Myth No. 1: Early electric cars failed because women loved them.
There’s no doubt that manufacturers in the early 20th Century marketed quiet, slow, range-limited electrics as perfect for women. But that doesn’t explain why the electric-car industry collapsed even as, notably, women continued to exist and buy cars. There were other factors.
At the height of early EVs’ popularity, much of the country didn’t have electricity, and improved roads were rare. And while electric-car prices remained relatively stable, the cost of gas cars plummeted. By the mid-1910s, gas vehicles were cheaper, faster and capable of traveling pretty much anywhere.
Myth No. 2: Electric cars are fire hazards.
Chevrolet announced in August that it would recall more than 140,000 of its Bolt electric vehicles — every one sold from the 2017 model year through 2022 — to fix a potential fire hazard caused by a manufacturing defect in its LG battery. A parking garage in Germany banned all EVs and hybrid cars this year for fear of fires. And a series of fires in electric Teslas and Hyundais has attracted attention.
Some automakers have had notable difficulties with EV fires, which do tend to burn longer and to be more dangerous to extinguish than other fires. But there isn’t any evidence that electrics are more likely to catch fire than their internal-combustion counterparts when you compare fires per vehicle mile traveled.
Myth No. 3: Electric vehicles are for rich people.
Many Republicans have objected to the Biden administration’s plan to expand tax credits to buy EVs.
But electric cars aren’t necessarily pricier than the equivalent gasoline vehicles; you don’t have to buy a $100,000 Tesla Model S to enjoy the benefits of switching.
For a very direct comparison, look at Kia, which sells three versions of its Niro crossover. Before taxes and fees, the gas-only Niro carries a starting MSRP of $24,690. The plug-in hybrid is priced at $29,590, and the Niro EV is $39,090. This is mostly because in a modern gasoline car, fuel is stored in a cheap blow-molded plastic tank. In an EV, fuel is stored in a battery that costs thousands of dollars. The relative simplicity of EV powertrains evens things out a little, but overall, electrics tend to be somewhat more expensive than comparable gas cars.
But the existing federal tax credit for EVs gives most buyers $7,500 back. That puts the price of the electric Niro at $31,590, less than the average for a new car. As of early last year, when cars were cheaper and easier to find, the average transaction price for a new vehicle was nearly $40,000, according to Kelley Blue Book. The starting prices of several excellent EVs — including the Chevy Bolt, the Nissan Leaf and the Volkswagen ID.4 — slide under that average. The 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning starts at $39,974 before tax incentives, less expensive than many models of the gas-powered version.
Plus, costs from fuel to maintenance are lower in electrics, which makes them more affordable over time. Finally, there are good EVs on the used-car market, though they’re selling very fast. If you manage to find one, it’s wise to confirm the health of the battery before buying.
Myth No. 4: Electric vehicles are taking over.
“Many industry observers believe we have already passed the tipping point where sales of electric vehicles (EVs) will very rapidly overwhelm petrol and diesel cars,” a recent BBC article noted. A Forbes headline put it more bluntly: “Electric Cars Are Coming And If You Don’t Like It, Tough.”
But while there are reasons to be bullish on the prospect of increasing market share for electric cars, the transition to an all-electric, or mostly electric, vehicle fleet will take time.
Despite their outsize presence in media and culture, electric cars haven’t really caught on in the United States. As of 2020, EVs represented just 1.8 percent of the overall new-vehicle market here. The share was expected to grow to 2.5 percent this year, but that still leaves a very long way to go before EVs are common.
Myth No. 5: Electric cars are as bad for the environment as gas ones.
Electric-vehicle skeptics argue that they’re just as damaging for the environment as gas cars, although in different ways.
Manufacturing any product is often bad for the Earth, and the environmental cost of building something as large and complex as a car is massive. Sourcing raw materials, manufacturing, shipping, selling, servicing — it’s a real carnival of environmental destruction.
But over time, an electric car is the better option for the environment when compared with a gas vehicle, as Car and Driver explained in some depth recently. EVs produce some brake dust, but they don’t directly emit carbon dioxide or any of the other nasty stuff in exhaust. While a gas car keeps polluting all the way through the end of its life, the average electric makes up for the higher environmental cost of its production within the first few years of ownership.