas heaters that asphyxiate everything in the cab.
5 / 5 (1) Mar 29, 2010
How do you heat the cockpit of an electric car?

With an electric heater.

A powerfull electric heater will use about 1 kiloWatt. That is just about 5% of what a normal car has at its disposal (The Tesla Roadster uses 21kWh to go 100 miles). I see no problem in significantly reducing range/power of your car by simply turning on a heater.
3 / 5 (1) Mar 29, 2010
Why not use capacitors instead of batteries, which are 90%+ efficient to approx 60% for batts, and safer. And use braking and suspension movement for charging. It seems you can more than double your mileage for the same amount of battery capacity ??
4 / 5 (1) Mar 29, 2010
Why not use capacitors instead of batteries, ...

Because the energy density of capacitors (even ultracapacitors) is about one tenth of a battery per unit of weight. Batteries are already a weight issue for EV cars imagine how much worse that gets when you use capacitors.

Toting 10 times that weight (and probably volume) is not an option.

Using small amounts of capacitors for capturing braking energy (which is then fed back when you accelerate) is probably worth it, though.
1 / 5 (2) Mar 29, 2010
the author is funny... from point 1 he is just voicing opinion which is meaningless, and amounts to, if it scares me, then its fast enough. and everyone knows what dweebish chicken littles the posure intelligent are
2.3 / 5 (3) Mar 29, 2010
even funnier are all the people who think that it would be just wonderful if we could violate physical laws... except that they dont think of it that way, they just think of things that would work if they violated these laws, and are oblivious to that impossible hitch in their plans.

its like comedy for the real intelligent...
not rated yet Apr 27, 2010
I see the "impossibly greenies" have encircled this article and largly shouted down anyone who suggests that EV cars aren't ready for prime time or even wanted by most people.

Its sad. Rather than going for "all or nothing" and getting nothing, you folks should really learn to go for the realistic compromise, which in this case would be gas/electric hybrids. Had you argued for them instead in this forum you might have won over a few converts.

Well, maybe.

And whats with El Nose for bringing in politics to the discussion, or COCO for bringing in conspiracy theories?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.