Fox News Cherrypicks Old EVs to Represent The “Foolish” Nature Of All EVs

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In a recent video by Fox News, the company finds basically every EV-negative headline they could find for the last several years, and then interviews an automotive journalist who owns two older EVs. The conclusion? EVs are a failure.

Here’s the video (I’ll talk about it more afterward):

When it comes to media honesty, there are two ways to get it wrong. The obvious way to be dishonest is to present information that you know is incorrect. People make mistakes (I certainly have), but you can retract and apologize when you get things wrong. But, if you know you got something wrong and run with it, that’s known as lying.

The other, far more common way to get things wrong is to use framing. You can tell readers or viewers the truth, and only tell them truthful things, but still be dishonest by not sharing the whole truth. By choosing what truths to focus on and choosing what truths to ignore, you can still use truths to paint a dishonest picture.

If you look at the structure of the video, it’s obviously designed to take an unusual EV situation and surround it with other out-of-context half-truths to normalize the abnormal. It starts with a montage of bad stories about EV charging and EVs. Charging reliability, the time it takes to build stations, and production cuts are all sewn together to make a monster that Dr. Frankenstein would blush seeing.

Then, in the middle of the sandwich, they present the very true story of The Autopian‘s David Tracy. He’s an auto enthusiast who has two EVs in his collection. One is a BMW i3 REx, an EV with a small motorcycle engine that powers a range extender. The other is a 2011 Nissan LEAF with a heavily-degraded battery, with only 20 miles of range remaining on flat ground. With no range extender, these early LEAFs are worthless except for some very short range driving (I’ve owned the exact same year).

But is the average Fox viewer going to know that this old LEAF is a highly unusual EV from basically the beginning of the modern EV era? No. As we’ve seen over and over, people who don’t know much about EVs will think that this vehicle is the norm and not a distant exception. So, when they see that the LEAF got stranded because an Electrify America station in California was down, this smears all EVs.

But, every sandwich must have another slice of bread to keep the meat and cheese or peanut butter and jelly inside and off your fingers. So, the video then goes to another montage of bad EV story clippings from recent times.

Fox wasn’t happy with this. They had to make a Dagwood. After this piece of bread, they go back to more “meat.” David says that California’s EV charging infrastructure is better than the rest of the country. This is somewhat true, but at the same time, nobody’s making infrastructure with a 20-mile EV in mind. Plus, Electrify America’s stations have had bigger problems there because of higher usage rates.

At this point, David actually is very honest about EVs. He mentions that they’re a lot better if you have charging at home. He mentions that they’re a little more expensive than ICE cars. He mentions that they’re great when you’re dealing with gas prices like you see in California. But, behind the audio of him telling the truth, Fox puts up a bunch of screenshots painting everything he’s saying (pros and cons both) as part of something Biden is behind. Biden, Biden, Biden.

Again, at the video’s end, David is being perfectly honest. He thinks that hybrids are a good interim solution while EV infrastructure improves and gets ready for more EVs. Many EV owners would agree with this. But, most EV owners would not agree with the framing of the story and the lack of context.

The Context Fox Conveniently Left Out

Many EV fans who have bought a new car in the last 3-4 years might not know much about this, but the 2011 Nissan LEAF was really from a very different era in the modern EV age. Instead of trying to produce a vehicle that people could use as a primary and only car, the goal with the LEAF was to make a car people could afford in a time when battery cells were extremely expensive. The result was a car that cost around $40,000 that could only go around 80 miles.

At the time, there were only a small number of rapid chargers in the largest cities for the LEAF to use. So, people only used them for commuting and had a second ICE vehicle they’d use for long-distance driving. They’d charge the vehicle up at home, drive to work and back, and charge it again.

Sadly, even this didn’t work out for the first couple of years of LEAFs. The technology was new, and Nissan didn’t know that in any climate with much heat that the batteries wouldn’t last for long. Some people lost half of the car’s range in the first few months of ownership in the hottest places like Phoenix. Sometime between 2013 and 2015, Nissan created a new battery chemistry (known as the “lizard battery”) that could handle the heat better. But even newer models with larger battery packs continued to suffer from premature range loss and slow charging on trips because Nissan never included a cooling system in the LEAF!

Several other manufacturers made city-only cars (known as “compliance cars” during the mid 2010s. These vehicles also often had less than 100 miles of range. The Chevy Spark EV, the Ford Focus EV, and Toyota’s second-gen Rav4 EV (powered by Tesla batteries and motors) all satisfied EV quotas in states like California without really providing people with an EV that could be your only car.

Other than the earliest of Tesla vehicles, that company took a different approach. The Model S and the later Model X had enough range to be a normal car, but came in at extremely high prices. But, the company earned a reputation for better vehicles while everyone else was looking like fools. The company also instituted an aggressive buildout of EV charging infrastructure that allowed Tesla vehicles to become normal road-trippers years before every other manufacturer in the United States.

Now, almost every EV sold has over 200 miles of range, non-Tesla infrastructure is improving, and nearly every other manufacturer has a deal with Tesla to use the company’s charging stations sometime this year.

In other words, the information Fox gave us about EVs is about a decade out of date and not the norm for anybody buying an EV in 2024.

Featured image: A 2011 Nissan LEAF I used to own. Image by Jennifer Sensiba.

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Jennifer Sensiba

Jennifer Sensiba is a long time efficient vehicle enthusiast, writer, and photographer. She grew up around a transmission shop, and has been experimenting with vehicle efficiency since she was 16 and drove a Pontiac Fiero. She likes to get off the beaten path in her "Bolt EAV" and any other EVs she can get behind the wheel or handlebars of with her wife and kids. You can find her on Twitter here, Facebook here, and YouTube here.

Jennifer Sensiba has 1983 posts and counting. See all posts by Jennifer Sensiba