In an article written by James Morris for Forbes, he answers a question that is often bouncing around online: Why isn’t everyone buying EVs yet? He noted that many excuses offered up for not buying an EV don’t have anything to do with price, but everything to do with fear. Many conversations centering around the idea of owning an EV are often rebuked with excuses such as these:
- The national grid can’t cope.
- They catch on fire quickly.
- They only have a range of 50 miles, especially in the winter.
- They are built with rare minerals mined by kids in the Congo.
Change Can Be Scary
I want to share some more quick notes before I break down just how wrong those myths are. Those are common myths that are often used and are sources of fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) about EVs. I see this a lot on Twitter — especially in the Tesla sector. I’ve fought my fair share of FUD before, but sometimes, people are either too stubborn to change or choose to promote ignorance after being presented with facts.
The cost is up there, for sure, and that is a major disadvantage, but the technology behind EVs is helping to continue to lower those prices drastically. A mere handful of years ago you couldn’t fathom buying a Tesla for ~$40,000, or leasing one for $400 a month. Today, not only is that the reality, but it shows that EVs are able to compete voraciously with legacy automakers.
As Morris noted in his article, however, the source for the resistance to EVs isn’t the price. Instead, there is this sense of fundamental dislike for change.
Addressing Common EV Myths/FUD
False FUD: The National Grid Can’t Cope. Matteo Muratori from the National Renewable Energy Lab wanted to see if electric cars would cause the grid to crash. After researching the topic in depth, he decided that the answer was no. He found out that the grid can cope just fine with more EVs on the road. You can read more about Muratori’s research here.
Misleading FUD: EVs Catch On Fire Quickly. More than 150 gas cars catch fire every day, according to a FEMA report. “From 2014 to 2016 an estimated 171,500 highway vehicle fires occurred in the United States, resulting in an annual average of 345 deaths; 1,300 injuries; and $1.1 billion in property loss. These highway vehicle fires accounted for 13 percent of fires responded to by fire departments across the nation.”
The truth is, gasoline is more flammable than batteries in an EV. One example of an EV not catching fire actually happened when a Tesla Model S caught on fire. The initial cause was possibly a felony–the fire department noted that someone most likely had broken in and threw something to ignite the seats and the interior. What didn’t catch fire, though, was something many say does: the battery pack. Unlike most of the vehicle, the battery pack was fine.
False FUD: They only have a range of 50 miles especially in the winter. Not true. If this was true, Wade Anderson wouldn’t have been able to take a Tesla road trip in which he drove from Arizona to Florida, to Maine, to the Arctic Circle, and back down through California, eventually making his trip home. No, he didn’t drive all of that on one charge, but if you can drive all over an entire continent in an EV, then you don’t need to worry about driving range for normal use. If you do, then you’re being irresponsible.
As for the winter weather, it does reduce the range of EVs, but it’s not going to bring a 2020 model year EV’s range down to 50 or anything close to that. In Canada, Matthew Pointer told CBC about how extreme cold reduced the range of his Tesla by 40–50%. However, his car was still working better in the winter than his previous gas-powered ones. Regarding that reduced range, if you plan your day right, you can still work around it. Plug your car in at night while you’re sleeping — as you would do with your phone. Pointer explained that he was still able to do all the things he needed to do daily. And note that that was extreme cold, not even normal winter weather.
Misleading FUD: They are built with rare minerals by kids in Congo. EV batteries are made from some rare earth elements (REEs), but these are not actually rare. REEs are a group of 17 minerals that are used in advanced technologies and have been marked as critical to the economic and national security of the US. They are not rare, but were originally considered to be. “The name rare earths itself is a misnomer. At the time of their discovery in the 18th century, they were found to be a component of complex oxides, which were called “earths” at that time. Furthermore, these minerals seemed to be scarce, and thus these newly discovered elements were named “rare earths.” Actually, these elements are quite abundant and exist in many workable deposits throughout the world. The 16 naturally occurring rare earths fall into the 50th percentile of elemental abundances.” Out of all 17 of these elements, only thulium and lutetium are the least abundance of the REEs, which have an average crustal abundance that is 200 times more than gold. There are more REEs than there is gold on this planet.
As for the kids in Congo, this is a devastating situation. Child slavery is a crime and it’s bad — very bad. There is no disagreement that this is an issue in general. However, automakers have increasingly committed to not getting cobalt from Congo, and there is actually a growing march away from using cobalt at all since it’s relatively expensive as well — battery chemistries keep improving to reduce or eliminate cobalt.
As one final matter on this topic, mining giant Glencore has actually been trying to get its mine back in Congo for years — it has pretty much been taken hostage by artisanal miners since 2011. Glencore has stated that it can’t even access its own mine and that the DRC isn’t really interested in resolving the situation — and the government of the DRC doesn’t seem to care about the labor conditions there.