When I bought my first electric car (a Nissan Leaf with about 70 miles of range) on December 1, 2011, I didn’t plan on promoting this as a disruption to the world’s auto industry. I just thought driving on electrons was a cool life hack as gas was approaching $5 a gallon. My Republican friends thought I was a little crazy (and I am a little crazy), but I didn’t see a lot of attacks on EVs, since they just looked at them as a joke and nobody really felt threatened by them.
My, have times changed. Once I ordered my first Tesla (a Model 3 on March 31, 2016), my opinions changed and I started to think a $35,000 car as good looking as Tesla with decent range and a great charging network really could be the future. When I wrote this article in 2018 for CleanTechnica on why electric cars cost less to fuel, I was really trying to figure out for myself if there was a strong economic basis for electric cars, even if you ignored all environmental benefits, and I came to the conclusion there is. This was an important turning point for me, because it meant that I could promote EVs to people that don’t have a strong (or even a weak) preference for saving the planet. As a Republican, most of my friends are either Republicans or libertarians and I have noticed that both groups are pretty hostile (but definitely getting better) to anything about carbon or climate change. On the other hand, they do care a bit about air pollution, so articles about health effects due to air pollution are minimally effective at reaching them. I still wouldn’t lead with that. Far better to bring up driving fun, style, or even safety with this crowd.
Electric Vehicles Are Now Getting Popular
As someone who is used to having unpopular opinions, I’m getting surprised as many people in my neighborhood, and even my department at work, are all buying Model Ys this year! I see that plug-in car sales in both Europe and China have recently reached 20%. In the US, the share is much lower (about 4%), primarily due to the fact that Tesla is the only one in the US delivering significant volumes of plug-in or electric cars.
For some reason (and I hope this happens soon), I thought my role on social media would be to accept the apologies of all my anti-EV friends and say that whatever you believed in the past is in the past, let’s find you a great electric car and help you setup your charger. Well, some of that has happened, but mostly it has been that the level of misinformation on electric cars has even gone up. I’ve noticed the misinformation isn’t even of good quality, it is just anecdotal things posted to Facebook, usually without any sources. These posts get shared like wildfire and get many likes. Luckily, EVs are popular enough that they don’t go unchallenged. Frequently, I’m not the only Republican defending EVs, and by the time I see a post, most of the misinformation has been corrected. There are usually just a few lingering points for me to mop up.
A Recent Example Of EV Misinformation
I was pointed to this poorly written article recently by a friend who asked me to debunk it. The first 2 things I noticed are that #1, it doesn’t take a single point against electric cars and back it up. It takes the shotgun approach of just throwing out a broad range of real or imagined issues and hopes some of them stick. The second thing I notice is it from the Heartland Institute and it is funded by the fossil fuel industry, in my opinion to protect the industry for a few more years.
Here is the response I sent my friend. I do think it is important to honestly acknowledge that electric cars aren’t better in every way quite yet and do have some minor issues.
- The cars take too long to charge, so they fill the parking lot of the gas station. Response: EVs have 2 ways to charge — Level 1 and Level 2 are slow (3 to 45 miles added an hour), so you do them where you sleep, not at a gas station. Level 3 is fast (200 to 1000 miles an hour), so you use that on trips and spend 15 to 30 minutes to take a quick break and use the restroom or grab a bite to eat. Unlike gas cars that are unsafe to fuel unattended, you can leave EVs while you enjoy your break.
- Chargers will cost a lot. Partially true. EVs come with the slow charger (Tesla is changing to charging $200 for this now) and it might cost $200 to $1000 to install an outlet if you drive enough to need 240 volt charging. You likely have a 120 volt outlet in your garage already. It will be a few years before apartments add outlets, so their tenants can charge. Fast chargers are expensive, but so are gas pumps and their tanks, so that is pretty much a wash. Since 90% of charging is done where you sleep, you need a lot less fast chargers than you need gas pumps.
- The grid takes your power back from your car. This is a feature (that is still very rarely implemented) that gives you the choice of powering your home (great for power outages) or the grid (you make money for stabilization of the grid). Both are optional and a very good thing.
- The nation will need more electricity if we all buy electric cars. True, but not a huge issue. Some power will come from time when we have excess power that we don’t use today. Some new power will be needed. Luckily, solar costs are dropping quickly and electric cars are incredibly efficient as I wrote here.
My strategy is to always engage, stay polite, and realize that although it has been a long fight, we are only a couple years until the tide will have turned and your friends will just be asking which EV to buy or how to install a charger, not spreading nonsense on EVs.
Disclosure: I am a shareholder in Tesla [TSLA], BYD [BYDDY], Nio [NIO], and XPeng [XPEV]. But I offer no investment advice of any sort here.
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